New 52 Power Rankings: March 2012

Well I say, this was a fantastic month for comics, especially for DC. Some the New 52’s underdog titles, like I, Vampire, Swamp Thing, and O.M.A.C. really shone through this month with series defining issues. It’s great that seven months in these books still have me on the edge every week. Dive in as I give my two cents on my 10 favorite New 52 books of March. Warning, there are SPOILERS.

Top 10 Books

Ranking

Title

Last Month

Total Months in Top 10

1

Swamp Thing 7

6

2

I, Vampire

3

6

3

Batman

2

6

4

Aquaman

N/A

4

5

O.M.A.C.

4

3

6

Animal Man

N/A

6

7

Green Lantern

5

7

8

Justice League 1

6

9

Wonder Woman

9

6

10

Action Comics

6

5

There’s no denying that this was a great month for Scott Snyder as he dropped major bombshells in both of his books, Swamp Thing and Batman. Over in Swamp Thing we finally saw Alec Holland embracing his destiny as the Warrior King Swamp Thing, just like we all expected him too. However, I’m pretty sure no one expected that Swamp Thing to have leafy angel wings. I really felt like Snyder was channeling an Alan Moore vibe in this issue with the captioned narration. Yannick Paquette continues to exceed all expectations, pumping out some of the most incredible pages in comics today. This issue was a perfect 10 in my book. Over in Batman, Snyder hearkens back to Frank Miller’s classic Batman: Year One to show just how far-reaching and omnipresent the Court of Owls is. This, coupled with revelations about Dick Grayson’s ancestry, paying off on a mystery from the first issue, makes issue #7 another outstanding addition to Snyder’s ongoing Bat-opus.

This month’s issue of I, Vampire, along with Justice League Dark, officially kicked off the Rise of the Vampires. With Andrew Bennett dead and Cain, the first Vampire on the loose, Batman and the rest of Bennett’s crew team up with JL Dark and the results are on one hand awesome and the other hilarious. This book is such a perfect balance of dark, epic, and lighthearted all at the same time. The scenes with Mary were terrific, as it’s great to see such a menacing character take on a lighter note, while the scenes involving Andrew help evolve the I, Vampire mythos. As far as art goes, I can’t say enough good things about Andrea Sorrentino. The cain origin story was absolutely incredible. As a side note, Justice League Dark was really good as well, and definitely worth getting for a fuller reading experience. If you aren’t reading I, Vampire then this is a great place to start, and give Justice League Dark a shot as well.

Aquaman #7 is the start of a new arc entitled “The Others”. A lot of common Johnsian tropes are present; a secret organization, mysterious artifacts, and signs that everything you thought you knew is wrong! Even so, Aquaman still manages to remain fresh and engaging. This issue also featured the New 52 appearance of quintessential Aquaman foe, Black Manta. I never thought Ivan Reis would find a book that fit him better than Green Lantern, but I have been proven wrong by his work on Aquaman. The opening scene with Black Manta and the Seer was breathtakingly good, and the following ocean scene featured some of the best depictions of water I’ve seen in a comic. This book started out small, but I think that’s about to change in a big way.

With each passing issue of O.M.A.C. I get sadder and sadder about the books cancellation with issue #8. This issue was absolutely fantastic, featuring a fight with Superman and some Kirby Fourth World and Kamandi concepts. I can honestly say this is THE most fun comic that I’m currently reading. Dan Didio and Keith Giffen are building something really special, taking weird bits and pieces from the old DCU and bathing it all in a Kirby crackle. I’m a little worried about how they’ll wrap up the Brother Eye vs. Maxwell Lord struggle in just one issue, but if it’s anything like the way Keith Giffen wrapped up his (also abruptly cancelled) Doom Patrol run, it will be something truly special.

This month’s issue of Animal Man dials back the action at the start of a new arc to give some nice family moments. One of the things that makes Animal Man so special as a book is the family dynamic, so it’s nice to get some scenes where they aren’t being attacked by monstrocities. Things aren’t quiet for long as Buddy experiences another premonition, this one showing a much older Maxine as Animal Woman, who battles the rot along with Swamp Thing and an elderly John Constantine. This scene, while not penciled by series regular Travel Foreman, packed some of the grotesqueness that the series has become known for. I can’t decide what this series is more about, Maxine embracing her destiny as avatar of the Red, or Buddy stepping up and overcoming the odds to protect his family. Either way, this is one of the more fascinating books at DC and I find myself getting even more excited about it than it’s counterpart, Swamp Thing.

In Green Lantern we see the veil of mystery being slowly lifted from the Indigo Tribe, which is nice considering the characters were introduced nearly 3 years ago. It’s also nice to see Black Hand again, who hasn’t been seen since the middle of the Brightest Day arc of GL. This arc looks like it will finally deliver some pay off on a few long running GL plot threads. Oh, and it’s so great to have Doug Mankhe back.

In other Geoff Johns news, Justice League #7 marked a turning point for the book in many ways. It is the first issue set in the present DCU, the first issue not featuring Jim Lee on art, and the first issue to include Johns’ and Gary Frank’s Curse of Shazam back up features. Even with all these changes the book shines, but it’s still not perfect. I usually love Gene Ha’s art, but it didn’t quite fit the Justice League the way Jim Lee does. Also, it was extremely hard to tell that the book was taking place in the present, as the Justice League characters all acted the same way they did towards each other in the first arc, as if nothing had changed in the past 5 years. I sure this is something Johns will touch on later, but it is a bit frustrating that 7 issues in we still don’t have a solid feel for the character dynamics within League, or for the various character’s motivations. I do really like the expanded role that Johns has given Steve Trevor, and I’m intrigued by the Authority-vibe that the book is giving off. The Curse of Shazam back-up on the other hand was, in my opinion, nearly perfect. In a mere 12 or so pages Johns and Frank hooked me in. Some might decry the drastic changes to the Captain Marvel Shazam mythos, but I for one can’t wait to see what they have in store, and to see how it ties into the main Justice League story.

Much like in Snyder’s Batman, Brian Azzarello makes some major changes to what we know about Wonder Woman and the Amazonians in issue #7. Why are there no Male Amazonians? Well, it’s because after the Amazonian women seduce and kill poor seamen (at least they went out fulfilled) and carry their children to term they cast away the male children, Spartan style. These Amazonian men then become the servants of Hephaestus, a Greek god with a vast forge and armory. Some might call these changes distasteful and contrary to Wonder Woman and the Amazonians’  history as peaceful people, but I think it’s a great answer to a question that has kind of been brushed under the rug. This issue also features the return of Cliff Chiang on art, which is a major plus in my book.

Finally, we have the penultimate issue of Grant Morrison’s opening arc in Action Comics. So far this series, while having some great moments, hasn’t come near to reaching the heights of Morrison’sother Superman book, the fantastic All Star Superman. Nevertheless, Morrison’s current tale has some great moments, like the interactions between Lois, Jimmy, and Lex, and the moment where Superman finally dons his new Kryptonian armor. Lex’s characterization especially reminds me of Paul Cornell’s work on the character in Action Comics, which is definitely a good thing. Action Comics up to this point has been a strange re-imagining of past stories and concepts, while laying the groundwork for what I hope are some really interesting stories later down the line. We’ll see how it all turns out in Action Comics #8, which is actually on sale today.

That wraps up my rankings for March’s New 52 books, check back again in a month and I’ll do it all over again!

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