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In 2011, DC got tired of killing off individual characters for publicity and just killed off their whole universe. Then, much in comic book fashion, they brought it back with an edgier, more youth-oriented slant.
For the most part it has worked. DC's New 52, or Nu52 is you're into that sort of thing, has been selling like heated cakes. However, sales don't always translate into quality, and that seems to be the case with the bulk of the books here.
So what's the cream of the DC crop? Batman? Justice League? Larfleeze? No! It's actually one of the least acknowledged comics out there. Swamp Thing and Animal Man. Why? Well...
Something to do with this?
The biggest reason? The New 52 has been mostly interested in retelling the original universe's stories and recycling its characters in a similar fashion to Ultimate Marvel. For the most part it doesn't really break new ground, except for obvious exceptions such as the Court of Owls in Snyder's Batman, and people really do want new stories. It shows whenever a comic dares to make something new, like the aforementioned Court of Owls, it becomes the highest regarded and most interesting moment in the universe.
Swamp Thing and Animal Man have revamped -- Animal Man especially -- their worlds, expanding on what came before without recycling old plots. In truth, they are shackled with trotting out old characters, but they use them in ways they haven't been used before or in a capacity that feels fresh.
Swamp Thing has a whole new dynamic than Moore's, playing less with existentialism and more on the politics of the Green and their Champion. This Swamp Thing also figuratively "killed off" his connection to the past, proving itself to be a whole new book. Animal Man's origin was completely retconned for the New 52, making him a champion of the Red, and in doing so opened up a whole new world that was completely fresh.
But that all also plays into another reason Swamp Thing and Animal Man are the best DC books on the shelves. They take chances. They can show and do some things that you never could with a Batman or a Wonder Woman. You can't show children murdering other children, or the grotesque twisted forms of a character's loved ones when writing Superman, but it's a-okay when it's Swamp Thing.
Maybe it's because Swamp Thing and Animal Man are not as hot of properties as the Trinity, I don't know. Regardless, it makes for a more enjoyable reading experience. I love Batman, really, but I've seem him fight his Rogues Gallery maybe a hundred times over. When a new way to tell that story comes up it's great, but for the most part it's old. It's all fresh in Swamp Thing and Animal Man. They're things I haven't seen before.
Finally, Swamp Thing and Animal Man have had some the most consistently good art of any book in DC. Sure, some books have had better, but the artists have changed and the quality dips.
These two books, however, have enjoyed a pretty steady quality of art throughout their current run. Not only that, but their separate styles have remained strong. Swamp Thing's use of psychedelic panel placement and Animal Man's strange, almost disturbing biological imagery are used as deftly now as when they first debuted.
So what do you think? Are these the best DC comics out right now? Let me know in the comments below.