Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Top 10 Tuesdays - 10 Stories Essential to Understanding the Current DC Universe

This week's Top 10 Tuesdays features the follow up to last week's 10 Stories Essential to Understanding the Current Marvel Universe with the DC version.

Basically, I'll list, in no particular order, ten stories I think are essential for any reader to understand what is going on in the major areas of the DC Universe. This should serve as a great primer for new readers and a bit of a checklist for anyone that's been following for the last five to ten years.

Please note, these are not all "Must Read" stories and I honestly don't even recommend every story on the list, but I do concede that they were major storylines that are responsible for drastic or wide sweeping changes in the DC Universe. Whether it's the resurrection of the cosmic stable or the return of the Multiverse, if it affected books and storylines over a long period of time or changed the way we viewed characters, it made this list.

Hit the jump to find out all you need to know to understand the current state of the DC universe!



I didn't expect to have something so old on a list for current events, but the original crisis has been the source for all things DC over the past several years and is a major factor in Infinite Crisis, what, with Superboy Prime, Alexander Luthor and so on returning, the rebirth of the Multiverse and even the upcoming return of Barry Allen.

Furthermore, many of today's characters and stories are drawing heavily on Silver Age continuity that culminated with CoIE, primarily seen in Batman and Superman.

While DC tried to make Infinite Crisis readable for people that didn't read the original Crisis, it makes a huge difference in your enjoyment and understanding of Infinite Crisis if you've read this and with this title and its continuity being referenced more and more every day, this old timer gets dusted off and used as an essential story to understanding the current DC universe.

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If I had to pick a point where DC went wrong over the past few years, it would be this event. It brought about broad, sweeping changes to just about every part of the DC universe and, in general, darkened and, in some cases, ruined many characters.

Most noteworthy would have to be the numerous retcons, including Zatanna and several other JLA members forming a league within the league and mindwiping numerous villains that had posed threats or learned their identities and even Batman when he found out what they were up to.

However, despite its numerous flaws, retcons and outright disregard for continuity, this event brought about changes that are felt to this day, including distrust between characters, some of which have been patched up, but not forgotten, Dr Light's transformation into a credible threat, Calculator becoming the villain's version of Oracle, Tim Drake's father being killed and subsequent adoption by Batman, the Atom fleeing into the Palmerverse and, later, throughout the Multiverse and many others.

If you read any DC books, this event probably changed them in one way or another.

Purchase Identity Crisis and help support the Weekly Crisis!


The second of the new trilogy of Crisis's from DC, the others being Identity and Final Crisis, Infinite Crisis is probably the Civil War of DC's universe in that it changed everything, from origins to the re-introduction of Silver Age stories to continuity to numerous deaths.

While there were numerous tie-ins and a long countdown period leading up to Infinite Crisis, the main series should be all that's really required to see the mass changes brought about by this event.

The most significant development from this event would have to be the return of Superboy Prime, a character with limitless Silver Age Superman level strength and abilities. He and Alexander Luthor were the main villains of Infinite Crisis and Prime went onto join the Sinestro Corps, where he helped "kill" the Anti-Monitor, and was later found in the pages of Countdown, where he killed Monarch and destroyed the Earth-51 universe.

This event also lead directly into 52 and, by the end of the event, heralded a change in DC's heroes back to friendlier, less dark versions of themselves that had been plaguing titles since Identity Crisis and, sometimes, longer.

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Aside from heralding the return of the weekly comic format, 52 was also an experiment in storytelling that brought many of DC's more under utilized characters to the forefront and marked the return of the Multiverse, which had been wiped out back during Crisis on Infinite Earths.

While the return of the Multiverse was universe altering, other key plot points from this event include Black Adam's starting of WWIII and loss of his powers, the death of the Question and subsequent replacement my Renee Montoya, the introduction of Batwoman, the death of Ralph Dibney and so on.

52 redefined the way we look at dozens of characters, altered the very fabric of the DC universe and made many sweeping changes to status quos and that earns its place on this list.

Purchase 52 Vol. 1, 2, 3 or 4 and help support the Weekly Crisis!


Following the events of Infinite Crisis and, timeline wise, taking place after 52, One Year Later brought about numerous status quo changes. Jumping forward in time one full year, OYL was supposed to provide a jumping on point for all of the DC titles and heralded several new titles as well.

From Catwoman having a baby to Bart Allen taking over as the Flash, which lead to his death, to Wonder Woman taking on a new, all too human, secret identity, OYL's effects are still felt to this day. Many have been retconned away or forgotten, but this pseudo event makes the list for the ones that managed to stick.


This is one of two events on this list that only deserve to be Wikipedia'd and forgotten and should never be purchased. It's only reason for being on this list is for how it changed the Amazons and Wonder Woman's status quo to this day as well as becoming a major plot point for Countdown.

With an attack on America, the deaths of countless citizens, the reveal that Athena was actually Granny Goodness and her subsequent dispersal of all the Amazons, forcing them to forget their place as Amazons and live as humans makes this event noteworthy enough to be on the list.


While originally seen as an out of continuity wild ride through the mind of Grant Morrison, Seven Soldiers has become a major factor with the release of Morrison's Final Crisis, which is referencing this event quite heavily for its depiction of the New Gods and FC will even feature several of the other non-New God characters seen in Seven Soldiers.

If being a lead in to a "crisis" isn't enough reason to be on this list, nothing is.

Purchase Seven Soldiers of Victory Vol. 1, 2, 3 or 4 and help support the Weekly Crisis!


Despite how incredible the Sinestro Corps War was, it didn't overly affect the DC universe or many characters, which made it difficult for me to decide if it deserved a place on this list or not. It's obvious you would need it to understand Green Lantern, but this list is for the DCU as a whole, not individual characters.

In the end, I decided to include it because of the impact it had on Green Lantern, Superman Prime's "death" after punting the Anti-Monitor into space and shunting off into Countdown, where he went on to kill Monarch and wipe out Earth-51's universe, and the upcoming, and more than likely, universe-wide Blackest Night event, which should see the resurrection of many of DC's dead characters as Black Lanterns.

I'm reaching a little to find the overall significance of this event, but I think, in the end, it deserves its spot.

Purchase Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 and help support the Weekly Crisis!


Like Amazons Attack, this event should never be read or mentioned again, but should be read up on through Wikipedia and the like for several changes, such as the death of the Flash (technically, it happened in Flash's title), the exploration of the Multiverse, the death of Monarch and Superman Prime (he gets better or so I'm told), the corruption of Mary Marvel, the deaths of the New Gods (they get better, too) and the rounding up of villains and shipping off to a prison planet in Salvation Run.

While most everything that happens in Countdown seems to have been swept under the rug and forgotten, especially in light of what happens in Final Crisis, there are still many storylines and plots that are reflected in current books that people should be made aware of. Just don't read the actual books to find out about it. You'll thank me later.


Lastly, we have Final Crisis, the "final" crisis for the DC universe (I'll believe that when I see it). The New Gods have been reborn as their Seven Soldiers iterations and Darkseid, and all the villains, are supposed to "win" in this event.

We've already seen Martian Manhunter killed, we know the Legion of 3 Worlds tie-in will see only one Legion of Super-Heroes survive, Barry Allen, the long dead Flash from the original Crisis on Infinite Earths, has returned to the land of the living and other major events are supposed to include Batman's death in Batman RIP and the Rogues taking revenge on the Flash, to name a few.

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Salieri said...

I disagree on Identity Crisis; despite it making some broad, sweeping changes that upset a whole lot of people, it merited on being perhaps one of the best 'Events' ever published by DC, and the best-ever event pre-52.

Also, I'd hardly say Doctor Light became a credible threat when no-one's done anything with him in between ID Crisis and Final Crisis beyond expressing that he's now an even bigger loser than before in that he's one that can't stop bragging about his rape count.

mrpeepants said...

I'm still not sure which of these I want to go back and read besides Sinestro Corps War. I'm slowly chugging through 52 and enjoying it. Haven't really heard good things about all the other events.

Patrick Hulman said...

i would have said zero hour over amazon's attack. while most of the changes have been changed again the effect on legion was huge (causing the second reboot my some or the first reboot by others depending on where you stood on the 5 year gap.)

Dracula said...

Why's everything gotta be parallel universes in DC?

Comics All Too Real's Trinity said...

I agree with Salieri. Even if the darkening of the DC Universe went out of hand, Identity Crisis was a solid story and it brought a lot into the table that rang true, even if a little twisted. I think it impacted the DCU in the same way Watchmen did. Every writer wanted to do the same after the story became a hit, thus, the darkening.

Anyway. Countdown shouldn't really be in the list, since it was a real long and dragging story that meant so little. Same with Amazons Attack (what a waste of paper, lol).

I never read Seven Soldiers, I guess I should, now. I started with it but it bored me down the way. Is it really that important? I'm not even sure Morrison will do a great job with the Final Crisis. The first issue was deeply underwhelming.

What I did notice, though, in a real sad way, was that as we moved closer into today's books, I started having more and more complains about the newer events. I guess DC is moving into the wrong direction. Too bad. I want my funny books to be good and fun again.

Kirk Warren said...

I probably let my opinion go too much in the Identity Crisis overview.

However, my beef with Identity Crisis is that Meltzer, or his editors, disregarded all previous continuity and common sense when writing it. Here's a few of the problems I had with it:

1) Deathstroke nearly took down the entire JLA. Not with some brilliant Batman-like plot, but in a straight up fight, 1 on like 6 or 7, including people like Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, etc.

2) Jean Loring was never a "oh, woe is me, I want my husband back so badly" type of character and was more interested in her career than settling down with Atom. For her to go to such lengths to actually get him to come back to her was ridiculous when he'd probalby have come back if she, you know, picked up thephone.

Hell, Loring shouldn't have had any clue who Tim Drake was or his parents to order a hit on them.

And if she didn't want to kill Dibney, why'd she bring a flamethrower with her?

3) Somehow every hero knows every other hero's identity when they shouldn't. They just magically do now, despite what happened back in JLA #50.

4) I hated the fact they added all the rape to the comics as if it added anything to the story. These are super hero comics and, while I'm no prude or anything, they could have had Light beat her or something similar. The fact he says rape every second sentence now is equally annoying.

5) Finally, the whole Zatanna thing is just a can of worms similar to Scarlet Witch altering reality and I honestly can't see any of those heroes agreeing to mind wipe villains letalone Batman.

What I wanted to get across with my overview, though, was that Identity Crisis was what started daisy chaining all of DC's events together in one long self referencing story that continually contradicts itself, even up until today's Final Crisis.

I wasn't trying to let my general dislike of the story (I'd actually give it a Check It, despite my misgivings) seap into the article too much.

Anonymous said...

I like the list except Countdown and Amazons Attack. Both are bad and Countdown appears to be ignored in Final Crisis. Other than Wonder Woman the Amazon story does not have much effect.

I think better choices would have been Kingdom Come, which is playing a big role in the Justice Society, and the Lightning Saga, which gives us the return of Wally West and seems to be important in the upcoming Three Legions story. If Kingdom Come is too Elseworlds then Days of Vengence is more important than either Countdown or Amazons Attack. It starts the 10the Age of Magic, has the death of Shazam, the formation of Shadowpact, and is still has a large impact on all of the magical characters of the DCU like Dr. Fate and Madame Xanadu and others like Aquaman since Spectre destroys Atlantis in his war on magic.

Just my two cents.

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