DC Entertainment’s recently launched streaming service DC Universe isn’t just the only place you’ll be able to watch the show where Robin says “Fuck Batman.” It’s also a bonafide comics reader, with a free back catalogue of some of DC Comics’ greatest hits.
But how do you make sense of a full 70 years of DC Comics history? Here are six great places to start. Happy reading!
Jack Kirby’s Fourth World
The Fourth World books, Mister Miracle, The New Gods, and The Forever People, are legendary Marvel Comics creator Jack Kirby’s magnum opus, an attempt to create a mytho-poetic epic to rival the Norse and the Greeks. It’s a bizarre concept, teeming with bright colors and bold ideas, underpinned by its creator’s intimate understanding of the insidious dangers of fascism. You won’t find subtlety here, but you won’t need it. (DC Universe doesn’t have them nicely bundled, but you can find Mister Miracle, The New Gods, and The Forever People #1-3 on the service).
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell (2003)
Dan Slott, known for a killer run of Spider-Man at Marvel, wrote this miniseries about what happens when a huge ponzi scheme fraudster pleads insanity because he thinks it’ll be easier than prison — and gets thrown in Arkham Asylum. That’s already a good hook, but within its pages you’ll also find one of the primary texts that Rocksteady Studios used to fill out the setting of Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Taking Knightwing, stripping away his secret identity and making him into a globe-trotting super spy seems like an idea that shouldn’t work. And yet, Grayson is one of the most fun and heartfelt comics to come out of the Batman universe in the last five years. Catch now-superstar writer Tom King in one of his earliest big hits.
Tragically cancelled before its full run, Prez, about Beth Ross, the first teenaged President of the United States, is still a joyful romp through the American political process and the pros and cons of living inside a social media dystopia.
The Authority #1-12
Warren Ellis’ Authority is a snapshot of the year 2000 in comics — in a good way. And it’s the rare high-concept superhero comic that actually has the depth to pull off its core idea: What happens when the world’s most powerful superheroes decide they’re just going to make everyone do things for the greater good ... or else?
Although Batwoman’s first solo stories were told in the pages of Detective Comics, Batwoman #0-5 represent the first story of her first title series, from artist J.H. Williams III and writer W. Haden Blackman. Williams’ tightly choreographed visual style is arguably as much a part of Batwoman’s aesthetic as her costume, and Hydrology is this creative team at their peak.