The new DC superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice runs a lengthy two and a half hours, but for some, that may not be enough. Luckily, there are nearly 80 years of comics to satisfy that yearning desire for superhero adventures. Here are some of the best books from DC’s comic book library to check out now that justice has, well, dawned.
Batman: The Court of Owls and Batman: Night of the Owls
In the fall of 2011, DC Comics hit the reset button on its comics continuity in an initiative dubbed the “New 52.” Batman’s first arc after the refresh was his fight against the Court of Owls, a secret society of Gotham’s mega wealthy that manipulated the city for generations.
While Night of the Owls saga is made up of multiple books from various writers including Gail Simone, Kyle Higgins, Judd Winick, Duane Swierczynski, and more, Scott Snyder was the chief author, and his current run on Batman has been hailed as the definitive interpretation of the Dark Knight in the modern era.
Though the Ben Affleck-helmed Batman movie film is still a distant notion, it isn’t unreasonable to think one of the best and recent Batman arcs could make its way to the big screen eventually.
Wonder Woman: Gods and Mortals
Dawn of Justice is historic if only for the cinematic debut of the one and only Wonder Woman.
The New 52 wasn’t the first time DC relaunched all of its books. In the mid-‘80s, DC published Crisis on Infinite Earths which was another reset to simplify the then-50 years of comic book history. A few years later after the dust on Crisis settled, writers George Perez, Greg Potter, and Len Wein redefined Wonder Woman in Gods and Mortals, a critically-acclaimed seven issue series that helped to shape who and what Wonder Woman stood for for the next several decades.
Besides several socially progressive leaps — for example, Amazons were portrayed as multi-racial — Gods and Mortals reestablished Wonder Woman as not just a warrior, but a teacher, living up to creator’s William Moulton Marston’s intention for the Amazonian princess to live as a vanguard than simply a soldier.
Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Gods
Following Gods and Mortals, Perez and Wein pit Wonder Woman against Cheetah for the first time, all the while dealing with Zeus, King of the gods, being the worst clinger since your last Tinder match and refusing to take no for an answer. Considered “Part Two” of Perez and his team’s late ‘80s reboot, it goes nicely after Gods and Monsters.
The summer of the New 52, DC published Flashpoint, a universe-altering series where The Flash finds himself in a drastically-altered timeline where Superman doesn’t exist, Cyborg is the world’s best superhero, Wonder Woman and Aquaman wage war at the expensive of millions of human lives, and Batman isn’t who you think he is.
With Flash’s cameo in Dawn of Justice a bit of a head-scratcher, Flashpoint from celebrated comics writer and DC movie producer Geoff Johns may offer clues to what’s happening as the Justice League cinematic universe gets a little bigger.
JLA: A League of One
Another Wonder Woman story! This time, it’s the 112-page graphic novel published in 2002 by Christopher Moeller about loving people so much that it hurts.
An ancient dragon awakens in the modern world, which forgot creatures like it existed. In their place are superheroes, the Justice League. A prophecy states that the one to defeat the dragon will die, and Wonder Woman takes it upon herself to carry the burden. Since the League refuse to let her face the dragon alone, Wonder Woman takes every Justice League member down one-on-one in order to fulfill her obligation.
Usually a superhero story like this would involve some hacky plot device like mind control, but A League of One is better than that. It’s about duty at the cost of friendship, a powerful theme that surprisingly few comics explore. In the DC movie-verse, the Justice League is only forming and are far from facing such challenges, but A League of One is still just a great story for those seeking compelling Wonder Woman tales and her fragile relationship with her closest comrades.
Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia
How can a book be epic in scope but so personal in its conflict? It’s not easy, but Greg Rucka pulls it off flawlessly in Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia, a book so politically and culturally minded but doesn’t go anywhere near 9/11 symbolism despite its publishing barely a year after the attacks.
It’s tradition versus modern justice when Wonder Woman is bound by the Amazonian ritual of Hiketeia, obligated to protect a young woman named Danielle. But Danielle did something bad: She’s a murderer, who killed the human traffickers who killed her sister, and Batman is in pursuit. Talk about a rock and a hard place.
More than just about duty versus ethics, Rucka’s book is an exceptional character analysis of Wonder Woman, made even richer (and cooler) with her opposition against her close friend and ally Batman, who’s becomes a bit RoboCop-y in the series. The best superhero stories aren’t always the grand, sweeping end-of-days epics, but a clash of the ideals that the heroes are meant to represent. That conflict should have driven Batman v Superman full speed ahead, but perhaps it will for Captain America: Civil War.
Superman: American Alien
Chronicle and American Ultra screenwriter Max Landis is a well-known comic fan, and in 2015 he penned the seven-issue miniseries Superman: American Alien. The mini-series retells Superman’s journey from Kansas farmboy into bonafide superhero in ways you wouldn’t expect. Smallville this is not.
With artists Francis Manapul, Jae Lee, and Jock, American Alien is at turns dark and cheerful, striking a very careful balance. Think Superman is boring? After Dawn of Justice I wouldn’t blame you, but American Alien will force you to think again.
Justice League: Origins, or watch the movie!
The New 52 didn’t win over everyone, but Justice League: Origins did claim quite a few fans. The first volume of the new Justice League book written by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee for the 2011 reboot, Origins assembles the iconic heroes for the first time, complete with the suspicion and drama that goes along when you bring together larger than life heroes like these bulked-up mashers.
As Dawn of Justice itself is an origin story for the League, there’s really no better book to check out than the actual beginning made for modern readers.
In addition, you could check out the exceptional animated movie Justice League: War, which is based heavily on Origins. There are big differences — Shazam is in the movie instead of Aquaman, who’s in the book —but Dawn of Justice was a mash-up of Dark Knight Returns and Death of Superman anyway, so clearly fidelity to source material isn’t all that important.