For all intents and purposes the New Age of Heroes line by DC comics was an extremely ambitious project that could be argued was doomed for failure. In a time period where comic book sales across the board are doing poorly and where 25,000 units shipped is considered respectable among big name franchises, the New Age of Heroes idea was completely unlike anything tried in recent memory.
With a focus on the art, DC assembled creative teams for 8 new comic projects, 7 ongoing titles and 1 miniseries. The idea was that the line would spin out of the commercially successful DC Metal event in 2017 and would focus on returning relatively forgotten characters and bringing forth new ones into the DC world.
As a whole, it’s not a stretch to say that the entire line has been a critical success. Multiple books have proven to be exceptionally popular among social media savvy comic fans, with a myriad of pull list hashtags boasting photos of comics like Silencer and Sideways even though sales seem to be settling for most books around the 16,000 units mark.
Not yet a year since the launch of the first New Age of Heroes book, Damage, we are at the point where most of the books have passed the 5 issue line and we can look back and finally rank the books for what they are, from best, to worst.
Must Check Out
Silencer has not only been the runaway critical success of the New Age of Heroes, but it pulled it off with multiple creative teams. Not only is Silencer the best in terms of story (it’s a “Taken” style story about a former assassin attempting to get out of “the life” with opposing forces attempting to drag her back in) but it also seems like Marvel’s wet dream. A female, Polynesian assassin who is badass and has a stupid name, Honor. The key with this story is that the focus isn’t on how great or how badass the protagonist is, instead, the writers leverage the outside world and the opposing assassin groups within the underworld as the catalysts of the drama so the crux of the tension is on Honor protecting her family from both outside violence and also from her secret. Throw in Talia Al’Ghul and a war within the League of Assassins and you have the making for great lore. She’s also the first New Age character to get a crossover within the “mainstream” universe appearing in the upcoming issues Nightwing #44 and #45.
It’s such a great story and it gets my highest recommendation of anything on this list. If you’re only going to check one book out, make it Silencer.
- The Terrifics
The Terrifics benefits from two major things. First, Mr. Terrific is a cult favorite. Wherever he appears, people follow and the third smartest man in the DC universe has proven time and time again that he can solidly anchor a team book. Second, the audience’s thirst for a Fantastic Four type book that Marvel refused to publish (either because Marvel hates families or Marvel hates money, you decide) was answered with this.
The Terrifics reads like a classic silver age comic and that’s a breath of fresh air where certain comic companies release 50 comics a month of derivative work where the only difference is the name of the hero. There is both an overarching storyline and most issues also have an issue-specific storyline, so you can start at issue 3 and enjoy it both as a single issue and as a larger part of the Terrifics mythos.
Not to mention, the character work is amazing. Each character is fully fleshed out, each character has clearly defined goals and desires and each character, most importantly, has clear flaws, the titular character having the brunt of it. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the true price that Plastic Man pays for being Plastic Man and the relationship breakdowns and desperate struggles to keep everything together works really well with these characters. It’s refreshing seeing heroes struggle when most comic books greet us with characters who get everything handed to them and their biggest struggle is that they were called a mean name online.
The Terrifics is worth picking up, especially if you’re longing for a good team book with beyond surface level interpersonal engagements.
I love Damage. It’s a comic book that knows what it is, a big, dumb, action packed book with enough of a story that keeps you hooked, room for deep lore and doesn’t bog the action down with superfluous dialogue. Damage is DC’s answer to The Hulk, and it does a great job. Ethan Avery is a soldier who signed up for the US’s super soldier program and he can transform into Damage for 1 hour with a 24 hour cool down. The simple story revolves around Ethan running away from the military as the military chases him and as of now he’s taking “a tour” of the DC Universe, interacting with different B and C level heroes and villains and trying to discover how he can better control his power.
The art is gorgeous and it’s obvious that it’s the main focus but Robert Venditti’s bare bones story is no slouch either. No issue feels forced or feels like filler, something always happens that organically drives the story forward. It’s easy for books in this style to feel like it’s just jumping from set piece to set piece, but Damage effectively balances the explosive art with enough of a story that Damage reads quickly and efficiently.
The big downfall of Damage is that it feels like there’s a solid ending for it. The story being told can only end a few ways and most of them involve the series ending, but that’s ok. Part of the fun of Damage is seeing him go to familiar locale to familiar locale and seeing how this complete behemoth of a wrecking machine interacts with characters that we love. I can see this going 12 to 16 issues and ending but I definitely think it’s worth jumping on for the ride.
Sideways was supposed to be DC’s answer to the Spider-man that we all knew and loved. Sideways is about a brash yet shy teenager who has a friend who he may or may not have a crush on, a mother who works for a shady corporation and is basically about growing up and learning responsibility and duty by making mistakes and learning from them. The book is well written for the most part and the art ranges from very good to gorgeous, even the worst art looks good and is really evocative of teenage life.
There are two main gripes with Sideways. The first is that the story tends to be rather predictable. As soon as you find out the mother works for a massive shady company, it’s quick to deduce that the company has something to do with Sideways’ powers and you can tell that something untoward is going to happen to her. They telegraph every plot point, but that’s kind of the charm of Sideways, its solid storytelling. With one exception.
Issue #5 had a villain who was representative of an internet troll in real life. His villain power was that he can whip people into a frenzy with the sound of his voice and cause people to wreck mayhem wherever he is. Get it? Because trolls influence the listeners to do things they otherwise would not and therefore they should be silenced so that people can live and enjoy the internet in peace. Or something. This is the weakest issue in the whole run and if you read every issue in a row, it’s startling how out of place issue #5 feels. Almost like it was written as a response to something happening in writer Justin Jordan’s life. But that’s just speculation.
Sideways is for the most part a lot of fun. It’s the type of book I would like to see a child of mine read. I used to love it, but Issue #5 pulled me out of it and the current run is a bit unwieldly, but it definitely graduates past “Spider-man” clone. Derek James, the main character, is a lot of fun and he’s absolutely relatable to the vast majority of people, unlike CEO millionaire Peter Parker…
- The Immortal Men
The Immortal Men is going to be remembered as the greatest waste of potential of all time. Originally supposed to be a Jim Lee drawn ongoing, which gave it an aura of protection, the book was cancelled prematurely, ending with issue #6 and it’s painfully obvious that it wasn’t supposed to end there. Issues #1-#5 are a great display of slow burn storytelling with a fantastic cast of characters and then in issue #6 it just sweeps the rug from under you. Issue #6 is so rushed and blue balls you with the big money fight they were setting up between the two coolest characters in the book. All because it was cancelled. And it ends with the super cheesy “THE END?” nonsense that denotes a bad and uncreative ending. I wish we could have kept The Immortal Men.
Immortal Men was one part X-Men and one part Game of Thrones. Issues #1-#5 tell a fantastic story and set the stage of a great first act and then it just… dies, not due to mistakes made by the creative team. It’s worth picking up to experience the roller coaster ride of the first five issues and then the soul crushing sadness of the final issue. To see what could have been.
Immortal Men also has the best roster of deep and complex characters, on par or better than The Terrifics. It’s what makes the cancellation and the rushed issue #6 so much worse.
- New Challengers
The New Challengers has lore ties to the old Challengers of the Unknown and was the only mini-series announced during the New Age of Heroes. Only going 6 issues, the New Challengers are absolutely an example of “we need to make sure our group is completely diverse for surface level reasons and optics” but doing it relatively effectively. Each character feels nuanced enough (with one exception) and there is inter-issue character growth of the characters evolving as a result of outside stimuli and we see how their pasts shape their current decisions. It’s a very interesting book and while not great or groundbreaking, it may be worth the pick up.
There are a few twists and turns that come off as done for the sake of shock value and for “comic book cliffhanger” reasons, but the book comes off as well-crafted and is definitely worth reading for DC deep lore purists. Otherwise, New Challengers does nothing incredible and since I highly doubt there are any Challenger Mountain completionists, most people can skip this without missing too much.
- The Unexpected
The Unexpected suffers from what I feel is the most blatant “forced diversity” of all the New Age of Heroes, and I say that as the person who ranked the Polynesian female assassin as the best book. Unexpected also suffers from the unfortunate fact that it was the final series to start and therefore suffers from “team fatigue.” Let’s be honest, out of the eight comics, four are team books and that’s a little too much.
This is possibly the most DC Metal connected series of the bunch, and it’s extremely DC Metal lore heavy, dealing often with the Nth metal, but DC Metal was never popular because of the lore. DC Metal was so popular because of the Dark Universe Batmen, not the background Nth metal lore that no one really cared about.
This is the book I put off reading the most, not because it’s particularly bad, but because I just don’t care about it. I will say, it does have one of the coolest new characters, but even that’s not enough to keep me interested, and I think that’s even worse than it just being bad.
- Curse of Brimstone
This was the book of the New Age of Heroes that I was looking forward to the most. Marvel had peacefully sunsetted my Ghost Rider series with no hope in sight so seeing the potential for a badass horror-based superhero that looked like a darker version of Ghost Rider minus the motorcycle had me so hyped up.
The Phillip Tan art works great with the subject matter which is a mix of occult and fantasy and yet, AND YET Justin Jordan manages to make it the most boring snoozefest of all time. Literally, all you had to do was not be bad at you job, your sole job and he couldn’t do it. There are large swaths of expository texts that add nothing to the story and just bog it down with Joe Chamberlin nonsense that no one cares about and the book is paced worse than Cullen Bunn’s Venomized.
Curse of Brimstone actually made me angry and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the worst issues coming out of New Age of Heroes were both written by Justin Jordan… but that could be a coincidence. Right?