Off the Shelf: DC Entertainment Essential Graphic Novels and Chronology 2015

DC Essential GN(I’m gonna skip the usual outline of OtS reviews, as this book isn’t a series, but a guide.  Bon Appetit!)

“Where do I start reading?”  Heck honey, if I knew that, I’d be famous.  Because everyone has their own ideas of where the best place to begin actually begins.  And there are so freakin’ many titles to choose from, how could any one person know it all?

Well, stop breathing into a paper bag.  DC Comics has done all the hard work for you.  Up to this year, at least.  From absolutely FOB (Fresh Onto Books) newbie to die-hard fan looking for his or her next big favorite, if it’s DCU, it’s here.  From your Constantine obsession (just me?) to the comix that are kid-approved for the youngsters in your midst, if you’re looking for what to read, and in what order, you’ve hit paydirt. Though this book isn’t geared to fans of Gotham, Arrow or The Flash, it’s definitely got tons of stuff for anyone who love the shows and wants to understand all the Easter Eggs that the shows throw into every episode.  There’s even a section called “From Page to Screen”, for TV/movie/gaming fans that haven’t made the leap to comics yet. (Note: check out iZombie.  You’re welcome.)

FYI: Essentials ain’t just the Justice League.  There’s some cool hep new stuff for you cats and canaries too.  (What?  I’m listening to swing as I write this.)  Get Jiro, Punk Rock Jesus, Trillium, and so many more young turks to choose from.  And the writer of these blurbs should get a pat on the back for the brilliant way each story is nutshelled with just the right amount of hook to get the casual glance transfixed.

As someone who has done so much skipping around the DCU that my knowledge resembles a Bingo board with a couple of wobbly pebbles here and there, I appreciate the hell out of books like this.  Not only can I check off Important Stuff that I’ve already read (hello there, Watchmen, Dark Knight, Sandman and V for Vendetta!), it helps me fill in the gaps (adding Fables, All Star Superman and Justice League Origin to the queue…).  With blurbs that can help you decide what strikes your fancy based on storylines, it’s quick and easy.  No sitting around listening to your best comic book buddy drone on and on about how awesome Court of Owls is (but it is awesome).  You leaf through the pages here, and choose for yourself.  Then you get yourself in gear and get to readin’.  Easy-peasy!

I only wish there was a wee bit of space for the original publication date of each Essential item.  Yes, a few collect issues that span years.  But it would help paint a picture of the history of the medium.  And who doesn’t love history, amirite?  (The Diamond codes could hold a clue, but a few of them are off the mark which probably means there’s more to those codes than publication date.  The more I know…)  But kudos for listing each title’s reading level, from all-ages to mature readers.  That’ll help stave off a few parental freakouts.  Of course little Jane or Johnny could get their grubbies on a TPB of Preacher at the library…but grownups, y’all have been alerted.

Essentials, Modern Classics, Multiverse tales, breakdowns of what’s good based on who you’re into (or who you’d like to get into).  There’s a ton of 411 packed into 145 pages.  Warning; there’s a bit of overlap between sections, but as almost all Essential titles all fall into a character category, that’s to be expected.  (It’s also nice to know that catching up on several characters at once is definitely something readers can do, especially when it comes to Justice League members.)  And then Essentials sharpens it’s focus to Vertigo titles…  Where was this Sandman breakdown a few years ago, when I was tracking down all the things?  Glad to see it’s here, because I’m sure I’ll be re-reading ’em at some point.

Character-specific sections in DC Essentials serve as a cribsheet of what’s gone on in that character’s history, from origin to re-imagining, battles and friendships.  Wanna know more about a character, or check the progression of the DCU through a series of events?  Then peruse this guide and get to readin’!  Man, have I got my work cut out for me…  And I’ve never been happier to be swamped.

Is this advertising DC will get you to pay for?  Well, kinda, yeah.  But the depth of research in Essentials make this a whole lot more than a simple shill.  Essentials is well crafted, separates the must-read from the chaff (or as they’d probably call it, the stuff you can pick up later).  The ranking of New 52 titles alone was worth my taking a look, because as excited as I was for that reboot, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  And so?  I didn’t.  But the New 52 section here will help me pick up where I left off, and it makes the whole thing a whole lot less intimidating.

Oh, and there are coming soon titles thrown in, so this book doesn’t end up becoming passe the moment it hits shelves.  (Those particular titles have publication dates listed, for ease of tracking ’em down.)  Not that these lists of classic titles would become dated.  But I’m sure there will be new classics down the road.  There always are.

Personally?  If you’re asking, I’d have you start with the Alan Moore and Grant Morrisson sections.  Dig into those classics, and then go from there.  And by “go from there”, I mean to page #121 for a reading order listing of titles.  But either way you choose, you’re bound to find quite a few things you’re into.  Suddenly, you’re jawin’ with the comic book store manager as an (almost) equal.  Yahtzee!

[I received an advance copy for review via NetGalley.  I received no compensation for this review.  In fact, I’ma shell out my hard-earned for a hard copy of this puppy.  DC Essentials needs to be in my library, stat.]

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