Since I wrote my initial review of GraphicAudio’s great DC audiobook series for Green Spot Blue (here), the article continues to receive visits and I occasionally get comments and e-mails asking which of theirs I would recommend for listening first.
With summer in full swing and road trips almost every weekend, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share my four top recommendations for helping pass those long hours staring out the window at the lines on the highway.
Also, we are in the midst of a superhero summer here in the US. With The Avengers breaking box office records and the last entry in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series as well, this is as good a time as any for imagining how much more fun (and crazy) the world would be if we had a few people in capes that could fly about.
When they do, I hope they make some new Justice League episodes. While there are things I liked (and loved) about each of their audiobooks, there is something a lot more “fun” about the Justice League series. They aren’t weighed down by all of the drama that comes with Batman and the Crisis series; what you get is a group of superheroes (with voices that perfectly capture their characters) getting along and getting things done. When I return to listening to these audiobooks from time to time, I usually will go to one of these additions first.
Of the Justice League books, my favorite is Exterminators. The story follows a growing population of humans from the United Kingdoms with super powers; some do good, others, well, don’t. Over the course of the tale (as these super humans start to morph into something quite different), we watch the Justice League scramble to save new friends as well as correct a wrong from their past.
Of the four in this list, this entry is probably the best option for family listening. I would still recommend listeners be over the age of 7 or so (and parents should check it out first).
Before I dive into this recommendation, I need to say this first- I respect what GraphicAudio did with the audiobook Batman: Dead White. It is a very adult audiobook and it has everything from underage drug use to white supremacists (and all of the language that entails). It is harsh, brutal, and many times hard to listen to. And while it might be the most “important” of all of the GraphicAudio DC titles, I would not easily recommend it to first time listeners.
My favorite of the Batman titles is No Man’s Land. In many ways, it represents what I like about Batman when his stories are done right. Covering over two parts, it is filled with a large collection of his villains (from the Joker to Bane), and builds up over a very exciting concept.
See, in No Man’s Land, Gotham City has been cut off from the rest of the United States, with its remaining citizens forced to fend for themselves or ally themselves with villains and people they would never have considered. There are gangs (even Commissioner Gordon runs a gang and a neighborhood). It is filled with interesting little subplots. I also really enjoyed the narration style, which was shared by both the DC narrator (Richard Rohan, who after listening to all of these audiobooks I consider a remarkable talent) of most of the DC series, as well as Barbara Gordon in the form of letters to her dad.
This was the last entry that GraphicAudio did of the DC titles so far, and it is definitely one of the best.
It’s not that they are badly made or anything, they are still wonderfully acted and directed; its just that there is so, so much going on. It can be overwhelming, especially if you are not already well aware of comic books and all its heroes and villains, from the main to the supporting cast. Heck, even Uncle Sam makes an appearance (albeit, not a happy one)… yes, Uncle Sam is a superhero in the DC world if you can believe it.
The Crisis adventures are like a Who’s Who of superhero stories with the world(s) always teetering on the brink of disaster. They are daunting, they are relentless, and they are brutal; with heroes dying left and right. For example, the first entry begins with the death of The Flash, Barry Allen.
Also, since the Crisis titles are typically right from the midst of the continuing adventures of DC’s work in the 80’s and 90’s, plots don’t always find closure in these stories since the original comic book writers assume you would follow the adventure further in another comic book. A great example of what I mean is from Infinite Crisis and one of the storylines involves the new Blue Beetle. Not to give too much away, but over the story, this teenager discovers his power and then vanishes. You would have to go to Wikipedia or something later to discover how that played out after listening.
However, of the Crisis titles, in my opinion 52 is the best. In 52, it is a world with no Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman. Batman and Wonder Woman have disappeared after the adventures of Infinite Crisis, and Superman has lost his ability. Where this audiobook succeeds is that it (as compared to the other Crisis titles) focuses squarely on four plots and characters, and, honestly, these are four characters I thought I never would have cared about before. They are Batwoman, Booster Gold, the Question, and Black Adam. Yes, this actually made me care about Booster Gold!
Some of the best audiobook performances I have ever heard are in these hours (the story of Renee Montoya becoming the Question is a definite high mark).
I’ve written about this entry a few different times on my site, but part of the fun to me about the audiobook is how much it took me by surprise. Going into it, I never expected I would like it as much as I did. I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s, and Hal Jordan, the fearless test pilot, was my Green Lantern… Well, that is until I heard this story. Now, I wish they did the Kyle Rayner storyline over Hal’s in that unfortunate movie last year.
Kyle is not a risk taker, he is not destined to be a superhero. He was an artist in an alley at the wrong time and was given the last Green Lantern ring. Which means, his story is more than just learning about his new found powers, but also about what it means to be a Green Lantern and what it means to be a hero. He has no dying purple alien telling him that this is his destiny and to take the ring, he has to decide that he wants it to be his destiny. And because of the first class writing and performance, you can understand and feel the weight of that inevitable decision.
Two of the things I love about this entry is how wonderfully it mirrors Joseph Campbell’s outline of the “hero’s journey” (If you don’t know what I mean check out his important opus The Hero with A Thousand Faces, it even inspired the first Star Wars.) and its ending. Wow, I love the ending of this. While most comic adventures end with a fight and someone may or may not lose their life before the battle is over, that is far from the case here. This is new, emotional, and powerful, and in the end (without ruining it) shows the power of good storytelling, as a boy says goodbye to the mother he never knew.
Trust me, check this out… and have a nice summer.
If you liked reading my article, why not check out some of my books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my amazon.com author page here. Thanks for reading!