DC Entertainment’s recent history has been promising. Rebirth has given new life to some of its most popular characters. More importantly, many fans’ biggest concerns about the New 52 continuity have been assuaged. With this newfound popularity, DC has seen fit to expand on their storytelling.

DC’s Young Animal has seen great experimental stories set within the main DC universe, and the new Zoom and Ink imprints look to bring our favorite heroes to a younger generation. Most recently, DC has announced the Black Label line of comics, a new movement to pair the company’s best talent with its most popular characters.

With Black Label’s stories set just outside the main DC continuity, though, you may have several questions about the new line. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about DC’s newest imprint.

What is Black Label?

Black Label
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Black Label’s primary goal is to place the comic book industry’s top talent behind the company’s longest running characters. DC has plans for six miniseries at this time, with the opportunity for more down the line based on popularity. Modern industry giants like Kelly Sue Deconnick and Scott Snyder have their opportunity to shape characters like Wonder Woman and Batman. More importantly, Black Label’s titles are meant as a modern response to the Elseworld line of previous years and, as such, these events pose no risk of imploding DC canon.

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On the subject, DC publisher and artist Jim Lee stated, “Many of our perennially best-selling, critically acclaimed books were produced when we unleashed our top talent on standalone, often out-of-continuity projects featuring our most iconic characters, a prime example being Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNSCreating DC Black Label doubles down on our commitment to working with all-star talent and trusting them to tell the epic, moving stories that only they can tell with the highest levels of creative freedom.”

What gets me excited about this line is the storytelling possibilities. Setting these incredible writers free to play with iconic characters only makes sense. Because they take place in an Elseworld setting, readers can experience these characters in highly concentrated doses. Free from the shackles of continuity errors, these writers can reinvent the modern mythology surrounding Superman or the Amazons. Really, that should excite any reader.

The Titles

DC’s Black Label is set to publish six main titles at launch in August 2018. These stories will range from post-apocalyptic, paranormal mystery, to even Greek Epic myth. This means that fans of all stripes and interests can find something new to read. Here’s a quick rundown of the coming titles, and just why you should be excited about these releases.

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SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.

Black Label
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Meant to reinvent Superman’s origins, SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE will show Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s “groundbreaking, definitive treatment” of the character. Crafted in the vein of BATMAN: YEAR ONE, this story focuses on all the important aspects of Kal-El’s mythos. After his exile from Krypton, readers will follow Superman throughout his Kansas childhood and into his superheroic adulthood. All the while, SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE promises to showcase the reasons why Superman has become the most inspiring hero of all time.

Frank Miller is many things. On the one hand, he’s responsible for some of the most iconic comic books ever written. His DARK KNIGHT RETURNS turned the industry on its head back in 1986, and his subsequent BATMAN: YEAR ONE faced similar fame. On the other hand, his recent politics and storytelling have been nothing short of controversial. ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN was a critical flop. As such, it may seem a strange decision to put him on a Superman title, especially one meant to celebrate his 80th anniversary. Still, the prospect of SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE is exciting. From what little we know, Miller’s team seems to understand how important Superman has become. Hopefully, that leads to a story worthy of its title character.

BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo

Set in a seemingly dystopic America, BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH follows the Caped Crusader as he wakes up alone in the desert. Disoriented, Batman only knows that the villains have won. They have taken over the country and turned it into an unethical wasteland. Fighting to survive, Batman must quickly discover his new role in this dystopia. Oh, and did I mention his traveling companion? His only friend in the world is the talking severed head of his greatest nemesis, the Joker.

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Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have become definitive in the world of Batman. Their New 52 run brought the character into the 21st century in style. Most recently, their DARK NIGHTS: METAL run, while entirely bonkers, has more entertainment then I have ever experienced in the medium.

This pair knows how to write great Batman stories, and they know how to handle the weird. Also, while the Joker head may seem a strange concept, it kind of makes sense. The opportunity to have Batman and Joker alone, in dialogue, unable to fight, could provide some amazing character moments.

BATMAN: DAMNED by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo

Black Label
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Moving from crazy to dark and gritty, BATMAN: DAMNED acts as a team-up between John Constantine and the Dark Knight. Someone has killed the Joker. However, this isn’t a mystery Batman can solve with his fists. With evidence of the occult surrounding the murder, Batman turns to Constantine as an expert in the field. As he dives deep beneath Gotham City, the Dark Knight must fight to keep his sanity while meeting a new threat unlike any before.

BATMAN: DAMNED may be the Black Label book I’m most excited for. The subject matter alone would draw me into the story. John Constantine and Batman’s encounters in the past haven’t ended on entirely friendly terms, and this story will purposefully set Batman outside of his element.

However, the creative team behind this story may be one of my favorites. Brian Azzarello has written some of the grittiest and most compelling storylines in DC’s history. Together with Bermejo’s stunningly realistic art, they brought a compelling overview of Batman’s greatest villain to readers in JOKER. Here’s hoping they can bring the same loving attention to Batman and Constantine.

What We Can Expect From The DCEU’s Future

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Phil Jimenez

Black Label
Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The first Wonder Woman title in this lineup, WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA won’t feature the iconic Themysciran princess. Instead, the story looks to focus on the lost history of the Amazons. In a three book saga, the story will chronicle events from throughout their history. Starting with the Amazons’ creation, it will follow through their encounters with the world of man and monsters, ending with Steve Trevor’s crash on Paradise Island.

Another exciting prospect for Black Label, WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA has the best opportunity to shape DC continuity. I haven’t personally read any of Kelly Sue Deconnick’s work, but her run on CAPTAIN MARVEL at the House of Ideas is considered a modern masterpiece. Also, her runs at Image with BITCH PLANET and PRETTY DEADLY have showcased her considerable talent. She’s a perfect fit for this incredible story, especially paired with the high energy realism of Phil Jimenez’s art.

WONDER WOMAN: DIANA’S DAUGHTER by Greg Rucka

Set 20 years in the future, WONDER WOMAN: DIANA’S DAUGHTER focuses on a tyrannical regime that has overtaken the world. With very few heroes remaining, it’s up to a small band of resistance fighters to take back their rights. However, one young woman stands out amidst their forces. As the story proceeds, this woman ventures deeper into the history of their rulers, as well as her own destiny.

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We know very little at this time about DIANA’s DAUGHTER. The dystopian worldview should bring many new readers to the medium. However, longtime comic book fans will celebrate the return of Greg Rucka to the character. His run on the Rebirth WONDER WOMAN title had plenty of critical acclaim.

Also, his previous work on other DC characters has been nothing short of iconic. While I want a bit more info moving forward, I can honestly say that this storyline has some great potential. Setting it in a possible future will allow Rucka to focus on the impact and lasting importance of Wonder Woman’s character, even if she never makes a physical appearance.

THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE by John Ridley

Meant to bring literary storytelling to the superhero genre, THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE promises to be a sociopolitical journey throughout the universe. Focused entirely on characters from disenfranchised groups, this story looks to chart their everyday life and struggles outside of their costumes. John Stewart, Vixen, Renee Montoya, Extraño, Supergirl, and Katana will each have a starring role in this comic. Also, as the DC tagline goes, “It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.”

As a politically charged story, THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE has a great deal of potential. John Ridley has made huge waves with both 12 YEARS A SLAVE and AMERICAN WAY, so the pedigree is definitely there. However, it’s the viewpoint that has me excited. The opportunity for fans and new readers alike to experience a literary story of this magnitude will bring a new seriousness to the medium. More importantly, it will grant these groups the voice they deserve in a form that mythologizes the human experience.

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Final Thoughts on Black Label

Looking through this list of titles, I think fans will be blown away. The amount of talent behind the Black Label is a who’s who of comic book giants. Also, as a major Batman fan, both LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH and DAMNED promise an amazing storytelling experience from two of the best creative teams out there. WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA and DIANA’S DAUGHTER happily focus on the elements that make Diana the hero she has become.

THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE promises something incredible for the disenfranchised. Also, despite Frank Miller’s controversies, I truly believe that SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE will pay a great homage to the Man of Steel. Black Label looks to be a boon for DC Comics, so hopefully, more news comes out in the near future.

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