It seems that after a period of DC books just treading water, the company has made a major effort to step up their game. This happens a lot in comics, in my view - a sort of cyclical rotation of the books that just seem to be right, while others languish in mediocrity. For a while, since all of the hype behind One Year Later, 52, and Infinite Crisis (and its infinite tie-ins) died down and the company shifted to putting the marketing machine behind Countdown, the books seemed to lose quality while they gained quantity.

While the push behind Countdown and its countless tie-ins is still moving strong, the fan reaction to it has been weak. Things have reached their saturation point. Or rather the over-saturation point. There is just too much out there, and none of it, on its own, seems to hold any water. The books just feel thin. I am still sort of enjoying Countdown, for its universe-spanning feel and some of its more entertaining points (see my Countdown Rundown weekly column over at FOG! for my views on the weekly book), especially the story of the comic Flash Rogues, the Pied Piper and the Trickster.

But in the last month, the change in the quality of the DC line has come from the books that aren't related to Countdown and the books leading to the coming Final Crisis. Rather the best books coming out of DC have been the stand alones; books like Green Arrow: Year One, The Metal Men mini-series, The Un-Men (yes, I know it's Vertigo!), The Outsiders: Five of a Kind weekly event, The Green Lantern: Sinestro Corps War event, and Booster Gold.

While the Sinestro event and the new on-going Booster Gold are both related to the coming Crisis, they stand on their own, and would be perfectly enjoyable even without a vast knowledge of the current DCU. Solid, entertaining stories about super-heroes that aren't ashamed of their core "super-heroness." GA:Y1 has been much better than I could have hoped for - Andy Diggle and Jock having updated the arrow-slinger's origin and mixed in a very riveting and socially-conscious story, while staying true to the character's nearly 70-year-old roots.

With only one issue under their respective belts', both Vertigo's Un-Men (spinning out of old Swamp Thing stories) and the regular DCU 8-issue mini The Metal Men have both shown great promise. The art on Metal Men alone should be winning fans across the board. Plus, their appeal to both old and new fans (me being one of the later, at least for the Metal Men) should serve as a model for all new comics.

And, with the nostalgia-serving homage to the 80s classic, Batman and the Outsiders, the current August-shipping event Five of a Kind is following in the footsteps of Metal Men - serving up old-skool fun in the form of unlikely team-ups and fast-paced, action-packed one-shot stories (this week's Metamorpho/Aquaman serves as a perfect example.) At the same time, the event is pushing the concept forward for a new generation of fans.

Maybe there is hope for the "Nu-DC" and the regime of Dan Didio after all. I liked what the senior VP-Editorial did when he first came on - ambitious world/universe building and a revamp of the entire line - but lately, that ambition has turned into stubborn adherence to a failing vision. Maybe with the end of universe-spanning events in sight with Morrison and Jones' Final Crisis (for which I and countless fans have very high hopes), the DCU will finally get back to what it does best - solid, character driven stories of iconic super-heroes.

For Marvel fans, check back in over the weekend for a look at what's making me happy from their line - can you say, "Hulk SMASH!!!??"

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