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The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All New Edition

The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All New Edition
Studio: DK Publishing
Publishing Date: October 25th, 2016

The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All New Edition Review
By James Harvey

With the new "Rebirth" era of the DC Universe now upon us, and with it droves of new DC Comics readers, there's no better time for a refresher on the DC Universe, and DK Publishing delivers an invaluable resource. The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All-New Edition is a thorough and detailed collection of facts, character histories and spectacular artwork. If there's something worth knowing, about nearly any DC Comics character, then you'll find it here.

DK Publishing describes The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All-New Edition as: "Revamped, redesigned, and fully updated to include the newest storylines, the DC Comics Encyclopedia is the definitive, indispensable guide to the characters and worlds of the DC Comics Universe. Created in full collaboration with DC Comics, this easy-to use A-to-Z guide is the most comprehensive reference book on the DC Comics characters. Packed with information and thrilling comic book art, this one-volume encyclopedia features more than 1,100 characters, including Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Joker, and much more. The new edition of the DC Comics Encyclopedia brings everything up to date, providing an accessible, compelling, and lavishly illustrated guide to the dynamics of the DC Comics Universe."

Man, DK Publishing isn't kidding by calling this book "The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Comics Universe" because nary a stone is left unturned here. What's apparent with the new, updated DC Comics Encylopedia release is that this isn't just some quick rehash with a new cover, but a legitimate revision to previous entries that was carefully considered and tweaked to make sure it's as up to date with current continuity. And, on top of that, with a new foreword by DC Comics' Geoff Johns, it's one that's deeply tied with the current status of the DC Comics universe. Personally, I always worry that, when I pick up one of these releases, it'll already be woefully outdated and riddled with errors. Impressively, DK Publishing has released arguably one of the most up-to-date Encyclopedia releases yet, offering info current with DC Comics' current "Rebirth" era.

The most appealing aspect is how it's relevant to both new fans and the die-hards. Yes, the long-time readers will know a fair bit about what they're reading, but it's presented in such a manner that it streamlines and even makes clearer some of the more befuddling aspects of the current DC Universe. For example, Superman's current status in the "Rebirth" era of DC Comics is a bit of a long slog to get through. However, his entry in the Encyclopedia is able to present it in a fashion that - while still admittedly convoluted - is pretty straightforward. It makes it a bit easier to wrap your head around.

What's also nice to see is fair amount of art from the current "Rebirth" era healthily sprinkled throughout. Eddy Barrow's great depiction of Batman, from the current Detective Comics run, is used as one of the main images for Batman's entry (and it looks great). Supergirl's current character design is also used, along with others like Damian Wayne's Robin and Wonder Woman. Classic artwork is also featured plenty here, as is the status of some of the "New 52" art and design work. For example, Superboy's entry focuses on the "New 52" version since that's a wholly different character than the one emerging in "DC Rebirth," though the new Superboy (who's the son of Superman and Lois Lane) gets a nice insert to get readers up to date on this new addition to the universe. There's a conscious effort to make sure all the relevant details are included here, even if they are minimal for some (which is understandable as "DC Rebirth" is still in its infancy).

But the book doesn't forget the early years of DC Comics, either, as important events from the the publisher's history are referenced throughout, not just what's happened in current continuity. Events like "Crisis on Infinite Earths," (the underrated) "Final Crisis," and (the awesome) "Blackest Night," among a fair amount of others, are included. The Encyclopedia nicely encapsulates a lot of DC's history, even the stuff no longer considered in-continuity, or currently confirmed as such, and it provides a nice amount of weight and relevance to the publisher's history and even an understanding as to why the universe has been revamped and rebooted. It works almost in context with everything as a "this happened then, and still matters, but it's been revised for modern readers"-kinda thing. Hopefully that last sentence makes sense. To boil it down, the entire history of the DC Universe is on display, and the book is able to make it seem just that less intimidating for newbies, and lays it out clearly for the long-time readers who still might be a little confused by it.

Of course, some longtime readers will likely be disappointed to see the "New 52" character origins and designs get most of the spotlight, but that's understandable since the "New 52" is the new established continuity of DC Comics (though that's now somewhat in flux thanks to "DC Rebirth"). I will admit I was surprised to see Watchmen characters included here, and couldn't help but think this confirms their rumored growing roll in the evolving DC Comics universe. It's an interesting entry which might actually be a real hint in how "DC Rebirth" will play out in the comics over the next couple of years.

Suffice it to say, this book is absolutely packed, and one could easily lose a couple hours just skimming through it. Each entry features great character shots and some stunning artwork, the artwork a mix of recent character designs and classic. Major characters get multiple pages, usually necessary to cover their wide influence over the DC Comics universe, while most get the standard 1-2 page write-up. And yes, nearly any DC Comics character you can think of is in here. There were even some characters that were legitimately new to me, so there's a good chance that even long-time readers might learn about new characters or just new background details and character connections.

The production values on the book itself is fantastic. The heavy dust jacket, the sturdy binding and excellent paper stock makes this well worth the cost. And, inside, the page layouts are attractive and easy to read. Layouts are eye-catching and have a natural flow to them. The box insets, used for some entries to provide an updated “DC Rebirth” status on some of the characters, pop off the page and are hard to miss. DK Publishing did an excellent job making sure that readers wouldn’t miss the important updated "DC Rebirth" character statuses. The included foreword and introduction are a nice touch, adding a seal of approval that this is the definitive tome to pick up. Geoff John's foreword is particularly enjoyable to read, as it's hard to overlook his sheer enthusiasm for the DC Universe and how this book is a celebration of that world. The introduction by author Matthew Manning and editor Cefn Ridout lays out the purpose of the book, offering a bit of a history lesson while explaining how the book chose it's presentation of the sometimes intimidating DC Comics universe.

All told, for new readers or long-time fans, The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All New Edition is a great purchase, making for a fantastic resource and a legitimately interesting look at just how vast the DC Comics universe is. For new readers coming in to try "DC Rebirth," or fans of the animated properties looking to explore the source material, this is an essential addition to one's collection. It boils down the publisher's entire history between two covers, highlighting the current status of continuity while also shining the light on important events from the past. Every last detail is presented in an easy to read fashion, with smooth layouts and a great selection of art. Even it's "The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Comics Universe" tagline doesn't feel like a boast or a lofty proclamation, but just stating a simple fact. I don't think you'll find a more thorough exploration of the DC Universe than the excellent tome that DK publishing has put together. Highly Recommended.

The DC Comics Encyclopedia - All New Edition is now available at retail and digital outlets everywhere.


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