DC Universe Rebirth is their latest attempt to adjust their superhero universe and generate interest in their line. Their last attempt to do so, with their DCYou line, failed horribly commercially, despite that fact that most of the comics were actually quite good. But the more one pays attention to comic book sales, the more apparent it becomes that sales are at best tangentially related to quality. Ignoring that pointless argument, the fact remains that no one bought excellent books like Omega Men or Starfire, so DC is again forced to cull a wide swath of its line and try something new. What they went with is a tight refocusing on their core characters. Big guns like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are double shipping each month at the expense of the third string characters. To get them into this initiative, DC published DCU Rebirth, and 8- page comic to move the universe from one status quo to another, and then each title is getting its own Rebirth title to set out what that character will be up to for the foreseeable future. Today, I am going to be sharing my thoughts for the first month of these Rebirth titles, starting with DCU Rebirth and then going through each characters title published in the month of June.
DC Universe Rebirth
Right from the start it is obvious what the objectionable/shocking part of this book is going to be. It starts with a nine panel grid and watched, that is as clear an indicator of tying things to Watchmen as possible. I think that is a bad idea, not only or even primarily for moral reasons surrounding the ownership of the characters. It is a bad idea because there isn’t much point to the characters outside of their own story. They aren’t in of themselves interesting characters. In fact, DC already has versions of these characters in their universe, since they were based on Charlton characters like Blue Beetle and Captain Atom. Still, if they are going to this, I think this is as good a way to do this as possible. Here they are set as otherworldly interferers who have had a darkening effect on the DC Universe as a whole. While placing the blame on Watchmen itself, that book’s influence has had a darkening, and terrible, effect on superhero comics. Less skilled writers have long attempted to capture some of that book’s tone writing stories that have dirtied up characters beyond all reason. Bringing in the Watchmen characters and making this comic an overt repudiation of that influence is pretty good.
The comic itself is much more character driven than one would expect from a reality altering event comic. It is all about Wally West, erased from reality since the New 52, trying to find an anchor to bring him back to the world. But no one remembers him. Each of his attempts to reach somebody, be it Batman or Johnny Thunder of the JSA, give a glimpse into that character’s new status quo, along with a handful of unrelated little scenes. Just like with Wally, each of those scenes being an attempt to bring back a character or characters that have been lost either thanks to the New 52 or in the years since. While they are all unfinished parts of stories, each one is a interesting set up for a new series that may or may not be coming. Johns also goes out of his way to show that they are not throwing out the new characters that have come with the New 52, most notably the new Wally West, who here is retconned into old Wally’s cousin.
While all of this is well and good, the emotional punch that Wally’s journey packs is what makes this comic work. As he bounces around the DC Universe, he begins to lose cohesion. He starts to break apart. After his wife fails to recognize him, he starts to lose hope. From then on he is not trying to find his way back anymore, he is merely saying goodbye. It is shocking how affecting it is.
This isn’t a great comic, but it does everything it sets out to do. Its fleeting glimpses of other stories really help to get the reader excited for DC comics, as does its supposed change to a more positive outlook. That is what this comic is supposed to do, to get readers excited for what is coming next and it worked on me.
Dan Abnett, Scot Eaton & Oscar Jimenez
A lot of these Rebirth reviews are going to sound the same, since a lot of them do a lot of the same things. They exist to sort of explain the character and the challenges they face. Abnett does a good job here of setting up a lot of interesting story threads for Aquaman to follow. Like he has been for at least the last five or so years, Aquaman is caught between two worlds. He is the king of undersea Atlantis, but he was born and raised on dry land. Undersea he is seen as a surface dweller, more interested in his life as a superhero than ruling his kingdom, on the surface he is – bafflingly considering the recent crossover where Atlantis attacked the Eastern seaboard – seen a kind of goof with tales of ruling an invisible kingdom. He is trying to be a part of two worlds, both of which need him but neither of which want him. It is a good set up.
In this issue he hunts down some Atlantean terrorists and goes out to dinner with his once and future wife Mera, all while being watched by his rival Black Manta. It is a fine comic. The art is basically standard superhero stuff. Not mind-blowingly great or anything, but solid. The same goes for the script, which efficiently sets up an intriguing status quo for the ongoing series.
Tom King, Scott Snyder & Mikel Janin
Trying to sell Batman to readers is kind of the easiest job in the world, and it seems a little like Snyder and King, two very good writers, kind of punted this one a bit. Not to say that this is in any way a bad comic, it’s not, but it just a fun little on off. In it, small time villain Calendar Man has released some sort of spores into the air that make the seasons speed by extra fast. One day it is spring, the next it is summer. It is up to Batman, with some help from his new sidekick Duke Thomas, to stop him.
It does set up a fun tone for the new, Tom King written Batman series, with it being more of a straight superhero book. It jumps right into the ridiculous cool Batman stuff, with Bruce Wayne doing shirtless, one-handed pull ups off the edge of the helicopter pad on the roof of the Wayne Enterprises building. It claims to want to try something different, but for the most part it is Batman business as usual, if a little heightened. The one big change is Duke, who agrees to be Batman’s partner, but not Robin. He is given a yellow and black costume but no codename for now. It is a good issue, but not an especially enlightening one. Batman’s not changing and readers already know if they want to read it or not.
The Flash Rebirth
Joshua Williamson & Carmine Di Giandomenico
This one is a direct continuation/retelling of parts of DCU Rebirth as well as setting up this version of the Flash to be much like the one from the TV show. It does that without mucking things up too much, but it doesn’t really do anything else. It starts with Barry at a crime scene, doing his CSI job at a crime scene reminiscent of his mother’s murder. It then repeats the scene where Barry saves Wally and repeats some stuff with Batman and the Watchman button. That is about all that this issue has to offer. It is very much a zero issue, even more so than the other Rebirth titles.
The writing definitely gets to the heart of who Barry Allen is, but it doesn’t really tell much of a story for itself. Still, the art is appealing and the characterization is good. The whole thing just feels very slight. Di Giandomenico’s art is a good fit for the Flash, with his characters looking somewhat square yet lithe, all long limbs and angles. It looks really good when the Flash is in motion. There just isn’t much here.
Green Arrow Rebirth
Ben Percy and Otto Schmidt
This is the big winner of the first month. Great art, great writing and the set up for what should be an excellent run on Green Arrow. In it, Ollie finds a homeless kid apparently being kidnapped by person in a cloak after the boy’s mom disappears. It turn out that the cloaked person is actually Black Canary attempting to save the boy as well. It really tries to get back to the idea of Green Arrow as a liberal crusader and has Black Canary call him out for being a hypocrite. Together they return the boy to his father and team up to fight with men who are kidnapping and auctioning off homeless people.
It is just a really good issue. The interplay between Green Arrow and Black Canary sparks immediately. They move the coming romance blisteringly fast, but it feels right. The art looks nothing like the DC house style, but in this case it is a good thing. It looks kind of scratchy and dirty, but still detailed enough. The colors, also by Schmidt, are mostly subdued but that really helps the Ollie’s green and Dinah’s blue pop off the page. It is just a great look. This issue also manages to tell a pretty good one off story while setting up the new status quo for the series. It is just a great issue.
Green Lanterns Rebirth
Geoff Johns, Sam Humphries, Ethan van Sciver & Ed Benes
Note the ‘s’ in the title, this is not a book starring any well-known Green Lantern, but the two new ones that Johns created since the New 52 started: Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz. Baz is a Muslim who has had encounters with overzealous government agencies while Cruz is an agoraphobe who up until recently was possessed by the evil Green Lantern like Power Ring. This book sets the two of them up as a buddy cop team working the Earth beat. This issue works well setting both of them and their personal struggles up, as well as forcing the two of them together for the premise of the book. It also gives them some antagonists in the Red Lanterns.
It is a simple issue, but it is really well put together. It feels more substantive than most of the others because it has to set up two characters rather than one. Benes’ art actually looks good, with some of his more egregious excesses toned down from their worst and the half by Van Sciver is his usual meticulous, detailed if a bit stiff stuff. It is and always has been a good fit for Green Lantern. The only weak point is Hal Jordan showing up to act like a heavy. The character doesn’t really work as well in that capacity. Still, this is a good issue and good start to this comic.
Pete Tomasi & Doug Mahnke
This is probably the book I was most excited about coming in, and this Rebirth issue is a baffling choice for an issue. The Superman books have a tough row to hoe after how badly DC has screwed up the character since the New 52. Now they have replaced the new Superman with the old Superman. So obviously this Rebirth issue focuses on the fact that a Superman is dead and that the new old Superman died before, in the 90’s. It uses a few pages early to retell that fight with Doomsday. Apparently they are bringing in a lot of stuff from that story, not the least of which is writer Dan Jurgens, for the ongoing books, but it is a fairly impenetrable read. After that interlude, Superman and Lana Lang look for the regeneration chamber that brought him back to life back then and fail to find it, which establishes this new Superman as the only Superman going forward.
As convoluted as the plot is, Tomasi shows a strong take on the character. His Superman feel like Superman, the first time I could say that since Morrison left Action Comics. (I have heard good things about Greg Pak’s Action Comics) And Doug Mahnke draws the crap out of the issue. This is not a great issue of a comic, but it still feels like it is leading into what should be a good run.
Dan Abnett & Brett Booth
Right from the start, I need to say that I don’t like Brett Booth’s art. His figures tend to be weirdly posed and proportioned, with thighs as big around as characters’ waists and characters tend to do a lot of squatting to show that off. Like The Flash, this is a book that picks up straight from DCU Rebirth. This follows Wally West to the book that he will be costarring in for the foreseeable future. Outside of the regrettable art, which is standard Brett Booth stuff, the comic is fine. Wally tries to get in touch with his old teammates, the Teen Titans. Except that they don’t remember him and it starts a fight.
This book has a harder time than most of the others because it is a team book and not a book about a single, or even a pair of characters. Characters that will not be starring on other books, this is the only place to find them. It does it with a neat trick, having them regain their memories of Wally when they touch him and each instance of that giving a chance to show off that character. This issue does everything it needs to with clarity and efficiency, but little flare.
Wonder Woman Rebirth
Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark and Liam Sharp
This one is up there with Superman for the most disappointing book of this whole endeavor. Like all Wonder Woman runs, this one starts by throwing the previous ones under the bus. It starts with that old chestnut that everything the character knows is wrong. Not the worst plotline, but one that is very familiar to Wonder Woman, considering that was at the heart of her last acclaimed run, the one that come out of the New 52 by Azzarello and Chiang. It does a have a nice moment, with Wonder Woman wrapping her lasso of truth around herself in order to dispel the lies. That is where they do the art switch, which again is a neat trick. Or at least it would be if the art styles were more distinct and Sharp’s stuff didn’t look so rushed. The fight pages at the end look great, but the first couple of pages look a little off.
The big problem I have with this Rebirth issue is that all of the other such issues tell the reader who they are. This issue tells the reader that even Wonder Woman doesn’t know who she is. To its credit, the book doesn’t waste any time. Unlike the other books, this doesn’t feel like a zero issue, it feels like the first issue of a new story. While I don’t feel like this book accomplishes its goals, I do have some hope for this going forward, though I expect the next writer to roll any changes back.
Final Thoughts – Overall, I would say that first month was a rousing success. I only really disliked one of the books and am generally really pumped for the books coming out. I’ll be buying Superman, Batman, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman. The only book I am not interested in at all is Titans, at least not with the artist currently on the title. The other books, Flash, Aquaman and Green Lanterns could all be good. I think they have good directions. I only have so much money in my budget for comics. I’ll be back next month, hopefully more timely than I was with this post, with my thoughts on the Rebirth issues of Justice League, Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, Hellblazer, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Nightwing, and Red Hood and the Outlaws.