DC Rebirth This Week – Hail to the Bat

Reading Time: 13 minutes
Man, these two seem like jerks. :) image via DC Comics
Man, these two seem like jerks in Batman: Rebirth #1. 🙂 image via DC Comics

The best we can say is that Rebirth this week was…interesting. After issues that showed great promise for several series, the only title to truly hit it out of the park was Batman #1, and Green Arrow and Superman featured story elements that made us want to toss the issues aside angrily.

Still, there was Clean Room from the Vertigo imprint as compensation.

As always TOTAL MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW FOR THIS WEEK’S DC COMICS.

Titans: Rebirth #1 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Brett Booth, Penciller; Norm Rapmund, Inker; Andrew Dalhouse, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Like Wally, This Comic Spun Its Heels.

Ray: Much like Flash before it, this comic is very much a must-read because it continues directly from the events of Rebirth and focuses on the returned Wally West. I’m seeing a bit of confusion because this is being called “Teen Titans” by some people, but that book is coming in August and will feature the New Wally. Much like all the Rebirth issues, this one is sort of decompressed, very much here to get us acquainted with the new status quo of the book. In this case, the main thing it has to do is to reunite Wally with his team members. The story begins with Wally breaking into the old Titans’ base, looking for mementos of the team that everyone forgot. He’s soon joined by Nightwing, who just sees a mysterious intruder and attacks. When Wally is able to make contact with the lightning, he manages to jog Dick’s memories and they have a nice reunion – until the rest of the team shows up.

That’s where the issue becomes sort of predictable, as one after another Wally is able to make contact with them and jog their memory, each scene accompanied by a nice flashback of a time Wally showed a team member kindness. What this issue does really well is re-establish who Wally is supposed to be – the heart of the Titans, everyone’s best friend. What it doesn’t do very well is anatomy, especially on the central character. Brett Booth’s art isn’t terrible in most places, but Wally looks freakishly long-necked in places. The comic raises a lot of questions, but doesn’t answer any of them. Some quibbles aside, though, it makes me want to pick up the book to find them out.

cover copyright DC Comics
cover copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Decompressed? There was little forward plot momentum in the story save for the Speed Force lightning restoring some personal memories of the Titans. This should feel so important to Wally, who’s basically been a person without a friend in the world, as his life literally disappeared but it instead feels like a plot element that must be hit. Plus, the Titans remembered each other in the miniseries that led to this relaunch. Only Wally’s inclusion is new.

I liked the flashback memories and I like the handle that Abnett has on the personalities of the original Titans team, though the whole thing between Wally and Lilith/Omen is odd. (Hey, where did Gnaark go?)

But the biggest drawback? The artwork. In places, it’s kinetic and portrays Wally’s speed perfectly and, in other places, people are oddly shaped, from that long-neck Ray mentioned to people looking far too tiny because the perspective is off.

Batman #1 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Penciller; Matt Banning, Inker; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 10/10 (Book of the Week)

Corrina: Spectacular.

Ray: The Batman: Rebirth issue was co-written by Snyder, so it was hard to know exactly how King’s first solo issue would play out. We now have our answer – spectacularly. Batman is, at his core, a pulp hero. Which Pulp hero varies based on what run he’s in. Sometimes he’s Sam Spade, sometimes he’s Zorro, sometimes he’s the Shadow, and sometimes he’s Indiana Jones. Based on this comic, Tom King’s Batman is James Bond, the daring, determined super-spy who defies death on a daily basis. I can very much live with that. The issue is almost entirely one spectacular action scene, as Batman’s routine is derailed when a Kobra agent shoots down a passenger airline, sending it hurtling towards the center of Gotham in the middle of rush hour. There’s some uncomfortable parallels here, of course, but unlike that distasteful scene in BvS, it doesn’t dwell on them, instead keeping a full-throttle view on how Batman will stop the disaster.

This is very much “Bat-God” in places, but a more nuanced view that never quite loses sight of his mortality (especially in one extremely powerful scene towards the end). The supporting cast this issue is narrowed to Alfred, Gordon, and Duke, but each is characterized well and gets at least one strong scene. The arrival of Gotham and Gotham Girl, two super-powered vigilantes who say they’re here to save Gotham, is interesting, because I think King is going to pit Batman against one of his deadliest enemies yet – becoming obsolete. Finch’s art is as strong as it’s ever been, and the story and action are nothing short of spectacular. (Have I mentioned that enough?) This book looks to be remaining the crown jewel of the DCU for some time to come.

Corrina: Batman is riding a damaged airplane in the sky. Your argument is invalid.

Yeah, it’s that kind of fantastic and amazing sequence. I thought I’d seen everything in comics and this should be over-the-top but, dammit, it’s not and it works so well. As Gordon says, “Of course, you’re on the plane.” It’s also a sly homage to how Superman seems to keep rescuing planes falling from the sky. Who needs him?

Well, Batman, because while he can save the plane, he’s in trouble on the landing. That’s when Gotham and Gotham Girl show up to grab the plane and save everyone’s lives. My reaction? What the heck took them so long? I will be thrilled if that’s Batman’s reaction next issue as well. I mean, what jerks to let Batman worry about dying when they could have swooped in earlier. (I may be reading too much into this.)

Also, wait, is this DAVID FINCH on art? The David Finch whose art made my eyes bleed (figuratively) on Wonder Woman and, at times, on Justice League? Where did this quality come from and how come his art doesn’t always look like this?

Superman #1 – Peter Tomasi, Writer; Patrick Gleason, Penciller; Mick Gray, Inker; John Kalisz, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

Corrina: So Disappointing.

Ray: DC Rebirth has been off to a very strong start, with every comic varying from good to okay. Well, unfortunately, this streak is over. This is the first bad comic printed under the Rebirth line – a slow, oddly paced, distasteful comic that seems massively out of step with the version of this character shown us in Lois and Clark and now in Action. It starts with Superman once again mourning the New 52 Superman at his funeral plot in Smallville and rehashing his decision to take on the Superman mantle. That’s the first seven pages of the comic, followed by a splash page of him rescuing a burning firehouse. Then, back at the farm, Jon goes and plays with his pet cat, only for a hawk to grab the cat, and Jon to accidentally burn both animals to death with his heat vision in a rather graphic scene. This feels like one of those scenes that would be meme-worthy in a few years a la Roy Harper and the hobos, but it doesn’t even have dark comedy to it. It’s just gross and sad. A little neighbor girl sees this, and Jon becomes tense when she pays a visit to their home. He then explodes on his parents when they try to explain why they keep secrets and is sent to his room.

He then watches as his father meets with the JL, and then Superman comes into his room and tells him to come with him in a rather ominous page. I know a young boy coming into his powers won’t always be smooth, but this issue was a rather sharp and ugly turn from the positive, optimistic take on a super-family Jurgens has been giving us. Superman needs a consistent tone right now, and this isn’t it.

Corrina: The last time a dead cat showed up in a DC Comic, a one-armed Arsenal, drunk and high, hallucinated it as a weapon. This poor dead kitty doesn’t rise to that level of badness but that doesn’t make it good either.

Why would you write such a scene for poor Jon? Wouldn’t it have been enough for him to have killed the hawk instead of having burn the family pet to death? What purpose does that serve other than check a box for angst that Jon will have to get over. Also, wow, the kid is approaching sociopathic levels that he didn’t come running to mom or dad for comfort about the poor kitty. I’m sure the writer didn’t mean for me to take it that way but….this in no way suits the character I’ve seen in Jurgens run.

Also, why would Superman scare his son so much in the scene at the end? This whole book makes me doubt the creative team’s handle on the characters. (It doesn’t help that Lois is oblivious to any signals Jon might be giving off about the missing cat. Because, hey, I have four kids and I can tell 99 percent of the time when something’s bothering them. And I’m not a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter.)

Having mentioned the art in the past two books, I should note here that Gleason is doing fine work. I just wish the story supported it better.

Staring at each other doesn't a relationship make, you two! Image via DC Comics.
Staring at each other doesn’t a relationship make, you two! Image via DC Comics.

Green Arrow #1 – Ben Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist

Ray – 6/10

Corrina: The Plot Feels Horribly Forced.

Ray: There’s some interesting ideas at play here, as Percy seems to have a better grasp on Ollie and his personality than anyone since Lemire – including his own previous run. This Ollie is very much the smug social justice warrior once again, but he’s one with a plan. He uses his wealth to push his goals, not just his strength to enforce them. His relationship with Black Canary is written well as well, especially their banter as they investigate the mole people market, but I was a bit iffy about the decision to have them immediately fall into bed with each other in this issue. I get that they’re star-crossed lovers who have been reunited after being separated by evil cosmic forces, but a little more lead-up would have been appreciated.

The use of Emiko this issue, after her odd absence in the Rebirth issue, was welcome, as she’s used more than she has been since Percy’s first arc. Then things start going south, as Ollie finds out that his company’s resources are being used by the Mole people in their kidnappings. He acts to stop this, and is quickly attacked by agents of his own company, led by his father’s ex-lover Shado – Emiko’s mother. He tries to tell Emiko to get to safety – only for her to shoot him and reveal that she’s been in league with her mother all this time. Weak, bland reveal that once again ruins GA’s potential to have a decent supporting cast in the comics, and robs the DCU of one of its most promising new young heroes. I figure it can be reversed if anyone wants to (Damian did nearly kill Alfred and Tim in his first arc), but it’s still a disappointment.

Corrina: As a romance writer, I have to tell you that the fun of a romance is the courtship. Yep, a couple can fall into bed together and that’s not the end of a romance, but the sex happens so fast this issue and with so little foundation that Ollie’s use of “Pretty Bird” just baffled me rather than interested me. That Dinah turns right around the very same day and is all like “oh, I still hate you, basically,” just made me throw up my hands. I love me some Ollie/Dinah, I’m one of the original shippers for them, but this relationship is in no way earned and in no way makes any sense unless one writes a whole bunch of fanfic that takes place between panels or between issues.

Put the story on the page, please.

I won’t address Emiko’s supposed heel-turn much, as Ray said it well, but let’s just say when I finished the issue, my first thought is “well, Ray is gonna hate this.” Basically, that character development we needed to get Ollie and Dinah together? That happened for Emiko and Ollie in earlier issues so they could bond as siblings. Now it’s tossed away.

So we have one new, sorta-relationship that has no foundation and a sibling relationship with a strong foundation that’s tossed under the wheels of a plot device. Also, Ollie looks as dumb as his television counterpart while checking into his company finances. Really, Ollie?

Once again, however, I loved the art. The faces are terrific, the bedroom scene is well drawn, Dinah looks gorgeous without any T&A displays, and Ollie looks appropriately good in and out of his uniform. I almost see some Mike Grell influence here.

Green Lanterns #1 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Robson Rocha, Penciller; Jay Leisten, Inker; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Corrina: And Here I Thought I Could Like a Green Lantern Comic.

Ray: After a promising debut issue that made both of this title’s rookie leads (especially Jessica) seem like intriguing characters, this official first issue bogs them down with a bland, gruesome plot that seems to set their characterization back a bit as well. After another flashback to the Guardians’ and the mysterious all-powerful ring that one of them created, Simon and Jessica arrive on the scene to deal with a mysterious Lantern-related disturbance in Arizona, and find a deranged possessed junkie, a gutted Red Lantern, and a basement full of long-dead corpses. While dealing with the fallout, the Lanterns come under attack from the families of the victims, who seem momentarily possessed by the influence of the Red Lantern ring, and an explosion creates a structure known as a Hell Tower.

On Ysmault, Atrocitus rants about the coming of something called Red Dawn while choking Bleez. The Lanterns having bickered enough, they separate to go back to their lives. I’m still intrigued by Jessica’s agoraphobia and her relationship with her sister, so that plot was good until it was interrupted by rage zombies. Simon’s plot, though, seems to be all about how angry he is and how he’s rebelling against the deal he made with the feds, which isn’t a very good look for DC’s most prominent Muslim hero. Prophecies are common in the Lantern-verse and maybe a bit overused, but this standard “one will rise, one will fall” prophecy that Simon has a visual of seems like a cliche. Not bad enough to write off, but a weak follow-up to a Rebirth issue that set up some fun stuff.

Corrina: I feel like the Rebirth reviews this week could lead with “after a promising start…and then…” because along with Green Arrow, Superman and Titans, this #1 also deflated my interest in these two characters. I like these two, I really do, and I loved the hints of exploring superheroes with personalities a little outside the norm, especially someone like Jessica, who suffers from anxiety and fear of being out in the open and yet is heroic in spite of that.

Instead, there’s a standard horror story, the Red Lanterns and a bunch of Lantern mythology is thrown into the middle of the issue, there’s a lot of gore and Simon and Jessica work at cross-purposes and seem to hate each other still. Yeesh. I thought I might like a Green Lantern title for once. Not from this issue, I don’t.

Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade #1 – Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, Writers; John Romita Jr., Artist; Peter Steigerwald, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: It Read Like a Recap of Starlin’s Run.

Ray: This 64-page prestige format one shot doesn’t play heavily into the plot of the current Dark Knight III miniseries, but rather stands on its own as it shows us an untold story within the original Dark Knight continuity, focusing on Bruce Wayne as he starts to age and feel his body betray him, at the same time as he trains a new Robin – Jason Todd, making his first appearance in the Dark Knight verse.

In many ways, this is a retelling of the Death of the Family story, as almost any story with Jason sort of has a foregone conclusion much like any story with Gwen Stacy. But in many ways, I actually liked this story better than the original. While the original story felt like it was put together quickly to shuffle Jason off-stage, this issue lets us see the problems that were building for a long time. An older Batman ignoring the problems in his protege’s style until they were too late. A young vigilante whose rage was bubbling just under the surface. While the growing tension between them, leading to Jason making a single fatal error, is the focus, there’s a lot going on here. A version of Killer Croc that plays far more on the crime boss element, a truly malevolent Poison Ivy showing just how dangerous she can be when unleashed, and a Joker who manages to sow unbelievable chaos even from within Arkham. This is essentially a snapshot of just how hard the “job” becomes as Bruce starts to break down, and it’s probably my favorite DKR-related thing since the original mini.

Corrina: Ray and I part ways on this one. I opened it and expected some new insight into Jason Todd and his relationship to Batman but instead the story of Todd as deteriorating vigilante is basically the same story as originally read way back then. There’s no new spin or special insight into Jason or Bruce. It’s all just a retelling. That’s so disappointing.

No, the Joker bits in Arkham did nothing for me save make me yawn but I admit, that could be that I am so annoyed at the “Joker as unstoppable force” version that he seems to have become over the years. I guess Killer Croc is fine? So there’s that.

clean room
Oh, that’s not creepy at all right? YIKES. Image via Vertigo.

Bonus Vertigo Review:

Clean Room #9 – Gail Simone, Writer; Jon Davis-Hunt, Artist; Quinton Winter, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Just When I Thought I Had It Figured Out…YIKES!

Ray: Simone’s disturbing tale of possessions, cults, and conspiracies has successfully ensconced itself as the most disturbing book in the Vertigo roster. This issue is one of the most significant yet, as Astrid Muller’s life hangs in the balance and Chloe thinks that only thing that can potentially save her…is one of the very things she’s been trying to destroy. The one monster that isn’t evil like all of its kind is a bit of a cliche, but one that can be done very well (see the BFG coming out next month for one of the original examples), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done with creatures quite as disturbing as this one.

The tension in this issue, particularly between Chloe and Killian, is extreme, and the issue contains one gut-punch after another. I will say, though, that nothing shocked me as much as the issue’s conclusion. Just when you think you’ve got the number of Astrid, she manages to shock and disturb you once again. This is a title where the bad guys and good guys (if there even are any) aren’t easy to figure out, and that’s part of what makes a great horror story.

Corrina: This title is so creepy. So creepy. And I’m sucked in anyway. I’m going to take a minute and point out how well Davis-Hunt’s incredibly clean lines for all the characters and Winter’s bright colors are such a great contrast to the grim art of most horror comics. That everything happens in the open and in the light makes these monsters about ten times more scary than they’d be obscured in shadow. Our nightmares are real and following us around in the daylight! YIKES.

I was ready to pump my fist that Chloe finally got her act together and had a handle on the horror and could sincerely help with the demons, especially in saving the life of the person she once help responsible for murder. Instead, Astrid goes over to what seems to be the dark side again once she’s revived. That’s cold, Astrid. But, fascinating. But that means I have to read more of this and hope I don’t get nightmares.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes. 

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