DC Rebirth This Week – Many Happy Returns

Reading Time: 14 minutes
Wonder Woman fights the monsters in Wonder Woman Rebirth #1, image copyright DC Comics
Wonder Woman fights the monsters in Wonder Woman Rebirth #1, image copyright DC Comics

We put Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 on top because her regular series has been in the most serious need of a makeover, especially since Meredith Finch and David Finch took over the title a year ago. (Though Legend of Wonder Woman has been a nice compensation.)

Detective Comics keeps chugging along nicely, as expected under this creative team, but the big news is a return to prominence for Kate (Batwoman) Kane. Sadly, her one-time fiancee, Maggie Sawyer, is back in Metropolis as head of the Special Crimes Unit, in Action Comics #957. It’s a good move for the Superman books but not so good for those rooting for Kate and Maggie.

The biggest pleasant surprise this week was a big jump in quality in Flash Rebirth #1, a book that has suffered from yet another “city hates the hero” story and art that Corrina, at least, found garish. Meanwhile, Aquaman’s Rebirth issue continues the setup from the previous run under the previous creative team, and that’s good news.

Then there’s the debut of Wacky Raceland, a comic that fails as a modern update to the old cartoons or as a brand-new entity. So far, only Future Quest has hit it out of the park with the Hanna-Barbara updates.

In other big news: original numbering is back. Detective Comics is now back to its original numbering, at #934, while Action Comics is #957.

Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1 – Greg Rucka, Writer; Matthew Clark, Liam Sharp, Artists; Sean Parsons, Inker; Jeremy Colwell, Laura Martin, Colorists

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: The Amazon Is Back in Excellent Hands.

Ray: While Detective and Action throw us into the deep end with huge-scale plots with big casts of characters, Wonder Woman is the opposite, as Rucka takes the reins and starts his run with an introspective, mysterious, fantasy-based issue that seems more interested in getting us acquainted with Wonder Woman and her confusing history than with really kicking off the main plot. Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman previously was critically acclaimed but divisive due to its cerebral, character-driven style that benched most of Diana’s most iconic villains in favor of villains from Greek Mythology like Medusa. This run very much seems to be in that vein.

The idea that even Diana doesn’t know what her true origin is and is haunted by ghosts of the versions she used to be is pretty interesting. I wondered exactly how they were going to reconcile the pre-Flashpoint and Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Women, because unlike most versions, the two are very much not the same character. Much like Superman: Rebirth before it, though, this is an issue that indicates a potentially strong run but doesn’t quite land as a strong single issue on its own. It’s very dense, talky, and relies on origin flashbacks, sending Diana on a quest to the ruins of Olympus in search of the truth of her past, and her lost brother. Things pick up in a big way when Diana arrives on Olympus, and Liam Sharp treats us to a spectacular fantasy world. It takes a while to get there, but I do think this is going to be a great run. I wasn’t expecting Diana’s origin to be called into question by Rebirth, but it makes sense. Overall, it’s more of a setup issue than I would have expected, but I’m happily along for the ride.

Corrina: I agree that this opening is more setup than story but two things make the book outstanding for me. One is the terrific art by a pantheon of talent and that none of this art panders in the least, and the second is that I tend to like the stories that delve into Wonder Woman and her Amazon history. (Azzarello/Chiang’s murderous baby slaving-Amazons aside, their reimagining of the Greek gods was terrific.)

I’m more leery of the idea of Wonder Woman having a twin brother. We already have a twin in power to Wonder Woman in the DC Universe, and that’s Superman, who always seems to overshadow Wonder Woman, and I’m worried Diana’s story might become too lost beside her twin’s tale. That happened in the Azzarello/Chiang run, as Diana sometimes seemed a bystander in her own book. Still, this is Rucka, who has proven he understands the character, and he puts her firmly at the center of the story in this issue, so even this concern doesn’t dampen my pleasure that the series is back in excellent hands. I can’t wait to read Rucka and Nicola Scott’s Wonder Woman Year One series, which will arrive in two weeks.

The Flash: Rebirth #1 – Josh Williamson, Writer; Carmine Di Giandomenico, Artist; Ivan Plascencia, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

Corrina: Pleasant Surprise of the Week

Ray: Williamson gets off to a promising run, showing a clear voice for Barry Allen and an understanding of the mythology of the Speed Force. After this, WW, and Superman, though, it’s starting to seem like the Rebirth titles—Batman excepted—are all trying for origin flashbacks and new-reader-friendly approaches. That’s a good idea, but I do wish they would put the pedal to the throttle a bit more like Batman did.

The issue starts with Barry coming upon a murder scene that’s oddly reminiscent of his mother’s murder when he was a child. This happens at the same time as he starts getting odd visions of another Flash dressed in yellow. He seeks council with his father, and there is an origin flashback but it’s thankfully brief. Then he gets pulled into the most memorable scene from Rebirth, as he and Wally are reunited. I’m surprised that Williamson essentially reprinted three pages from the main Rebirth story in this book, but I was glad to see that this actually continues the story in Rebirth. Barry promises Wally a new costume since he’s the Flash, not Kid Flash, they discuss how to break it to Iris that she has a nephew she was made to forget—and then Barry heads to the Batcave to discuss this phenomenon with Batman, as well as the mysterious pin found in the Batcave. So it really seems like Williamson is going to be dealing with some important story points in his run. This also serves as a done-in-one story, although it puts the pieces in place nicely for a very exciting run. Surprised not to see young Wally this issue, but I’m expecting him to have a big role when the main story starts later this month.

Panel from Flash Rebirth, image copyright DC Comics
Panel from Flash Rebirth, image copyright DC Comics

Corrina: Yes, this story definitely has a “new reader-friendly” feel to it. If you’re already buying the book, I can see wanting a bit more but for those who want to try out the character, this is a terrific introduction. Since I’ve been receiving review copies but not enjoying them, this comic was a breath of fresh air.

It seems that the Flash is going to be the key title in solving the Rebirth mystery as well, emphasizing Barry’s detective skills and knowledge of the speed force, and I love that he and Batman actually had a conversation about what to do, and Barry’s thoughts regarding Batman and the way he operates provided a nice insight into how Batman is viewed by the other heroes.

Mostly, however, I enjoyed the little touches. Like Barry showing up a day early for a movie date because he worried about being late. He had the day wrong, which is in keeping with a man whose mind sometimes works too fast for normal humans. This is a hero I can get behind and I even was okay with Barry not telling Iris that Wally is back. However, my own niggle is that I wish Wally could have stuck around. Still, perhaps they wanted not to upstage the new Kid Flash in his own book. (He will hopefully be in the next issue.)

For those who like the television Barry Allen, this is a great entry to the comics version.

Detective Comics #934 – James Tynion IV, Writer; Eddy Barrows, Penciller; Eber Ferreira, Inker; Adriano Lucas, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: Of Course It’s Good.

Ray: Two weeks in, we’re two-for-two on Bat-books as “Batman Boot Camp” gets underway. This is very much a sequel in spirit to Batman and Robin Eternal, from most of the characters involved, to the tone, to the lead writer being the same. By and large, that’s a very good thing. The issue wastes no time kicking things off as Batman comes to the rescue of reformed assassin Azrael, who has been beaten within an inch of his life—by, he claims, Batman. Another Batman, impersonating the real thing and using tech that’s beyond even him. Realizing that a new and incredibly dangerous villain is targeting the vigilantes of Gotham using his name, he goes to one of the few people he trusts—Batwoman.

The issue wastes no time catching us up on her status quo, with her still being on the outs with her father and having found a new girlfriend. Her interactions with Bruce are top-notch, especially once he reveals his identity to her (and actually acknowledges that they’re related), and she snarks that she’s known for a while. Bruce has decided to bring in the less experienced vigilantes and test/train them to make sure they’re ready for what’s coming, and he wants Batwoman to be his partner in the operation. When it comes to the “students” of Batman Boot Camp, the issue overall does a very good job, although there’s an odd bit of combining of characters at points. Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown, beating up the Penguin’s goons, have a good banter, although Steph seems to have mysteriously picked up Harper’s hacking skills when the latter left the Bat-family. She was never a techie before. Cass doesn’t say much, but Tynion did a good job with her in Eternal and I have no doubt he will here as well. Batman’s assessment of Cass was great too. Clayface… this is an odd one. The shambling, isolated monster who just wants to feel normal isn’t a bad character, but isn’t this more Killer Croc than Clayface? Clayface is a shapeshifting crook. I was thinking this might be the young Clayface from the ’90s as opposed to Basil Karlo, but I’m willing to see how Tynion makes this new take on the character work. All in all, a great cast of characters, strong writing and characterization, and a compelling and intimidating new villain. The Bat-books continue to be in extremely strong hands.

Corrina: Tynion has done terrific work on the Batman: Eternal titles and on several other Gotham stories, so I expected quality from his run on Detective and Barrows has done amazing work handling multiple characters and settings on the Martian Manhunter book, so I expected the art to shine, and it does.

The unexpected came from the prominence of Batwoman in this issue. Essentially, this is going to be her title again. That is excellent news because the last few years have been horrible ones for this character as she tied Wonder Woman for the “most in need of a great story” award. Rucka and J.H. Williams III did well by Kate but once Williams III left the title over disagreements with DC on whether Kate and Maggie Sawyer could get married, her title lagged, and ended with a vampire story that is best swept under the rug and never referred to again. My only question: will we get Bette Kane back as well?

In many ways, the title harkens back to the great days of Gotham, where the varied characters made it the most exciting of the DC Universe. Who wouldn’t love Cass and Steph co-starring in a title, and being trained in different way by Kate Kane? I only hope that Tim Drake gains a unique personality too. I agree that Clayface is an odd choice but he provides an ability that the others don’t have—subterfuge—and brute strength that the normal humans lack too. I can easily see him providing dark humor as well, especially with his observation that he won’t be swinging across the rooftops like the others.

Batwoman's back in Detective Comics. (panel sans dialogue.) Image copyright DC Comics
Batwoman’s back in Detective Comics. (Panel sans dialogue.) Image copyright DC Comics

Bonus points for Batman revealing himself as Bruce to Kate. Could we have seen the last of Bat-jerk for a while? I sincerely hope so.

Action Comics #957 – Dan Jurgens, Writer; Patrick Zircher, Artist; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: Hmm…..

Ray: Jurgens comes home to Superman, and it’s like he never left. As the writer of a title that will hit 1000 in less than two years (and I fully expect him to be on it still, given that he wrote Superman for almost a hundred issues consistently before), he’s on a book with a lot of stakes, and this first issue does a strong job of balancing being a follow-up to Lois and Clark, and being an A-list Superman book once again. It opens with a heist in Metropolis, as the culprits are apprehended by a mysterious figure in a Superman suit, and the police outside (including Maggie Sawyer, back at work in Metropolis) are shocked to find their hero is…Lex Luthor, in his new Superman power armor! Meanwhile, the Kent family has settled into their new home upstate from Metropolis, when Clark sees Luthor on TV, eulogizing the Superman of this world and proclaiming himself the new protector of his world. Needless to say, that’s a bridge too far, and Clark decides to shave his dad-beard and return to action – as Superman.

The fight that ensues between Superman and Lex is interesting in that it’s not clear-cut. Superman picks the fight, despite not having any evidence on Luthor, because of the atrocities his own Luthor committed. Luthor has no problem escalating, naturally, because he’s an egomaniac villain. The dialogue is strong, especially between Lois and her son while they watch the fight on TV and Lois has to deal with the fact that Clark may not be the best role model right now. There’s a LOT going on in this issue, including a mysterious Clark Kent showing up to greet Jimmy Olsen, and the quarry of the thieves at the start of the issue turning out to be Doomsday—the original, pre-Flashpoint Doomsday. Unkillable indeed. It’s almost overly busy, but Jurgens’ hallmark back in the day was a broad picture of a living Metropolis, tied together by Superman. Based on this first issue, it looks like we’re returning to that, and it’s very welcome.

Corrina: I expected to love this but I had concerns. I loved the first part, with Superman taking action because Luthor was claiming the title. But I hated that he and Luthor immediately became involved in a brawl. Yes, this might be something a brash, young Superman would do but not this mature, older Superman who should know better. That Lois herself thinks this gives me hope that Superman will get his act together. Hey, Clark, you’re setting a bad example for your son!

I also wondered at the weirdness of including Doomsday yet again but it’s definitely a bang-up way to kick off a run. The appearance of the other Clark Kent (who is seemingly not Superman) is an unexpected twist and one that I enjoyed because I’m busy coming up with various explanations for it. Did the energy being who thought he was Superman become Clark? It is yet another clone, like the old Superboy? Or perhaps it’s a Matrix-like shapeshifter like Supergirl used to be. (Well, for a while.)

Maggie Sawyer back? Great. Jimmy Olsen being a photographer again, great, though I’ll point out with the prevalence of cell phones, digital cameras, etc., and the tightness of the budget of most modern newspapers, Jimmy would just be a reporter or a stringer, and he’d write the copy too because specialization is out. Can’t afford it. Still, a great blast of nostalgia, there. I expect the Daily Planet cast and the new Clark to play a prominent role in the series. I’m hoping Doomsday is somewhat of a one-off.

Panel from Action Comics #957, copyright DC Comics
Maggie’s back in Metropolis. Panel from Action Comics #957, copyright DC Comics

Aquaman: Rebirth #1 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Scot Eaton, Oscar Jiminez, Pencillers; Mark Morales, Oscar Jiminez, Inkers; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 7.5/10

Corrina: Again, New Reader Friendly.

Ray: It’s harder to get excited for this comic than the other Rebirth comics, because it’s really just a straight relaunch of the Aquaman series which wrapped up only a few weeks ago. Abnett is staying on board, with new artists who do a strong job of capturing the high-adventure vibe and the mystery of the ocean. The best thing Abnett has done in this issue and his short preceding arc is to upgrade Aquaman’s rogues’ gallery, which for years essentially consisted of two names. Now we have Dead Water (although he’s dead, but that can be overcome), Scavenger, and this issue’s addition of The Deluge, a radical Atlantean terror cult that views the surface world as an abomination and is fond of strapping bombs to giant sea life and aiming them at surface cities. They make the big threat this issue, and the sea monsters they ride make for impressive visuals.

I also really liked the interaction between Aquaman and Mera, as they continue to try to figure out their relationship even as an engaged couple, because a full Atlantean and someone raised on the surface are always going to be an awkward fit. I could have done without the ever-present narration about Aquaman’s place in the DCU and a rehash of the “no one likes Aquaman” stuff from early in Johns’ run, but the reveal that Black Manta is back and looking to finish the job against Aquaman promises to add some tension to the upcoming run. Decent first issue, but a continuation of a promising run overall.

Corrina: The scope of Aquaman’s mythos is on full display in this title and that makes it a great introduction for new readers. Like Ray, I disliked the narration of how Aquaman is consistently underestimated (enough with that “talk to fishes” complaints) but I loved the visuals, I loved the characterization, and I loved the reminder that Arthur has overwhelmingly and conflicting responsibilities. That’s what makes him unique among Justice League members.

I wanted more of the Deluge and more about the Atlantean society and how the members of the Deluge fit in. It was a fascinating glimpse into the class strata of an undersea society. Hopefully, more of this will be in the book.

My only niggle was, once again, Black Manta as a villain and his motive, out for revenge. He’s a classic villain and Arthur’s main foe but I was hoping for something new. But that’s a personal preference.

::facepalm:: Yes, that's Penelope Pitshop. Image via DC Comics
::facepalm:: Yes, that’s Penelope Pitshop. Image via DC Comics

Bonus Review:

Wacky Raceland #1 – Ken Pontac, Writer; Leonardo Manco, Artist; Mariana Sanzone, Colorist

Ray – 1/10

Corrina: Fails As a Homage/Updating or an Original Story.

Ray: The Hanna-Barberra relaunch has been a very mixed bag so far. Future Quest perfectly captured the spirit of the original shows and launched them into an epic crossover that had the vibe of a great event comic, while Scooby Apocalypse rendered the original characters unrecognizable and plunked them in a grim-and-gritty reboot that lost all the charm of the initial series. Now, along comes Wacky Raceland to ask, “What if we made all the same mistakes as Scooby Apocalypse, but added a hefty dose of gore and body horror into the equation?” The clear inspiration here is Mad Max, with a post-apocalyptic wasteland and tricked-out death machines racing across the desert. But between the twisted racers and the talking, often murderous cars, the book seems to borrow far more from the defunct video game franchise Twisted Metal, with its over-the-top gory style and its characters straight out of ’90s splatterstick.

I want to give the comic credit for making Penelope Pitstop into a strong, canny female lead, but her ridiculous costume and general amorality take away from that. Muttley is now a cyborg-dog with razor-sharp teeth, because of course he is. Crossover with Scooby Apocalypse planned? The only thing that could save this story is if the sadistic announcer overseeing this endless race for a place in “Utopia” turned out to be Huckleberry Hound or Quick-Draw McGraw, pissed off they didn’t get a revival. And then there’s the backup. Remember Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear, the hillbilly-and-bear racing team? They’re reintroduced here in a story featuring gore, implied cannibalism, and mutilation, like some demented parody of The Revenant. It’s a shame, because Manco’s art is technically good, but this comic is misguided on every level. Who is this book for? Who went “Man, I really liked Wacky Races as a kid, but it would be better if there was more blood everywhere!” Scooby Apocalypse was not good, but this comic is just inexplicable.

The comic is as bad as this looks. image via DC Comics
The comic is as bad as this looks. image via DC Comics

Corrina: I want to give this comic credit for something. Let me think. Wait, it has a quick glimpse of proper trans representation. That’s good. The bad is that you have to read the comic to get the page in which that happens.

This reads as if someone lifted visuals from Mad Max: Fury Road and forgot why the movie worked, which was the plot and characterization, not the road chase. The road chase was window dressing. Awesome but it works poorly on its own.

I have no idea what the pitch for this comic was like. “We’ll put in all stuff dudes like! Race cars that talk! Violence! Gore! A fight with bears! Those are cool right now! Wait, we need a girl. We’ll make her bad-ass, of course, but we gotta give her boobs a prominent place too!”

I throw up my hands at this book. Between the garish art, the gore, and the flashbacks that make the plot itself confusing, it was a chore to read.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received these comics for review purposes.

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