One week after DC’s Rebirth title changed things forever for the DC Universe, titles featuring Batman, Superman, Green Arrow and two new Green Lanterns carry that story forward. For the most part, it’s promising, especially the new creative team on Batman. For Black Canary and Green Arrow fans, well, they’re obviously getting the band back together, while two novice Green Lanterns try to work together.
Oddly, the Superman Rebirth issue almost feels too low-key to be a reboot. But long-time Superman readers will like it.
Batman: Rebirth #1 – Tom King, Scott Snyder, Writers; Mikel Janin, Artist; June Chung, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Total Win.
Ray: Tom King had a massive task ahead of him, taking over for the iconic Snyder/Capullo run, and this done-in-one issue shows he’s off to a very strong start. Of course, Snyder himself is along to help ease the tradition, co-writing this initial story, although I’m not 100% sure what role he played in this issue. It doesn’t feel like a Snyder-written story, with a lot of King’s trademark writing tells on full display.
There’s inventive, jumpy action scenes, revealing monologues, and a general vibe that manages to be both surreal and very human at the same time. You’ll definitely recognize the writer of Omega Men and Vision in this book. The issue is split between scenes involving Bruce Wayne in his daily life and Batman at work fighting the villain of the hour, Calendar Man.
It’s really Duke Thomas, showing up to accept Bruce’s offer to become his ward until they find out how to cure his parents, who steals the show, though. Duke’s skepticism towards the way Batman does things is welcome, and Batman seems to get that his current model isn’t totally working, as he offers Duke a new costume that is very different from what his partners usually wear. The rapport between Bruce and his new partner is great, and I’m a firm believer that Bruce works best when he has someone to play off. I also loved a segment where Lucius Fox tries to discuss business with Bruce while Bruce goes through his usual extreme training regimen.
If I had one quibble with this issue, it’s Calendar Man, and what I see as the Jokerization of Batman’s rogues gallery. He’s been rebooted from a gimmick-obsessed criminal to a genocidal maniac willing to unleash toxic spores on the entire world – and he’s also seemingly supernatural, aging to death every winter and being reborn in the spring like the seasons. I don’t think Batman needs so many supernatural villains, although his plot does lead to a fantastic action scene as Batman defies the limits of his own body in an underwater race against time. Overall, a very strong beginning to King’s run that leaves me excited for both that book and Snyder’s next act in All-Star Batman.
Corrina: It’s not that I don’t believe King is a brilliant writer but I was concerned about his Batman. King is wonderful when he takes his own ideas and executes them but it’s another type of writing altogether to tell stories in a mythos as complicated as Batman, particularly after Snyder and Capullo’s run.
But King knocks it out of the park for two reasons. One, he’s made Bruce a distinct individual and that’s not always easy to do. Batman as a relentless crusader for justice is easy. Bruce Wayne is much harder, especially since there’s a need to humanize him so he’s not lost inside the Dark Knight of Vengeance. Showing off his extreme workout while speaking to Lucius Fox about business is a perfect way to show who Bruce is and, more what his relationship with Fox is. It’s not the dialogue, it’s the visuals. King lets the visuals speak for themselves and Janin outdoes himself, as you can see from the pages here.
Duke’s introduction to Bruce’s world seemed like a more mellow version of Terry McGuinness’ introduction to Batman, with the difference that this Batman is young and vital and more open to listening to his new assistant, who he recognizes as a force in his own right.
What Ray didn’t like, the changing of Calendar Man, is something I did like. I haven’t enjoyed the Joker being supernatural but I felt the change worked for Calendar Man, especially since he’s a C-list ridiculous villain. This weirdness of rebirth, however, fits in with his child-like schemes (he really is reborn every year) and also his lethalness.
In essence, the tone of this reminded of Batman: The Animated Series, rather than any other comic run. That’s a very good thing.
Superman: Rebirth #1 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Doug Mahnke, Penciller; Jaime Mendoza, Inker; Wil Quintana, Colorist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Good Beginning.
Ray: I was expecting these Rebirth issues to be big, bold statements about where the properties were going post-Rebirth. That’s why I was surprised that this comic was so…sedate. In many ways, it’s more of an epilogue to the Last Days of Superman than it is a launch point to the new series. The original Superman heads to the Metropolis memorial for the New 52 Superman, with a mission in mind, only to find that he’s not the only one there – Lana Lang has her own purpose at Superman’s grave. While she wants to take what’s left of her friend and rebury him in Smallville, the original Superman plans to take his body to the Fortress to use the Regeneration Matrix to restore him to life. After all, it worked for him in his own universe.
I was surprised that a full five pages of this comic were devoted to the story of the death and return of Superman way back in 1992, but Mahnke’s recreation of those famous scenes are beautiful. Lana agrees to accompany Clark back to the Fortress, but when they get there they learn that the Matrix doesn’t exist in this universe, and they find the fallen Superman’s last message to Superman. And that’s when we get to the point of this issue – the original Superman realizing that it’s up to him to carry on the legacy of this world’s Superman, instead of fighting evil in secret like he’s been doing. It’s written well, although for a story looking back on the original Superman’s history, shouldn’t this have been written by Jurgens, the man who told the original story this book is based around? All in all, there’s nothing wrong with this issue, but it’s rather thin for a Rebirth issue, mostly telling us stuff we already knew.
Corrina: I opened this expecting the story of the new Superman to go forward but instead, as Ray points out, it’s more of an epilogue than a beginning. As a story, it’s fine and interesting to long-time Superman fans. But as a big, splashy beginning to Rebirth, it’s a little puzzling. It has me wondering if DC decided that not enough people have been reading the Superman: Lois & Clark series and wanted to fill them in that this Superman is really *their* Superman.
Thinking of it that way makes me more forgiving of the quietness of this issue, even though it is a story created to seemingly explain that the new 52 Superman isn’t coming back. Of course, DC has also teased that the new 52 Superman wasn’t what he seemed either, so who knows?
I’m curious and intrigued by the alternate universe Superman coming into his own but I’m also wondering what DC is going to do with two Lois Lanes. Seems like every time there’s an alternate Lois, she dies. And she’s already dying in the solicits the book starring her as the new Superwoman.
Green Lanterns #1 – Sam Humphries, Geoff Johns, Writers; Ethan Van Sciver, Ed Benes, Artists; Jason Wright, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: Like Jessica and Simon. Still Loathe Hal.
Ray: Much like Snyder on Batman, Johns returns one last time to his former property to pass the torch to his successor. This is the first GL comic Johns has written in a few years, and you can definitely see his mark a few times – especially since the focus of the series is the two GLs who Johns created, former fugitive Simon Baz, and agoraphobic Power Ring-turned Green Lantern Jessica Cruz. This set-up, with Simon training Jessica in the use of her ring, was teased way back in the final issue of Johns’ run, so it’s nice to see it actually play out.
The issue opens with a Guardian on the run from the Dominators, bearing an unknown, incredibly dangerous new power that he unleashes with his death, while being observed by an unseen villain. Then we cut to Earth, as Simon is still finding his footing as a GL and dealing with the deal he cut with the feds, while Jessica is making her first awkward forays out of her house and reconnecting with her family. These segments do a good job of setting these two up as compelling leads, but things go downhill once they meet and get into a conflict. Hal shows up to break up the fight, and essentially puts them both in the “Get Along Shirt” from the internet meme – fusing their battery into a single one that only works when they both touch it, making them partners and giving them his spot in GL. He shows faith in them, yeah, but he still comes off as kind of a jerk in the process. The reveal of Atrocitus and the Red Lanterns as the new big bad was spoiled in solicits, but I’m still glad to see Rage Kitty in this title. Treat this horrible little ball of fluff well, Humphries. Overall, a decent start with likable lead characters, but I’m not sure about the plot contrivance used to bring them together.
Corrina: I was beginning to settle into liking this book. Regular readers will know that this is unusual for me with a Green Lantern book. I especially loved that Jessica is dealing with panic/anxiety attacks and that this problem is portrayed in a realistic manner. It’s one thing to be a hero when you’re a person without fear, quite another to be a hero when your body is literally betraying your good intentions. It’s an unusual story for a hero and I hope it continues to play out in the series. The panels with Simon Baz at home with his family were also welcome, even though I’m still not sure why DC believes this GL needs a gun.
But then Hal showed up and wrecked everything. Instead of being a good mentor, he decides to be a jerk and create a “threat” so he could yell at Jessica and Simon when they didn’t handle it perfectly. Then he handcuffs them together, virtually. Nice training, Hal! The good part, though, is that he flies away and leaves the story to Jessica and Simon. I could get to like this book if it continues with them the way it has begun.
Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 – Ben Percy, Writer; Otto Schmidt, Artist
Ray – 7/10
Corrina: Is Ollie Back? And With Black Canary?
Ray: Of this week’s four Rebirth titles, this is the one that most directly follows up on one of the plots in Rebirth – namely, the lost relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary. Those who really miss that relationship are going to love this issue. For those who don’t have strong feelings about it, the issue is a slight step up from Percy’s previous run but still has a lot of the same problems.
The issue wastes no time establishing that Ollie Queen is going to be more like the classic version – he has his beard back, and he’s much more politically active. That doesn’t impress Dinah when they meet, though, as she calls him out as a pretender and a rich boy playing vigilante. The plot that drives them together is another one of Percy’s classic horror stories with social overtones (like the evil drones targeting protestors or the evil old man draining the blood of poor people to stay alive). In this case, homeless people are being dragged off the street by mysterious villains for unknown purposes, and Ollie and Dinah’s investigation leads them to a bizarre underground auction of the homeless led by mole people. It’s a pretty amusing mix of the realistic and the bizarre, and the world of the monsters is pretty impressive, although it feels like things happen too quickly and we don’t get a good sense of exactly who’s running things. Also, it seems like Emiko’s been sent on another of her walkabouts, as there’s no mention of her in this title. I’m still puzzled that she’s not in Percy’s Teen Titans book!
Corrina: Putting aside the reunion with Black Canary, let’s talk Ollie at first. The weakness of Ollie since the new 52 is that he’s barely seemed the same person as before. Yes, they wanted to reboot him to a younger version but it started off with him being callow and stupid, improved a bit with him taking in Emiko, his half-sister, but then when Percy first took over, it felt like Ollie’s characterization would fit whatever story Percy wanted to tell, rather than being a story about Oliver Queen/Green Arrow.
That changed this issue. I don’t know if Percy was rushed before with his arcs or not, but this story reads like it was from a different writer. The characterization of Ollie is much improved, back to the guy we all know as the slightly off-center archer, if not exactly the wisecracking Robin Hood type he was before. Even the goatee is back. This made me happy, especially as the story itself was also involving and fit in with the whole Mike Grell-era of Ollie as defender of people who have no one to speak for them.
So, Black Canary. She shows up for what seems like hand-wavy plot reasons. In other words, she shows up because she’s supposed to show up so she and Ollie can team up again. I do love Ollie and Dinah together and have since way back but I’m also leery because every time Dinah’s been sucked into Ollie’s story, she becomes a secondary character. As someone who starred in Birds of Prey and her own book, that is a step down. However, she’s portrayed well here, as Ollie’s equal, and I got a little fangirl squee out of them going into action together.
This is the most excited I’ve been to read a Green Arrow series in, like, forever.