DC This Week — The Birds Are Back in Town!

Comic Books
The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 cover, image via DC Comics
The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 cover, image via DC Comics

It’s another busy week for DC Rebirth, as three new #1s arrive. The always-popular Birds of Prey franchise gets a fresh start in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth as the original trio is reunited for the first time in over five years. Meanwhile, comics’ favorite magical con man makes another go of a DC title in The Hellblazer: Rebirth with strong results. Results are a bit more mixed for Justice League #1, which delivers strong art, but a lacking story.

Corrina is off at San Diego Comic Con, so I’m solo for the week. As always, major spoilers for all books below!

DC Rebirth Reviews:

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 – Julie Benson, Shawna Benson, Writers; Claire Roe, Artist; Allan Passalaqua, Colorist

Ray -7.5/10

The Birds of Prey have been a popular franchise ever since Chuck Dixon first paired Oracle and Black Canary almost twenty years ago, but the franchise has been notably absent since the early years of the New 52. More significantly, the most iconic version of the team–the trio of Barbara Gordon, Dinah Lance, and Helena Bertinelli–hasn’t been seen since Flashpoint. So based on that alone, this title has a lot of goodwill going for it. The writers are new to comics, but you wouldn’t know it based on this issue, which does one of the better jobs of serving as both a recap issue and a stand-alone story. The opening of the issue recaps Barbara Gordon’s history in the new DCU, complete with elaborating on what she did after being shot by Joker. Oracle is back in continuity, which is welcome, but it’s very clear that this was a short-term project for Barbara and the character’s history as the information broker of the entire DCU is still gone. I know there’s some controversy over whether Killing Joke is still in continuity, but all this shows is that it was Joker who shot her. Hopefully, the more distasteful elements have been scrubbed.

The main plot of the issue finds Barbara stumbling upon a mysterious criminal mastermind organizing heists around the city–using her former name of Oracle. This naturally disturbs her, and she calls Dinah for help to investigate this hijacking of her legacy. The two of them go around and bust some heads, bantering the whole while. It’s great to see the two of them back together, although the partnership definitely does feel more like Batgirl of Burnside than vintage Birds of Prey. Of course, there’s a third element to the Birds of Prey, and that’s Huntress, and that’s where this issue does fall a bit flat for me. While the Helena Bertinelli in Grayson was a complex character, this title seems to have reverted Huntress to the one-dimensional murderous vigilante out for blood against the mafia. To the point where she attempts to shoot a criminal that Batgirl and Canary are in the middle of questioning. I’m hoping she gets fleshed out a lot in future issues because the book as a whole does have promise. Solid start, but the team has yet to fully gel.

The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1 – Simon Oliver, Writer; Moritat, Artist; Andre Szymanowicz, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Although James Tynion IV’s Constantine run was critically acclaimed and one of my favorite books to come out of DC You, I know there was a bit of controversy over the fact that the most authentic Constantine book since the end of the Vertigo original was still set in New York. Well, the good news is John is finally heading home in the launch of the new Hellblazer title, as British writer Simon Oliver takes the character back to his roots. And true to form, as soon as Constantine sets foot on the ground he finds trouble. Seems last time he was in Britain, John ticked off a demon he’s nicknamed “Laughing Boy,” who cursed him with a magical plague that would only affect him if he was on his native soil. However, Constantine’s had enough of his self-imposed exile and is ready to take the fight back to his enemy.

Looking up his old friend Chas–one of the few friends he’s had who hasn’t met a horrible fate thanks to him–as well as new ally Mercury–a young female mage who seems to be just as savvy as Constantine–he engages in a dramatic game of brinksmanship with the demon with the fates of every soul in England at stake. This book very much calls back to Constantine’s Vertigo roots, especially referring to Constantine’s “original sin” from one of his most famous stories. It’s vintage Hellblazer only slightly tweaked for the DCU, and Oliver wastes no time establishing a new status quo and supporting cast for Constantine that I hope will stick. We’re off to a very good start, and I’m hoping this go-around does better in sales than the last one, which got lost in the DC You shuffle.

Justice League #1 – Bryan Hitch, Writer; Tony Daniel, Penciller; Sandu Florea, Inker; Tomeu Morey, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

Bryan Hitch has always been a very visual writer, telling stories that work perfectly with his large-scale, vivid art style. It worked nicely on the Image book Real Heroes ,and on his unfinished Justice League of America run. However, this is the first time he’s written stories specifically for other artists, starting with Tony Daniel. I don’t think it really serves either party well. The Rebirth issue, written and drawn by Hitch, had a strong hook and gave each member of the team something interesting to do in the face of a huge-scale and visually interesting enemy. This issue sort of recreates that dynamic with another threat, but it’s not nearly as effective. After a splash spread in which Wonder Woman interferes in a war to try to save lives, the battlefield is rocked by a sudden and unnatural earthquake, something that is repeated around the world.

Tony Daniel can draw some spectacular destruction, but it’s not as detailed as Hitch’s alien invasion from last issue. Cyborg, Flash, Aquaman, and the Green Lanterns all do their part to stop the destruction, but it’s Wonder Woman who comes face to face with the villain behind the scene–an alien force known as the Kindred. They mainly seem to speak in mysterious phrases and seem to have the ability to drain and steal the powers of the Leaguers. They also have the ability to possess people, which is very similar to the first issue’s threat. There were some nice touches, such as Superman not even bothering to show up to the Justice League and instead just flying around the world saving as many people as he could as fast as he could. Hitch seemed to get Superman very well in his previous run, and that continues here. Overall, though, this issue was a quick read and sort of forgettable as a whole.

Batman #3 – Tom King, Writer; David Finch, Penciller; Danny Miki, Inker; Jordie Bellaire, Colorist

Ray – 9/10

Tom King’s run seems like it’s going to be a character-driven slow burn in a lot of ways, which is welcome after the blockbuster storytelling of the Snyder-Capullo run. It’s sort of unexpected after the no-holds-barred action of the first issue. The story starts with yet another mugging in an alley, and I’ll admit when I first read this scene I rolled my eyes a tiny bit. Does every creative team have to retell the Waynes’ shooting? But soon I clued in that this wasn’t that mugging. It was the one that happened to Gotham and his parents–one that was foiled by Batman and kick-started a life-long obsession for the boy and his younger sister, who he pulled into his quest. In some ways, Gotham and Gotham Girl remind me of the various alternate Supermen like Ulysses and Wrath, where we knew from the start that this wasn’t going to end well.

However, King swerves our expectations nicely by showing us at every turn that while Hank and Claire are certainly obsessed–to the point of seeking out underground experiments to give them powers–they will push themselves to the limit to save lives and seem to be genuinely altruistic. As an old-school Batman fan, I was happy to see Matches Malone make a comeback, and there’s a great set piece involving a bridge collapse. I could do without the heavy-handed teases months in advance for the Monster Men crossover, but Hugo Strange makes an effective villain, and the cliffhanger starts to set up the likely downfall of these young heroes. Four issues into this run, still one of DC’s best.

Superman #3 – Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Writers; Jorge Jiminez, Artist; Alejandro Sanchez, Colorist

Ray – 6/10

What is it with this book and animals? The first time was a bizarre, out-of-nowhere turn for the story. This issue’s development makes it look more like a pattern. When we last left off, Jonathan had been injured falling out of a tree, leading his parents to take him to the abandoned Fortress of Solitude to try to solve the mystery of what’s wrong with his powers. However, as soon as they’ve arrived, they find that they’re not alone. The fortress is now occupied by the Eradicator, the malevolent Kryptonian AI who this Superman had many fights with back on the original world. Sure enough, as soon as Superman sees this unfriendly face, he attacks, looking to protect his family.

However, once Eradicator gets a word in edgewise, he makes clear he’s here to protect Kryptonian life and is only seeking to help. Superman agrees to stop attacking him, and they work together to scan Jon. Then things take a bad and very dark direction as Eradicator sees that Jon’s DNA is “corrupted” by human DNA and seeks to purge him of his human side. Everyone fights back, Krypto jumps in front of Eradicator’s blast and seemingly gets absorbed into Eradicator, causing Jon to go ballistic and seek revenge for the dog. Strong art by Jiminez, who does a good job of fitting in with Gleason’s style, but between once again an overly aggressive Superman who punches first, asks questions later, and the bizarre Krypto affair (although I’m sure he’ll be fine when Eradicator is defeated) this is just an odd book with way too much mood whiplash.

Green Arrow #3 – Ben Percy, Writer; Juan Ferreyra, Artist

Ray – 8/10

Four issues in, this book is really starting to find its groove as we learn more and more about the villains and exactly what they want with Ollie. Otto Schmidt is off art for this arc, but Juan Ferreyra’s bright, horror-tinged art is a more than effective replacement and similar enough to Schmidt that it’s not jarring. In many ways, this book is starting to feel like a dual protagonist title, with Emiko becoming just as important to understanding the other half of the story. The issue opens with a fast-paced break-in of the former Queen Enterprises, as Ollie takes on security guards and Ninth Circle goons and fights his way up to his old office. Meanwhile, Diggle is over in Rome, seeking his own answers as to who killed his friend. All the answers seem to lead back to a shadowy, sadistic institution with a penchant for burning people.

When Ollie confronts Cyrus Broderick–revealed as a high-ranking member of the Circle–it’s explained that the Ninth Circle is a bank for crime, funding evil around the world. Shado is in debt to them, having been bound to them by the Yakuza–and they hold Emiko’s life in their hands. So neither Emiko nor Shado is truly evil, which is very welcome. Emiko playing both sides and manipulating the Ninth Circle to keep Ollie alive as long as they can is entertaining, although I could have done without Dante, the head of the Circle, looking like a refugee from the most grotesque shock art comics. Burns do not work that way! Overall, though, this comic has improved in almost every way since the first issues, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

Green Lanterns #3 – Sam Humphries, Writer; Tom Derenick, Robson Rocha, Jack Herbert, Neil Edwards, Pencillers; Tom Palmer, Jay Leisten, Jack Herbert, Keith Champagne, Inkers; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

Look at that list of art talent on this issue! Clearly, we’ve got some bumps in the road on this bi-weekly title. That’s the most different pencilers I’ve ever seen on a 20-page comic, but, fortunately, none of the artists are drastically different in style so it moves smoothly enough. The bigger problem, as usual with this title, is the plot and characters. I’m all for odd-couple teams and characters not getting along at first, but the contempt with which Simon and Jessica usually treat each other is rather off-putting. It seems like half of the trouble they get into is because they bait each other into arguments and wind up wrecking things. Simon is the focus this issue, and while the look into his family and what drives him is definitely timely and emotional in points, he’s just not a compelling character on his own.

Atrocitus and his army arrive on Earth, are confronted by an angry farmer and his grandson who they choose not to kill because they can sense rage in them, and then Bleez and Simon get into a fight. Simon manages to use his ring to heal her and restore her wings–only for Jessica to then misunderstand the situation and attack her, restoring her to Red Lantern status and making her angrier than ever. Simon and Jessica then fight over this incident, which causes Jessica to fall prey to the rage plague. Overall it’s not the worst issue of the series, mainly lacking in graphic violence, but it’s just not compelling. It seems like out of the main franchises, Green Lantern is the one that has yet to rebound.

Aquaman #3 – Dan Abnett, Writer; Philippe Briones, Artist; Gabe Eltaeb, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

I was glad to see the Black Manta plot wrap up quickly, hoping that would open the door to more exciting, Atlantis-based stories and new villains that took advantage of the bold world that Aquaman inhabits. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be moving in that direction. Instead, Aquaman seems more grounded than ever, as the title moves in a very political direction that reminds me of a lot of X-men stories involving the intransigent public. In the aftermath of the destruction of Spindrift station, which was perpetrated by a human terrorist, the government has naturally decided to blame… Atlantis. They seal off Spindrift, revoke Atlantis’ diplomatic status, and deny them access to their own embassy.

Aquaman does his best to defuse the situation and keep Murk from igniting a war, and after talking with Mera he heads to Washington to meet with the President. This, naturally, is complicated by the Deluge pulling off an attack and sinking a US vessel. Aquaman is quickly blamed and arrested by the US government. This whole plot relies on a government that was pretty much ignoring Aquaman’s actions the last five years and has no problem arresting a foreign leader and Justice Leaguer. It’s a surprisingly slow comic and one that’s taking the character in a direction I’m not all that interested in. Abnett was off to a good start in his pre-Rebirth run, and I hope he’s able to get back to that direction soon.

Additional Reviews:

Adventures of Supergirl #6 – Sterling Gates, Writer; Emma Vieceli, Sandra Molina, Colorist

Ray – 8/10

It’s the conclusion of Sterling Gates’ first Supergirl story in this title, and we have been promised a sequel, I believe! That makes me very happy, because while this isn’t my favorite Supergirl continuity, this has been one of the best Supergirl stories in a long time. The final story is split into two parts. First, Supergirl faces off one-on-one against the near-unbreakable Facet, the diamond super-soldier with ties to her mother. Meanwhile, Alex finds herself trapped in the DEO alongside the enraged Rampage, who blames her for the death of her sister.

What I liked about both these stories was the way the heroine manages to triumph over near-impossible odds despite being unmatched. Kara quickly finds out she can’t beat the better-trained Facet one-on-one, so she manages to outthink her, calling back to something from the first issue to stop her. Alex, meanwhile, manages to rely on her compassion to turn the tide, as the incident that killed Rampage’s sister is finally fully explained. I’m excited for Steve Orlando’s upcoming Supergirl run, of course, but I’m loving Gates’ take on this Supergirl as well and can’t wait for the next chapter when it comes.

New Suicide Squad #22 – Sean Ryan, Writer; Ronan Cliquet, Artist; Blond, Colorist

Ray – 5/10

A fill-in issue from the writer of the previous Suicide Squad title, this done-in-one focused on Harley Quinn has some nice visuals, but, unfortunately, just rehashes a lot of things we’ve already learned about her in the Seeley run. It’s framed around Harley’s visit to a psychologist, but we already know who the psychologist is from an earlier issue although it’s treated as a reveal here–it’s her Harleen Quinzel personality, who Harley hallucinates as her stabilizing personality. The issue takes us on a tour of Harley’s mind, manifesting itself as a deranged roller coaster with frequent detours into Harley’s time in Arkham and her interaction with her troubled family. The art is decent, but there’s nothing new here and the issue just feels repetitive. Really, any writer who wants to do in-depth work with Harley Quinn lately is going to have to contend with the fact that Palmiotti and Conner have done a near-definitive take and there really isn’t much more to say.

Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Five #14 – Brian Buccellato, Writer; Tom Derenick, Artist; Rex Lokus, Colorist

Ray – 4/10

A done-in-one story focusing on Barry Allen, dealing with the aftermath of his betrayal of the Regime in the last issue. We haven’t really seen much of what happened to the supporting cast of other heroes besides Superman and Batman, but this issue makes very clear that things did not end well between Barry and Iris. She despises him for siding with Superman, and since then has joined up with the resistance. They come into contact again when Superman’s goons come looking for her to arrest her. The message of the issue, quite cynically, seems to be that there’s a certain point that you can’t come back from, that you can’t redeem yourself in some people’s eyes. There are a few genuinely emotional moments in the issue, but overall the story is so bleak that it’s just another sour closing note on this universe.

Legends of Tomorrow #5 – Gerry Conway, Aaron Lopresti, Keith Giffen, Len Wein, Writers; Eduardo Pansica, Aaron Lopresti, Bilquis Evely, Yildray Cinar, Pencillers; Rob Hunter, Livesay, Trvor Scott, Inkers; Andrew Dalhouse, Chris Sotomayor, Ivan Plascencia, Dean White, Hi-Fi, Ulises Arreola, Colorists

Firestorm – 7/10
Metamorpho – 8/10
Sugar and Spike – 4/10
Metal Men – 7/10

As Legends of Tomorrow draws to a close, all four stories start to find their way towards a conclusion with differing success. In Firestorm, Jason Rusch rejoins the team–in a sense–as Ronnie recruits him to help bridge the gap between the current team of Ronnie and Stein, who don’t really get along. I’m wondering if the original team will be restored by the end of the series. The plot delivers some fun action, but Multiplex isn’t a very compelling villain.

Metamorpho continues to be the most compelling of the four stories, with an intriguing fantasy world. I wasn’t a big fan of Sapphire’s betrayal last issue, although it makes sense in context this issue–she’s not so much betraying Rex as trying to find a way to balance her loyalty between two men she loves. It seems like she’s going to find a way to redeem herself in the finale as Simon Stagg and Java’s plot against Rex comes to fruition, but I’m most interested in the world these characters inhabit.

Sugar and Spike flash back to the beginning of their partnership, showing them blundering through their first case against a D-list tech-based Flash villain. There are a few amusing bits involving the villain’s plot and their buffoonish attempts to break into his hotel room, but the biggest problem this series has–the constant bickering and unlikable nature of the two characters–continues to drag this book down.

Metal Men has mostly been a never-ending series of robot fights and that doesn’t change this issue, although I will admit I was amused by the B-list Metal Men and their fight with the originals. Len Wein clearly did his research as he knows the properties of these metals and how best to use them in a fight. However, it seems like there was no real central antagonist in this story, and so Chemo’s appearance as a big bad for both groups of Metal Men to join forces against seems a bit out of nowhere. Fun read, but not essential unless you’re a big Metal Men fan.

Scooby Apocalypse #3 – JM DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Writers; Howard Porter, Dale Eaglesham, Artists; Hi-Fi, Colorist

Ray – 3/10

This series just keeps on doubling down on the bleak, doesn’t it? The story this month flashes back and forth between the team on the run with a wounded Fred and their escape from the secret compound where the crisis began. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with Scooby and the Gang in a more serious adventure, or fighting zombies, but the problem is that there’s just a constant sense of gloom over the whole affair. Fred spends most of the issue on a gurney at death’s door (or so everyone acts, it turns out to be a minor head injury). Meanwhile, Velma and Daphne continue to argue constantly, with Daphne never missing an opportunity to blame Velma for the outbreak. Scooby and Shaggy try to lighten things up a bit on occasion, but their banter seems more out of place than anything. And then vampires. It’s not quite the unmitigated disaster of Wacky Raceland, but, much like that book, this title just doesn’t seem to have much in common with the original and it suffers from it.

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