Right off the bat, I have to say — this is a little more like it. As someone who can in no way, shape, or form be accused of being a “fan” of last week’s DC Universe: Rebirth 80-page introductory salvo, I’m more than pleased to see the continuity-drenched, backstory-heavy, and new-reader-alienating premise of that truly atrocious comic ditched (more or less) in favor of the simpler, scaled-back, one-shot stories that constitute the first wave of Rebirth specials. The approach on display here is, frankly, the one DC should have taken all along, in my view — and basically it’s one of “the characters you love have been here all along, we just haven’t been doing them proper justice. From now on, we will.”
Which isn’t to say that the four Rebirth comics we got this week were necessarily all that good — truth be told, most of them were thoroughly forgettable and a couple of them didn’t even rise to the level of mediocrity. But seriously, folks, this is all that was needed. All that shit about ten stolen years and Flashpoint essentially being one giant hoax and the implication that the characters from Watchmen are now going to be brought into the DCU “proper”? I’m just gonna pretend like all that didn’t happen unless and until I’m forced to acknowledge otherwise. At which point I’ll probably find myself seriously trimming my pull list. For now, though, DC seems quite content with ignoring all of that, as well, in favor of re-setting the table on all their books and just getting back to basics. I respectfully contend that it’s that very “back to basics” mindset that was all this entire Rebirth enterprise ever needed to be about.
But enough about the big picture. What of the individual books themselves? Let’s take a somewhat closer look at each :
Superman : Rebirth #1
Co-writers (actually, the credits list them as “storytellers”) Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason serve up a “let’s-bring-you-up-to-speed” yarn that not only feels the need to recap events from the “New 52” Universe, but from its predecessor, as well — which makes sense, I suppose, given that it’s the “old-school Superman” of earlier vintage that we’re going to be following from here on out. Most of the issue is an extended conversation between said Superman and “New 52”-era Lana Lang, who meet each other when they’re both out — doing a bit of grave-robbing? Yes, you read that correctly, and it sets the tone for what’s an awkward, stilted, highly disjointed story. Suffice to say, the Superman we’ve all been following for the past five years appears to be well and truly dead — and his Super-antecedent is finally convinced of that fact over the space of about two panels after denying it for the first 18 pages. Pretty lame stuff, really, but this comic had the most to do in terms of “housekeeping,” so let’s hope things get better from here on out. Penciller Doug Mahnke and inker Jaime Mendoza deliver flat, generic, thoroughly-uninspired “corporate comics” art that does nothing so much as provide the strongest possible “visual echo” of the question a lot of us have been asking, namely : “How can ‘The New 52’ really be over with if all the same people are still working on the books?”
Overall Score: 2 Recommendation: Pass
Batman: Rebirth #1
On the other side of the coin, Batman was probably in better shape coming into this thing than any other character in the DCU. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s run was loved by fans, critics, and retailers all for the same essential reason : it was good, and good stuff sells. Still, it’s “out with the old, in with the new” time, so Snyder helps to usher in new writer Tom King by purportedly “co-writing” a book with him that, to be honest, feels almost nothing like a Scott Snyder comic. Which isn’t meant as a “knock” on this issue at all, given that King finds his “voice” with Bruce Wayne and Batman immediately, and introduces us to a chilling new iteration of the Calendar Man that propels that formerly-lame villain up a good few notches in my estimation — all while dropping some intriguing hints as to an entirely new role for former We Are Robin star Duke Thomas, as well. Much like his colleague behind the word processor, incoming artist Mikel Janin is allowed to delineate the proceedings in his own style right from the word “go” with little to no visual referencing of his celebrated predecessor on offer, and the results are pretty damn spectacular. DC “brass” seems to have the right idea with the Batman title — hire the best possible creators for the job, and then get the hell out of their way and let them tell stories. Too bad that philosophy hasn’t been adopted across their entire line.
Overall Score: 8 Recommendation: Buy
Green Arrow: Rebirth #1
Like most, I was pretty “iffy” on the idea of Benjamin Percy continuing on as writer of this book given that he seems to have done his level best to drive it into the ditch during the “New 52” era, but this issue at least proves that he understands the basics of Ollie Queen’s character and, needless to say, finally getting him together with Dinah Lance a.k.a. Black Canary should make pretty much everyone happy. The two of them bust up an underground human trafficking ring in fairly short order here and maybe make the acquaintance of some new recurring villains, as well. Hardly a memorable story, but a reasonably effective one with sleek, angular, individualistic art from Otto Schmidt that looks pretty darn nice.
Overall Score: 6.5 Recommendation: Read
Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1
Can you say “Same shit, different Lanterns?” Sure you can, and so can Geoff Johns, who takes one more swing at these characters by co-writing this book along with new scribe Sam Humphries. Simon Baz was introduced as a new GL some time back and subsequently forgotten about, while Jessica Cruz was introduced as Power Ring and subsequently focused on to the point of becoming annoying. Now they’re in charge of patrolling our “sector” of space and in between all the recapping and cheap, shorthand “character development,” we’re treated to some supposed “mystery” about the Guardians themselves that fails to elicit much interest right from the outset. There’s a fight with a Manhunter, too. Whatever. Co-artists Ethan Van Sciver and Ed Benes are virtually indistinguishable from each other stylistically, so don’t ask me which one of them drew which pages here. Essentially a “New 52” comic in all but name.
Overall Score: 3.5 Recommendation: Pass
So, there you have it. Not sure if I’ll keep this up over the course of the next few weeks here or not given that a lot of these books (which, incidentally, I paid for with my own money — no “freebies” involved) were thoroughly uninspired in terms of their execution, but at least DC editorial seems to have a grasp on how to put together an accessible-enough “jumping-on point.” It’s just too bad they didn’t roll these out before last week’s “crossover event”-style book that required a couple decades’ worth of prior knowledge to even begin to decipher.