We’re now four weeks into DC’s Rebirth push, which is trying to right its superhero line by going back to basics in everything other than publishing schedule — which’ll explain why we’re already at second issues of the books that’ve been launched so far, even though they’re all #1s, because of the unnecessary Rebirth prologue issues. Unnecessary in more ways than one, considering that almost all of the series have better #1s than their official Rebirth relaunches. But let’s get to the capsule reviews, shall we…?
TITANS REBIRTH #1: The most surprising thing about this issue is the apparent set-up for the series being that the reborn Wally West and the rest of his teen teammates are going to be investigating what stole time from the DCU, because they believe they have the most personal connection with the problem. Is this really going to be the series where the Watchman plot is going to play out…? That seems… unexpected, but also possibly a good gimmick to get people to keep buying the series. In terms of what’s actually in the issue, Dan Abnett provides a nice enough primer of the characters’ collective pasts and who they were back when, and Brett Booth provides… his usual level of art. (I’m not a fan; it’s the faces. I don’t know why.) It’s a fine preview issue that feels entirely pitched towards the existing fan, which might defeat the entire point of Rebirth as a jumping on point. Let’s see what the first issue proper is like, shall we…?
ACTION COMICS #958: Something Dan Jurgens seems to understand more than most is the limitations of Doomsday as a character. (Maybe he learned it during the, what, three Doomsday minis he did in the 1990s; that kind of thing has to leave a mark on the psyche.) Here, the monster is pretty much used as a Macguffin for other plots and characters to be promoted, and it works well enough in an old-fashioned way. We even get Superman saying “This is a job for Superman!” at one point, which is kind of lovely. It’s not the best Jurgens Superman book out this week, though; that’d be Justice League #52, the last issue of the old run and a bridge between Lex Luthor’s appearances there and his Action role — including the surprising revelation that he really does seem to be sincere in trying to be a good guy Superman, and not just a villain-in-waiting. Between that and Action‘s mysterious Clark Kent, I’m nodding my head appreciatively at the 1990s-esque mysteries on offer here.
DETECTIVE COMICS #935: Also feeling very old school, James Tynion IV’s Detective is already, in its second issue, feeling like the busiest book of the Rebirth line; it’s packed like an old-time Claremont X-Men issue, while barreling through the story with a speed that’s Claremont in his ’70s prime. I’m genuinely surprised by how much I’m digging this team book, given that I’m not particularly invested in any of the characters, but it’s currently working for me in a way that super team books haven’t for… more than a decade, at the very least.
SUPERMAN #1: I said on Twitter earlier this week that the first issues of the new series have, across the board, been stronger than the Rebirth prologues, and nowhere is that more obvious than the Superman debut, which feels like it’s from a different series altogether — one from the point of view of Superman’s pre-teen son, where he can’t control his powers, he’s scared of the superheroes and thinks that his dad is a liar for having a secret identity. It’s not what you’d expect from a Superman book, and all the better for that. I’m genuinely curious where this is going next, and along for the journey for awhile, at least.
BATMAN #1: The Rebirth issue of Batman left me cold, but I wasn’t sure I really knew what I was missing. With Tom King’s first solo issue of the series, the answer comes to me: apparently, I had hoped to see Batman to steer an out-of-control plane through the skies of Gotham, narrowly avoiding buildings, by standing on top of it and using reins and additional jet engines controlled by remote control. This isn’t Snyder’s Batman, and despite the boldness (and dumbness) of that sequence, it’s not Morrison’s, either — it’s somewhere in between, and I adored it. I adored it so much, in fact, that David Finch’s art didn’t really bother me that much, unusually. Again, so, so much better than the Rebirth issue, this is a comic that promises to be fun, which really is all I wanted from King’s run on the series.
GREEN LANTERNS #1: This book is certainly living up to all writer Sam Humphries’ pre-release promises — it’s a buddy movie, it’s far more tightly focused than the GL books have felt for awhile, and with Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz as the leads, it’s offering a more diverse lead cast than most GL books, as well. So why isn’t it really working for me? I wish I knew; the two issues to date feel like they’re over too quickly, and between the use of the Red Lanterns as the series’ major threat and the introduction of “EMERALD SIGHT” as a new super power/Macguffin, there’s a feeling of it being Geoff Johns’ GL on fast-forward. While I wouldn’t call this a bad book — I suspect there are those who’ll find it right up their alley — it’s not for me.
GREEN ARROW #1 and AQUAMAN #1: There’s little I can really add to both of these from what I said about their Rebirth issues — both are surprisingly strong, and far stronger than they’d managed in their New 52 guises (Although Jeff Parker and Paul Pelletier’s Aquaman issues are very, very fun). They’re great mid-level superhero books, which sounds as if I’m damning with faint praise, but I’m not; DC’s superhero line has lacked a genuinely strong line-up of mid-level books for the longest time — since, what, the early ’90s? — and it’s been a real problem. Getting books like this to feel as enjoyable and exciting as these issues do is something DC should’ve done a long time ago, and now that they’re there, it’s actually more of a sign that Rebirth will work as a publishing initiative than anything that New 52 or DC You managed.
THE FLASH #1: Freed of the Rebirth plot that dominated the Rebirth issue — which seems like an odd thing to write, but there you go — Josh Williamson delivers a story that feels very much in keeping with the TV series, which almost automatically makes it the most entertaining the writing has been on a Flash comic in quite some time. There’s a lightness of touch here that works with Barry Allen without making him Wally West, which has felt like a problem with the series since the New 52 relaunch, and things move forward at a nice clip. I’m still not entirely sold on Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art, but it’s growing on me. Again, I can see this taking its place with Aquaman and Green Arrow soon enough — a book that is definitely good enough to take its place as some fans’ favorite, while offering everyone else something solid enough to fulfill all their superhero needs. (Also, like Green Arrow, it finally feels like something that could appeal to fans of the show while doing things that the show can’t, or won’t, do; that feels worthwhile, as well.)
WONDER WOMAN #1: This is the smallest thing, but the lettering and coloring in this series are proving to be surprisingly off-putting to me. There’s something about the font chosen for dialogue, and the overwhelmingness of the color choices — Laura Martin is not a subtle colorist, which can often be a strength with some of the artists she’s worked with in the past — that just pull my attention away from the genuinely interesting stuff that’s on offer from Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp here. That’s not to say that either are firing on all cylinders here; the scripting feels a little directionless, and the plot a little empty, while Sharp’s Steve Trevor offered a surprising reminder of his 1990s Marvel UK style in a way that his female characters feel more developed and individual. Two issues in, this remains a frustrating series; it’s so close to being something essential and giving Wonder Woman the book she’s deserved for years — but it’s still falling short, just. I’m very curious to see how the Nicola Scott “Year One” arc, running in the even-numbered issues, feels in comparison to this Sharp-illustrated run. For now, though, this is possibly the most interesting, most annoying of the Rebirth books to date.