COMIC BOOKS 101: DC Rebirth Review 2017!
DC Comics had an overall week ending to their New 52 run. Many of the series just petered out, with only a few having any significant sendoff (Batman, JLA, Superman. Marvel was killing them in sales, and only the core titles ever broke the top 10. Then it all changed, DC made a bold announcement to once again “rework” their line up and in continuity world. They announced is DC Rebirth (You can see the lead up to DC Rebirth in my article here DC COMICS THEN AND NOW) an attempt to “get back to basics” for many of their characters. New creative teams, no visions for their books, and less crossovers! Phase 1 of the relaunch so far has been a huge success, the months of June-August were predominantly DC books in the top sales, and many fans have enjoyed the new stories regarding their favorite characters. So, out of all the new books how they do they stack up? Read on to see which new series I think deserve a definite look, and which ones should take a hard pass! To make it a little easier, I will break the articles up into “Groups” such as a Batman group, Superman Group, Justice League Group, etc.
STORY: Scott Snyder Art: Various
# of Issues: 6
Scully’s Take: I like Scott Snyder as a writer, and he’s working with some amazingly talented artist on this series (so far Declan Shalvey, JrJr, Jock, etc) but in truth, much like his New 52 run I find that Snyder can be very polarizing for fans with his work. All-Star Batmans is a very fun fine book. The opening storyline is very 16 blocks (go see that movie) meets Midnight Run (Also a great movie). Essentially Batman needs to get Two-Face to a secure location where he can be “cured” but to counter this Two-Face has put out a bounty on himself! The price tag is if he Batman isn’t stopped, Two-Face will reveal all of Gotham’s citizens dirty secrets (Good people and bad people). So the good and bad here. The good is the action never stops, I like the voice Snyder gives Batman, good interactions with the new “robin”(?) Duke, and a fun cast of classic Batman Villains whom haven’t been seen in awhile. The bad, it doesn’t fit in at all with anything else remotely Batman related. In truth, I’d almost say it continues better from Snyder’s New 52 run than the current Tom King Batman series. I’d say it’s a great read for new readers, but sort of try to keep everything taking place in a “separate world” in your mind. Ignore the continuity errors and just enjoy it for the story being told.
STORY: Hope Larson ART: Rafael Albuquerque
# of Issues: 6
Scully’s Take: There are currently two titles heavily featuring Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, this main series and Birds of Prey. Of the two, I tend to lean more towards Birds of Prey as the better series. Many others enjoy this Batgirl. What does that mean? It means you have the same character being written in two very different ways by very different writers, but both books very the same character in the same universe. That’s like a character appearing on normal Law and Order and being a very level headed person, then appearing on like Law and Order SVU and suddenly acting weird and aloof. Same character, two different personalities (and no that’s not a character trait or story plot). It bugs me. I really really dislike when characters are not remotely consistent. I get it is different writers and each has their own technique, but there should be some editorial involvement to keep a “consistent voice” to the character. Anyway, this series has been fine so far, mostly it revolves around Barbara travelling to China in hopes of going on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Of course nothing goes smooth and Batgirl winds up involved in some trouble over there involving a former friend (love interest), Chinese Triads, and an older female vigilante. The action is good, the artwork is solid by Albuquerque, and the series isn’t horrible it’s just not as fun or light hearted as Birds of Prey.
BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY
STORY: Julie and Shawna Benson ART: Claire Roe
# of Issues: 6
Scully’s Take: So this is the other Batgirl series. While the title is pretty corny and sounds like it should be an 80’s cartoon for an all-girl band the series is actually really good. The Benson sisters are excellent with witty dialogue (something I think both Babs and Canary both need) and they seem to be able to craft a really well paced story (a little bit of dragging in plot, but I blame DC’s need to have 6 issue arcs for Trades). It’s strange to see Black Canary here and then also appearing in the pages of Green Arrow but there being zero connection between the two (nothing stating if these events take place before or after what’s happening in Green Arrow). That’s been my issue with DC comics in Rebirth. To give writers more “creative freedom” DC editorial has basically thrown out the book on continuity and “shared universe” ideas. Pretty much any story that isn’t too extreme or drastic is a green light regardless if it contradicts any other stories going on at the time. So taking aside that pesky part, BG&BOP is a really well done series, backed by the amazing artwork of Claire Roe. I highly recommend it to any new readers, or those who’ve been on the fence about maybe picking it up. The most recent story arc brings the Birds of Prey together when an unknown figure begins to use Barbara Gordon’s old alias of Oracle (from her time in a wheel chair and being the “source of info” for the superhero community). This Oracle appears to be working with various criminal elements. It’s a strong story, and ties into New 52 and early days of Batgirl’s adventures. I do wish DC could give a better explanation for why a once severely crippled character can now once more masquerade as a vigilante (magical back surgery is the answer). Still, this one is definitely on the must read list when it comes out.
STORY: Tom King Art: David Finch, Mikel Janin
# of Issues: 15
Scully’s Take: Tom King did phenomenal job writing over at Marvel on the series Vision. He’s also a former member of the CIA (to what extent and degree, I’m not sure). So I had big hope that he would bring a unique take to the Batman franchise (which saw a lot of success under the team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo). To my surprise the opening story arc, involving two super powered beings called Gotham and Gotham Girl was a bit lack luster. It had amazing artwork from legendary artist David Finch (who also got each issue done on time!) but nothing really seemed to come from the story. No new deep insights to Bruce or Batman, nothing really special about these super powered characters, nothing with the Duke/Batman relationship or ties to anything going on in Detective Comics. The series was written just fine, but I guess I just had higher hopes. The follow up story was the Monster Men mini Batfamily cross over which seemed more an Steve Orlando (another DC Writer) fueled than Tom King. Then we got the Bane story line with beautiful artwork by Mikel Janin but still a very awkward and silly story (Seriously at one point Batman has his Back BROKEN! Then he gets dumped into a prison cell being filled with water, he punches! PUNCHES! Holes into the concrete walls, climbs up it, re-snaps his back into place, proceeds to then scale the entire complex and beat up hundreds of guards on his own, only to conveniently collapse just before Bane. I think King is still a good writer, I just no longer have faith he can write a Batman book I care about. So a series that went from being a must have, has lowered down to a check out once in a while (mainly for the artwork).
STORY: James Tynion IV ART: Various
# of Issues: 14 (The # switched back to older Detective Comis –preflashpoint- starting with #934)
Scully’s Take: So DC made the move to return Detective comics back to its original numbering system (but still counting the New 52 run-which started with an issue #1-in count). The reason was completely gimmicky as DC just wants to say they have a series that will hit issue #1000. Which is impressive, but totally gimmicky. That aside, I really liked the idea behind the series in Rebirth, essentially making it a “Bat Team” book. Typically Detective Comics was just treated as another Batman book. Nothing too special (for awhile it did feel like it centered on more “mystery” stories involving detective work but that was never consistent). This time around the series actually features Batman and his supporting characters. Bruce charges Batwoman with the job of bringing together the less experienced Gotham vigilantes to train them and work together as a cohesive unit. It’s a pretty cool line up of Red Robin (2nd in command), Spoiler, Black Bat, and Clayface! It seems the series has a more focused storyline than the other Bat books, and possibly the ensemble cast allows for more personality to exude from the pages than Tom King’s Batman series. It started off as just a regular series for me but slowly has turned into one of my favorite Batman books currently. Tynion IV does a good job getting new readers and older reads alike up to speed on characters and immediately moves into the story, and doesn’t stop from there. The first arc revolves around an army that has been formed to essentially be “Batmen” being headed up by Batwoman’s military general father. He thinks he can lead this army to do a better job than Batman can, and to battle the League of Shadows (which may or may not be a real organization). The series suffers a little from inconsistent artist on the arc, but luckily each artist that hopes on is super talented (Eddy Barrows serving as the primary artist for most issues). With some recent team lineup changes, and interesting new villain groups, Detective Comics is shaping up to be another stand out series for 2017.
STORY: Tim Seeley ART: Javi Fernandez, Marcus To, Various
# of Issues: 13
Scully’s Take: So I need to admit, I’m a BIG Nightwing Fan. I love the story of Dick Grayson, the fact he shares so many character aspects as Bruce (Batman) but still remains a strong positive influence in the DC Universe. I really enjoyed his time as Batman and honestly would have been fine if Bruce never really came back and Grayson took over for Batman. I even enjoyed his time as a super spy with Spiral. That all said, I am 100% glad he’s back as Nightwing and with the blue and black colors in his own series. Similar to a few other DC Rebirth Titles, Nightwing started off really strong, involving an interesting new character in the form of Talon (who may or may not have ties to Dick’s past), but it did kind of just re-tell the story of Dick pretending to be bad to get in close with bad guys to over throw them. It was a bit of a weak set up, but the art by Fernandez made it all worth while. Then Seeley seemed to grow more comfortable with the character, leading up to where Nightwing is now, back (for the first time!) in Bludhaven. The series has definitely been an interesting ride, and now that Grayson has laid down some roots, I’d love for him to stick around awhile and really establish himself as Bludhaven’s protector and once more get his own rogues gallery going.
STORY: Margquerite Bennett, James Tynion IV ART: Steve Epting, Ben Oliver
# of Issues: releases on 02/15/2017
Scully’s Take: Batwoman: Rebirth doesn’t hit stands until Feb 25 2017, but there is quite a bit of a hype for the series. Quite possibly one of the most beautifully written and illustrated series to come out of the NEW 52 line up, Batwoman once again has an all star crew at the helm. James Tynion IV will obviously be onboard to help guide Margquerite Bennett to keep in continuity with Detective Comics, and that is awesome. My take is Bennett will be able to write her wonderful proes, with Tynion mostly there just for some content editorial aspects. Mix that with Steve Epting and Ben Oliver!! And wow! This book is going to be gorgeous. I’m highly excited for the release, and looking forward to find out more of “Monster Venom” the drug which takes Venom to a whole new level (see the Batfamily cross over Monster Men).
STORY: Dan Jurgens ART: Bernard Chang
# of Issues: 3
Scully’s Take: I really enjoyed the Batman Beyond animated series. There were some aspects I didn’t like (Tim Drake was Joker, Dick Grayson blind in one eye and kind of looking/acting like Marvel’s Nick Fury) but over all it was a cool concept. The book was fun to me since I never took it as a series “this is where the DC Universe is heading” type of future. It was essentially a different alternate reality time line where XYZ took place, and now this is the state of things. Cool. Older Bruce Wayne mentors younger Terry McGuinnes, using a supped up Batman Costume to fight future villains. All of this is gravy! I didn’t follow the previous series intensely, but when I picked up a story arc it was pretty cool. The same seems to be the case here with the Rebirth series. It pretty much picks up exactly where the New 52 version left off with little to not GAP and not much of a “retelling” to catch new readers up on what’s happening. That I didn’t really like. If you never watched the show, or read the previous comic book series, you will be dead in the water here. Can you pick up the basics? Probably as Jurgens is a good story teller but the whole point of the Rebirth One Shots was to really help new readers climb on. This didn’t really do much of that except give a little insight on the whole how Terry became Batman (which if you watch the opening segment of Batman Beyond you’d get the same info much quicker and easier). So yeah, not my favorite series, but the story has been fine thus far, revolving around a group of fanatical Joker followers, with the leader stating he’s going to resurrect the Joker. Terry needs to go undercover and try to stop it before anything worse can happen. Bernard Chang definitely shows more improvements from his time on Green Lantern Corps (2011), not to say that work wasn’t also really awesome just he’s grown as an artist. Batman Beyond is definitely one of those series that maybe you just pick up for the heck of it and try it out, luckily there’s no indication to believe it has any major effects on anything else in the DCU.
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS
STORY: Scott Lobdell ART: Dexter Soy
# of Issues: 6
Scully’s Take: I wasn’t thrilled with Lobdell’s writing of the series the first time around in its New 52 run (even with the amazing art by Kenneth Rocafort), and the same kind of goes for this series. I’m digging the “dark trinity” aspect with Bizarro taking Superman’s Place, Artemis for Wonder Woman and obviously Red Hood for Batman. The story is a little too similar at first to what readers are getting in Nightwing with Red Hood going undercover as a bad guy to infiltrate Black Mask’s organization. A bunch of convoluted plot twists and turns later, we eventually end up with Bizarro and Artemis being reluctant friends with Redhood and now they are gonna go on adventures together. I love most things Batman and really see such potential with the Red Hood character, but he just seems to be always poorly written or too much of a flipflop on the “punisher” style mentality to fighting crime. Not to mention in Rebirth it’s almost as if nothing from the New 52 run ever happened. This series is ignoring almost all of it, Titans Arsenal (Red Arrow?) is ignoring it, and Teen Titans Star Sapphire seems to be ignoring it. Maybe that’s for the best since most readers are trying to ignore that series. Regardless Dexter Soy is also a top notch awesome artist, and makes this book worth it for me. Yeah, it’s pretty dumb (Just can’t understand why Lodbell is a highly regarded writer) but at least the stories feel complete and again backed up by amazing art. Once Dexter leaves this book, unless another powerhouse comes on board (Tyler Kirkhman anyone?) then it will be a quick descent to getting cancelled for this series.
That’s it for my reviews on the Batman and Friends books for DC: REBIRTH. For any new readers I’d recommend picking up any of the solo Rebirth books followed by the regular series as each one really is geared towards helping new readers jump on board and not feel drowned by backstory/history. If I absolutely had to narrow this list down I’d say for Detective Comics, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, and Nightwing, possibly All-Star Batman (since it feels so disconnected from everything else, but you will need to know a little New 52 Snyder Batman trivia). The other books aren’t terrible, just haven’t lived up to the hype. There’s talk of Batwing once again getting a new series (his New 52 didn’t do very well) springing forth from the pages of Detective Comics. Basically in 2017 I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more “Bat” books hitting the market to keep DC sales going. What are your favorite Bat Books and storylines so far? For more Batman related content (including a really good intro for new readers and older readers a like) be sure to check out my following articles on Batman 101! Next week I’ll take a look at the Superman books of Rebirth and get readers up to speed!
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