Welcome to week two of our mini-reviews of DC’s newly relaunched Rebirth titles. This week, the publisher is relaunching Detective Comics–returning the title to its previous numbering– and also Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Flash. Have the titles improved upon their New 52 incarnations? Read on for all the details…
Detective Comics #934
One of the many things fans complained about that was missing from the New 52 were fan-favorite characters (and former Batgirls) like Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Another big complaint was the removal of Tim Drake from Batman’s inner circle, leaving barely any interaction between Tim and Bruce Wayne these past five years. Thankfully, James Tynion’s newly Rebirthed Detective Comics — now restored to its classic numbering issue #934 — seems to want to correct all those mistakes in one big gesture, and based on this issue, it seems to be working.
Detective might as well be called “Bat-Family” as the story starts with Batman saving Azrael from a Batman lookalike who beat him within an inch of his life. Bruce finds a drone on the scene, and realizes someone has been watching the various vigilantes in Gotham. So he recruits his cousin Kate Kane — better known as Batwoman — not to be his sidekick, but to help him train the next generation of vigilantes, to fight against whoever it is that is watching them. He admits to her that based on her military background, she’d be better at “bat boot camp” than he ever could.
So together they gather Red Robin (back in his pre-New 52 costume) as well as Stephanie Brown and Cass Cain, aka Spoiler and Orphan. The offbeat (but interesting) choice for fourth member of this new team is villain Clayface. He’s always been one of the less evil and more tragic villains in Batman’s rouge’s gallery, so I understand why Batman would choose him as someone to reform and make a force for good.
The art on the book is by Eddy Barrows (Teen Titans) and his detailed style is perfect for a book as busy with characters and plot as this one. He does this weird thing when drawing Batman’s cape that I don’t like, where he adds these weird scallops, but it’s a minor quibble. If you missed the former Batgirls, if you miss the Tim Drake/Bruce Wayne dynamic, if you missed Batwoman having a regular title, then Detective Comics might be the best Batman book for you.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1
Of all the comics DC debuted with the New 52 five years ago, Wonder Woman was maybe the one that had fans most divided. One the one hand, critics loved Brian Azzarello’s and Cliff Chiang’s Vertigo-esque take on the Olympian Gods, and the writing was witty and smart. On the other hand, the changes made to Diana’s origins and the Amazons were drastic, and seen as complete turnaround from the feminist principles the character was created to inhabit. The post-Azzarello run by the husband and wife team of Meredith and David Finch didn’t help matters much either.
So for Rebirth, DC has gone back and installed Greg Rucka, easily Wonder Woman’s most acclaimed writer aside from George Perez, to right the ship. So how does Wonder Woman: Rebirth hold up? Well…the issue asks more questions than it answers, but remains thoroughly engaging nevertheless. The issue begins with Diana questioning the truth of her origins — is she the daughter of Zeus and Queen Hippoylta, born on an island filled with other children, or is she the only child of Themyscira, born of clay? She acknowledges she has conflicting memories (how she came to have conflicting memories is not addressed though) and when she wraps herself in the lasso of truth, she learns that she’s “been deceived.” But by whom? Diana decides to go to Olympus and find out for herself. The story is more a prologue to a story that will continue elsewhere.
The best part of this issue is that returning writer Greg Rucka understands that the underlying core of Wonder Woman’s character isn’t her prowess as a warrior, it’s her belief that “the truth will set one free.” So for a character that values truth above all, the idea that she’s has been lied to — maybe for her entire life — to does not make her a happy camper, and sets her on a path of righteous indignation that the reader can totally get behind. While the writing is strong, the art is a little all over the place in this one-shot. Matthew Clark’s pencils are OK, but Liam Sharp’s are amazing, and you wish he had more pages than Clark. Luckily, Sharp is the regular Wonder Woman artist going forward.
This issue seems geared towards fans of the classic Wonder Woman mythos, without alienating any of the newer readers, and so far Greg Rucka and company have created a compelling narrative for fans of the Amazing Amazon. It’ll be interesting to see how he can marry such disparate stories going forward.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Flash: Rebirth #1
Of all the Rebirth one-shots, Flash: Rebirth might be the one which is the most direct sequel to Geoff Johns’ DC Universe: Rebirth special that began this whole endeavor. The issue begins with what we assume is a flashback to Barry Allen’s now-defining moment — the murder of his mother by the Reverse Flash. But it’s not; it’s actually a very similar case that Barry Allen is working on as a CSI in present day. His boss thinks it’s a little too close to home for him to work on, but before Barry can focus on this case too much, we are caught up in the events we saw in the DCU: Rebirth special, with Wally West emerging from the Speed Force.
We get a replay of those scenes, plus a few more added on. Think of it as the director’s cut of those same scenes from the Geoff Johns special. Barry and Wally decide not to tell Iris about Wally’s return for example, a tidbit left out of the DCU Rebirth book. Wally knows that Linda didn’t remember him, and fears his own aunt Iris won’t either. It’s a little bit too much to bear to have both beloved figures in his life not know who he is.
After the two Flashes part ways, Barry then goes to visit Batman, the best detective he knows, and the two ponder the Comedian’s smiley face pin that somehow Wally brought back with him when he emerged out of the Speed Force. Flash and Batman decide not to tell the rest of their JLA comrades about this for now, and instead try to solve this mystery together. It seems Flash is going to be the book where much of the main Rebirth mystery will play out, which makes sense since Barry had a hand in creating the world they live in now, via Flashpoint.
Joshua Williamson’s writing is on-point for the most part, although I did feel everything felt a little bit too rushed (no pun intended). Maybe the best scene is one where Barry is simply having a heart-to-heart chat with his father over coffee early on in the story. I’m less thrilled with the art though — Carmine Di Giandomenico is the new penciller, and while some of his pages look kinetic and cool, others just look messy. He’s going to be the regular artist on Flash from now on, so I suppose I have to get used to his style. This was maybe my least favorite of the Rebirth one-shots so far, but it doesn’t mean it was bad, I was just expecting more. Here’s hoping the monthly can deliver what this one-shot just hinted at.
RATING: 2.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Aquaman: Rebirth #1
Much like with Wonder Woman, for many fans Aquaman was one of the titles that benefited the most from the New 52 reboot. In fact, many fans said they never thought Aquaman was cool until Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis embraced Aquaman’s self knowledge that he had a perceived reputation as a “lame” hero who only talked to fish, giving him something to prove to the world, and even to himself, resulting in a great run on the character.
The Aquaman Rebirth one shot embraces all that recent continuity, and also shows how heavy the burden is on he who wears the crown. The issue is narrated by a mysterious character, who doesn’t reveal themselves till the very end (and I’ll maintain that secret) and goes on to update us Aquaman’s current status quo. Not only is Arthur trying to normalize relations between Atlantis and the surface world — he has a dry land Atlantean embassy called Spindrift Station — he also sees himself as protector of the entire ocean, two thirds of the world.
But all those duties are put aside when he has to fight anti-human Atlantean terrorists called the Deluge from harming humanity. This is a great action sequence that shows off how powerful King Arthur really is, despite whatever stupid jokes people make about “talking to fish.” It also reminds readers how much Aquaman is a product of both the Atlantean and the surface world, a child of two worlds.
The best part of this issue is how writer Dan Abnett deals with Aquaman’s relationship with Mera. As written by Abnett, Mera doesn’t think much of the surface world, but defends it reluctantly because she loves her soon to be husband so much, and is that devoted to his cause. There’s a great scene between Arthur and Mera at a seafood restaurant that was maybe my favorite in the entire book.
As for the art, like a lot of the Rebirth titles, it’s a bit hit and miss. The art chores are shared by Scot Eaton and Oscar Jimenez, although the pencils by Jimenez are much stronger and more detailed than those by Eaton , who does the bulk of the artwork. It’s not terrible by any means, just pedestrian. I’m still looking forward to Dan Abnett’s Aquaman series, but this new directions ultimately doesn’t seem all that different from what we’ve had previously…and that’s maybe not such a bad thing.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Images: DC Comics