This week will see the launch of the second month of new releases as part of DC's Rebirth initiative.
As far as I know, meanwhile, every Rebirth one-shot released in June, as well as May's DC Universe: Rebirth #1 and a number of the #1 issues that came after the one-shots, have sold out at the distributor level and are getting additional printings.
But how do they actually measure up in terms of storytelling? Which were the best? The worst? In a crowd filled with critically-acclaimed relaunches, were there any that I could have done without?
Here are my rankings -- which, bear in mind, are totally subjective and totally mine, although I'll try and back them up with my logic.
What was your favorite Rebirth title? How are you liking the initiative so far? Will you miss The New 52?
When I spoke to Aquaman writer Dan Abnett early on, one of the things that we talked about was the fact that the book wasn't really "broken."
Geoff Johns got Aquaman off to a great start and then Jeff Parker continued on the path. Yeah, Cullen Bunn's run wasn't widely loved, but he also bailed about fifteen seconds after he started work on the book. Abnett came on board as a fill-in writer toward the end of The New 52 run, and was one of a pretty select group who got to keep their previous title(s) going forward into Rebirth.
The stage is set for success, right? So why is it so low on the list?
Frankly, the bar is high and while Abnett, Brad Walker, and Scot Eaton may be clearing it...that's about all they're doing.
This isn't really the fault of the art; the two artists really complement each other well, and are well-suited to the character. It's mostly a question of two things with the writing:
One, Abnett seems stuck on cruise control. So far, the book feels like a half-dozen other Aquaman runs. That's not inherently bad in terms of quality -- many of the runs that feel "familiar" were quite good -- but it is bad in terms of creating a sense of excitement and a buzz around the character.
Two, they aren't taking advantage of the setting. So far, almost everything that has happened, has happened on land. Even in Aquaman #1, when we started to get some of the cool, aquatic imagery at the Atlantean "embassy," it was short-lived because terrorists immediatley started busting the place up.
Verdict: This is a comic with a ton of potential and so far, it seems willing to coast on that potential and previous success rather than really upping the ante. It's a shame, because writer Dan Abnett is doing a disservice to a stellar art team...and he's got some terrific work going on later in this list.prevnext
This book has a few things going against it.
Sam Humphries' first foray into DC superheroes isn't a failure by any stretch of the imagination; each individual issue is an entertaining read, and art by Robson Rocha feels full of life and energy.
That said, superstar Ethan Van Sciver's art often looks stiff and static, lacking that same energy -- and Green Lanterns is no exception. Physically large characters like Simon Baz and Atrocitus tend to feel particularly immobile in Van Sciver's work, so the fact that both of them are prominently featured means half the time, the book isn't looking its best.
Another issue is that in the first two issues -- and indeed in the third, as I've read ahead to #2 at this point -- there is very little forward momentum. It's a situation where each indivudual issue is pretty strong, but when you start to read it as an ongoing story, it feels a bit stagnnat. When it is eventually collected in trade, I imagine many readers will find themselves wondering why there needs to be a third twist ending that establishes the same threat as the first two twist endings in the book's first sixty pages.
And, frankly -- this one isn't something that is the fault of the creative team, and certainly your mileage may vary here, but this is how I feel -- Simon and Jessica are just...more Green Lanterns at this point. They don't feel like they're particularly important in the grand scheme of the Corps, and their bickering so far has done little to endear them to me. I get that Humphries's idea here is to evoke something like The Defiant Ones, where our two heroes were literally shackled together and had to learn to overcome their differences to escape...but so far, I don't particularly care whether this metaphorical jail break works.
Verdict: Spinning its wheels. This title feels distinctly like some recent Marvel books. With that publisher's annual reboot/relaunch/rebranding, it has felt recently like many of their titles aren't built to last, but built as a glorified miniseries that will simply tell a single story spanning the time between publishing initiatives. The Defiant Ones idea is a classic case: ultimately if they don't start to get along and work together, the book will become intolerable and the characters unsympathetic. Once they do, though, what's the hook?prevnext
A fantastic issue #1 kicks this one a few notches up the list, but so far, it's pretty uneven.
While many fans loved the Rebirth issue, and almost everyone seems happy to have Oliver and Dinah back together again in some form or fashion, I found Black Canary's character to be grating and self-centered. The second issue's shock ending delivered a jolt that the book really needed as, up to that point, Green Arrow was my least-favorite read of the month.
Again, this is not a bad book by any stretch. Percy's handle on the characters has been getting stronger and stronger since he took over Green Arrow, and while I personally was put off by his Black Canary, it's clear that he has a strong understanding and a valid take.
Artist Otto Schmidt has so far delivered some great visuals, and has a cool, distinct look that calls to mind trendy artists like Jeff Lemire and Chris Samnee. His layouts have been dynamite, and if I had to, I could put this comic on "mute" and read it for the art alone.
That said, I'm concerned. Solicitations for upcoming issues give us the old "Oliver has lost his fortune and is all alone in the world" story again -- and I'm not sure I have it in me to care about that for the hundredth time.
Verdict: Writer Ben Percy has had a hit-or-miss run so far, with some really spectacular high points masking a year's worth of issues that were just this side of okay. That he managed to salvage the sinking ship of Green Arrow's sales and had a strong take for the future gave him a shot at Rebirth, but so far this has been DC's most inconsistent relaunch.prevnext
Tom King, Mikel Janin, and David Finch have turned in a pair of wildly different -- and yet both quite good -- issues of Batman since the relaunch.
After years of the auteur approach of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, Tom King seems determined to take Batman on Batman's own terms, write to the skills of his artists, and be open to anything.
Is it better than Snyder's? No, but let's face it: the odds against anything being better than Snyder and Capullo's first few issues were long. Is it a strong, smart take on the Dark Knight that offers a lot of promise? Absolutely.
The Rebirth one-shot was very character-driven and a bit bogged down and wordy. It slowed the book down more than many readers would have liked, and all those word balloons obscured Janin's gorgeous art.
That said, fans of King will recognize the wordy, character-driven approach from books like Omega Men and The Vision -- two of the most acclaimed mainstream superhero books in recent memory.
Finch is elevating his game, openly acknowledging what he sees as valid criticism of his years of blockbuster success and working to improve rather than hiding behind his piles of money and pretending he can't hear.
Verdict: A lot of people won't know what to make of this Batman right away, but that's alright: the strength of the title itself, King's keen ear for characterization and two of the best artists currently working at DC should give it enough leash to find its niche and impress the readers it needs to.prevnext
Peter Tomasi, Doug Mahnke and Patrick Gleason all turned in some all-star caliber work during "The Final Days of Superman," the storyline that closed out the life and times of The New 52 Superman.
That work, though, was easily distracted and not entirely great, with a couple of issues clearly outshining the rest and plenty of padding and setup in what felt like it should have been a nonstop story.
That's more or less the same thing that they've got going on not that they're the ongoing Superman creative team. The Rebirth one-shot was great -- albeit slow and without any action to speak of. Superman #1, meanwhile, was a good comic that could have been great if not for a few storytelling missteps.
Both artists are fairly stylized, and so putting them on a character as classic as Superman feels a bit like an odd choice, but neither of them has turned in particularly bad work. It just lacks the majesty of some of the great Superman artists of the past.
Tomasi, meanwhile, likely suffers in comparison to Dan Jurgens, who is turning in some stellar writing on Action Comics. Is it unfair to compare the two? Well, normally I would say yes...but since Superman: Rebirth #1 spent about 2/3 of its page count with Tomasi literally rehashing pre-Flashpoint stories written by Jurgens, I'm going to allow myself the indulgence.
Verdict: Even as the lesser of the two Superman titles, this book is so good that it comes in right behind some potentially history-making runs on this list. While the artists don't necessarily feel "at home" on Superman yet, they're both terrifically talented, and while Tomasi has made a few missteps, he's generally one giving us some of the best Superman stories in years.prevnext
So far, Wonder Woman has some of the most beautiful art of the Rebirth reboot...and that's even before Nicola Scott takes her first turn at the pencil.
The series, so far, is a mix of high concepts, big, sprawling visuals, gorgeous colors, and a main character and narrative who are both somewhat lost.
As Wonder Woman #1 concluded, Diana is starting to find her way -- and it seems likely that the series' direction will be a little clearer soon, too, as Nicola Scott joins the title in earnest and the "flashback" stories that will tell the other "half" of the book start to take shape.
Greg Rucka has a great sense for the characters in this book, and while I personally enjoyed the Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang run, it's clear that version had somewhat run its course. Seeing the trappings of the New 52 Wonder Woman literally balled up on the floor as Diana walked away from them was as entertaining as it was metaphorical.
Verdict: With gorgeous art and a compelling story, Wonder Woman may feel a bit incomplete at the moment, but that doesn't stop it from being one of DC's most exciting new launches.prevnext
The emotional gut-punch many fans -- especially fans of the Post-Crisis Flash, Wally West -- felt after the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 was capitalized on big-time in The Flash: Rebirth.
Bringing together Barry Allen and the original Wally West, without sidelining or retconning the "new" Wally into non-existence, The Flash also picks up on other plot threads from Rebirth, showing Batman and The Flash (remember: Barry IS a cop) working together to try and solve the mystery of the missing decade and the bloody smiley face pin that embedded itself in the Batcave wall.
Carmine Di Giandomenico is doing great work, although frankly his style on The Flash is a bit of an odd editorial choice. He seems like he would be a better fit for somebody who's a little darker, especially as "bright and sunny" seems to be the order of the day for the character of Barry Allen. It's an odd fit, but so far it's worked and ultimately it could prove to be a surprisingly successful choice.
Writer Joshua Williamson gets to the core of these characters quickly. If there's any real criticism, it's that with so much plot AND so much character work, the audience feels like they're being pulled along at breakneck speed with The Flash from time to time.
Verdict: When The New 52 launched, The Flash was one of the best new series, and it managed to maintain a pretty consistent level of quality throughout the life of the post-Flashpoint DC Universe. Now, with the events of Flashpoint seemingly starting to be walked back and the next big Crisis looming, Barry Allen is once again one of the characters to watch.prevnext
This is the Batman title I've wanted for years.
Bringing back characters like Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown, while bringing Tim Drake back to a more recognizable version of his costume, Detective Comics brings the X-Men philosophy to Gotham, as Batman and Batwoman take a handful of young heroes (and Clayface) under their leathery wings.
The art by Eddy Barrows has been dynamic and frenetic so far, with a wide variety of body types and facial structures represented. It's one of the best looking of DC's new line of books, shoulder to shoulder with books like Wonder Woman and Action Comics.
Meanwhile, the love that James Tynion IV has for these characters shines through, and he's delivered at least one "Hell yeah!" moment per issue.
"When I heard that they were going to bring the classic numbering back, because I think I'm allowed to say that when we first started talking about the book, similar to the other rebirthed titles I thought this is going to be a number one like many of the other books in the line, but when the decision was made to start this run at 934, there was something really special about that," Tynion told us.
Verdict: Unless you like your Batman to be a dour, solo avenger of the night, you should love this book. Tynion threads the needle of making Batman recognizably the guy we've been following for the last few years without playing to those same tired tropes about him not playing well with others, and Barrows takes some of the action-packed art he brought to the Nightwing relaunch five years ago and deposits it in the heart of Gotham City.prevnext
Like Detective Comics, Titans is a book that's just giving me everything I want.
Building on the underrated Titans Hunt miniseries, Titans brings together the classic team of Teen Titans (plus/minus a few members who have other stuff going on) and reintroduces the concept of Wally West as a member of the team.
The Rebirth issue -- the only thing out yet, since this is a monthly rather than then twice-monthly release of basically all the others -- is a fun, exciting, beautifully-rendered and emotionally energizing experience.
The moment where the team "becomes whole" is just some of the best, most satisfying superhero comics I've read in years.
Verdict: Wally West really was the missing piece to taking writer Dan Abnett's Titans stories from "pretty good" to "amazing." Add in the energetic art of Brett Booth, who finally fulfilled his long-spoken desire to bring Wally West back into comics, and you've got a perfect combination of a story that needs to be told, and talented and passionate storytellers attached to it.prevnext
After the brilliant Superman: Lois and Clark (and, y'know, decades of previous excellent work on the character), it should have been obvious that writer Dan Jurgens was going to turn in some pretty exceptional work on the Man of Steel. But even as a longtime fan of his work, this book has exceeded my expectations.
Action Comics is not only the best mainstream Superman title we've had in years, but it's one of the best superhero comics DC has launched in quite some time. While Superman: Lois and Clark artist Lee Weeks is gone, there's a platoon of worthy successors working on this title, including Patrick Zircher, whose first two issues have been gorgeous, full of Easter eggs, and generally exactly what the renumbered Action Comics needed.
Launching with Luthor and Doomsday was pretty much inevitable -- not only were they just major players in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but Jurgens as Doomsday's creator is in a unique position to have something cool and interesting to say about the monster that once killed the Man of Tomorrow.0comments
Meanwhile, a look at the supporting cast shows that while so far the book has been focused primarily -- ahem -- action, Superman's family, friends, and support network are an important element in this series -- something that has been largely missing for the last year or so.
Verdict: Buy this book. In a crowded field of great Rebirth relaunched, Action Comics has quickly risen to the top and provides more entertainment in its pages than nearly any big two superhero book in the last five years.prev