The Best and Worst of DC Rebirth So Far

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This list contains some spoilers for Action Comics #957, Aquaman Rebirth #1, Batman Rebirth #1, Detective Comics #934, Flash Rebirth #1, Green Arrow Rebirth #1, Green Lanterns Rebirth #1, Superman Rebirth #1, and Wonder Woman Rebirth #1. Some of the spoilers are minor and some are not, it also contains some spoilers for the DC Rebirth event comic, so if you haven’t read any of those and you care about spoilers, do not read this list until you do!

So I am going to count down the nine Rebirth comics that have come out so far. I want to say a quick word before I do. None of these comics are really bad comics. They’re all varying degrees of good. DC is doing some really cool things with these characters, and I enjoyed each and every one of these issues for different reasons, but I certainly enjoyed some more than others! So here we go!

#9 Aquaman Rebirth #1

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This isn’t a bad comic. It’s just not as exciting or exceptional as some of the other comics on this list. More than any other comic here, this one feels like a #1 issue. It has a significant amount of exposition about who Arthur Curry is, how he came to be Aquaman, and what the current status quo is. That’s not bad per se, and, in fact, lacking that kind of explanation can be a bit problematic (see the #8 entry on this list for that), but this degree of pure exposition just didn’t make for an engaging comic. In fact, the most interesting thing about this comic—and what got me to keep reading (apart from having to write this review)—is the mystery of who was delivering this exposition, which, as it turns out, was the big twist for the comic! So, I will let that remain a mystery.

This comic also doesn’t do a whole lot to get me excited for future issues of Aquaman. That’s not me hating on Aquaman! I actually think Aquaman is pretty cool. He has one of the most unique power sets in DC comics, certainly, and when he is done well, his story-lines can be really engaging, because he is coming from a very different background than most other heroes as the king of a country. And his fights often take place under water, which is a combat dynamic that isn’t used very often. He gets a bad rap, because people don’t really understand what makes him interesting, and on that topic, one of the things the comic does that I actually really love is that it took that meta-public perception of Aquaman and made it part of the comic’s canon. There were some highlights in this comic like that. Aquaman’s powers being misunderstood by people, him being a public joke of a hero, Aquaman getting backlash, because he is, along with being a superhero, a world leader, which causes interesting political problems. Those were the high points of this comic, but there was just too much basic explanation crowding out those moments.

I know who Aquaman is as a character, so I don’t need this degree of exposition, necessarily. As a result, I don’t feel like for me, as a reader, there was much accomplished in this issue that made me excited to buy issue #2. I get that maybe DC felt like they had to do a degree of exposition, because Aquaman is a lesser known character (he doesn’t even have a CW series. I mean, come on! =P), but I could have done with a briefer amount of that and more of a look at what we can expect moving forward. There are some other comics on this list that handled the “we need to tell people who this character is” problem much better. This feels the most like a reboot of any of these comics, and I think that is mark against it. That said! There was an appearance of Garth aka Aqualad, and THAT just got me even more excited than I already am for the Titans comic! So… there’s that.

Overall, it’s a fine issue. But it’s not spectacular. If you are a huge Aquaman fan, there are some gems in there for you, and if you have no idea who Aquaman is, but you think a dude who patrols the oceans and is king of Atlantis sounds like a cool character that you want to know more about, maybe pick this one up. Otherwise, maybe pass on it.

#8 Action Comics #957

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I initially planned to rank this comic higher than I did immediately after I finished it. I mostly enjoyed reading it, and I am actually fairly excited for the next issue to see what happens (though, I don’t think I will be buying it for financial reasons, but I’ll gladly keep up with other blogs). So, why is this #8? Well… a couple of reasons. While it does a pretty good job showing how we are going to get from point A to point B (pre-Rebirth and post-Rebirth, respectively), it doesn’t do a great job of explaining to new readers how we got to point A in the first place. If you have decided to start reading DC comics because of Rebirth (or start reading them again at the promise that they will “fix” the New 52 problems) then you would be very confused by this comic. And since I have to believe that a portion of DC’s decision to do the Rebirth event in the first place was to attract those types of readers, this seems like a failing on this comic’s part.

The plot is very confusing to new readers. Superman says Lex Luthor is an evil murderer, but Lex says he was the old Superman’s friend. Who is telling the truth? Standard comic-readers and those who have a passing knowledge of Superman will assume Superman is, but the rest of the world of the comic doesn’t seem to agree. It’s a strange place to enter as a reader, and while I recognize that this is one of the two comics NOT starting over at #1, Detective Comics handles this situation much better.

The other problem I have with it is that in addition to the lack of set-up, or perhaps because of it, it does not feel like a successful comic in its own right. The story hinges not only on reading further comics (as one would expect, or else why would you buy more?), but also on having understood what came before. It feels like the middle of a story, rather than the beginning of one.

What it does do well, though, as I mentioned previously, is explain how we are arriving at the post-Rebirth changes to the Superman universe, which is that the New 52 Superman is dead (see Superman Rebirth #1 for the confirmation of that), and since Metropolis needs a Superman, the pre-52 Superman is going to step-up. Also to its credit, this comic has some very cool action sequences, and some great moments with Clark, Lois and their son Jon (who is adorable, by the way. He’s my favorite part of the comic. I can’t wait until his duo comic with Damien Wayne).

Overall, a little more catching up in this comic would have been good. Just a page or two is all we need. As I pointed out with Aquaman, I don’t need an entire comic of exposition. We all know who Superman is, but taking a little time to explain who he is at this moment would have been appreciated.

#7 Green Arrow Rebirth #1

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This comic sets up a really interesting plot that I am actually very excited about following up on. The main reason it’s so far up on this list is the art style. The art style bugs me. Now, that’s a personal preference thing, but it’s hard to get over. I would really try not to let my personal art preference affect my ranking for a comic, except more importantly than my personal opinion, I just don’t feel like the art fits with the overall tone of the book. It has this almost goofy look to it that just feels very strange in a book that talks about selling a woman as a sex slave/servant/food. Seriously. A comic with this art…

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has a mention of selling a person as food…

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So it just caused a level of cognitive dissonance for me that I couldn’t get over. If that doesn’t bother you, then you may enjoy this book more than I did. It’s a good comic otherwise. It does a great job of setting up the relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary and how that is evolving within the Rebirth event. Unlike the above comics, it finds a happy medium between exposition and a complete lack of set-up. This is helped by the fact that the actual story of the issue is engaging, and the writer uses that to showcase Ollie and Dinah’s different pasts and personalities without the need for lengthy exposition.

#6 Green Lanterns Rebirth #1

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Full disclosure: I was excited about this comic going into it, so it was always going to end up a little further down this list than it maybe deserves. I am really becoming a fan of Jessica Cruz, and the moment she got her lantern ring for real in Justice League #50 was probably the best moment in that comic for me. So I had a lot of hopes for this comic when I picked it up.

As an individual issue, it’s fine. It doesn’t accomplish a whole lot aside from introducing the reader to Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, but it does a great job of setting up their relationship (You might have noticed that a lot of the point of these Rebirth issues seems to be to set-up relationships. This makes sense. as that was one of the things Wally said was lost in Flashpoint). So the relationship set-up here was well-done and I really enjoyed it, even if, in the end, the ultimate conflict essentially boils down to: Simon: “I am the Green Lantern of Earth!” Jessica: “No! I am the Green Lantern of Earth!” Hal: “Get along or neither one of you gets to be Green Lantern of Earth!” Simon and Jessica: “Sigh… Yes, dad.” No… seriously…

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Look at that look of disappointment they have when they are being scolded. They can’t even look at Hal!

Overall, though, on its own, this comic doesn’t really do much for me as a reader. But, it makes me very excited for the following issues! I want to explore these characters further, and the idea of new green lanterns figuring out their powers and responsibilities together is a really clever way to introduce new readers to the idea of lanterns without boring more experienced readers.

#5 Batman Rebirth #1

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This issue is kind of the opposite of the Green Lanterns issue. It’s a good comic story, but it doesn’t do a lot to get me excited about future issues of this comic. On the up side, the art is very pretty and I love the detail in the shift in appearance of Calendar Man from “season” to “season.” The thing that impresses me most about this comic, though? The way that they use the short form of a comic to really emphasize the abbreviated seasons being created by Calendar Man.

Because readers are taken through an entire year in one short issue, it feels fast for us in the same way it feels fast for Batman and company. In the end, though, I am curious, but not invested, in how this resolves. It stands on its own very well, but there isn’t a lot to make me want to keep reading.

I do like Duke’s new suit a lot! Though, I am a little curious why DC writers felt the need to suddenly give Batman a whole crew of sidekicks, but we will get to that when I talk about Detective Comics.

Overall, this is one of the better individual issues, but also one of the ones that I am least likely to buy going forward.

#4 Flash Rebirth #1

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Okay. So remember when I was talking about how the Green Arrow art bugged me, but that the most problematic thing was that it detracted from the tone of the book? The Flash art bugs me, too, BUT it works with the tone of the book fine, so I’m not going to hold it against it (or try not to. I’m still human, and comics are a visual medium, whether or not you enjoy the art affects your enjoyment of the comic).

Let me start by talking about the art and getting that out of the way. I am (as some of you may know) a fan of more well-defined, smoother art in comics as a general rule. Sketchiness, for me, detracts a bit from my enjoyment. That SAID, there are times when sketchiness can really aid in the creation of certain effects. So, while this particular art style does bother me, I can definitely see how it is very successful at creating the cool lightning effects that we want in a Flash comic, like we see here…

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But the real reason this comic earned the #4 spot is the writing. This comic is, effectively, Rebirth #2. It follows Barry in the events leading up to Wally’s return, and then covers that moment and what comes after. So, if you read the Rebirth comic (and if you haven’t, what are you doing? Go read it.), then this comic is a must-read follow up. We find out what happens to Wally after he gets pulled out of the speed force (setting things up nicely for the Titans comic. Have I mentioned I’m excited about the Titans comic? I am.), and Barry goes to talk to Batman about what is going on with the universe. Along the way, you learn about what is going on with Barry’s life without the need for long exposition. There is basically no action in this comic, and, yet, it feels engaging.

This issue carries with it a lot of what made the Rebirth comic great. It’s a mostly self-contained story that leaves the reader satisfied and intrigued, and does some leg work setting up the major mysteries of Rebirth. So why isn’t it #1? Well… This comic doesn’t really make me hungry for issue #2, and there are three comics that were just absolutely exceptional issues.

#3 Superman Rebirth #1

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One of the best individual rebirth issues I have read so far. Certainly the best one to come out last week.  This is the story of mourning a friend, and the realization that Superman isn’t always going to be coming back. Can we take a moment to talk about how huge that is? Maybe DC is just faking us out, but I really hope not. The New 52 Superman being really and truly dead adds a certain gravity of this comic, but the good kind of gravity, not the kind that exists just to make a comic edgy. It feels heavy, but that heaviness doesn’t weigh on the reader in a negative way, it just makes us see that events matter, and makes these characters feel more human.

Lucy Lang and Pre-52 Clark grow closer, and, in the end, there is a beautiful scene of mourning and closure that felt genuine. This is a bridging comic. One that exists to say goodbye to the New 52 Superman and welcome back the pre-52 Superman. And it is wonderful for exactly that. This little friendship-building intimate comic hits on that heart and idea of legacy that Wally West points to being absent from the post-Flashpoint DC Universe. It’s all encapsulated in this comic, and the comic also manages to show you how the Rebirth event is bringing the old Superman back and also sets things up for the Supergirl comic.

Not much more to be said here. It’s a beautiful comic both visually and emotionally. Pick it up and give it a read, even if you don’t intend to read any more Superman comics.

#2 Wonder Woman Rebirth #1

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Wonder Woman Rebirth #1 might be the best individual issue of a comic book out of all nine of these. There’s a reason the #1 slot is filled with a different comic, but man… I really strongly considered putting this one there. This is a comic about discovery and truth, and it’s so incredibly clever. It plays on the fact that Wonder Woman has multiple origin stories, it uses that as a basis for moving things forward with Rebirth, and the way it goes about showcasing that information isn’t just purely through exposition like with Aquaman, it’s by Wonder Woman trying to figure it out herself, and the reader learns these things along with her through flashback sequences that work as short, engaging stories on their own.

And then when she finally gets fed up, and we get the moment when Wonder Woman takes her lasso of truth and uses it on herself? That was one of the most stunningly cool things I’ve seen in a comic from the big two publishers since probably Spider-Verse last year. It almost gave me chills. I can’t find a single fault in this issue as it stands. For what it set out to do, it was perfect. And, as a side note: I loved the art, even though they switched artists half-way through for some reason I can’t discern (and having not done the research to find out). Amazing issue, and I am so excited for the next one.

#1 Detective Comics #934

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Okay. So… after everything I just said about Wonder Woman, how can this comic top it? Well… maybe it doesn’t on its own, but there isn’t a single comic on this list I am more excited for the next issue of than Detective Comics. The concept for this comic is just too cool, and it’s a great issue besides. Let me talk about why. This is a comic about Batman putting together a team of… sidekicks? That’s probably not the right word. Protégés? Students? Something like that. It’s a Bat School comic, effectively! And while, as I said earlier, I am not sure why writers feel Batman suddenly needs a whole team of heroes working for him, the team he has put together is so interesting that I can’t help but be excited. The “students” in question are: Tim Drake, aka Red Robin, Stephanie Brown, aka The Spoilers, Cassandra Cain, aka Orphan, and Basil Karlo, aka Clayface. Yep. Clayface. You read that right. And the teachers are Batman and Batwoman. If that premise doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what does.

So it’s a cool concept, but is it executed well? Hell Yes, it is! Batwoman feels like the stone cold badass that she is, and somehow she is made out to be the “strict one” next to Batman! That’s an accomplishment on its own. Each of the students have their own individual entrances in the comic that not only quickly give you a good sense of who they are, but also makes you excited to learn more about them, and there are hints of a real threat that makes it necessary to assemble this team.

This is what was missing from a lot of the issues further up on this list. This perfect balance of newness, necessary set-up, and creating an engaging story within the issue itself. All of this comes together into one of the best issues in the lineup and definitely the one I am most excited to see the next issue of. It, like Aquaman, feels a lot like a #1 comic in the sense that all these characters are being introduced to readers, but it works where Aquaman doesn’t, because this a new team that we haven’t seen before. So the introductions both feel more necessary, and they are done in a way that quickly crystallizes what makes these characters unique without spending too much time on exposition. Plus, this is a comic that made me almost cry for Clayface. Any comic that does that is something special.

 

 

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