In the second instalment of his new series of reviews round-ups, Tom Buxton critiques the Rebirth strips released on June 8th...
Another week, another rapid salvo of new comic-book outings dedicated to getting DC Comics’ Rebirth initiative underway with a bang. Following hot on the heels of Geoff Johns’ superb standalone strip DC Universe Rebirth #1 along with the potent returns of fan favourite characters such as Batman, Superman and Wally West, many of the issues released on June 8th continued their predecessors’ work of establishing and gradually exploring untapped realms of the publisher’s just-revived universe(s) so as to allow for as much in the way of subversive graphic storytelling as possible in the coming months.
Once again, though, which of these recently released additions to the DCU’s ever-shifting mythology warrant a purchase, and which can be tossed aside into the nearest gutter faster than the Flash himself can run on his best day? If by any chance those questions sprang to mind when you glimpsed one or more of the Rebirth tales published earlier this month in your local comic book retailer, then rejoice, since you’re in the right place. Read on for our unbiased, comprehensive takes on the latest missions undertaken by Aquaman, Wonder Woman, the heroes of Detective Comics and so many more iconic defenders of the innocent…
JUNE 8TH, 2016
ACTION COMICS #957 – Once upon a time, the Action Comics range focused on a wide array of caped crusaders, but these days, its narrative emphasis has shifted to a single protagonist: Superman. As revealed in the Man of Steel’s own Rebirth launch strip, with the permanent demise of The New 52’s incarnation of the character, his pre-New 52 self has stepped in to protect Metropolis from those who would do it or his family home, but with the events concerning Clark’s wife and son clearly being confined to the main Superman line of comics, writer Dan Jurgens keeps his eyes trained primarily on reigniting the character’s rogues gallery, bringing Lex Luthor – another wannabe Man of Steel professing to be Kryptonian’s saviour, Superior Spiderman-style – and Doomsday back into the fold before Issue 1 / 957 has even reached its climax. This unrelenting focus on resurrecting classic villains admittedly means not much happens during the season premiere, per se, and could well be a cause for concern if Jurgens gets too obsessed with evoking a sense of nostalgia in his fan-base rather than crafting compelling original antagonists of his own, but for now, we’re at least off to an intriguing start, especially thanks to the mysterious layer of ambiguity added by the arrival of yet another Clark Kent onto the scene. 6/10
AQUAMAN: REBIRTH #1 – Like many of the Rebirth launch issues released on June 1st, Arthur Curry’s first post-New 52 strip primarily goes about trying to develop a somewhat more light-hearted status quo for the character, reminding newcomers and devotees alike of the character’s newfound marriage to Mera, his efforts to establish a surface colony which will allow for a time of peaceful relations between humanity and Atlantis and the threats inevitably brewing beneath the seas which may tear apart these efforts before the colony can even gain any traction whatsoever. It’s to the immense credit of Dan Abnett, who takes on scribing duties this time around, that he doesn’t bog us down with too much in the way of underwater mythology at this point, instead successfully striving to emphasize the emotional bonds Curry has made in recent years along with the intense desire he has to ensure a safe, tranquil future for his race rather than witnessing them plunge into conflict once more. The core plot’s nothing spectacular as a result – with the focus on establishing Aquaman’s community robbing the narrative of much in the way of noteworthy developments beyond a last-minute villain reveal – but so long as Abnett can keep this refreshing sense of heart present throughout the series as we move into its first full arc, “The Drowning”, on June 22nd, then there’ll be no question of its receiving critical acclaim in the immediate future. 8/10
DETECTIVE COMICS #934 – How do you solve a problem like an army of trained killers who’re hell bent on taking command of your city? Why, by assembling an army of your own to face them head on, of course! That’s Batman’s approach anyway, as we see in the first instalment of his semi-rebooted Detective Comics saga; approaching the likes of Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl, Red Robin and a surprising foe from the past, the Dark Knight looks set to build an Avengers-esque team of crime-fighters who would already have been in their foes’ crosshairs previously and so will now stand a superior chance of survival thanks to them joining forces. Admittedly the antagonists in question aren’t showcased proper until Issue 934’s final panel, meaning that James Tynion IV and his art team spend the majority of the running time introducing these esteemed allies to the unversed reader – with easily the most engaging sequence coming as a former member of Batman’s rogues gallery gets a chance to redeem himself – and as such, the jury’s out on the promise “Rise of the Batmen” holds until its next chapter launches in July, yet until then, suffice to say that the first signs are incredibly promising. 7/10
THE FLASH: REBIRTH #1 – More-so than perhaps any of the other Rebirth instalments launched prior to this one, The Flash: Rebirth #1 was heralded by DC Comics as a major step forward for the initiative as a whole, not least since it would shed further light on the conspirators who attempted to completely remove Wally West from the multiverse as the age of The New 52 dawned. Thank goodness, then, that true to form, the Scarlet Speedster’s return feels just as satisfying as fans could hope for, once again resurrecting much of the strip’s emotional core through the cathartic exchanges between Barry and Wally while also substantially teasing the seemingly inevitable confrontation between the DCU’s foremost players and the dreaded Watchmen’s surviving members sometime in the not too distant future. Better yet, it’s an extremely visually powerful chapter to boot, boasting both ambitious aesthetics surrounding Barry’s lingering connection to the omnipotent Speed Force as well as subtler hints of what’s to come with the emergence of an ominous yellow silhouette towards the issue’s end. All the same, though, there’s still room for improvement in terms of us seeing some breath-taking action to rival the character’s finest New 52 chapters, especially if writer Joshua Williamson truly wants the strip to stand up as the game-changer its publisher’s currently claiming it to be. 8/10
WONDER WOMAN: REBIRTH #1 – What if your entire history turned out to be a lie? For Diana Prince, that will be the fascinating psychological dilemma which plagues her every moment in the opening few issues of her Rebirth series, thus leading her to question the various warring aspects of her supposed Themyscirian heritage in a desperate search for a truth that will surely have a seismic impact on her future in the DCU. Yet as thrilling a prospect as this might seem to long-term readers of Wonder Woman’s printed adventures, for newcomers like this reviewer, the shedload of mythology Greg Rucka attempts to coherently integrate into just 27 pages’ worth of bare-bones narrative can seem more than a little overwhelming at times. It’s certainly a noteworthy issue which Rucka will need to address as soon as possible if he’s to make this strip accessible to all, since at the moment, despite the impressive blockbuster scale of its artwork, the market for such an introverted work of comic-book fiction as this in an age when we readers have plenty of other more welcoming strips on offer to sample seems slim at best. 4/10
Come back tomorrow to find out Tom’s takes on more Rebirth tales featuring the Flash, the Green Lantern Corps as well as other iconic figures from the DCU’s past, present and future…