With Batman, Green Arrow and the Green Lanterns' Rebirth tales gaining traction, Tom Buxton evaluates whether or not they're worth fans' hard-earned cash...
Rather than scaling back their overall levels of ambition as their already audacious Rebirth launch continued into its third week, DC Comics took quite the opposite approach on June 15th, unveiling not one, not two, but five further strips to the world at large, each of which ensured that their protagonist(s) would be heading into uncharted but undoubtedly thrilling territory for the foreseeable future. From the Earth’s Green Lanterns gaining unprecedented new superpowers to the Man of Steel bringing up a Boy of Steel for the first time, from the Titans encountering a face from their not so distant past to Oliver Queen finding his world brought to a standstill, the extent of the publisher’s subversions of fans’ expectations matched the UK’s recent exit from the European Union for sheer shock value.
The only real downside to the diversity of strips on offer from the DCU’s creators during the week beginning June 13th was that in order to own the lot of them, readers would’ve had to shell out somewhere in the region of 10 Great British pounds or 15 American dollars to their local – or indeed digital, as the case may be these days – comic book retailer, a steep ask in today’s less than favourable economic climate. As ever, though, that’s what we here at Daily News Service aim to help you avoid; read on today and tomorrow, then, to learn once and for all which of the latest additions to the ever-burgeoning Rebirth ensemble warrant the world’s investment:
JUNE 15TH, 2016 (PART 1 OF 2)
BATMAN #1 – No, this isn’t a cash-grabbing attempt on DC’s par to force the Dark Knight’s fanbase to shell out for two separate strips so as to experience the “Rise of the Batmen” arc established in Detective Comics #934 in its entirety. If anything, those readers who purchase chapters from both the Detective Comics and Batman franchises going forward will get twice as much bang for their buck, since the latter will explore a far more Bruce-centric narrative, at least judging by the tone set by the first instalment of its opening arc, “I Am Gotham”. Whilst there’s no sign of any progress regarding the Caped Crusader’s investigation into how three Jokers could have existed over the course of his crime-fighting tenure – as revealed in Geoff Johns’ DC Universe Rebirth #1 - what we receive as a substitute should more than suffice for now, with Gotham’s protector coming face to face with two never-before-seen vigilantes calling themselves Gotham and Lady Gotham who believe they can better his work at keeping their city safe from harm.
This in itself isn’t the most original of premises, as anyone who’s followed The CW’s DC TV show Arrow in recent years will surely attest, yet what keeps Batman #`1 far more compelling than expected is its heart-wrenching emotional core. Prior to his meeting with these wannabe saviours, Bruce must start to come to terms with his own reasons for donning a cape each night – for reasons which we shan’t spoil here – in a surprisingly intimate series of events which, despite the scale of the action set-piece at hand, strongly indicate that, unlike Detective Comics, the strip will delve deep into the character’s psyche, perhaps to cast him in an entirely original light. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many who’ve seen how bare-bones many of the strips launched under Rebirth‘s header so far that this opening issue doesn’t achieve too much from a narrative perspective, only revealing the crux of the “I Am Gotham” arc in its final few panels before fading to black, but if the extremely heartfelt nature of the exchanges had between Bruce and Alfred as the former fights for his life for the umpteenth time are at all representative of the issues ahead, then Bat-fans don’t have much to worry about at this rate. 8/10
GREEN ARROW #1 – With Oliver and Dinah’s romantic infatuation now firmly reignited, the first proper edition of the Green Arrow’s quasi-rebooted comic-book adventures mercifully sets about raising the stakes for our hero, revealing how even the character’s most trusted allies may well prove his undoing in the months and weeks ahead if he doesn’t keep a watchful eye out for signs of their betrayal. Whether it’s a corporate associate or a long-term personal colleague, Olly looks set to have to undergo struggles with each and every member of his strip’s ensemble in order to stay atop the food chain, and worse still, the cliffhanger moment which wraps up Issue 1 doesn’t exactly offer up the impression that the odds will exactly be in his favour, no matter how much of a sense of hope and optimism Geoff Johns aimed for Rebirth to inject into each and every one of DC’s ongoing storylines. Raising the stakes can often be an entirely welcome development in an era where too many superheroes die and come back to life in the space of just a few issues, of course, and thankfully, that looks to largely be the case here, with the plethora of adversaries now plaguing the hooded archer providing plenty in the way of meaty personal and professional conflicts in only 25 or so pages.
As if that wasn’t enough to sate fans’ appetites, artist Otto Schmidt doesn’t relent in bringing us the same frantic, instantly captivating style of action-driven imagery that made Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 such a qualified success from the outset, nor does scribe Benjamin Percy feel the irksome need to distract from his lead character with too many supporting players – although the size of the ensemble could still be decreased slightly in order to give Olly ample time to shine here – as has arguably been the case with the Arrow’s previously-mentioned televised incarnation on The CW of late. Oh, and the very best part? In a development which’ll almost certainly bring joy aplenty to the character’s on-screen haters, there’s no sign of Ms. Felicity Smoak – or indeed the much-debated Olicity relationship from Arrow - whatsoever. Make of that what you will, but by all means feel free to cheer if necessary. 7/10
GREEN LANTERNS #1 – If both Batman and Green Arrow’s Rebirth sagas have gotten off to fine starts with relative ease, then Green Lanterns remains by far the least certain candidate of the three in terms of its potential levels of critical success. That’s not to say it’s merely on a par with the dreadful 2011 Green Lantern motion picture adaptation by any strech of the imagination – as with the series’ Rebirth launch issue, writers Geoff Johns and Sam Humphries ensure that we’re immediately invested in the charmingly turbulent duo at the strip’s heart, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, while teasing a similarly compelling threat in the form of Lord Atrocious them to menace them once “Red Planet” gets fully underway. At the same time, though, that lack of noteworthy developments in the space of two entire issues has to be called out as one of their main joint shortcomings, particularly as all we’ve really seen the Green Lantern Corps do so far is quarrel and suddenly discover new abilities at the last second. No doubt Johns and Humphries have big plans for the weeks ahead, but at this point, we’d sure appreciate actually receiving a better idea of precisely what those plans entail, sooner rather than latter if possible. 5/10
Don’t miss the second half of Tom’s takes on the June 15th Rebirth strips – as well as some of those released this week on June 22nd – tomorrow, featuring the first outing for the not-so-teen Titans and the future of Superman revealed…