Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Titans, oh my! Tom Buxton continues his weekly quest to critique each and every new instalment of the DCU's new saga, Rebirth...
Can five weeks already have passed since Geoff Johns’ DC Universe Rebirth #1 kick-started a new, legacy-fuelled era for his company’s multi-verse of superhero comics? Time doesn’t half fly. At any rate, let’s continue with our ambitious campaign to evaluate each and every instalment of DC Comics’ re-launch, this time around analysing narratives including the return of Wally West to the not-so-teen Titans, Aquaman’s efforts to unite humanity and Atlantis once and for all as well as Diana Prince’s desperate search her true heritage.
Since no new Rebirth strips were released on the week beginning June 27th, we’ll instead be bringing you up to speed on the remaining storylines published on June 15th and June 22nd over the course of two articles this week, after which we’ll deliver our verdicts on a weekly basis just days after the latest aforementioned issues hit comic book retailers the world over. Be sure to keep us in the loop on your thoughts regarding this multi-year initiative over on social media, but for now, let’s dive headfirst into the next chapter of the DCU’s evolution…
JUNE 15TH, 2016 (PART 2 OF 2)
Superman #1 – By all means feel free to add the eponymous Man of Steel’s latest line of printed escapades to our list of sure-fire ways to redeem your faith in the character: on the basis of this spectacular opening issue, Krypton’s – almost – sole survivor is all set for a colossal return to form over the remainder of 2016. Whereas the character’s appearances in Action Comics will prioritize his duels with antagonists like Lex Luthor and Doomsday, his solo adventures will apparently bring the personal drama involved with how Clark’s adoption of his New 52 predecessor’s mantle affects his relationships with Lois and their son Jonathan to the forefront.
Better yet, this effectively allows writer Peter J. Tomasi to frame Jonathan as the strip’s protagonist rather than his famous father, an approach which works wonders in terms of providing Issue 1 with a deliciously intimate tone as Jonathan subdues his powers in order to avoid the attention of the Kent family’s neighbours and resultantly argues with his parents over his diminished potential as both a human being and as a Krypton, only for some of Clark’s Justice League comrades to seek them out once they’re alerted to their presence. As one would hope given the nature of Rebirth, this season premiere blends new plot elements like these effortlessly with simple, classic-esque artwork from Patrick Gleason that immediately captures the reader’s attention, then holds it until the tantalising final panel. The pressure’s on for this dynamic duo of helmers to maintain their already gripping first arc’s momentum in subsequent issues, but after this masterful debut, there’s little doubt that the pair have the capabilities to go far. 10/10
Titans: Rebirth #1 – Moving from one outright gem to another, Titans’ 27-page Rebirth special gets the ball rolling in equally impressive style to Superman’s return, namely by following up on DC Universe Rebirth #1’s reintroduction of Wally West into the DCU as he attempts to reignite his teammates’ lost memories of his existence. This narrative structure could easily have fallen flat in the wrong hands, of course, leading to a clunky, exposition-laden reading experience which alienated all but the most devoted of fans, yet against all of the odds, Dan Abnett does everything in his power to satisfy series veterans and newcomers alike, peppering in light-hearted flashbacks to the various characters’ pasts which will doubtless attract sympathy from those reading the strip for the very first time – like this reviewer – as well as instantly remind long-running followers of the series what first attracted them to this particular real of comic-book superheroics.
In fact, listing all of the elements which make Titans: Rebirth #1 such a joy to blast through would likely take just as many years as were previously wiped from the titular young adult heroes’ memories by mysterious forces from the Watchmen universe. Suffice to say that by combining a fresh, dynamic art-style from Brett Booth with pathos-driven dialogue surrounding the Titans’ connections to Wally, intelligently-peppered exposition regarding the influence Doctor Manhattan may have had on these characters’ lives and a bold cliff-hanger which thrusts us straight into the team’s future, Abnett has concocted one of Rebirth’s finest hours to date, making this strip in particular one to watch going forward. 10/10
JUNE 22ND, 2016 (PART 1 OF 2)
Wonder Woman #1 – It’s little wonder that the first proper arc in Diana Prince’s post-New 52 strips takes the name “The Lies”, since despite Issue 1 sporting a small sub-plot thread in the form of Steve Trevor’s efforts to overcome a terrorist cell – coincidentally based in the same location as Diana’s intended prey – the bulk of this freshman outing centres exclusively on its titular protagonist looking for answers about the lineage-orientated riddle that was posed to her during her dedicated Rebirth special earlier in June. This core plotline remains fairly compelling as it develops oh-so-gradually here, thankfully, with plenty of action littered throughout Part 1 so as to confirm that we’ll soon see Wonder Woman facing off against an all manner of fantastical adversaries unlike any others in the DCU.
More important than this, however, is the continued strength of Greg Rucka’s characterisation of Prince and especially Trevor in this instance, the latter of whom shines thanks to revealing his insecurities regarding the pair’s past romantic attachments as well as the adaptive, quick-thinking mind which aids his platoon in avoiding a quick demise at the hands of their myriad military assailants. Having visually bombastic, explosive art-work from Liam Sharp is all well and good, naturally, but at the end of the day, it’s the characterisation and plotting which will make or break Wonder Woman, so whilst the latter’s taking its sweet time to kick off proper, the promising outlook of the former appears to bode extremely well indeed. 8/10
Aquaman #1 – Much as we hate to admit this reality, every reviews round-up has to contain at least one weak link and this time, it’s unfortunately the turn of Aquaman #1 to face the metaphorical music in this regard. In contrast to the nuanced, philosophically layered manner in which the various Rebirth strips have introduced – or reintroduced – villains old and new like Lex Luthor, Lady Gotham and even the Watchmen themselves into the fray, Dan Abnett – in contrast to his infinitely superior work on Titans: Rebirth #1 – seems intent on rendering returning antagonist Black Manta as the most pantomime-esque, morally one-note and thus uninteresting foil possible for Arthur Curry, thereby robbing his reveal in the second half of proceedings – as well as the overall strip – of much of its credibility.
Thank goodness, then, that everything which precedes the aforementioned moment of revelation lays potent foundations for what’s to come for Curry and his comrades, debuting numerous emotionally investable human characters – such as a reporter writing a story on Atlantis’ newly-erected surface colony – while equally taking the time to add new depth to old underwater favourites like Mera by delving further into where their loyalties lie surrounding their newfound relationship with humanity above the seas. Indeed, that Abnett takes such a slow, considered approach to painting our first picture of Aquaman’s future will doubtless be appreciated by fans, as will Brad Walker’s promisingly frantic accompany art, but as ever, if future issues are to make a greater impact, then the antagonists posing our hero a weekly threat need to be expanded in psychological depth so as to prove just as compelling as the hero himself. 7/10
Join us again next week as we finish catching up with the Rebirth comic-strips released so far via The Flash #1, Action Comics #958 and Detective Comics #935…