DC Rebirth is a new DC Comics wide event that has been touted as both the death knell and the saving grace for DC Comics. After the incredibly divisive New 52 event spinning out of Flashpoint, many readers, reviewers, and fans in general wondered how long it would be before there was yet another reboot. Well apparently it would be over 5 years because, come May, the DC universe will be changing yet again. But by how much? And what’s worth subscribing to?
When DC launched the new 52 ,it was equivalent of a comics based hydrogen bomb. Every single series was thereafter cancelled and 52 new series were launched from #1. Some were met with high praise such as Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man and Geoff John’s run on Aquaman, arguably responsible for making an uncool character cool. Some moves were less well received, such as retconning Barbara Gordon from a wheelchair bound computer genius back to plain old Batgirl. However, despite the backlash from fans and the occasional misstep, such as removing Gail Simon from Batgirl, and turning a contentious, if well received, series into a steaming pile, the New 52 has been a good move for DC. The actual creative merit of the whole initiative is, of course, up for debate, but the fact remains that DC did gain a larger share of the market. When you’re in the business of selling comics, that’s what it’s about.
Now here we are with DC Rebirth. An amalgamation, and some may say hodgepodge of the New 52 and pre-New 52 elements, hopefully bringing about the best of both continuities. Most series will be re-launching with a #1 issue, while some will be launching with a ‘Rebirth’ one-shot followed by a regular series. The exception to this are the DC main-stays Action Comics and Detective Comics, which will return to their previous numbering of 957 and 934. If that weren’t enough, some titles will be releasing twice monthly now. Nothing like a hit on the old wallet to kick things off.
So, for the next four weeks, we’ll be looking at all the new series coming out, and looking at the history of their creative teams. We’ll weigh the pros, we’ll weigh the cons, and try to figure out what to throw that hard earned dough down on.
First up this week, the Batman books.
Batman (Twice Monthly)
Writer: Tom King
Artist: David Finch
Rebirth One Shot?: Yes indeed. Tom King pairs with acclaimed former Batman writer Scott Snyder to bring out this one. Snyder’s run is celebrated roundly, so expect good things from this prequel.
The Creative Team: I get the feeling that after Snyder’s run on Batman, DC aren’t taking any chances with this series. Writer Tom King has only written comics since about 2014, being brought in by DC to co-write the new Grayson series with Tim Seely; wherein Nightwing turns to international espionage. The series was fairly well received, so King was given the opportunity to work on a 12 issue limited run of Omega Men for DC, which was also praised. The hits didn’t stop coming for King as he then turned his attention to a series based on his time in Iraq with Sheriff of Babylon and a series focusing on Marvel’s android, The Vision. Both series were met with critical acclaim; Sheriff of Babylon for its complex characters and plot, and The Vision for being unlike any other superhero comic being published. So in terms of writing, Batman is in incredibly capable hands.
Likewise David Finch is an accomplished artist, having done a large portion of the art on Geoff John’s Justice League crossover, Trinity War. Finch has also provided artwork for several other DC and Marvel series, as well as doing cover artwork for metal band, Disturbed. Crisp line work, well realized characters and a distinctive style, David Finch looks to be a fantastic pairing to an equally fantastic writer.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: For a hero that is so often about the crazy villains, Tom King seems to be going in a slightly different direction with this version of Batman. A new hero rises in Gotham City (calling themselves Gotham). They then promise to save Gotham City from Batman himself. Stories that attempt to place Batman as the villain in the story have been done before, some better than others. So I suppose one’s enthusiasm for the series hinges entirely on if you can stomach Batman sharing Gotham City with another hero. That said, Tom King is a fantastic up and coming writer and has said “The whole theme of this book is using every modern storytelling technique I know to connect with classic Batman stories”. So I’m thinking we can expect some good things from this one.
Detective Comics (Twice-Monthly)
Writer: James Tynion
Artist: Eddy Barrows
Rebirth One Shot?: Nope, Detective Comics is launching straight back into it with #934 and #935 later that month.
The Creative Team: Detective Comics is one of DC’s longest and most lucrative properties, so it’ll be interesting to see what direction the series takes after resuming its original numbering. James Tynion is a writer not without some skill. A former student and assistant of Batman veteran Scott Snyder, he cut his teeth on writing back-up stories for Batman during New 52. Shortly afterwards he penned a sell-out title for Boom!, The Woods, which went on to become the highest selling series since Irredeemable. Tynion has also tried his hand at his own Batman stories, becoming one of the head writers for Batman Eternal and the creator of the limited series Batman/TMNT. The inconsistency of Batman Eternal aside (it was, after all, a weekly series for an entire year), Batman/TMNT has been very well received with Tynion commended for understanding what makes Batman great. While he has had some success in the past, this would by Tynion’s first large-scale series by himself. I am hopeful, but he just doesn’t have the same kind of track record and experience of someone like Scott Snyder.
Joining him is Eddy Barrows, a Brazilian artist with work on a variety of DC titles from Green Lantern to a run on Action Comics. Barrows has no experience working with Batman per-se, however he does have experience working on Birds of Prey and Teen Titans. Either way, looking at his work, Barrows is a highly accomplished artist.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: I feel like this run of Detective Comics will be popular for two reasons. Firstly, the return to original numbering will attract old fans who objected to the series re-set. Secondly, the series will focus around Batman and Batwoman training Robin, Clayface, Spolier and Cassandra Cain. In the New 52, many fans objected to the removal of both Spoiler and Cassandra Cain as they were seen as positive additions to the Bat-Family. Batwoman’s early exit due to writer/publisher difficulties from the New 52 was equally not well received. So, the return of all three in an ensemble book may prove a great drawcard. Exactly how well Tynion and Barrows will handle the premise remains to be seen, but for fans looking for the return of characters sorely absent from the New 52, Decective Comics may be the way to go.
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: Bernard Chang
Rebirth One Shot?: Surely is. Dan Jurgens promises to flip Batman Beyond on its head come the 28th of September. (No cover available just yet)
The Creative Team: Dan Jurgens is a venerable name at DC Comics, having been a writer on over 30 different series for over 40 years. Jurgens is no stranger to epic stories, having penned not only the continuity changing Zero Hero, but also having a large role in the construction of The Death of Superman. Both stories were met with large praise and incredibly high sales. And yet, I still have some amount of trepidation when it comes to his involvement. The New 52 run of Batman Beyond was also written by Jurgens, which would normally be a good sign. The series started strong and then swiftly went off the rails, with many complaints around the fact that Jurgens seemingly had no idea where he was going. So a great writer with a poor history on this particular title. On the other hand, Bernard Chang has an equally as excellent track record (though not as long) as an artist, having worked on titles from Superman to Valient’s The Second Life of Doctor Mirage. His work on Batman Beyond was also celebrated in the face of Jurgens poor story. Many reviewers felt that Chang’s art suited the tone and setting of the story perfectly, despite the oft-times weak story.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: Spinning out of the pages of the initially promising, but ultimately confusing and disappointing New 52: Futures End was at least one ray of light. A new, monthly Batman Beyond series. There was only one, glaring problem with it; there was no Terry McGinnis. Terry McGinnis was long the man behind the mask in Batman Beyond, and his death in Futures End and replacement by Tim Drake was seen as something of a poor move. This new Batman Beyond promises (somehow) a return to Terry McGinnis, with the first arc of the series concerned with who is behind the mask. For fans of Batman Beyond, this may be a reason to place an order, but for me Dan Jurgens poor track record on the series is reason enough to stay away.
All-Star Batman (Twice Monthly)
Writer: Scott Snyder
Rebirth One Shot?: No way, this is all new stuff, no rebirth needed.
The Creative Team: This is a bit of an odd one. Not in terms of the writerm so we’ll start with that first. Scott Snyder, as I have mentioned previously, was the New 52 writer on Batman. Unlike many other writers for the New 52, Snyder wasn’t replaced half way through the run. Snyder was very good. His run on Batman is considered to be one of the best in a very long time, with the first trade paperback of his run, The Court of Owls hitting the top spot on the New York Times graphic novel bestseller list. Prior to that, Snyder wrote for Detective Comics in a run that was also highly successful. Snyder kicked off his career for DC writing American Vampire for Vertigo. The series was a huge success, winning the Eisner Award for best new series. So, it’s fairly safe to say that in terms of writing, All-Star Batman can expect exciting, fresh stories that are decently written.
It’s in terms of art that things are a bit odd. Snyder’s plan is to have a series of different artists come in and illustrate different story arcs. So really, there’s no way to tell what sort of quality we could be in for. However, the first artist on the line-up is John Romita Jr., who is regarded as one of the best artist DC has right now, having brought him over from Marvel after a 30 year career. Romita was one of Marvel’s best artists with a stellar run on Daredevil and doing the art for Mark Millar’s Kick Ass. With Snyder and Romita on the first arc, All-Star Batman is set to be in great hands, to begin with at least.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: After having written Batman stories for over five years, Snyder has said that he (somehow) still has Batman stories to tell. All-Star Batman is slated to be a kind of anthology of stories written by Snyder and drawn by different artists. The actual content of the stories is unclear, with some sources saying they’ll be unconnected, and others saying it’s all part of a large, epic Bat-story that Snyder has planned. With at least five different artists lined up for the series already and whispers of a large story, I can’t help but have flashbacks to Batman Eternal which promised similar things and ultimately felt a bit average. That said, Snyder is an incredibly capable writer and, with a monthly release instead of a weekly release, perhaps this series will indeed be All-Star.
Batgirl and The Birds of Prey
Writer: Julie and Shawna Benson
Artist: Claire Roe
Rebirth One Shot?: Yes, details (and a cover) are scare right now, but you can expect it July 20th.
The Creative Team: Back in the days of yore, when I was just a lad, Gaile Simone was the writer for Birds of Prey. Barbara Gordon was Oracle and a bag of lollies was 50 cents. Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey, and the treatment of a wheelchair bound Barbara Gordon, was phenomenal. The writing was good, the art was good; it was a damn good series. Why do I mention this here? Because Julie and Shawna Benson have some huge shoes to fill. I have scoured the internet and, as best I can tell, this will be their first comic book series ever. They’re not without experience as both have spent time as writing assistants on CW’s The 100, Julie Benson scripting one episode herself. As near as I can the tell, the duo have only really worked on The 100 and, having never watched the show, I can’t honestly tell what they’ll be like.
Claire Roe, on the other hand, I’m feeling more confident about. Like the Benson’s, she is inexperienced. Roe has only ever worked professionally on the Scottish series Saltire since 2013. However, Saltire has been received immensely well with particular praise heaped upon Roe’s vivid artwork and style. Looking at Roe’s work, it is comforting to see that Batgirl and The Birds of Prey will decidedly not be plagued the usual anatomical problems that many all-woman comics are.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: In the New 52, the Birds of Prey series was, to be kind, misguided. It lost the relationships, humor, and clever story-lines that made the series great. It also had no Barbara Gordon. DC, somehow confident that Huntress and Black Canary alone were the Birds of Prey. This version sees the trio reunited and leading the charge against a new villain that attempts to impersonate Oracle; something Barbara Gordon (now Batgirl) is dead set against. While the thought of the ‘original’ Birds of Prey team being together again is tempting, the unknown writers does me give pause. If I were already a fan of Birds of Prey, or Batgirl as a character, I may be tempted.
Nightwing (Twice Monthly)
Writer: Tim Seely
Artist: Javi Fernandez and Marcus To
Rebirth One Shot?: Surely is, with Tim Drake back as Nightwing (in the blue suit and all) after stint as a spy, Tim Seely’ll have to do some serious juggling.
The Creative Team: Tim Seely is the obvious choice to write Nightwing. After all, he was the original writer for Grayson, the series that’s preceding Nightwing. While Seely was criticised for aspects of the story beyond his control (more on that in just a second), the series was praised for being, overall, pretty good. Many critics agreed that Grayson was a rollicking spy adventure that, as time went on and Seely’s personal stlye came to the fore, became steadily weirder. Seely has also written several volumes of Lovebunny and Mr Hell and several volumes of Hack/Slash, both of which have been received well and remarked on for their strangeness and quality of writing.
On the art side, Javi Fernandez is yet to have a series to call his own, with several assisting roles or one-off issues over a variety of series. However, he did do the art for Kickstart Comics’s The Book of Lilah, which was recognized as a very good looking comic, even if it didn’t gain incredible popularity. Joining him is Marcus To, an artist with DC comics for several years, most well known for his work on Red Robin. Both artists seem to bring different styles with To the more realistic and precise of the two, while Fernandez looks set to provide a slightly more fantastical flair. With Seely providing the direction, this may be a creative team to watch.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: Right off the bat, Tim Seely is in a good place. While Grayson was well received, it was initially criticized for having changed the character of Nightwing from a roof-jumping superhero to a train jumping spy. Many fans felt this was against the character, but Nightwing looks set to fix that with the classic Nightwing look returning. Nightwing kicks off at the end of Grayson, with Dick Drayson now firmly back in the spandex, leading the Titans and set to topple an international conspiracy. With a creative team that looks to be firm, fans of Bat-adventures with a slightly different flavor may want to give this one a look.
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Rebirth One Shot?: Nope, not this time.
The Creative Team: Batgirl is a series that seems to go through writers. After an incredibly strong start in the New 52 by Gail Simone, the team was switched to Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher. Now for Rebirth, Hope Larson is being brought in to write this continuation of Stewart and Fletcher’s run. No real surprise as Stewart and Fletcher’s run was roundly criticized for turning Batgirl into a tween book in stark contrast to Simone’s more serious beginning. But I digress. It would seem that Batgirl is now in capable, if mildly inexperienced hands in the form of Hope Larson. Larson has never written for DC or Marvel, however she has achieved some recognition through self-published comics, and even won the Eisner Award for Special Recognition in 2007. I have tried to read some of her free stuff, but all the links are dead, so hey, what’re you gonna do? All indicators point to a capable writer ready to make her mark.
Rafael Albuquerque however brings well over 10 years’ experience drawing and illustrating comic books, most notably his work on Blue Beetle for over two years and his part in co-creating American Vampire with Scott Snyder. With a distinctive style and a real art to his work, the team for the new Batgirl is looking good.
What’s It About, and Is It Worth It?: After the conclusion of Stewart and Fletcher’s run, Barbara Gordon is setting out to find herself the only way a twenty-something superhero can; an O.E around the world. The team, at least in terms of writing, is inexperienced but promising. The art is set to be top shelf stuff and there’s nothing to suggest the writing won’t match. So if the idea of a jet-setting, crime fighting Batgirl with a healthy dose of introspection appeals to you, dig right in.
What I’ll Be Taking Away
I’ll be frank, I’m not a giant Batman fan. I like Batman, but I’ve just never really felt compelled to grab a run of Detective Comics or anything. I will now be breaking that rule. With Tom King’s history, I feel I’d be mad to not start picking up Batman, even if it’s just to see what such a great writer does with such a great character. If I had the money I’d also grab All-Star Batman and possibly Batgirl, just to see how they turn out. But alas, as you’ll see in the coming weeks, there are many, many other series I’ll grabbing.