REBIRTH IN REVIEW: When Misfits (Wally West & Jason Todd) Get Their Due — HEY, KIDS! COMICS!
You know the score by now: brand-new debuts, all-new creative teams, and best of all? Competitive cover prices. At $2.99 a pop, DC Comics has all but rolled out the red carpet for every kind of reader there is: new, lapsed, or die-hard. So in the eighth week of Rebirth, we’re soldiering ahead with our new limited series — REBIRTH IN REVIEW — where we’ll evaluate the latest batch of debuts from the publisher to see what, precisely, is what.
Oh, and to provide you extra incentive to pick up all these new books, we’ve included galleries of preview images from each issue alongside its respective review. We’ve embraced change! Let’s see if DC has too.
Written by Hope Larson.
Art by Rafael Albuquerque.
Colors by Dave McCaig.
Letters by Deron Bennett.
MJ: DC’s newest Batgirl series, written by Hope Larson, with art by Rafael Albuquerque and colors by Dave McCaig, is only the second in this glut of Rebirthed series to avoid a fancy-schmancy Rebirth issue. (Aside from Action and Detective of course, with their collated/resumed numberings, New Super-Man was the first.)
I see this as a good thing for a number of reasons: for one, the previous series was doing so well under the care of Fletcher, Stewart, and Tarr that a reorientation (or reintroduction) to the characters and series itself was legitimately unnecessary. Fletcher also managed a pretty flawless segue from that run into this one—not often are work-for-hire creators so conscientious to both their incoming heirs-to-the-deadlines, and to the characters. Additionally, Albuquerque and McCaig weren’t rushed to squeeze out an extra Rebirth issue before the meat of the series even started. Everyone was able to cut straight to the chase.
Hope Larson gives a well-paced and fun narrative, and Albuquerque’s art ensures the issue flows with turns both smooth and exciting. Albuquerque is a master of many genres, from the grotesqueries of American Vampire to the quirky kawaii-cuteness of his Superman/Batman issues (from so many moons ago). His style on Batgirl draws slightly from the latter; here he provides straight-up superheroics, similar to his recent work on Huck. McCaig adds a soft boldness to the linework, ever the perfect complement to Albuquerque’s expressive brushwork, and contrasts bold flat hues with some of the best use of white negative space I’ve seen in a while, making every page flow effortlessly, utilizing even the white of the gutters.
Larsen certainly continues the title’s focus towards a younger female audience, but it now feels less exclusive in those intentions. I was a worried about the many (many) tropes that could have popped up in a “backpacking/training journey of discovery through Asia” story, but happily there’s nothing problematic or appropriating within view. The entire issue is imbued with a sense of adventure and optimism, and I’m looking forward to joining Barbara for the duration of this journey. One of the best–and possibly the most accessible–of the new DC debuts, Batgirl #1 is a beaming, breathless, butt-kicking read.
9.5 out of 10
Written by Tim Seeley.
Art by Javier Fernandez.
Colors by Chris Sotomayor.
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual.
JJ: What was is again with Tim Seeley and Javier Fernandez’s Nightwing. Dick Grayson is back from the grave, in a relative meaning anyway. Forever Evil is long gone, though the secret agent man antics of Grayson appear to remain.
That’s not news — we knew Dick was going to be infiltrating the international cabal known as the Parliament of Owls for a minute now, and after the marvelous setup in Nightwing: Rebirth #1, all we had to was sit back and read. But Seeley has this compulsion to make us care about characters, intentions, mystery, themes — all that malarky that makes up compelling superhero stories. Minus his Grayson compatriot (Mr. Tom King, who’s graduated to Batman) Seeley has every reason to make Nightwing shine in his own right, and he does so with aplomb. There is no writer working today who is more suited to this book than Tim Seeley.
Javier Fernandez is a fine addition to the series — in places his facial work recalls Rafael Alburquerque, in others he displays the inking quality of Guillem March, but overall it’s an untamed performance that isn’t nearly as subtle as I would like, nor does it convey the wit and charm of Seeley’s dialogue as fluidly as artists who work with the writer elsewhere. Fernandez will only improve the longer he sticks around. Here’s hoping he finesses his comic timing. After all, a book featuring a wisecracking daredevil only demands it.
8.5 out of 10
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #1
Written by Robert Venditti.
Art by Rafa Sandoval, inks by Jordi Tarragona.
Colors by Tomeu Morey.
Letters by Dave Sharpe.
MJ: Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth #1 was one of the more lackluster Rebirth issues, desperately grabbing at any faint glimmer of the character’s previous Johns-ian glow, replete with art by Ethan Van Sciver (who helped rebirth Hal “Highball” Jordan the first time around). This issue still reaches for a little of that 2005 magic—and of course nods to the evergreen Sinestro Corps War—and at times succeeds at resonating, but mostly this just feels like deja vu.
Those who missed Cullen Bunn’s Sinestro series are tersely caught up as to why Soranik Natu is wearing her dear ol’ dad’s colors nowadays, but not much more is explained as we’re dropped into proceedings that also include everyone’s favorite giant space bug, Parallax. This all feels familiar, and—since Rebirth’s stated aim is to tickle your nostalgic spots—it’s meant to. Writer Robert Venditti makes this a compelling if standard Green Lantern tale, and has a good handle on everyone’s dialogue. The last two pages were definitely the most exciting in the book, and explain why they’d bother to hamstring the series with such an awkward title.
It’s Rafa Sandoval’s art, with inks by Jordi Tarragona and colors by Tomeu Morey, that really make the issue sing. Sandoval’s layouts and choice of perspectives make for a great looking superhero comic, and his detail, anatomy, and use of expression pull the reader in immediately. This is a gorgeous book, and Morey’s colors, toned down from the eye-piercing neons of the two Green Lantern Rebirth one-shots, have a nuance and beauty that then crescendos into bursts of color during the more action-oriented sequences. While Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps isn’t breaking any ground in its plots or themes, it’s still a marginally entertaining comic, paired with stunning visuals. A comic I’d follow for the art, and probably not much else.
6 out of 10
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1
Written by Scott Lobdell.
Art by Dexter Soy.
Colors by Veronica Gandini.
Letters by Taylor Esposito.
JJ: I’ve always had a problem with Jason Todd. It’s not that he was brought back to life, or that he took on the former moniker of the creature that killed him. Those things were both handled well, and for the most part, I enjoyed Judd Winick’s Under the Hood saga. (I enjoyed the film made out of it even more.) It’s not what he is, it’s who he his. And who is Jason Todd? Jason Todd is a gun-toting yutz.
The idea that Batman would let an anti-hero — not a vigilante, an anti-hero — armed with twin Desert Eagles roam the rooftops of Gotham City with their own unique (and brutal) brand of justice just doesn’t make sense to me. Batman’s anti-gun, after all, but he’s also anti-dingus, and Jason Todd is a grade-A dingus. He drinks too much. He’s prone to making mistakes. And yet, when it comes to wearing the Bat-symbol as he empties magazine after magazine of bullets all over Gotham, Batman’s pretty chill about it. It just doesn’t make any damn sense to me.
And Red Hood and the Outlaws remained on my radar in a bad way at the beginning of the New 52, but that had more to do with the depiction of Starfire than anything else. I have no serious qualms with writer Scott Lobdell working in the DCU — his Superman run was innocuous and inconsequential enough — and aside from a dozen other writers I could think of who would probably do just as well, Lobdell puts enough of his signature snark into it to make Outlaws his own.
Lobell definitely has a handle on Jason Todd. Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1 reorients old readers and disorients new readers as to the origins of the Red Hood, formerly the second Robin. (It’s so damned weird, though I’m glad Lobdell didn’t bring up his pre-Crisis red hair.) Dexter Soy acquits himself magnificently in this debut issue — the artwork kicks up dust when it needs to and chills the hell out when it’s important. Soy’s a talent that has earned a place in Gotham. Keep him around.
Redsy Pedsy and the Bad Guys: Reborth #1 focuses solely on Todd, which fine. I’m more interested in seeing how Lobdell is gonna wrangle the highly publicized Anti-Trinity (Hood, Bizarro, Artemis), but it appears I’ll have to cool my jets for a bit. Which is fitting I guess — apparently, I need more time to get used to Jason Todd. (As if the last couple of decades didn’t do it for me already.)
7.5 out of 10
Written by Dan Abnett.
Art by Brett Booth; inks by Norm Rapmund.
Colors by Andrew Dalhouse.
Letters by Carlos M. Mangual.
MJ: The Titans ongoing comic is one of the few books in the new Rebirth line to directly continue plotlines from the DCU Rebirth one-shot that kicked off all this craziness, and is one of the titles with the greatest appeal to old-school DC fans. Why? Simply put: pre-Flashpoint Wally West. Possibly because of his addition, this is a book that, plot-wise, revels in its freedom from New 52 limited continuity, but with its script and visuals, Titans could have been produced at DC three years ago.
The art is an absolutely solid example of the unimaginative DC house-style: artist Brett Booth draws each Titan with one of two faces—don’t worry, there’s one for the ladies, and one for the guys!—and one of three expressions: happiness, slight consternation, and battle-grimace. Every single page (that isn’t a splash page) has panels fanned across its breadth, or jauntily angled all the way up or down the page, perhaps intending additional excitement, but distracting from the contents and jangling up narrative cohesion.
Writer Dan Abnett feels the need to take four pages to recap events in the DC Universe: Rebirth one-shot, but omits any introductory captions for any characters other than Wally or Linda Park. Though this is meant to be aimed at new readers picking up a Titans comic for the first time, when I see that lack of new-reader-friendliness, all I can hear in my mind is the Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy or his equivalent, saying: “that’s because this is for the real fans.”
The villain introduced near the end of the issue—and apparently the author of all Wally’s pain—was an inspired choice. It’s another signal that DC is taking a fresh glance at its back catalog and taking full advantage of having so much rich history and continuity to pull from. This is a book that could be an amazing bridge between New 52 continuity and this weird new “everything counts” Rebirth DCU, provided it continues emphasizing character development without taking its audience for granted.
5 out of 10
‘Rebirth’, reviewed elsewhere —
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