REBIRTH IN REVIEW: DC Just Can’t Seem To Overcome Its ‘SQUAD’ Woes — 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 eleventh week of Rebirth, we continue to soldier 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.
Suicide Squad #1
Written by Rob Williams.
Art by Jim Lee, Jason Fabok, and Scott Williams.
Colors by Alex Sinclair and Brad Anderson.
Letters by Nate Piekos.
JJ: For a minute there, it looked like DC was finally gonna get some of that Guardians of the Galaxy-level shine, didn’t they? Yeah, all those increasingly Lisa Frank-ed Suicide Squad trailers looked pretty dope, which is precisely the vernacular used by the elusive cool kid demographic DC was looking to woo with their brand new, big-pimpin’ supervillain comic book. But despite what those rather insistent fair-weather DC fans say about the movie Suicide Squad, it’s critical drumming was the equivalent of accidentally walking in on your brother while he publicly gratified himself in the middle of Times Square at dinner time. Sure it was embarrassing, but at this level, it’s more than a little sad too.
It’s practically impossible not to take a dig at DC Films’ latest filmic fumble when talking about Suicide Squad #1, especially when it’s patently obvious that DC was looking to cash in on all the cinematic goodwill Suicide Squad the movie was supposed to garner. Take one look at this book, and you get the feeling that DC Comics saw a bad investment in putting their perpetually late co-publisher on full art duties after their last hope for 2016 kept getting compared to a scattered jigsaw puzzle of the poster to Enter the Void but with way too many pieces missing. So halfway through the issue, DC co-publisher (and Squad penciller) Jim Lee runs off, leaving artistic chores to the far more consistent Jason Fabok, which turns out to be a great thing. Suicide Squad #1 may only be two halves of a comic book retroactively smashed together, but at least one half of it is amusing enough.
Rob Williams is sticking around as writer for Suicide Squad, though I’m still making up my mind whether or not that’s for the best. Williams’ seems to have his hands tied telling half a story with Lee, but he fares far more ably with this issue’s backup story, a short and sweet tale about Deadshot, his daughter, and a broken promise. This writer will always excel when he’s allowed to put a little heart into his work — go pick up his Martian Manhunter run; you’ll be glad you did — and his backup (pencilled by Fabok) is a small hint of what a gonzo book like Suicide Squad could really be.
On the other hand, all the bits illustrated by Jim Lee are about as rote and uninteresting as comics should ever be. During this segment Williams decided to aim for the back of the room by throwing some gratuitously juvenile body humor into the works that almost completely derailed any of the positive vibes I got from the Deadshot backup. The opening story, with an achingly obvious title (“I Wanna Be Sedated”), is tonally miles apart from what comes after. Wait a minute… two completely different stories with two completely different tones, retroactively spliced together by a skittish creative team that ultimately delivered a depressing product. Now where have I heard that one before…
4 out of 10
Harley Quinn #2
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner.
Art by Brett Blevins, Chad Hardin and John Timms.
Colors by Alex Sinclair.
Letters by Dave Sharpe.
MJ: I’ve heard it said many times that Harley Quinn is DC’s Deadpool, and I’m inclined to agree. It makes sense regarding both the characters’ irreverent personalities, and in how their respective publishers have intensified their output of comics starring each upon the discovery of their popularity. (Honestly I’m crossing my fingers for a crossover someday…) Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner have struck gold with Harley, and the bonkers sense of humor they bestowed her with has definitely been one of the major catalysts in her huge popularity.
Harley Quinn #2, from one of the few Rebirth series that didn’t even need that Rebirth one-shot, is just as goofy as the first issue (plus it doesn’t have that multiple-page slog of character intros to get through, blegh). It never takes itself seriously, and never apologizes for its puns or its poop jokes. It’s just funny — albeit in a gloriously silly, slapsticky, cartoonishly violent way best suited for the less mature set — and it’s totally okay with all that. Plus: did I mention the zombies? Pretty sure this target audience is stoked to see Harley zombie-hunt.
The art is at times a little uneven and rushed, although colorist Alex Sinclair greatly helps to ease the change between artists Chad Hardin and John Timms’ already similar styles (both working from Bret Blevins’ breakdowns). Both have long been series regulars on Harley Quinn and their familiarity with the character and her large cast helps.
The series will no doubt be discovered by its previous audience quickly — the Rebirth behemoth cannot be stopped! — and I’m sure said readers will be relieved at the series’ consistency in both writing and art. Though the crude and immature humor, combined with zombie-killin’-violence, may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the series is committed to its silliness and never deviates from its irreverence or its jubilant (if gross) sense of humor. Best of all, it’s not shy about the tangible love of its eponymous anti-heroine.
7.5 out of 10
Supergirl: Rebirth #1
Written by Steve Orlando.
Art by Emanuela Lupacchino; inks by Ray McCarthy.
Colors by Michael Atiyeh.
Letters by Steve Wands.
JJ: I’ve been just as intrigued by the prospect of Steve Orlando writing Supergirl as anyone. Orlando’s Midnighter was one of those books that just doesn’t get published too often, not by the Big Two anyway; you’d have to go to the other side of the comic store in order to find progressive-minded-but-still-bug-out-nuts books like Midnighter — AfterShock’s InSEXts comes to mind — so for DC to pull the plug on Midnighter like a wealthy great aunt who’s hung on a bit too long was a bummer in its own right. “But wait,” DC said in its conspicuously thick New York accent. “Steve Orlando is writing ‘Supergirl’ now.” Well heck, DC, why didn’t you say so? And what’s that? Midnighter is coming back too? And he’s bringing his boyfriend? This is the best Christmas ever. Group hug, you guys.
So imagine my slight disappointment in discovering that Supergirl: Rebirth was about as tame and toothless a superhero book can be. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect Orlando to bring his Midnighter-caliber ruthlessness to the book (at least not exactly), but Kara Zor-El has been given the short end of the DC stick for as long as I can remember — if anyone deserves some out-of-left-field character work, or some genre-bending Morrisonian grace, it’s Supergirl.
Don’t forget: it wasn’t so long ago that, in their editorial wisdom, DC allowed Kara to hang around a group of comically angry space-monsters called the Red Lanterns, thus allowing the character to keep the only two defining traits they ever felt comfortable assigning her — sexy and angry. Now that it’s done, the New 52 is feeling more and more like a really bad dream these days, but for Kara, you could imagine that it has to be a recurring, bed-wetting night terror. To top it off, her cousin is now dead as hell. If Kara is to function in the wider DC Universe, the time for helping Supergirl is now, and it’s gonna take some TLC, y’all.
And that’s what Supergirl: Rebirth aims to do. It works overtime to make some sense out of Kara’s post-Rebirth life by giving her one that’s almost directly cribbed from the character’s popular TV show. Which isn’t that shocking — DC does love executing inter-company synergy whenever it gets a chance to — but all of Orlando’s signature imagination and cunning character work gets whittled down into semi-clever innovations (Red Kryptonite werewolf) and by-the-book introductions (Enter: Eliza and Jeremiah DanverszzzzZZzz). Emanuela Lupacchino’s pencils, given an added vibrancy by Ray McCarthy’s inks and Michael Atiyeh’s optimistic hues, helps this Rebirth issue hit all the right notes. It’s an agreeable enough thing to digest, like an apple or a Trump supporter who crashed a left-wing cannibal party.
There was a bit of relief that arrived by the time I finished Supergirl: Rebirth, though it didn’t come from what I had just read. There was relief in knowing that, with this at-par introductory issue, Mr. Orlando had gotten all the messy particulars out of the way. He can now get to the mind-warping business of which we all know he’s capable. The stage has been set. The star approaches the spotlight. My intuition tells me that I’ll be enjoying Supergirl #1 a hell of a lot. I can’t wait.
6.5 out of 10
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1
Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson.
Art by Claire Roe.
Colors by Allen Passalaqua.
Letters by Steve Wands.
MJ: DC’s twice-monthly schedule has, at least for me, turned its few once-monthly series into issues that can be savored a little more than their rapidly multiplying counterparts. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is one such less-frequent comic, but the art is the only savory bit. A lot of the same problems its Rebirth issue had are here too, namely its over-written dialogue and narration, and choppy, needlessly complicated plot. There’s enough story in these twenty pages to more comfortably fit in forty — and that’s not a compliment.
This issue depends completely on its Rebirth issue as an intro, and the beginning drops us directly into where that ended, removing the new-reader-friendliness I’d hoped for. Batgirl and Huntress spend most of the issue angrily at each others’ throats (I really hope they don’t drag out this overplayed good-guys-fight-each-other-before-they-fight-the-bad-guy BS into a third issue next month), while Black Canary is at least allowed a little nuance, reasoned judgement, and development, and is the only character I enjoyed reading during this issue. (Why can’t we just have a comic of Dinah being amazing? Oh wait… we did.)
Though at times the art can look rushed, Claire Roe, with Allen Passalaqua on colors, makes this book worth reading. She knows her way around a kick ass action sequence, and the two pages where she’s really allowed to let loose drawing Huntress trying to beat the bejeezus out of Canary and Batgirl are phenomenal. She gives the entire issue an energy and dynamism it sorely needs, especially in the fight sequences. (Also, her foreshortening on these pages: beyond great.) Oh, and also — Canary’s casual pulling on of her studded leather jacket whilst saying “Rock ‘n’ roll” is hands down one of my favorite panels this week.
The comic is generally enjoyable despite its flaws. Barbara’s reactions are often entertaining, mostly due to Roe’s ingenuity in her visuals. (And there was one obvious quote from Han Solo and Indiana Jones in this one issue, so I can only assume the writers and I all share the same kind of love that never dies for Mr. Harrison Ford.) It’s going to take some work distancing these characters from their New 52 counterparts into some semblance of the beloved relationships and interactions they shared pre-Flashpoint. This… is a shaky start.
7 out of 10
‘Rebirth’, reviewed elsewhere —
Agree? Disagree? Are you reading ‘Rebirth’? Tell us all about those feelings of yours in the comments section below.