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 third week of Rebirth, we’re soldering 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 check out 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.
Hellblazer: Rebirth #1
Written by Simon Oliver.
Art by Moritat.
Colors by Moritat and Andre Szymanowicz.
Letters by Sal Cipriano.
MJ: The new Hellblazer: Rebirth issue is an enjoyable read, even if it’s the third relaunch of the irascible Mr. Constantine’s comic in as many years. This time, it’s under the able pen of a Vertigo vet, Simon Oliver, who will hopefully snag more of a readership for the title. Oliver doesn’t overwrite—a fault of a few current DC writers—giving the pages room to breathe, and the art room to show more of the story. He has a wonderful handle on the characters as well, and, to be candid, I can’t help but appreciate a Brit’s ear writing British characters’ dialogue.
Extremely jarring was an appearance by Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Swamp Thing, that felt entirely pasted in to forcibly, irritatingly remind you that yes, this is still a comic that takes place within the DC Universe. (The scene is so off-tone and sudden that I half-thought they misprinted some of the eight-page centerfold ads/previews a page late.) I did enjoy the position of authority given Wonder Woman in this interaction (seeing her almost attack Swamp Thing gave me horrifying flashbacks to Wonder Woman #36 though… ugh…), but the scene is still utterly irrelevant to the issue itself; and considering New 52 Shazam previously had the vocabulary of a not-so-precocious twelve-year-old, it added to the pages’ oddness to hear him use words like “amongst” in normal conversation.
Unlike a few of the other Rebirth one-shots, Hellblazer isn’t assuming or dependent on familiarity with the preceding storyline. All that’s mentioned is that he was living in New York, and this issue succinctly explains why he left London, and also the whys and hows of his return — the ‘why’ is hilariously/unsettlingly the orange-faced blowhard who’s running for president. It’s one of a couple not-so veiled references to Trump, and whoo boy, Oliver better not be psychic, because the newspaper headlines on the last page are the spookiest thing in the whole comic.
Moritat and colorist Andre Szymanowicz (coloring parts Moritat didn’t) do an enjoyable if not incredibly exciting job on the art. The colors are a bit muddier than necessary, but the entire issue is still readable, and entertainingly so. This series feels the closest yet to the original Vertigo Hellblazer series, so obviously I’m looking forward to more.
7 out of 10
Justice League #1
Written by Bryan Hitch.
Art by Tony Daniel; inks by Sandu Florea.
Colors by Tomeu Morey.
Letters by Richard Starkings & Comicraft.
JJ: So here we are again, staring down the daunting prospect of yet another Justice League #1, nearly a full five years after the last time we all did that. (August 31, 2011, folks. Never forget.) Another superstar group of creators (this time, Bryan Hitch and Tony Daniel) assembled to steer DC’s superstar pantheon of heroes (plus another Green Lantern and minus J’onn J’onzz, because reasons that will never be satisfactory to me). Same as it ever was.
Only this time, Justice League doesn’t have the same weight as it did almost half a decade ago, primarily because — even though it has the word Rebirth dangling over its head — Justice League isn’t setting any sort of publishing mandate with its look, nor is it establishing a house style or putting forth anything of particular consequence, really. Aside from maintaining what’s come before, Hitch and Daniel’s Justice League is here to do what a book like Justice League does best: bring the widescreen action, juggle a group of ludicrously overpowered superheroes, and make sure its events don’t shake up the DCU too much outside of its regular summer events. (Darkseid War will ever remain a cautionary tale of why it’s important to apply narrative restraint.)
And its opening storyarc, dubbed “The Extinction Machines”, does precisely those things. (With the noted exception of forgetting to include Superman here, but whatever.) On the plus side, it’s a more entertaining venture than Justice League: Rebirth #1 was: Tony Daniel acquits himself far more ably than I had given him credit for in my previous review, and Sandu Florea and Tomeu Morey make his pencil work sing. Bryan Hitch’s story is serviceable enough, and I’m happy to report that he’s putting a bit of personality into his leaguers. (Cyborg gets an especially cool sequence, as does Wonder Woman.) I’m also happy to report that the use of captions is at a minimum. (Never a bad thing.) It’s all of-the-moment action, and Hitch lays this first chapter out well. I’m locked in for another issue.
7 out of 10
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1
Written by Julie Benson and Shawna Benson.
Art by Claire Roe.
Colors by Allen Passalaqua.
Letters by Steve Wands.
MJ: Since the Rebirth books have mostly been a big ol’ sausage fest (aside from Rucka/Scott/Sharp’s glorious Wonder Woman of course), I have to admit I was a little excited to read Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. But even more exciting is the fact that there are three women creators making this book happen, the most of any other Rebirth title thus far.
First, the art. Claire Roe’s art and Allen Passalaqua’s colors are both excellent. Roe is a perfect fit for this book; she gives each character their own distinct looks and mannerisms, and excels at facial expressions. She also adds an extraordinary amount of movement to the pages, and the action sequences are positively kinetic. Passalaqua’s colors are gorgeous, and stand out the most during Huntress’ scenes in the confessional: the screen’s shadows across Helena’s face are phenomenal.
Writers Julie Benson and Shawna Benson both seem to have a pretty good grasp on their main cast’s personalities, but are visibly still making the transition from writing for television to writing for comics. The pacing on this issue is bogged down by overly-wordy narration and dialogue; thankfully Roe and Passalaqua’s art keeps the book from truly losing momentum. There’s a hefty, caption-happy re-explanation of Batgirl’s origin that I’m pretty sure none of us needed (I, for one, would be a happy camper if I never had to see that goddamn panel of Babs being shot in the stomach ever again).
There was a tiny editorial note as to why Babs is back in Gotham in this series whilst cavorting through Asia in her own title, but strangely we get no word as to why Dinah is back in Gotham and not cavorting about Seattle in Green Arrow. All that aside, I’m excited to see these three ladies together again (under three lady creators, no less). I’ll be interested to see how everyone’s interplay will differ from past Birds of Prey series’ once the group fully becomes a team again.
8 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.