REBIRTH IN REVIEW: Of Masked Boys And Super Women — 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 ninth 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.
Written by Phil Jimenez.
Art by Phil Jimenez; inks by Matt Santorelli.
Colors by Jeromy Cox.
Letters by Rob Leigh.
MJ: When I first found out that Superwoman was going to be a Lois Lane book, and that she’d somehow have Superman’s powers in it, I was more than a bit disappointed. Lois is a character with decades of history and continuity, who has been portrayed onscreen by five different actresses at this point, and has never once required superpowers to be compelling as hell. (Well, permanent, in-continuity powers anyway.) Quite honestly, Lois Lane does not need a Superman in her life. She doesn’t need his superpowers, either.
But now, since New 52 Superman went up in a boom, the New 52 version of Lois (not to be confused with that other Lois, who’s currently married to that other Superman in the Superman and Action Comics titles) has acquired a semblance of his powers, though they seem to be giving her nosebleeds at awkward moments. There’s not exactly an explanation given as to how she can suddenly fly, has super strength, etc; we’re told that her proximity to Superman’s fatal explosion is responsible, though there is probably more to it than that.
Which brings me to one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much: Lana Lang, coming straight from her costarring role on Greg Pak and Aaron Kuder’s Action Comics, plays a major part in this comic, more than you probably realize if you haven’t read it yet. She helps teach Lois how to use her powers correctly, and the two have a friendly, banter-filled working relationship. It’s gratifying as hell to see the two characters together not cat-fighting over Superman and his affections, but instead working together effectively as partners and friends.
Phil Jimenez is both the writer and artist on this issue, with inks by Matt Santorelli and colors by Jeromy Cox. Just like his run on the Wonder Woman series (so many years ago now) the art is phenomenal. He manages to put a lot of story (and a lot of dialogue) into these twenty pages, and his intricately involved layouts are full of detailed, gorgeous art that makes the density of story and dialogue work like few other artists can.
A cliffhanger ending has some people upset about the possible death of a major character, but I’m going the route of saying it’s obvious cliffhanger in a serialized medium prone to such things, and I’m giving it room (and benefit of the doubt) to tell the story its creators want to tell, final-page fakeouts and all. Superwoman is shaping up to be one of my favorite Rebirth debuts — it’s definitely in my Top Five — and one of the most unique, fun, and enjoyable first issues on the stands today. This one’s a must-read, people.
9.5 out of 10
All-Star Batman #1
Written by Scott Snyder.
Art by John Romita, Jr; inks by Danny Miki.
Colors by Dean White.
Letters by Steve Wands.
JJ: No, you don’t need your eyes checked. That is indeed the asking price for All-Star Batman#1: $4.99. It didn’t take DC long to find a way around their universal $2.99 Rebirth price — just under three months, in fact — but for those of you who may balk at the prospect of dropping a sawback just to read the latest Scott Snyder Bat-book, rest assured that at least the publisher put out a fine spread.
It’s arguably the biggest Batman book in the post-Rebirth landscape. Check the name: All-Star Batman doesn’t just nip the prospect of ever seeing the end to All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, it somehow brands itself as a top-flight prestige monthly book, if there is such a thing. From the card stock covers to John Romita Jr’s career-best art, All-Star Batman has enough going for it to justify the cover price.
But then it goes ahead and throws a gorgeous cherry on top — Declan Shalvey is on board for a backup story that finally, finally features Duke Thomas heading out into the streets of Gotham alongside the Dark Knight himself. Shalvey’s interiors, which I’d place somewhere in the realm between Chris Sprouse and Ty Templeton, have an aesthetic pop to them that are only that much more vivid with Jordie Bellaire’s candy-coated hues. If anything, Shalvey and Bellaire’s work left me hankering for a monthly book of their very own.
As for All-Star itself? It’s Midnight Run set in the DC Universe — Robert De Niro is Batman, and Two-Face is Charles Grodin — only Snyder flips the script on us in true Snyderian fashion: y’see, it’s thebad guy who’s put out a ludicrous bounty on the hero, so the first chapter of “My Own Worst Enemy” finds Batman ducking just about everybody and their mother (oh, and her too) who wants a piece of the Dark Knight. Supervillain, B-grade mercenary, and even a hard-working trucker, they all want what Two-Face is selling.
It’s a devious plot, and though I’ve been waiting for years to see what Snyder could do with the former Gotham City District Attorney, his Two-Face story has the makings to be one of his best. One I always knew Snyder had in him. Romita’s pencils, Danny Miki’s inks, and Steve Wands’ painterly colors give the high noon sun a scorch that hangs a pall over our beleaguered Caped Crusader. Batman’s fighting in broad daylight, and I’m absolutely loving it. I won’t pretend to know what’s coming next (there’s a tantalizingly hilarious cameo at the story’s end I can’t wait to see played out next month), but I do know one thing — I want more All-Star.
9 out of 10
Red Hood and the Outlaws #1
Written by Scott Lobdell.
Art by Dexter Soy.
Colors by Veronica Gandini.
Letters by Taylor Esposito.
JJ: I know the title of this book is Red Hood and the Outlaws and not the other way around, but ever since Rebirth happened, this book has been focusing conspicuously on the former of the title and largely neglecting the latter.
I already stated my general distaste for Jason Todd in my review for the last issue of RH&TO, but the funny thing? I’m starting to come around on this guy. Yeah, I don’t hate this book. In fact, I’m enjoying the heck out of it, but therein lies a dilemma. At least, for me.
If writer Scott Lobdell and artist Dexter Soy are doing such a bang-up job telling a street-level Red Hood story, what’s gonna happen when the other two decidedly superpowered parts of the Anti-Trinity start popping up? (Looks like I’ll have my answer sooner than later, if the cliffhanger to this issue has anything to say about it.) Am I going to enjoy the book as much as I am now?
Lobdell is pitting Red Hood against Black Mask — yes, we’re dipping into that particular well again, but that’s okay. That’s better than okay. Why can’t Black Mask be Jason Todd’s primary nemesis? His Bane to Jason’s Batman. Or his Luthor to Jason’s… er, you get the picture. There’s a lot to work off of from there, and so far Lobdell is mining rich ore from the characters’ dichotomy. The writer is placing these characters in direct opposition to each other while simultaneously exploring their similarities, which only becomes more interesting when you realize that those similarities are what set them so far apart. Is there going to be any room for that when Artemis and, of all people, Bizarro show up? Is there room for nuance in such havoc?
I’ll have to wait and see. And I’m pretty happy to do it, if for no other reason than Rebirth has been kind to the black sheep of the Batcave so far. It’s only right that, as something of a misfit myself, I stand by Jason through this first arc. Here’s hoping Scott Lobdell keeps this Robin flying straight.
7.5 out of 10
Deathstroke: Rebirth #1
Written by Christopher Priest.
Art by Carlo Pagulayan.
Colors by Jeromy Cox.
Letters by Willie Schubert.
MJ: Much of DC’s Rebirth has focused on returning most of its series to more optimistic themes after the New 52 made many of them cartoonishly dark and “mature.” Deathstroke: Rebirth has seemingly done the opposite, taking a series that had begun to bring the supervillain closer into anti-hero territory and dragging him back into the bloody murk. The New 52’s rampant, cartoonish violence, shoved into a thirteen-year-old’s boy idea of maturity is thankfully nowhere to be seen. Instead, writer Christopher Priest has given us a serious-minded character study of a mercenary sociopath, with absolutely no attempts to soften any edges or elicit any sympathies.
This issue immerses itself in geopolitical realism, rare for standard superhero comics (and even moreso in those from DC). Character depth and development gives the story hefty momentum, making the issue a good introduction to the character. There are a few flashback moments in the book, with a younger Slade taking his sons on a camping trip, at no point is the reader given any reason to empathize with him. Instead, Priest doubles down with the abusive way he treats his children, thus tethering the mercenary firmly to his villain status. My only gripe is that the issue lacks any women with speaking roles (the only woman visible at any point sleeps naked in Wilson’s bed).
The art is well-suited for a book aiming towards gritty, real-life accuracy. Carlo Pagulayan’s art, with Jason Paz’s inks, is gorgeously detailed, with expressive faces and fluid storytelling. Much of Jeromy Cox’s colors are muted and almost hazy, evocative of the desert-based military setting in which most of the issue takes place, while the snow-covered scenes of younger Wilson’s ill-fated camping trip with his sons has a decidedly colder palate.
Deathstroke had already piqued my interest by bringing Christopher Priest back to the sequential medium to write it, but this issue sealed the deal. One of the few Rebirth issues that actually work as a fresh jumping-on point, this issue brings Slade Wilson back to being the stone cold badass he always was, without any attempts to make us feel sorry for him. Thank you, Christopher Priest, for writing a solo villain comic where the bad guy is actually, totally, almost gleefully bad.
8.5 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.