I’m honestly shocked to even write this article. See, I was a deep DC Comics fan, since the Infinite Crisis years. To me, there was something about how DC handled legacy, morality and a truly vicious rogues gallery that made me more interested in their (often difficult) universe. At that time, everything tied together in clever ways that made each individual storyline interesting and strong but still connected to the grand scope of things.
Then The New 52 came and pretty much ended that for me.
The lack of optimism and dark turn that the DC Universe took felt very dishonest to the characters. While some succeeded and even prospered from this change, others were unrecognizable and just fell flat. I haven’t kept up with the comics in over two years and rolled my eyes whenever anything related to Convergence was mentioned. So, after being recommended a crazy amount of books from the Rebirth line and being told that they would be closer to what I was hoping for, I decided to dive back in.
Here’s a list of the best, worst and most likely to improve within the line, although I still haven’t read some titles, including Action Comics, Detective Comics, Harley Quinn, and Nightwing.
To get some of the negativity out of the way, let’s touch on the worst first:
I had so much hope for this book and it went out of the window pretty quickly. The lead character comes off as a very annoying internet troll (he’s bullying an overweight kid in the intro), which is not at all what you would expect from a lead in this title. And these annoying character traits are exacerbated since he is given the powers and potential of a hero like Superman. The entire book takes place in China, which should offer a chance for the comic to inject some much needed inclusion into the universe but instead the effort falls short. The book doesn’t shy away from the fact that the lead characters have off-brand names (Kong Kenan/Clark Kent; Laney Lan/Lois Lane). Even the Justice League of China comes off as very disingenuous and really grating. This could improve going forward but for now it was a tough read.
This series has the strongest concept but it took a crucial nose-dive in execution. The irony is that it honestly may have the most important storyline of the DCU. With the return of Wally West, the team is working towards discovering who caused the major disappearance of everyone’s memories. But, it makes a really rough flaw with the characterizations feeling very bland, the dialogue written by someone who hasn’t heard the younger generation talk in some time, and villains that feel straight out of a bad Saturday Morning cartoon. The exposition also comes on strong with characters reciting full monologues about their emotions towards each other. The art is average but the action scenes are structured better than a lot of titles on this list. If there’s any reason to follow this title, it’s to see if Wally West‘s mystery will effect any of your favorite heroes, somewhere down the road.
Now that we’ve gotten the bad stuff out of the way, here are some of the stronger titles:
To be honest, I’ve never been a huge Suicide Squad fan in any of their iterations and The New 52 version felt more like an amalgamation of the franchise with it’s previously superior Secret Six book. But, the Rebirth opening issue sold me. If this issue was the movie, I’d be screaming to the mountains about the quality of the film. And here’s the thing: it only featured three members of the team in action! The only issue I have is when switching to the main series, they jump on the movie’s team structure hard (which is what one does if it grosses over $600M dollars) but even within these few short pages, it brings more interesting character interaction and emotion than anything else you’ve seen from this team all summer. I’m looking forward to see what’s next.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps
If you’re still fully invested in the emotional war (literally) between Hal Jordan and Sinestro, this is the series for you. I’ve felt Sinestro is the best written villain in DC Comics for the past decade and this book only continues that tradition. But it also makes Hal Jordan more intriguing by making you wonder how he can come anywhere close to being a match for his nemesis. When the comic begins, Hal has lost the Green Lanterns Corps (which includes John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kilowog, etc.). He is trying to uncover what happened to them after the destruction Oa, while also having sacrificed his own power ring in the previous series. Meanwhile, Sinestro has now claimed his spot as ruler of the universe with his own Corps’ Warworld and his plan to bring “order” to the galaxy. Each side shows they’ll be building their established and always growing roster of characters. The art, dialogue and action are all excellent. It feels like this is a great place to return to the space opera that had a bit of a dry spell in years prior.
This honestly felt as large, quaking and overall exciting as a book with this title should be. DC always has the difficult task of creating threats that are large enough to require a team of what are essentially gods. And this comic literally thrusts us into an extinction-level event that requires the team do more than the usual “you-save-this-side-of-the-city”-type of action. Instead, the members of the Justice League must each claim entire countries to protect in the middle of a sudden crisis. And during all of this action, we have an escalating mystery of who/what the threat may be, which gives off a bit of a Doctor Who villain-vibe. The addition of the newest Green Lanterns lends itself so much to the series, as their partnership and banter has me looking forward to getting around to reading their own book. Meanwhile, Cyborg‘s dialogue has a bit more playfulness, which is crucial, with him being the central communication hub between all team members. Combine that with the continuing doubts the team has about this new version of Superman, and this series really lends itself to give readers something special. I’m looking forward to seeing where we go next.
This is the most WOKE comic DC have out right now and Ben Percy is proudly flaunting it. Oliver Queen immediately lets it be known that he is a self-proclaimed “Social Justice Warrior” (yes, in the literal sense) and after that, we are off and rolling, folks! The book’s art, style and setting (the new start-up city, Seattle) captures the character’s overall optimism and vibrancy. And the first true interactions of Ollie and Black Canary are everything you’d hope for that pairing to become. Their established history in The New 52 had molded them into different people than the couple we once knew and it’s interesting to see where they compare and contrast. And in true Green Arrow fashion, the series hits you with plot twists rather quickly. The classic approach mixed with a taste of the new seems to fit well with the series.
We’ve moved past the stories of Batman as a symbol under Scott Snyder’s excellent run and it’s pretty refreshing. The character feels more balanced; he is focused on his task more than just the city’s legacy, and the overall plot is pretty far from anything we’ve ever seen the character dip into before. Writer Tom King adds his signature sense of dread to this title and the minute two particular characters enter the story, you know that the fates of everyone in the book are going to be effected – in a negative way. His “slow burn and explode” style is perfect for the character and DC Comics made the right move with this pairing.
This series is amazing at recapturing that sense of awe and wonder that should come from a Superman title. To do this, the book’s first story arc comes from the perspective of Superman’s son, a young boy who can’t grasp the full weight of being half Kryptonian as the world is slowly realizing the repercussions of his existence. His father (the 90s version of Superman and to be honest: MY Superman) is also living through these issues, which adds a new layer to the story. We see Kal-El have emotional reactions that aren’t as common with this version of the character. The same level of intolerance and anger we see from him whenever his parents are threatened is on display, but it never loses the sense of nobility and charm that the character always has the heavy burden of carrying. If there is a flaw within the series, it would be with the minimalism provided to Lois Lane/Kent/Smith and the disservice to the tough bravado and quick thinker we’re more accustomed to. While this does feel like a family adventure, the writing turns Lois into a moral third wheel. And while I genuinely love the art and angles of this book (particularly the bruises and expressions of young Jonathan Kent), the action can be a bit hard to follow, at times. Otherwise, I give this an incredibly high recommendation.
I won’t dig too deep into this particular book because I already loved this character before I ever turned a page of this book. The New 52 line proved that there are few limits as to where this character can go. You can have Aquaman focus on ruling his kingdom and preventing civil wars or you can have a Legend of Zelda-esque adventure as he explores the unknown depths of the ocean. Aquaman has also been proven to be a very vicious team leader with The Others. Then there’s also his average life, where he’s a superhero and engaged to Mera, while being calm, charming, diplomatic and patient with a general public (meant to reflect fans) that believe he is either a joke or far too dangerous. This particular series went with the latter, as Arthur attempts to unite Atlantis with the rest of the world as an established and peaceful country/kingdom. And in the meantime, we get an amazing exploration into who Black Manta is and a strong hint at where the character might go, which will add new layers in the near future. Of all of the books here, Aquaman receives my highest recommendation.
To conclude, I really like the direction that DC Comics is taking Rebirth, by embracing a lighter nature, enjoying each hero’s personality and not lowering the stakes. While there are some risky missteps, the good outweighs the bad and gives them the opportunity to make something far more stable than we’ve seen in the last five years. I remember actually liking quite a few New 52 books (Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Batman) but I dropped most of them after their runs came to strange halts. While The Big 2 will forever change, evolve and revert, Rebirth is worth checking out to catch up with old friends and have a fun read.