Grading the DCU1 of 13DC is 18 weeks into its "Rebirth" era... but how is it doing? According to comic book sales charts, they are selling well... but are they good?
To answer that question, Newsarama's Best Shots Review team was tasked to look at the titles that have built a track-record so far, with at least six issues on-stands to provide the proper breadth to review the title itself. In other words - the launch titles ... or at least the twice-monthly launch titles anyway. 11 titles, to be exact.
With school just recently back in session, the Best Shots team opted to review DC's "Rebirth" era titles so far with letter grades -- including pluses and minuses.
So how did your favorite title fare? Did any titles that you missed out on get high marks? Find out.
The Flash2 of 13Though it started with one of the more emotionally affecting Rebirth one-shots, The Flash, as a whole, has lost its footing. On the art front, the title is still providing plenty of kinetic displays of super-speed thanks to penciler Carmine Di Giandomenico and colorist Ivan Plascencia, both of whom deliver splashy and vibrant displays that are well in line with Barry’s power set. Even fill-in artists Neil Googe and Felipe Watanabe acquit themselves well to Central City, giving readers both speed and emotion with well defined art styles that harken back to the pre-Rebirth era.
Where Flash stumbles, however, is with writer Josh Williamson's scripts. Though the idea of Barry training a whole legion of new, inexperienced speedsters is compelling, the metahuman murder mystery at the arc’s center and the Professor Zoom-in-everything-but-name new antagonist Godspeed leave a lot to be desired, especially after six issues of exposition and not much forward momentum. Worse still, Williamson’s Barry Allen comes across as cold and distant, a far cry from the takes we have seen before. Though he nails the jargon-filled speech of Barry’s life as a forensic scientist, there isn’t much else for readers to hold on to in terms of emotional attachment to his character.
Heavy on spectacle but light on compelling characters, The Flash pulled ahead early, but quickly lost its lead.
'Rama Rating: C-- Justin Partridge
Action Comics3 of 13When Action Comics returned to its original numbering, it returned with a Superman problem. As in, there were way too many Supermen. Dan Jurgens not only had to detail the adventures of Lex Luthor, who had taken it upon himself to wear the shield, but also the displaced Superman from another world, and the depowered Clark Kent that returned to the city seemingly to only get in everyone’s way.
Jurgens's first arc also brought back the Wolverine of the Superman mythos, Doomsday, and once again set him loose on an unsuspecting Metropolis. Things, for a bit, looked shaky. However, after focusing his scripting on the displaced Superman and his family and a well-timed and rousing-as-all-hell Wonder Woman team-up in #960, the “Path of Doom” arc headed into its home stretch with plenty of thrills and classic Superman action.
Jurgens’s Action Comics also benefited from the artistic one-two punch of Patrick Zircher and Tyler Kirkham, with fill-in artist Stephen Segovia providing a nice mixture of the two’s styles for issues #961 and 962. Zircher, Kirkham, and Segovia each brought different strengths to their respective issues, but all delivered high-flying action, expressive characters, and clear panel layouts that kept reader’s attention even with the story gathered wool. Though the start was rocky, the post-"Rebirth" Action Comics lives up to its name and continues Superman’s rehabilitation on store shelves.
’Rama Rating: C+- Justin Partridge
Green Lanterns4 of 13There are team-up combinations that look great on paper, and even though they really should have worked, they miss the landing by a solid yard. Such is the case with Green Lanterns, wherein rookie GL’s Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz team up in a story that should have been “Lethal Weapon in Space,” but ended up not quite reaching the thermosphere. As the story kept rolling on, it became more and more convoluted with too much going on. Writer Sam Humphries' humor and heart are intact, but the danger never seems to come when it needs to.
When its first issue landed, it was clear that Green Lanterns showed unlimited potential to be a sleeper hit. It was entertaining and fresh and everything you would want out of an event entitled Rebirth. Along the way, though, the focus changed and while there's still the Red Lantern threat, too many subplots were thrown in, making the plot feel disoriented. Another thing hindering this book from the other GL titles is the inconsistency on the artists. The art team hasn't quite found the right flow, but current artist Jackson Herbert has flexed enough artistic muscle to keep things afloat even when the dialogue is overbearing.
There's still a great story to be found in Green Lanterns, but there's a lot of fluff to trim to get to it. Still, the end of the first arc sets up everything nicely for the next go around. Here's hoping things can improve by then.
’Rama Rating: C+- Lan Pitts
Justice League5 of 13Bryan Hitch has proven to be a talented writer as well as a masterful artist, but his collaboration with Tony Daniel hasn’t quite reached the heights that the Justice League is truly capable of.
Hitch’s previous stories with the League have been larger than life, such as the time-spanning fight against the Kryptonian god Rao, but with his opening Rebirth arc, the threats have been a bit more scattered and unfocused, particularly as he’s had to juggle the introduction of the post-Crisis Superman, as well as bringing new focus to cast members like the Green Lanterns and Cyborg. Hitch’s main highlights, surprisingly, have been Aquaman saving the day with a tense swim around the world, as well as giving some nice tension to Superman’s plight as he flies into Earth’s molten core.
That’s not to say that Tony Daniel hasn’t worked hard to step up to the plate — he’s delivered some very fun visuals, particularly with the Flash zipping across a double-page spread to stop a swarm of alien creatures, and his take on Batman is always a welcome sight of hard angles and shadows. Yet his cartoony style does sometimes go at odds with Hitch’s widescreen sensibilities, occasionally resulting in static panels that don’t seem to serve a greater purpose other than anchoring expository dialogue. While Hitch and Daniel successfully ramped things up by the end of their first arc, a stronger villain will bring this comic back to the A-list.
’Rama Rating: B-- David Pepose
Batman6 of 13Following Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo on DC's flagship title is no easy task, but luckily Tom King and the rest of the creative team have been worthy successors, even if they haven't yet reached the heights of "Court of Owls.” After a fantastic (and meta) Rebirth issue about repetition in superhero comic books, King introduced a new Dynamic Duo - Gotham and Gotham Girl - and utilized a variety of lesser-known rogues to bring a madness and subsequent somberness to Gotham.
With Batman, David Finch has delivered his strongest art since New Avengers, while an assortment of inkers assisted in making his pencils even more striking, and Jordie Bellaire’s colors enhance the book. Credit should be given to both Mikel Janin, who kicked everything off with the Batman: Rebirth one-shot, and to Ivan Reis for closing out the arc with an issue that tugged at the heartstrings and showed this book isn't about how Batman sees Gotham, but how Gotham sees Batman.
This arc has been more-action orientated than the rest of King's work and could have used another issue to polish the character dynamics, but Batman has been solid nonetheless. I’m eager to see what the next two acts of this trilogy have in store.
’Rama Rating: B- Matthew Sibley
Aquaman7 of 13It’s Atlantis’s world, and Aquaman is just living in it. Dan Abnett, Brad Walker, Scot Eaton, and Phillipe Briones have opened up Arthur Curry’s kingdom dramatically with their latest run on the King of the Seven Seas, which gives this creative team a number of new possibilities.
In many ways, Aquaman is a political drama wrapped up in a superhero’s cape — from the beginning of his Rebirth one-shot, Dan Abnett has established Aquaman as the bridge between two untrusting worlds. In this role, Aquaman, traditionally the most awkward of the Justice League, suddenly has to become a diplomat, with problems he can’t necessarily solve by punching them into submission. There are also shades of the X-Men to Abnett’s run, as Arthur constantly has to defend his plans of coexistence to his lieutenants, his people, and even his wife. The series so far has culminated in an excellent battle royale with Superman himself, as Arthur has careened towards an international incident.
And on the art front, Aquaman has been a very interesting read. Brad Walker has been enthusiastic online about the character, and that energy is apparent on his pages, with some beautiful expressiveness as well as moodiness with characters like the villainous Black Manta or the ominous power of Superman. Phillipe Briones, meanwhile, has brought a solidness to his inks that provide a nice contrast to Walker’s sharply-rendered style, particularly excelling with the drama of characters like Mera or Murk dealing with Arthur’s plights. Scot Eaton is a solid bridge between the two, although that does make for some less-than-memorable issues. While Aquaman has a great high concept and plenty of directions to work in, what is missing is a stronger bead on Arthur himself, to show readers what makes him so engaging and to make this book a true must-read.
’Rama Rating: B+- David Pepose
Nightwing8 of 13After orchestrating Dick Grayson's career switch to world-spanning Spyral super-spy, it was up to Tim Seeley to usher in the Rebirth of Nightwing. With a tight grasp on Grayson's character – though not quite willing to slough off the entirety of his skills in espionage just yet - Tim Seeley and artist Javier Fernandez forced Grayson to don the blue and black once more to take down the Parliament of Owls from within. The re-establishment of the Nightwing persona as it's own unique identity, alongside the debut of the personal brand-obsessed thief Raptor, formed the basis for “Better than Batman,” a four-part arc that saw Dick Grayson slowly and cautiously form a bond of teamwork and friendship with the grimy gun-for-hire under the auspices of the Parliament of Owls.
Seeley maintained tension throughout by revealing Raptor's evil nature and then immediately casting doubt upon it with good intentions, in undulating waves of truth and lies that pushed Grayson away before pulling him back in as the issues went by.
Fernandez's artwork, meanwhile, is dynamic and eye-catching, more than able to depict Grayson's acrobatic offense and monstrous nature of their final villain: the horribly mutated Orator. Issue by issue, Seeley and Fernandez drove Grayson into dingier and darker territory, setting the stage for this week's Bat-Family crossover: “The Night of the Monster Men." Although Dick Grayson's return to the guise of Nightwing for DC's Rebirth could have been an unnecessary regression, Seeley and Fernandez have made sure it's a logical next step for Grayson's career, thanks to some deep and thoughtful character progression and inviting, atmospheric artwork. A successful "Rebirth," indeed.
’Rama Rating: B+- Oscar Maltby
Wonder Woman9 of 13Right out of the gate, Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka addresses the convoluted house of cards that is Wonder Woman’s identity. He acknowledges all of the pieces of her without judgment, and it is an ambitious kick-off to what was surely one of the most anticipated Rebirths. As Rucka moves between Diana’s youth and her present time, it feels like his own personal dare to unequivocally establish who she is for continuity and for all of her loyal subjects. It won’t be any one event, Greek God or one-liner, it will be in how much we can relate to her struggle. No one can humanize Diana the way that Rucka can, and he’s begun to do that with her natural curiosity and feverish compassion for those she loves. These are simple things that play powerfully in a mysterious, reference-heavy, layered plot.
Nicola Scott’s talents are exemplified when she draws Diana and the Amazons, with superb anatomy and detailed emotional expressiveness – it’s a perfect match. Romulo Fajardo’s broad spectrum of bright and light colors are at home in Themyscira. The same cannot be said for Liam Sharp and Laura Martin as they draw Diana in the present. Their work is full of detail and tells this dense story viscerally well, but the dark tones, heavy inks and crowded panels feel overwhelming at times. Still, this team of creators has built two compelling and cohesive worlds contrasted skillfully against each other. As the layers unfold, Wonder Woman’s story will be one to watch.
’Rama Rating: B+- Vanessa Gabriel
Green Arrow10 of 13Benjamin Percy’s first arc of Green Arrow under the Rebirth banner isn’t his first outing with the character, having penned some version of the Emerald Archer since June last year. The aptly named “The Death and Life of Oliver Queen” instantly goes a long way towards restoring much of the faith lost in the character over the last five years or so. Green Arrow doesn’t get a literal Rebirth so much as a spiritual one, as Percy checks off all the classic elements that even casual readers could name about the Battling Bowman.
Right out of the box, Percy’s Green Arrow is fighting alongside (and fighting with) Black Canary, making up and making love in quick order. It’s a successor to all of the classic stories, from Elliot S. Maggin, Gerry Conway, and Joey Cavalieri through to Mike Grell and even Jeff Lemire. It’s an iconic tale of two warriors still struggling with their own duality and how that fits into a relationship with another person. Percy doubles down on his tributes with the reintroduction of Shado, fusing a series of comics-literate references with his own flourishes, creating an atmosphere that’s both fresh and comfortingly familiar. Percy only stumbles slightly around the midway mark of this arc, when his penchant for horror elements and shadow groups brush awkwardly up against the nostalgic recreation.
Artistically, Percy’s team of artists in Otto Schmidt, Juan Ferreyra, and Stephen Byrne couldn’t be a better match. Schmidt’s visual quotations of Grell and Ed Hannigan are stylized and dynamic, while Ferreyra takes the book to new levels of hyper-reality. Byrne has the same kind of energy that Karl Kerschl provided Gotham Academy. It’s a shame that it’s taken us this long to get here, but we’re glad Ollie is back.
’Rama Rating: A-- Richard Gray
Superman11 of 13One of the biggest weaknesses of the "New 52" was the line’s inability to consistently tell entertaining stories outside of the Batman family. One of the biggest perpetrators of this was the Superman family of books. As different creators tried to make their version of the Man of Steel something definitive, the stories suffered because the titular hero was ill-defined. With Rebirth, the Man of Tomorrow has come roaring back to life. By re-centering Clark Kent around truth, justice, and family as the core values that drive him, DC has reinvigorated the character.
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason brought a similarly steady hand to their previous title, Batman & Robin, and used those pages to explore what fatherhood meant for Bruce Wayne. While the conceit is similar to what they’re doing in the pages of Superman, Clark and Bruce are miles apart in terms of how they view the world, and the ways that they pass that on to their kids make for good stories. Grounding a character as powerful as Superman in his family life gives each outing very different stakes than a typical solo adventure. And Gleason’s artwork is a near-perfect complement to the writing. Gleason and the rest of the art team imbue the pages with a joyful reverence that celebrates the Man of Steel while still respecting the storytellers than came before them. This is as close to a perfect take on a character as there is in the aftermath of Rebirth, and it’s on track to be remembered as a classic for all time.
’Rama Rating: A-- Pierce Lydon
Detective Comics12 of 13Though he started DC simply known as one of Scott Snyder's students, James Tynion IV has carved out his own Bat-legacy with the likes of Talon and Batman Eternal, and it's his work so far on Detective Comics that will cement his legacy in Gotham. Tynion’s Bat-team was announced at the Rebirth event back in April giving readers the first look at the all-new Bat-family with the addition of Clayface into the fold. Tynion has been saying since day one that this has been his dream team for years and has delivered on the chance to do something different with the Bat-Family.
Since 'Tec started bi-weekly, the hits have kept coming at a quicker pace, and given the first issue's initial build, having to have to wait monthly for this book might be too much for readers. Tynion, teaming up with artists Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira, brings that classic, essential Batman flavor to a new generation that is more than ready to get a taste.
Detective Comics might have returned to its original numbering, but in a way has become a Batman story that balks at expectations (who else was a little hesitant with Clayface joining the fray?). Detective Comics has emerged as not only the premiere Batman title, but as one of the strongest, if not the strongest debut, of the Rebirth titles.
’Rama Rating: A+- Lan Pitts
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