DC Rebirth round-up
Batwoman Rebirth is fantastic but, weirdly, the opening issue is difficult to recommend, especially to die-hard Batwoman fans. That’s mainly because they’ll have seen (and read) it all before. The structure, formed almost entirely of flashbacks, is so dependent on retelling Kate Kane’s origin story, there’s little fresh information here. But for new readers it’s an absolute dream – an elegant “previously on” that’ll make you feel like an expert by the time you hit the last page. Those final moments are exciting, operating as a sort of teaser trailer for anyone who’s read the previous titles, those fans who’ve been patiently waiting for something new, but it’s too little, too late. That said, it’s comforting that Rebirth isn’t reinventing the Bat-wheel but leaving all the essential elements of Kane’s character in place, so we’ll definitely be adding it to our pull list in the hope there are more surprises on the way.
Another Rebirth book that’s dedicated to staying true to its characters, Midnighter & Apollo, contains far more originality than Batwoman, including a startling opening action set-piece (tracking Midnighter as he fights his way through a train) that’ll genuinely give you goosebumps. Midnighter’s fantastic solo series may have been cancelled, but it was almost worth losing that book to gain this six-issue miniseries, which is as gorgeous, gory, heartfelt and moving as Midnighter and Apollo’s relationship itself. But don’t expect the pair to go Dutch in terms of plot: this is definitely more Midnighter-focused, told from his perspective, with the main villain having deep ties to the character’s creation. Writer Steve Orlando clearly cares about both heroes, but his heart belongs to the night. It might not be an even split, but this is the best book involving both characters since Warren Ellis’ Authority, and is an essential buy for fans.
Midnighter and Apollo were so “inspired” by Batman and Superman, it feels weird to have them on the same imprint as the original caped crusaders, but luckily the old guard are holding their own against the new boys, especially in Trinity, which brings the big two together with Wonder Woman for the most iconic triple-threat in comics. It’s arguably the best Rebirth title currently available, perfectly balancing not just the three leads but their past, present and future, too. Whether it’s Clark gently ribbing Bruce about the time he wore a rainbow Bat-suit (“I have no recollection of this,” Bruce replies firmly), Wonder Woman and Lois Lane connecting over their shared strength, or a classic Batman villain whose evil plan closely resembles a classic Superman tale, there’s real
“You’re in the hands of a master storyteller here”
history in this beautiful book. It’s hard to describe without ruining some shocking twists scattered throughout the opening six issues, so you’re just going to have to trust us when we tell you that you’re in the hands of a master storyteller here. Superstar creator Francis Manapul is a one-man trinity on cover, script and art duties, and this unified approach produces truly stunning, intricate, auteuresque results.
Trinity features glimpses at Superman’s son, Jon, who’s the co-lead of another brilliant book, Super Sons, which teams Superboy with Damian Wayne’s Robin, to thrilling effect. Delayed from the original September 2016 release date, shifting to February 2017, it was worth the wait – this is a comic confident and audacious enough to include a visual tribute to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. But don’t expect the blockbusting antics of that graphic novel; this is as down-to-earth as first issues get, with one of the central action set‑pieces involving a snowball fight. These initial (relatively) low stakes are probably because this is a comic focusing on a realistic portrayal of a growing friendship/rivalry between two kids. Special kids, sure, but kids all the same. Damian might be old beyond his years and Jon may have burgeoning superpowers, but these are children everyone can identify with, with Superboy and Robin possessing both the naivety and arrogance of youth, perfectly.
Justice League Of America has a lot less youth (in fact, this is the most grizzled team since Suicide Squad) but the book was similarly delayed from 2016 into 2017. Spun off from the Justice League Vs Suicide Squad miniseries, this feels more like an event book than the event book that proceeded it, with large-scale action and gimmicky villains (The Extremists, Marvel parodies last glimpsed in Grant Morrison’s Multiversity) forming the basics for much of the narrative. It’s a weird team, including Batman, Black Canary, Killer Frost, the Ray, Vixen, the Atom and Lobo – taking it about as far as possible from the core DC group that led Bryan Hitch’s most recent take.
Of these, Lobo comes off the worst, underwritten and underused, which is a real shame – he’s potentially the most exciting character in the line-up, but, as of this opening issue, we’re not entirely sure why he’s there. Meanwhile, Caitlin Snow and The Atom feel more like their CW television counterparts than anything we’ve seen in comics before, which takes some getting used to. But at least Batman – this team’s leader – works (let’s face it, it’s a hard character to get wrong) and his relationship to Vixen is interesting. This is a dysfunctional group, one we hope will grow in time, but this book will have to deepen quickly if we’re going to stick around long enough to see it happen, especially with so much quality competition. Sam Ashurst
Poor Marvel supervillains. It’s event time in the world of Marvel 616 and once again it is “band of heroes vs. band of heroes”. What does a villain have to do to get some air time?
This time it’s the turn of the X- Men to lose all sense for the sake of a crossover. With the Inhuman- birthing Terrigen mists pushing mutants to the brink of extinction, the X- Men are forced to make a choice: abandon Earth, or fight the Inhuman royal family...
Thing is, with the X- Men’s history of planet- hopping adventures and galactic allies, you’d think abandoning Earth would not be that much of a problem. Remember, they had an asteroid base once. But Marvel does what Marvel does, so here we are, with another dull clash between superhero teams that should know better, where very few characters come off as sympathetic.
IvX is not a good book. As in Civil War II and Avengers vs X- Men, the manoeuvring involved to get two bands of superheroes to fight each other removes all of the characters’ sense and empathy. When everything is a shade of grey, it is hard to attach yourself to characters and care about their plight. does improve at its tail end as the focus shifts to NuHumans, new Inhumans who act a lot like the heroic X- Men of old, but it’s baffling to introduce so many new Inhumans while casual fans are still getting to grips with the old ones. With two issues remaining, there is some hope Lemire, Soule and Yu can turn things around, but for now this is another pointless event that leaves hardcore fans cold and new fans confused. If Marvel are hoping to lean into the fuss about Inhumans “replacing” mutants in the canon, they need to work harder than this.
On the flip side of the event coin is Monsters Unleashed, in which the Inhumans and the X- Men can be found teaming up with Marvel’s other heroes, fighting all manner of monsters and kaiju- like figures called Leviathans. Monsters isn’t clever, but it certainly is BIG. Steven Niven’s artwork drives the first issue’s tale, updating the baddies from ’ 50s and ’ 60s monster movies and giving them a 2017 shine. Fun, frothy and completely throwaway, Monsters is an enjoyable jaunt if you miss watching Marvel’s biggest and brightest acting like heroes again.
This works doubly so in the Champions tie- in event, where
“Another dull clash between heroes who should know better”
Jeremy Whitley gives us a tale that reads like classic early ’ 90s X- Men, in a good way, as our hero team faces off against a batch of villains with loads of chicanery and shenanigans and civilians in peril. Lovely stuff.
Classic villainy also takes a back seat in the stunning new run on Hulk: a Hulk story where no one hulks up. Instead the great baddie in Mariko Tamaki’s new conceit is PTSD. With Banner off the table and Jennifer Walters still recovering from the effects of Civil War II, the big bad in the new Hulk is... nothing. The great gnawing void of nothing that comes with any traumatic experience. Come for the law stories, stay for Tamaki’s nuanced depiction of a character’s battle with anxiety. This is a Hulk book where you are actively rooting against the hero hulking up. It could turn out to be one of the most vital Hulk books in years.
We do have time for one villain – perhaps the villain of the Marvel universe. Thanos is back for another solo run, and this time the Mad Titan is on the lam after being diagnosed with what can only be described as a “God Cancer”. So Marvel finally have a book with a classic supervillain… but have made him more vulnerable and pitted him against other cosmic villains as led by his Inhuman son Thane.
Thanos stories always lend themselves well to planethopping battles, mixed in with ponderings on the nature of good and evil in the Marvel universe, and the creative team of Lemire and Deodato handle the Mad Titan well. Seeing him brought low, working in the shadows, raging at the dying of the light is a welcome change of pace, and while you do not feel sorry for Thanos, you do feel... something. Deodato’s decision to have much of the book covered in darkness, only to come aflame in massive action scenes, is an inspired one. Already you feel this book will have major ramifications on the cosmic scale of Marvel.
Villains dying. Villains being replaced by human problems, cartoon monsters or infighting heroes. Feel sorry for the Marvel villains. At this rate, they may just end up out of work soon... Carl Anka
It remains to be seen if this League is premier. Or anything to do with justice.
Batwoman is so full of episodic flashbacks, it’s a pretty trippy read.
Midnighter: loving partner, cybernetically-enhanced psycho killer... Aren’t we all?
The monsters are monstrous and the heroes heroic. Yeah!
For Jen, the threat to a normal life is not hulking out but PTSD.
The X-Men face the Inhumans. Don’t worry about why. You won’t care.
Thanos battles usurpers and ultimately his own mortality.