DC Re­birth round-up

Comic Heroes - - Reviews -

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.

Per­sonal bat­tles

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.

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