Comic Convo: DC Rebirth Week One

DC has rebooted once again and were covering it every week in our comic convo’s. Here is week one on Batman, Superman, Green Lanterns & Green Arrow Rebirth #1

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Josh: So Week 1 of Rebirth has arrived. What are our first impressions?

Pat: I thought it was interesting on some level, each book felt like the writers concept of “Rebirth” and that differed in a lot of ways. I was most impressed by Batman, which I went in thinking had the best creative team. I was surprised by how much I liked Green Lanterns & Green Arrow. Superman was weak sauce. I know you reviewed the middle two books but did you get a chance to read Batman or Superman as well? If so what were your thoughts?

Josh: I read Batman last for whatever reason. To be honest, I’m kind of looking for a reason to stop buying his titles but DC keeps making him a character worth following. I had read your review of that issue before I read it myself and that colored most of my impressions of it.

From Batman: Rebirth #1 by Mikel Janin &
From Batman: Rebirth #1 by Mikel Janin &

I went in wondering “Why the hell does Calendar Man rejuvenate? Is it because of that chemical the Joker uses from Endgame?” and also “Why does Batman need yet another sidekick when he has 2-3 Robins he can call in.” Neither question got answered to me.

When I was reading it I would think “Oh, this must be the theme of passing on the torch and the cyclical nature of comics Pat mentioned.” I’m not sure I would’ve put that together on my own. It seemed like a very bare bones story without having your analysis in the back of my head, although I still think the issue could’ve had a better resolution maybe. Mikel Janin’s art was glorious, there’s no book or character he’s drawn that wasn’t awesome and I can’t wait to see where he winds up next.

Pat: Yeah Mikel is great, I thought the art looked especially good here for it’s realism. Pairing him with David Finch is weird but I actually wonder what it would be like for the two artists to do a jam issue together.

Josh: Lately, I’d rather just have a bad artist draw an issue instead of one great artist do half a book. Its unlikely Janin’s art will look better doing this and Finch’s work hasn’t been good for a long time. Finch doing layouts or something under Janin’s pencils might be cool but I don’t think that’s how it’ll pan out.

Most likely, DC is probably trying to find a way to keep a Finch book coming out on time every month.

Pat: I think he’s on contract so they feel like they have to keep using him. That and it does seem that he’s well liked at the publisher.

So you didn’t read Superman I take it? That’s probably for the best as it’s the only Rebirth book so far that I thought was legitimately bad. That brings me to the next debut I was interested in speaking about with you which was Green Lantern. Based on your review, you mostly didn’t like the book while I actually quite enjoyed it. As someone who hasn’t read a Green Lantern book since before New 52, I really didn’t have any issues coming in cold and picking up the thread’s on the new character’s that I was being introduced. While you wrote that you saw a lot of Johns in the writing, I actually had the opposite reaction feeling like I could really see Sam Humphries imprint on the book’s loose dialogue which is probably his greatest strength. It also felt as if Humphries brought a level of humor that I really appreciated. Granted, I don’t think I’ll continue reading the title by any means, but I enjoyed it a lot more then I was anticipating.

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Josh: No, I didn’t pick up Superman because Tomasi’s still writing it. He’s not bad, but I’d like DC to find someone new to write Superman besides him, Jurgens or Lobdell.

I’m not super familiar with Humphries’ work, so I don’t know what he uses in his writing. I tended to gravitate towards Johns and Van Sciver’s presence in that issue and what didn’t fit I tried to ignore. I enjoyed the humor/friction between Simon and Jessica, partially because it seems to indicate they won’t be paired up romantically (I hope). I feel like that would be really cliched and limiting for both of them.

I actually contrasted it against the Green Lantern #1 from 2011, when Sinestro returned to the GL corps and Hal was failing at being a normal guy without his ring. I liked that issue quite a bit, but heard from others that a newcomer wouldn’t be able to follow that story.

Then again I hear all the time how dense and inaccessible DC books, like GL in recent times, are hard to jump into so I’m glad to hear you picked up this issue and didn’t have that problem.

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Pat: Yeah I mean obviously, I have some experience with not just Green Lantern but the Geoff Johns Green Lantern, just not up to the New 52. It’s always tricky considering the “new reader” though. If you’re doing a #1 issue like this that’s specifically meant to introduce readers to the book. How much do you assume they know going in and how much do you need to tell them? I know what a Green Lantern is, I didn’t know any of the character’s but what I thought the book did well was introduce me to them by showing and not telling. It wasn’t direct exposition but more like natural conversations that made it possible. Now with that said, based on your review, it does sound like there was some discrepancies between their portrayal in Rebirth and past continuity that I’m not at all aware of.

With the Rebirth books so far, one thing that’s been interesting is how they’re accommodating readers that may be joining these books blind or more recently. I think with almost any series, the idea is that the reader coming in is going to have a base line knowledge of the book but maybe not past continuity. In that sense, something like Superman Rebirth seemed to take great pains to introduce and explain a lot of it’s past in great detail where as Green Arrow basically assumes that the reader knows who the character is and let’s it go from there. Which was a strange choice in a way, I liked the Green Arrow book a lot but it was very much what I’d expect from having read various version of that comic throughout the years. If I was a regular comics reader that was picking up a Green Arrow book for the first time, would it still work for me? What if I was reading it based on my enjoyment of the Arrow TV Show? Moreover, should that even matter to DC at this point with a Green Arrow comic? Because I’ll tell yeah, I’ll take that Green Arrow Rebirth anytime over something like Superman Rebirth which is basically just the character explaining the history of Doomsday and almost nothing else.

Josh: That is a good point. Marvel has perfected the info dump that’s not an info dump to catch readers up to past events, which is what Humphries probably used in introducing Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. Dialogue is important in humanizing and endearing characters to readers, which again, I think is one reason why Marvel characters are so appealing.

I think, for me, picking up a book about a licensed character was always based on seeing them somewhere else. “Oh, I know Iron Man from those Spider-Man cartoons. I bet I’d like the comics.” ect. Often times though, continuity is so large and convoluted you have to do research or back reading to understand whats happening right now which turns a lot of readers off. I think it was Matt Fraction who said, “Every issue is someone’s first” and so he tried to make his scripts easy to follow.

Now, I followed Green Arrow somewhat over the last couple of years but most of what I know is from the TV show and the Justice League United cartoon. My idea of the character is already established, I just need to see him in a compelling story. Which I got, I thought it was a great issue. I’m inclined to think I could just hand this to someone and they might enjoy it too.

With DC having a comic for fans of his show, I don’t see the need for his proper title to have to carry over anything other than what works for it. Probably the most important thing is just make a good story with great art and people will respond to it. Which it sounds like Superman’s Rebirth didn’t successfully do.

Pat: You right on both counts and of course, that’s always the challenge for IP comic books. There is also the question of what constitutes “good story” & “great art” or for the former, what is a good story supposed to be in corporate comics? Is it DC Rebirth #1 where it’s basically addressing a lot of the problems that fan’s have had with the publisher in the past? Is it Captain America Steve Rogers #1 where the readers are completely thrown for a loop by the final page reveal? Is it Omega Men #12 which concluded this epic DC Comics story that was unlike anything else in comics? Or is it Ms Marvel #7 which was basically what readers have come to expect from the title in telling the story of Khamala and Miles competing in a science fair?

And where do the Rebirth books fit into that? One thing I will say in regards to week one, while each book was the same thematically, the way that the creators were allowed to approach that theme was completely open which is promising in it’s own way. We’ve talked about Green Arrow & Batman, I liked both books but they were wildly different from one another. Batman was esoteric and relied on this multi layered symbolism to give the issue gravitas where as Green Arrow felt much more straight forward in being about who the character and cast are, what type of adventures you can expect from the series and what he’s all about.

Josh: Y’know if I had to put it down in hard terms, I don’t think DC Rebirth #1 had a “good story”. Much less a story. I liked it ok and people really responded to it in one way or another, but I don’t think it was a story as much as a plot/sales device for Rebirth the initiative.

I still have not read the Captain America Steve Rogers #1, but can I point out that Marvel did about the same thing with Iron Man last year and I think(?) everyone hated it. Its early but nothing about the change interests me other than the potential symbolism of a long idolized American icon being corrupted. My point is, it doesn’t seem like a change Marvel had to make. In contrast, DC has and will continue to have to make changes across the board but especially in how they present their characters. Steve Rogers didn’t need to be tweeked, Superman in several ways does.

I think the answer to both “what is good in corporate comics” and “where does Rebirth fit into that” is, “give readers what they want”. It sounds like Omega Men and Ms. Marvel did that and I think that’s sort of what DC should shoot for with the rest of Rebirth. Make Batman layered and innovative, Superman more streamlined, ect. People want to follow these characters and buy their books but its up to DC to provide them with that. Hopefully unlike with DCYOU, it sells and DC can maintain it.

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Pat: Well if Benjamin Percy is to be believed, they’re doing pretty well from the outset, must help to be competing with Civil War II as opposed to Secret Wars this time around

Josh: Wow, I can’t remember the last time Green Arrow sold close to 90,000 copies. Percy is on the ball!

If I’m being honest, I think Civil War II is about two months too late. It should’ve been released closer to the Civil War movie, but doing it now just illustrates how unconnected they are. Then again I’m not sure its fair to compare Civil War II to Secret Wars.

Secret Wars was the culmination of Hickman’s Marvel work right? Spanning years and issues, and a metric ton of creative output. Civil War II feels more like a conventional Marvel event, and a lackluster one at that. I think the media is hyping it up much more than any of the fans, which feels odd.

In any case, early results aren’t always the best indicator of success as we’ve seen too many times during the spring. Rebirth may be doing well now, but what about next week? Next month?

I wouldn’t call it a success just yet.

Pat: No but that’s a great start. Green Arrow selling 90k is nuts, especially considering that it’s basically the exact same writer as the last run with an artist that, while good, was an unknown. If that’s the case I can’t imagine how well Batman & Superman Rebirth are going to do.

_20160602_192621Josh: Probably the same as they usually would, plus or minus 10 K is my guess. New #1’s always generate new interest but I can’t see them jumping up huge.

I’m out of the numbers trend, isn’t the Industry “down” compared to last year or something? But I think that’s usually attribute that to weak sales from DC because they’re second to Marvel.

Pat: I think it is down overall but that was at least partially because DC comics had fell behind by quite a bit in the first half of the year. And while I understand your logic regarding Superman: Rebirth, that book usually sold like 30k or something and I doubt it’s Rebirth book will be less then Green Arrow.

Josh: Wow, Superman has really hit a rough patch if his books sell that low. 10,000 is the usual criteria for cancellation at DC and Superman wasn’t even selling half as well as Batman?

I mean I hope his title continues and I’m happy to hear Doug Manke is drawing him again, I hope he keeps that up but I have to say Superman (the current incarnation who will star in the title) is probably the least interesting part of Rebirth touching Metropolis. The idea of Lex Luthor picking up his mantle and symbol (in Action?) is something I find really interesting. Add to that that there will be a Chinese Superman character by a Chinese-American writer and DC reinvesting in Supergirl with quality talent, I can’t help but feel that Superman himself is just kind of there.

Pat: I do agree with you in that regard, I’m much more excited for All New Superman & Supergirl both from the perspective of the creative teams & concepts. Your assessment of Superman being “just kind of there” is a pretty good summation of Superman: Rebirth #1 unfortunately.

366104._SX640_QL80_TTD_Josh: I mean I hate having that opinion but I don’t feel like its unjustified. The premise is cool enough, classic Supes with a wife and kid? But then you got the guy who’s been with DC for forever and tends to favor crossovers and fitting into continuity to just telling interesting stories. DC dropped the ball not giving Superman to someone new and/or better.

Crazy idea, Clark Kent retires from heroics and just focuses on being a father to Jonathan Kent who becomes SUPERBOY and Chinese Superman is just SUPERMAN. There, I just solved a bunch of redundancies and made that situation make more sense.

Instead we’ll have two Supermen running around, one of whom doesn’t even want to be Superman anyway. Maybe DC should’ve just let Superman stay dead and then reveal that new Lois and Clark over time and introduce their son. Instead we know almost everything up front and so the excitement is kind of left to the talent to muster.

And like I said, Tomasi doesn’t do that for me.

Pat: “Instead we’ll have 2 Supermen running around, one of whom doesn’t even want to be Superman anyway”
Plus Lex Luthor trying to a techno-functional Superman & the OTHER Lois Lane as Superwoman with “the powers are killing her” element like in the current version of Thor. Yeah, the swbur wasn’t promising but, considering that in contrast with the rest of the of Rebirth Issues that came out last week, that’s a pretty good start for DC all things considered.

Josh: I suppose. If nothing else, I guess the Metropolis corner of the DC isn’t in danger of being “boring” which is encouraging.

Pat: “Boring” is relative….

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