Josh: Week 2 of Rebirth has come and gone. What are our lasting impressions of DC’s latest offerings?
Pat: I thought this weeks books were pretty interesting. I didn’t love anything as much as Batman but I felt like every book was doing something unique in their takes, some more successful then others, yet all of which felt engaging in their own way.
Josh: Hmm, that’s a fair assessment. I’m slowly realizing that books like Batman and Green Arrow are outliers instead of indicative of Rebirth’s actual quality. So far its shaping up to be better than the New 52 launch but I find myself wishing for more surprises than Rebirth has given.
Pat: I can see that. So far the books have just been mostly introductions. One thing I’ve noticed about this weeks books is how so many of them felt like they followed a similar formula. It’s an introduction to the character & cast with a final page reveal of the villain. With that said, each creative took there own path there which is what I found most interesting.
Josh: Holy crap, now that you said that I realized all three Rebirth books I read this week literally did that. Oh, that makes me sad. Rebirth just lost points in my eyes for that.
But no, each one did take a different “road” to that same ending which could explain why I didn’t recognize it until now.
Am I biased for preferring books like Batman and Green Arrow for just telling a story with those characters assuming I’ve kept up with them beforehand, or did they just break away from a mold that others would follow?
Pat: It’s strange, because I felt like all those first week books were also doing a similar format to one another though not like this weeks. I think Batman & Green Arrow were objectively better then most of the stuff this week although with those two books, it was for very different reasons as they had highly contrasting styles. I’m assuming that the similarities this week are specifically intentional which is why we didn’t see the same format in week one.
At the same time, I feel where your coming from. It became really apparent to me when I read Detective, Aquaman & Action back to back. I suppose The Flash deviated from the ending although using the Watchmen pin might’ve been its own type of reveal while in Wonder Woman, the villain is an abstract concept of “the lie” But with the three former books, it became very apparent.
Still, I did appreciate that they were giving each book a very specific stylistic flourish. Even though Aquaman & Action Comics both had very similar structures and plot points, how they got to each was wildly different from one another.
Josh: I feel like Flash fell into the same ending as the others by teasing Reverse-Flash, although that could be a red herring.
Lets dig deeper into Aquaman as that was the issue that I felt was most successful out of the ones I read.
Although the art wasn’t as great or consistent as Action, I enjoyed Aquaman for its back to the basics approach and the way it humanizes both Arthur and Mera as people and a couple. Also it showed off why Aquaman is cool as a hero, to me at least, in that the Oceans are a large area to watch over and there’s always something demanding his attention.
Pat: I’d agree with you on a lot of that. The art was hit or miss but Abnett did a really great job of doing what you said in summarizing the character from third person narration. I think the books first half was pretty strong visually but what really held everything together was how he approached Aquaman and exploring his contrasts. Abnett has been doing great work with DC Comics recently, it feels like he has a really good grasp on the hero’s and is interested in exploring them within the larger context of the DCU. Aquaman Rebirth gives the reader everything they need to know about the character but does so in a way that also clearly establishes the tone of the series. It’s definitely one that I’m looking forward to reading more of in the future
Josh: Something else I realized, Aquaman plays in his own sandbox. Literally. It’d be so easy to try to justify other DC heroes showing up to make the title more interesting, but Abnett did that with just Aquaman’s usual cast and plot points. Something that took me out of Jeff Parker’s run by the end was all these appearances from other heroes and villains that felt unnecessary. Its honestly why I didn’t enjoy seeing Batman in a Flash comic this week.
But despite being critical of it, I think Abnett proves to be a good choice for the character and likewise I’m looking forward to seeing what else he does with the character.
Pat: “Aquaman plays in his own sandbox”
That’s partially why using Abnett for Aquaman was such a strong pairing. His best work was with Andy Lanning in the Marvel cosmic books, comics that were so influential they ended up being the template for the Guardians Of The Galaxy film. Those comics rarely crossed over into anything within the mainstream Marvel Universe, you didn’t see Spider-Man or Wolverine pop up to increase sales. Instead he used this sprawling underutilized cast of characters to great effect. One of the reasons I’m more excited about Abnett’s Aquaman is the potential for that. The character is part of the Justice League, readers well have ample opportunity to see him with Batman or Superman in that book. Abnett has the ability to craft his own adventures with the characters that are singular to the series itself and that feels like the type of Aquaman comic I want to read.
Josh: Yeah, I was really surprised to see the former Aqualad Garth (Tempest) in the background this issue, and I know Geoff Johns (re)introduced the “newer” Aqualad in Rebirth so I think the pieces are there for Abnett to create some classic superhero stories with Aquaman’s cast.
Let’s switch gears and get an update on Metropolis. Although I liked Action Comics #957 (catchy name) more than I thought, with Patrick Zircher’s incredible art and fast pacing, I couldn’t help but miss the Superman epics of old.
Which I know people are probably sick of and they might not be good for the industry, seeing all the turns in this one issue felt like watching a M. Night Shamalan sequence of twists without the movie parts in between. I feel like it would’ve worked better as the start of a year long epic like “New Krypton” or the Superman comics post-“Infinite Crisis” where the plot threads developed over time and we got to appreciate the changes in the status quo. They weren’t always the best written, and sometimes they plot themselves into corners, but there’s enough material here for several stories and I feel like DC and Jurgens are letting it go to waste.
Pat: Action Comics was straight up bonkers. Where as Aquaman was focused and measured, I though Action was all over the place. Zircher’s art was great, probably the best I’ve seen from him since Suicide Squad although I don’t know if it was enough to carry the story. Not to say it was bad per say, but holy shit was that a lot to take in. Two Superman’s, Lex Luthor, the Kent family & the surprise villain at the end. Even with having the context of Superman Rebirth along with my general awareness of the character, I found it very confusing and thought it was rushed in parts, especially with pre-52 Superman & his family.
Josh: I thought up until the new/old Kal El decided to come back as Superman things were flowing evenly enough. After that its a mile a minute. Which helps Action live up to its name, but again, if the time was taken to tell this story over a year or even six months I feel like it would be a better comic. The fact that it ended with Doomsday appearing kind of irritated me because I saw him in BvS and that’s really all I can stand of him for the rest of the year. He’s an overused, half baked villain. Not even half baked, lukewarm.
The turn of Lex as a straight up hero is something that won’t make sense unless you’ve read Justice League, but even then its a hop and skip to why he’s in Metropolis now instead of off planet. I would’ve liked to see that moment, where he’s like “This is it, this is my chance to redeem or ruin Superman by being the hero I was meant to be.”
I mentioned in my review that Zircher’s art looked very reminiscent of other Superman artists like Gary Frank, Tony Daniels, and Pete Woods, but do you think that’s true?
Pat: Tony Daniels on surely along with the other artists you mentioned on some level but Zircher can be interesting in that, he has a very straight forward line yet with a static to it that’s difficult for me to put my finger on.
I agree that Doomsday is pretty weak although two things in favor of his usage here are that if your going to use Doomsday, having him go against three variations of Superman is a good way to show him as a pure force of destruction and Jurgens was the co-creator of the character so if somebody is going to utilize him, it might as well be Jurgens. I’m sure Doomsday appearing in Batman vs Superman was partially the reason for his usage here, for better or worst.
Josh: You mentioned three variations of Superman, I’m assuming that’s including the Clark Kent that mysteriously shows up in the middle of the story? I’m convinced that’s a Superman robot or someone impersonating Clark for ulterior motives.
Now the story would get really crazy if Jonathan Kent flew into the battle as Superboy and the newly powered Lois Lane joined in as well, referencing the four person Supermen story that came after “Death of Superman”. Or maybe throw Supergirl in there instead of one of them, that’d make more sense.
Did anything crazy happen in Gotham City this week?
Pat: Detective was much more measured. Cosmo has a pretty solid write up about it that I think mirrors a lot of what I felt. It’s certainly a cool premise. Tynion & co execute it very well, especially with the dialogue. At the same time, it is almost 100% set up. I’m intrigued for the series quite a bit after the first issue in spite of that.
Josh: My main thought reading it was “Seems like its called Detective in name only”. As much as Action felt like a twelve ton train steamrolling over plot, it somehow fit the name on the cover. Detective comics hasn’t felt like one in ages. However, I haven’t read this particular issue so maybe I’m wrong on that front.
Something else hit me about the cast. Batman seemingly runs into his fellow vigilantes so randomly and so rarely I’m always glad to see them but they never feel like their inclusion was worth the time in the story. This premise that Tynion has presented of a Batman bootcamp reminds me of a failed pitch Bruce Timm had with a network about a group of kids competing to be the next Batman for a reality show, before he eventually conceived “Batman Beyond” I’m not saying Tynion knew about it beforehand, but y’know circles. Spirals. Weird patterns happen in comics.
In fact what if this is DC’s latest attempt to make the Outsiders work?
Pat: Mayhaps it’s some version of The Outsiders. That would be cool. And there is a mystery attached to it on some level. I think it has a great premise so I’m excited to see what they come up with
Josh: Speaking of mystery, what’s happening with Princess Diana?
Pat: Well to be honest, not a whole lot so far. Wonder Women Rebirth was very well written in terms of being a personal story, it did a lot to put the characters somewhat messy continuity into the context of her own psyche. In that way, it certainly sets up the books tone and modus operandi. Rucka is as always, great at this. His extensive time working on Image books feels as if it’s really sharpened his writing in that regard, Wonder Woman Rebirth is driven by internal dialogue, but that it’s concise helps in making it feel natural and not like overkill.
The two artists thing is somewhat mitigated by the narrative although the books second illustrator, Liam Sharp, is a lot stronger then the first. Still, it’s following the Rebirth week two formula on some level, although with the final reveal being more of a abstract concept then an actual villain.
Josh: See, I think its great that Rucka is working at DC on a female character that needs someone of his caliber.
That said, this sounds like another roadblock for WW. The whole “Who is Wonder Woman? What is my true origin?” has been done two to three times already and that’s just that I know of. DC just cannot seem to settle on an origin for Diana without retconning it. She’ll be the next Donna Troy if this keeps up. As extreme as the Azzerallo origin was, I feel like it opened up a sense of personal gravitas that the born from clay one just doesn’t have.
Then again, maybe going back to the classical interpretation is what’s best for the character. With her movie coming out next year DC may want to have her comic match up to her cinematic portrayal.
Pat: Yeah, I think it’s a strange choice to go back to that so recently after Azzerallo & Chiang but if part of Rebirth is mean to undo aspects of The New 52 then I suppose it makes sense. To it’s credit, Wonder Woman Rebirth seems to be leaving a lot of her origin ambiguous, at least in the first issue. It’s more centered on “the lies” which I believe is referring to the twin brother thing. I know that Johns has said that all these books are leading to an event comic so part of me wonders (no pun intended) if that is part of a larger story being told involving The Watchmen which makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth thinking about it. Speaking of Watchmen tie-in’s, how about that Flash?
Josh: Aside from having a single artist, I think I had the same feelings to it that you did to Wonder Woman. It did a decent job at catching readers up to Barry Allen and his story, but it feels like it gets sidetracked tying into Rebirth, Wally West’s return and a Batman cameo.
It was better than most of the previous issues after Buccellato and Manapul left but hasn’t instilled in me what I hoped it would as the next chapter for the Scarlet Speedster.
Pat: For both Flash & Wonder Woman; I wouldn’t judge the plots themselves too harshly only because these Rebirth issues are clearly meant to be stand alone stories that are introducing a new status quo for the characters in DC Continuity post Rebirth. Purely from a craft standpoint, I think both books are fine in their own way. Joshua Williamson really feels like he’s going back to the Mark Waid style of every-man first person narration which works well for the Flash whether it’s Wally or Barry. He has the voice down and based on his past writing, I feel like he’ll be able to craft a fairly engaging ongoing story once he get’s going. I was disappointed in seeing another Watchmen reference only because, for a guy that’s spent so much of his career doing creator owned comics and a comics writer that thought DC did him dirty during his run on Voodoo in the New 52’s inception; I find it hard to see how his principles can reconcile using those character’s in his own book. I’m pretty sure if Williamson left Skybound under dubious circumstances, he wouldn’t appreciate Robert Kirkman allowing other writers to utilize character’s from Ghosted, Birthright or Nailbiter. But I digress; you were less impressed with the art on this book. I didn’t mind it but thought it was as strange choice for the series. That said, I’m interested in seeing what this style can do with some of the more surreal aspects of the speed-force.
Josh: I’m not familiar with the specifics, but I’m fairly sure DC owns Watchmen? And the morality of that is pretty obvious, as is the legality. Its the way corporate comics like the big two have always worked. The difference with Image is that they guaranteed creators would own their work, outside of Spawn I don’t think there’s ever been any problems with that. So there’s the question of reality versus principal and I think a lot of creators just roll with it because that’s the business.
As much as I hate seeing Watchmen in the DCU, that’s comics. And I say that without a trace of irony. I can’t fathom why people are so excited for it.
All of that said, I expected more from this issue because of Williamson’s Image work.
Carmine Di Giandomencio’s was an interesting divergence from DC’s house style and the previous artists that have worked on the Flash over the past 5 years.
Pat: “‘I’m not familiar with the specifics, but I’m fairly sure DC owns Watchmen?”
They do, but that’s only because they took advantage of Moore & Gibbons. When the deal was conceived, the rights were supposed to go back to Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. I don’t know Williamson’s situation and I also know that a lot of creators that have come out against Before Watchmen were people like Ed Brubaker or Eric Stephenson who don’t need to work from DC Comics, but still is writing The Flash worth that much to you?
I do have one final theory that I’d like to propose to you as The Watchmen question is unavoidable: so far Alan Moore hasn’t commented at all on DC’s usage of his characters. Is it possible that perhaps they’ve come to some sort of reconciliation and are working with the writer on what will be the Watchmen related story? We’ve seen both Marvel & DC make amends with past creators and their estates while the main reason for Moore leaving last time is no longer with the company in Paul Levitz. Moreover, while it’s clear that some creators do not care about the moral issue’s of using Watchmen, I’m pretty sure Rucka is totally against it. Is this wishful thinking on my part or anywhere in the realm of possibility?
Josh: “They do but that’s only because they took advantage of Moore & Gibbons.”
Which is sadly not uncommon in comics going all the way back to Siegal and Shuster. Marvel and DC built themselves off of doing this. Guys like Bob Wayne and William Marston seemed to make peace with it somehow. Dave Gibbons himself doesn’t seem too bothered by it.
Is it possible that DC and Moore could bury the hatchet? Yes, anything is possible. Do I think its currently happening? No.
Alan Moore is probably one of the most stubborn and indignant creators to come out of comics since Steve Ditko. He doesn’t want his name attached to film adaptations of his work, he doesn’t want his old works praised to the level that it continuously get, he doesn’t even want his name on Miracleman anymore. I don’t know if he turns away his royalties if he gets them, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We talked about creators and principals, and to Moore’s credit I think he stuck to his principals which despite everything else I admire about him. I don’t think Moore wants any apologies or reconciliation other than for DC to give him the rights to Watchmen like he was promised. Since that will never happen, I don’t hold much hope he and DC could say “Bygones”.
As far as Rucka working at DC and Rebirth connecting to Watchmen, I think this is where reality steps in. Rucka wants to earn some extra money and Geoff Johns needed something to make Rebirth meaningful without having another multiverse crisis.
Pat: “Rucka wants to earn some extra money and Geoff Johns needed something to make Rebirth meaningful without having another multiverse crisis”
Nah, I’m almost positive Rucka didn’t need the money and before the announcement, he said that he wasn’t going to work for Marvel or DC on their superhero comics because of the creative limitations. Since the announcement, he’s also explained in detail why he came back and how DC made contingencies for his return for the story telling choices. Not only that, but behind the scenes DC has taken the book out of the Superman office because he wouldn’t work under a managing editor that’s been accused of multiple sexual harassment offenses.
Josh: Given the recent events with Midnighter and Prez, I think DC is more open to stories Rucka would want to tell.
I guess all that is good on DC’s part and even if they can never settle up with Moore, they could bring back other creators they’ve mismanaged to do right by them. Hopefully if they’re going to do all of that for Rucka they won’t just turn around and kick him out again.