DC has rebooted once again and were covering it every week in our comic convo’s. Here is week seven on Hellblazer, Batgirl & The Birds of Prey Rebirth & Justice League #1Pat: Another week, another plethora or Rebirth books for us to choose from. This week saw the first issue of the new Justice League series along with the debut’s of Hellblazer & Birds of Prey. I was super busy with a friend visiting from out of town and a music festival but I managed to check out all the new releases from DC, what about you?
Josh: I checked out JL and Hellblazer, I’ve never really been a fan of Batgirl so I skipped that issue.
Pat: I’ll say that out of what was a pretty underwhelming week for me & DC Rebirth debut’s, Birds of Prey was definitely the worst of the bunch; mostly for the same reason that a lot of the Rebirth issues haven’t worked when they’ve been less then great.
Pat: Pretty much, the art had some good narrative structure in terms of it’s action sequences but felt kind of lackluster after that. The writing was corny. As you guessed, it was all about the character’s past continuity and done so in the most basic way possible. Like, just having the character’s directly say to either the reader or each other the exact details of their past so the reader knows what they’re deal is. Of course, they HAD TO reference The Killing Joke for Batgirl which is just, blahhh. I get it but I’m so fucking sick of that part of the comic just lingering around the character. Unfortunately that’s as much depth as we get because all we got out of Black Canary & Huntress is a summary of the last series they were in, the lettering even makes sure to bold type GRAYSON so readers know exactly where to look for more Helena if this interpretation impresses anybody enough to want to seek out further stories about her. This goes back to my issue with Marvel & DC in how they take people off TV shows and just throw them into deep water continuity of their comics series. This book wasn’t ever offensively bad per say, but it was so bland as the issue was focused on telling readers things about the charachter’s that we should all know anyway in the most uninspired way possible while failing to incorporate the strengths of the medium itself and by proxy, failed to utilize the art team’s strengths who did look great in spots but weren’t given enough to really leave any type of solid imprint on the final product.
Also, the crux of the series is that someone is impersonating Oracle so it’s getting the same loose premise that’s been permeating the rest of the more unoriginal Rebirth titles (that of the hero’s identity being tampered with) but in doing so with Batgirl, it probably means that we are going to have to sit though all the bummer parts of her backstory that this relates to (The Killing Joke) instead of all the times that she was awesome as Oracle (Suicide Squad, Morrison & Porter’s JLA, so many great Batman stories from the Brubaker/Rucka years up to The Black Mirror) while also managing to suck all the air out of the room from Black Canary & Huntress. In a week where all the new DC books we’re pretty mediocre, this one took the cake.
Josh: That sucks. One thing that I was surprised by now that I’m looking at the credits for the comic more closely is that the writers are sisters and the artist herself is Scottish. Neat bit of trivia.
I think its good that the creative team is all women working on a title starring women, but that by itself shouldn’t be the main concern in making this title. Like David Finch’s wife writing Wonder Woman, yeah it’s cool to take chances on people that A)Don’t have wide exposure in comics and B) are female but I think talent needs to speak for itself if DC wants their work to actually succeed. Otherwise it reeks of desperation and poor planning, which given how recently the New 52 failed should be a priority for DC.
Besides all that, I think the cast is in fairly decent shape development wise. Black Canary was in a famous rock band in her last solo title which I thought was a great hook that wasn’t utilized enough, and Huntress in “Grayson” was more compelling than I’ve seen her in past comics or adaptations. I know not all of that may figure in to Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, but I think it should a little. Which brings me to Batgirl, a character that like you said, people keep connecting to The Killing Joke like a macabre albatross for her to escape from even though at this point she already should’ve. She was dealing with it since 2011 and even though she’s physically healed from it and it doesn’t mesh with the young, hip angle that revamped her I cannot fathom why her being shot by the Joker is at the forefront of the character’s history. If you watched the Bruce Timmverse cartoons, there was plenty there to endear the character to people that has nothing to do with her being paralyzed and/or raped by the Joker.
Like I said, I’m not really a fan of the character but even I can talk about her a fair amount without having to fall back on that story that Alan Moore doesn’t even like anymore.
Pat: “I think its good that the creative team is all women working on a title starring women”
You know, obviously DC is like Marvel in having a long history of underutilized female creators and as such, undeserving that population of their audience. Rebirth is a step backwards in that regard, there is less women working on DC Comics now then there was before the initiative. What I find problematic here is that instead of sourcing from the MANY female comics writers that could have worked on this book, they went with television writers and I think that really shows in the issue’s overall mediocrity. It’s character focused without having anything to say about the character’s that isn’t overtly generic and already well worn territory that ends up overwhelming the rest of the comics narrative to it’s detriment.
Josh: That is so weird that TV writers don’t bring more to the table when writing comics. There are exceptions (Paul Dini) but they seem really rare.
I would much rather have seen Mariko Tamaki (“Skim”, “This One Summer“, “TMNT: Casey and April“) be put on a book like this than a pair of writers from the CW.
Pat: Yeah, Mariko or her cousin Jilian Tamaki would’ve both been fantastic writers for this comic if there was any interest on their part. The same could easily be said for the likes of Emma Rios, Becky Cloonen, Spike Troutman, Alex DeCampi, Marjorie Lui, Corina Becko, Margueritte Bennett, Kate Leath, Amy Reeder, Clarie Gibson, Taki Soma ect. Again, I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes that may or may not prevent any of those writers from taking on this comic and that’s not even considering say, Gail Simone who isn’t involved with any DC books going forward or Kelly Sue DeConnick who is strictly on some creator owned shit right now.
It’s frustrating because as someone whose been promoting the idea of more diverse creators, it feels like when DC or Marvel go that route but do so outside of comics, it undermines the comics community in general. That’s not always the case per say; obviously Coates has been fantastic on Black Panther and Roxanne Gay is well established enough as a literary figure that she I think using her for a Black Panther book with Coates makes a lot of sense. But when it’s TV writers doing their first comic in this high profile a fashion while more then a few great female comics writers that have proven to understand the medium and created more then their fair share of great comics are no where to be found here or otherwise, I find it problematic.
Josh: Agreed. Of course this is just one issue and like we’ve both said Rebirth issues have usually all been mixed, even from veteran creators so there’s always the chance that next issue will be a better product.
What did you think of Hitch’s second installment of the JL post Rebirth?
Pat: The art was not nearly as bad this time around but it still felt pretty listless and without purpose. So far that’s been far and away the most disappointed I’ve been with a the first two issues of any Rebirth series. I’m really not sure if I’m going to continue with the comic which is frustrating because I really want to read a Justice League book that I like and it just feels like it’s not happening no matter who does what with the property.
Josh: I sympathize and felt the same way about this issue but for different reasons.
So Wonder Woman spends most of the issue stuck in Russia not doing anything to deal with all these natural disasters, which is a problem Johns had in his run. The League is fighting this nameless, faceless foe that’s larger than life but also lacking in much distinction.
Every time I read Hitch’s Justice League stories I find myself thinking “Yeah this is big and grand and all, but can they just fight the Injustice League or AMAZO or a good old fashioned super-villain for awhile?”For a guy that tries to tell these epic stories, I don’t think Hitch is nearly as successful as someone like Scott Snyder on Batman. One he’s following DC’s guy, Geoff Johns, and two, the stories are unimaginative and not just because they feel like stories from 10 years ago which they do.
I’m actually more excited for Francis Manapul’s Trinity because if nothing else it will look great but also at bare minimum do something with these characters that are so well known but undervalued in the zeitgeist.
Pat: “The League is fighting this nameless, faceless foe that’s larger than life but also lacking in much distinction”
Yeah and unfortunately, that feels like it’s been Hitch’s modus operandi for the duration of his time on the title. It was cool at the start of JLA at first but it got stale. Then the Rebirth issue was basically the same premise meant to highlight why Superman is joining them and now in the debut issue it’s a different faceless omnipotent threat. I understand the compulsion because it’s the Justice League but it just feels like that’s all there is to it.
Josh: Did Wonder Woman attacking Russia get any positive response when you saw that sequence?
Pat: I honestly thought nothing of it, why do you ask?
Josh: Eh, I thought it was pretty political for a company like DC but also a story choice that made complete sense for Wonder Woman.
Let’s move to Hellblazer.
Josh: I thought it was doing alright until all the cameos popped in. Of course I probably should’ve expected it, but of course I had high hopes for this issue that just didn’t get met.
Pat: I was a huge fan of the last Constantine series by Tynion, Doyle & Rossmo; before it was over it became one of the ten best ongoings in comics. I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be as good and that it was going to try and do a version of the character that hewed closer to the Vertigo series by putting him back in London. I agreed with a lot of what your review said, the art was really cool at points but substandard in others. The writing was solid in terms of a Hellblazer story but nothing mind blowing. Very middle of the road all around which I suppose is fine for a Rebirth issue but in comparison to the last run on the character, not as strong and if you were looking to return to the Vertigoesque roots on the title it doesn’t seem like it get’s that either, at least not enough to be satisfy that desire.
Josh: No and now that I think about it, I’m not that crazy about John looking at the camera and going “Ain’t I a stinker?” I can tell Simon Oliver knows the character, but at this point I think he has the most mainstream awareness he’s ever had with all the TV appearances and fan fervor so maybe we don’t need to hear about Newcastle and how John’s friends die all the time.
For this series to succeed as a continuation of the character, where do you think it should go? Hellblazer stories ran the gamut of genres but I’m not quite sure how to make that subject matter work now.
Pat: Well I think more then anything it needs an inker and colorist that can smooth out some of those panels. Outside of that, I do think if Rebirth is an approximation of what we can expect from the series, I suppose it will be fine in a traditional sense. The question of “where should it go” as opposed to “where should it go for me to continue reading it” are two different things. If what they want is just a general John Constantine series then this could easily fill that role. What I’d like from the series is the feeling that I got from the last one which is similar to some of my favorite Hellblazer stuff from Ennis & others; that being the feeling of unpredictability, wonder and horror all wrapped together. Not sure if that’s really going to happen here just based on the limitations of the artist, let alone the idea that the character is some integral staple of the DC Universe which appears to be why they keep rebooting his series.
Josh: If they want a central magic figure I don’t know why they wouldn’t use Dr.Fate? John’s profile is larger so I guess there’s that.
“What I’d like from the series is the feeling that I got from the last one which is similar to some of my favorite Hellblazer stuff from Ennis & others, that being the feeling of unpredictability, wonder and horror all wrapped together.”
That I can agree with, Hellblazer had some of the craziest stories I’ve ever read while most series now try to make him this charming paranormal investigator and it really doesn’t work in large doses because it goes against everything that’s central to the character.
I’ll give it another issue but I hope Oliver has more in store than just a demon of the week and a fool’s bluff.
Pat: ” I hope Oliver has more in store than just a demon of the week and a fool’s bluff.”
That’s sort of the problem because what you write above is what I think most people would assume is the the basic foundation for what a Constantine series should be. When the comic was at it’s worst, it’s always been when they’ve focused on the above mentioned plot point because it’s just formulaic for the character at this point.
Josh: I think the worst mistake you can make writing the character in comic form is assuming there is a formula at all.
Pat: Agreed, but at the same time it’s so easy to put him in a box like you described. I’d like to think that this series will be different but based on the actual contents of this issue combined with the general direction DC is taking, I can see Hellblazer being pretty by the numbers at this point.