Like Marvel comics has had before them, today I’m taking a look at the new DC Comics Rebirth lineup of titles announced last weekend. DC Comics attempted to reboot in the summer of 2011 with their New 52 initiative. Though initially successful, readers quickly tired of the redundant writing & art styles that was often overtly in your face with little substance and dated concepts, while creative talent left the books in droves over accusations of overreaching editorial mandates. In 2015, the publisher began walking away from the concept; first with their Convergence event whose story was used to reestablish the Multiverse and then the DC You initiative, a sincere attempt to diversify the style and creative talent on their line of books. In spite of some really great comics, DC You failed to reestablish the publisher’s already shrinking market share while the one two punch of Star Wars & Secret Wars allowed chief competitor Marvel Comics to dominate the direct market. During WonderCon 2016, DC Comics announced another new initiative with a relaunch of the publishers comics with new #1’s and creative teams for their series of titles. Some look great, some of the creators brought in during DC You have leveled up, some familiar faces are sticking around, some new writers have been brought into the fold and some comics vet’s are returning after years away from the publisher. Some books look great, some have potential, some look kind of bland and some look like hot garbage. Will divide the contenders from the pretenders with Yay, Mayhaps or Nay. As always, remember that not even all of the creative teams have been announced let alone all the possible series so this lineup is subject to change.
Batman & Robin Eternal #1 is an exciting introduction to the series that plays with the Bat-Family mytho’s in a Dick Grayson centric opening that’s heavy on motion & mystery. It works best in it’s moments of big dumb action while the conceit of it’s plot has some questions to answer if it want’s to live up to it’s ambitions.
While last years Batman Eternal felt like a streamlined approximation of the character in the New 52 DC, this incarnation feels more in tune with the last year of the Batman office. It’s wild, exciting, expressive, dynamic and entertaining on a visceral level from the opening salvo and throughout the issue. This is a story that for all intents and purposes, start with Dick Grayson chasing a bad guy on a motorcycle up the side of a building, yeah it’s dumb but it’s fantastically dumb in all the right ways. Main writer James Tynion IV has improved greatly over the last year or so and it shows here. Like his writing on Constantine or UFOlogy, his character work is fun and lively as he’s managed to find his voice within the story with a sly wit and insightful sarcasm. That and the constant movement driven from the plot’s misdirection are the best parts of the comic. Artist Tony Daniel isn’t as precise in his line work as he’s been in the past, but there is still a technical fluidity to his visual story telling that makes for a electrifying narrative. The bright color work by Tomeu Morey held add to the setting by giving it a sleek and modern urban vibrancy that feels is step with the books modus operandi.
In those ways, Batman & Robin Eternal is great and represents a huge improvement from the last series debut. That said, it’s not without it’s fault. Eternal continues the trend of the Bat books using technology as magical plot engines as opposed to giving it some sort of real world analogous application with it twice being used as way to end a scene rather improbably. On a larger scale, the overall plot leaves a lot of big questions, with one particular plot thread that is going to take a lot of maneuvering to to make right with the Batman mythology as it undoes a core tenant of the character. That’s fine, this is a weekly series and they wouldn’t have much of a story to tell if they weren’t seeding a lot from the start. Knowing Snyder’s writing style, I would expect many of the plot elements to twist and turn in several different ways before intersecting at the end of the story.
A weekly comic is asking a lot of the creators and audience. Even with the talent on display for this series, it requires a high degree of skill from the talent and a lot of patience from the readers. But if nothing else, Batman & Robin Eternal #1 makes a strong argument for it’s existence and has a lot to enjoy on multiple levels. Where it goes from here is going to be the real test for the series, but at the very least, it’s starting from a place of strength.