Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Brad Walker, Andrew Hennessy
This Aquaman Rebirth series has slowly grown on me over this first arc. At first it appeared the growth of the character was becoming stagnant. Having conflicts centered on Aquaman against the service world and Blank Manta felt like treading water at this point. As this story has progressed writer Dan Abnett has approached these familiar stories with a slightly new angle. More importantly he has given us a compelling Aquaman that is stuck in a situation where there are seemingly no right choices.
Having Superman show up in this issue does somewhat come out of left field. Mostly due to the new status quo that was recently reset. These two characters have a long and storied history with one another, but not with the two versions that are now face to face. Oh, comics. That element is gracefully glossed over. What is reveled is how Aquaman views himself compared to the rest of the Justice League. How there are some insecurities, yet at the same time being a King he is on another level then them all. Abnett gives us the fight the cover promises. Inside that action he injects some needed character beats to make it more than an empty set piece.
The one element of this issue I question is the twist involving Black Manta. Without spoilers we witness just how vicious Manta can be at any moment. My concern is how it nearly undoes one of the best parts of this arc so far. How Aquaman and Black Manta ended their last battle was a fulfilling conclusion. Yes this is comics so of course that would not be the end, but this move again makes it once again appear we are moving backwards. I was wrong before and I am willing to bet I can be wrong again.
Due to some well-paced storytelling Aquaman #6 does exactly what the final issue of a story arc should. The action progressed to its apex giving us loads of fun while not forgetting to tell a story along the way. For nearly every problem that was resolved a new one has arose giving the series many different directions to travel down in future stories. Here is hoping this success continues as we move onto the next series arc.
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado
Even a character as popular as Batman has elements people forget. Everyone is well aware of his amazing capabilities from his intuitive detective knowhow to his nearly unmatched matched martial arts skills. When it comes to Batman as a person people forget he is more than this dark soul who is relentlessly dedicated to justice. In Batman #6 Tom King reminds us at as a person reborn from tragedy Batman is man of great empathy. So much so he will sacrifice what he holds most dear if it can help protect the innocent.
With that said the focus here is mainly on Gotham Girl. She is slowly losing her mind as she copes with the death of her brother. Anyone who has read King’s Vision knows how twisted his stories can get. Gradually he is bringing that same twisted style to Batman. I am making this issue seem like a depressing tale void of fun or laughs. That’s not the case. There’s some great fun here including a rather hilarious introduction to some mundane villains like Kite Man. I only hope we get more Kite Man in future stories.
At the end though what made this issue instantly memorable for me was when Batman goes to unexpected lengths to save the psyche of Gotham Girl. It was such a well written earnest moment full to the brim of emotional resonance. Six issues in and King as already put his unique stamp on the character of Batman. After the well regarded Scott Snyder run and Tom King’s early praise expectations were extremely high for this series. To King’s credit he has lived up to that hype so far. If King can keep this pace going those expectations are only going to grow.
Cyborg Rebirth #1
It is becoming abundantly clear that the later a Rebirth book is released the lower the quality of the issue. Cyborg Rebirth #1 is by no means an awful book. It is simply paint by numbers retelling of Cyborg’s origin. For new readers it works as an introduction to the character, but for anyone else there is not much here to enjoy. Nearly the entire issue is this extended action sequence that is rather dull. Part of the problem is when your conclusion is dependent upon characters hacking one another and you display this solely through dialog it is not very satisfying.
The one saving grace for this issue is the question it raised regarding the character of Cyborg. Is Victor Stone still alive as Cyborg, or is Cyborg a new entity that only believes he was once Victor Stone. That is the only aspect of this issue that has me at all intrigued to read more.
Green Arrow #6
Writer: Ben Percy
Artist: Stephen Byrne
Green Arrow #6 may be more aptly named Emiko: Rebirth as this entire issue is her story. It fills in much of her background to let us better understand her actions in the story so far. Emiko is shown as someone stuck between many different worlds and expectations. The classic tale of the young person dealing with everyone telling them what to do and them responding by rejecting all of it.
One way Emiko displays her individually is by investing a group of kids at school on her own accord. Something about the way they were acting and their unique choice of wrist ware was sending signals that something was not right. She discover these watches do grant special powers but at a grand cost.
On one hand this does give some much needed depth to the character of Emiko on the other it reeks of a filler story. Something that is simply getting in the way of the main arc. Seeing this different version of Clock King has some intrigued, but despite this issue Emiko as a character has not impressed.
What has impressed is the art work of Stephen Byrne. All three artists on this book so far have been putting in some stellar work. Byrne’s color are also notable as they really empathize his clean line. Of all the Rebirth issue this series has consistently looked the best.
Justice League #4
Writer: Bryan Hitch
Artist: Jesus Merino
The Justice League series continues to be one gigantic action set piece with little in-between. In true Justice League fashion the world is on the brink of destruction and the only people who can save it are the Justice League. The Kindred, these mysterious giant alien lifeforms, desire to purge the Earth for reasons yet determined. The Justice League attempt to fight back but the situation is looking more and direr. The rookie Green Lanterns are facing off against a massive invasion, Superman is down in the Earth’s core trying to stop the onslaught of Earth quakes, Flash and Wonder Woman come face to face with The Kindred, and Batman and Cyborg at currently stuck on the sidelines trying to better understand what is going on.
It is safe to say there is a lot going on, which is a big part of what is not working with this book. Building mystery is an important part of storytelling. Not everything needs to be spelled out to minute detail. However, you do need to give us enough to comprehend major events. Witnessing Superman struggling with nonspecific forces in the core of the earth is not the most thrilling sequence to read. This story has become one long extended disaster sequence that goes on for far too long. At this point this series just needs to stop take a breath and gives us more of a reason to care.
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Javi Fernandez
The ending of Nightwing’s first arc made two things very evident. This book is a lot of fun to read despite the fact the actual storyline has been overall forgettable.
What has made this book work Tim Seeley’s take on Nightwing as a character. As Dick states on many occasions he is doing things his way. The interaction between him and Raptor has made up for what the plotline has been missing. While it is evocative of the relationship between Nightwing and Midnighter it is not a carbon copy. Based on how this issue ends part of me wonders if that familiarity was purposeful in order to circumvent expectations.
My hope is going forward we get a break from the Parliament of Owls or any Owl group as a whole. What started as fresh Batman family villain has quickly become stale. It becomes evident here with how anticlimactic The Moloch was as a threat. Javi Fernandez’s design was well rendered, but the execution was somewhat silly. Perhaps it was the oddity of seeing these street level heroes fighting off this midnight madness monster.
Even as a fan of the Grayson series I am happy to see Nightwing once again return to the world of DC comics. This ‘Better than Batman’ arc is not in fact been better than Batman, but has been an entertaining read throughout. Now that we got the proverbial Owl’s story out of the way Seeley can shift the focus elsewhere going forward.
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Brian Ching
Supergirl Rebirth was by far the worst Rebirth title issued. Beyond the confusion caused by forcing in elements of the TV show it was just a poorly plotted story that became laughably bad once a Kyrption Wearwolf showed up. Perhaps DC was even aware of how much of a misfire that issue was because this comes off like an entire redo from what came before. Yes it is clear the TV world and comic world are becoming one and the same. I am certain that will annoy many fans and I understand that feeling. Personally after last issue I was just happy this story was competently told.
Writer Steve Orlando is approaching Supergirl as someone who is fresh to the superhero role. She Is still getting used to life on Earth and struggling to fit in with her classmates and our primitive technology. Although I do question the use of an overhead projector as the primitive tool she is unable to operate correctly during class. I am sure most millennials would struggle if handed them an overhead projector.
This was a much improved way to approach the character. The story was simple but well plotted. Clearly the only time she feels comfortable is when she is playing the role of Supergirl. I am intrigued by the idea of a Spider-Man esc story with this character. If we get more issues like this and less like the Rebirth story this series could be a success.
Writer: Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason
Artist: Patrick Gleason, Mick Gray
Someone needs to bring this first arc of the Superman Rebirth series to those making DC movies so they can see how to do Superman the right way. Often people make the remark that Superman is a character from an era long passed. That he is too powerful and one dimensional to relate to today’s audience. My response to that is similar to when people say Captain America is a boring character. Both characters are still capable of producing fantastic stories the key is placing them in situations where their bygone principals are uniquely challenged.
Portraying Superman as a father for example, has opened up an entirely new relatable side to the character. Having him living on the farm with Lois and his son has created a Smallville like quality but with a new feel. In this issue everything is coming to a head as Superman is not only fighting for the lives of him and his family but the legacy of the Kryptonian people. Having Eradicator as the first villain of this series was somewhat surprising. In the end though it worked brilliantly. Thematically this first arc is brilliantly tied together with elements of fatherhood. legacy, and family. Eradicator works s as a reflection of all those taking the critiques that are thrown at Superman the character and transforming them for the comic book world.
The final few pages of this issue come off as Superman reclaiming the dignity that has been lost for some time. Imagery that writers, artists, and directors have shied away from is put on the forefront as Superman stands with his stoic pose as the American flag stands strong in the background. True, Justice, and the American way appears to be the mantra once again.
The Sheriff of Babylon #10
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
With two issues left I feel one hundred percent comfortable in saying The Sheriff of Babylon will go down as the best comic book series of the year without question. Yes there are a lot of other great books out there. (Some of those are also written by Tom King) The Sheriff of Babylon however is just on another level in its execution and level of importance. I would even extend my praise beyond the world of comic books and say this may be the best work of fiction this year period.
There have been many films and TV shows that have tried to properly dramatize the war in Iraq and the results have been widely mixed. None of them through have been able to encapsulate the experience quite like Tom King has in this book. Perhaps it is due to his personal experience being stationed in the region. Unquestionably there is a level of authenticity to this series that many others lack. Really though it is much more than that. King has not set out to tell a political story. There is no force agenda beyond the desire to tell a compelling story with dynamic characters.
When this book started it did feel like you were thrown in and forced to find your own understanding of what was taking place. You learn about the intricacies of the cultural politics as the story progresses causing things to make more sense issue by issue. Now that we are in issue ten everything is coming together bit by bit, like that puzzle that slowly revels the beautiful imagery it holds. This issue is full of those ah ha moments along with a heavy dose of nail biting tension. The only negative aspect of this book I could think of is having to wait another month for the next issue. If you are a fan of comics or storytelling in general and you are not reading this series I implore you to rectify that as soon as possible.
The Flintstones #3
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh
I do not know how you explain what happens in this new Flintstones series and not seem like a crazy person. Sure we all know The Flintstones and could give our best Yabadabadoo impressions, or so we think based on what this issue tells us. Never in my life did I think I would read or watch a Flintstones stories that tackles complex issues like the disenfranchising of war veterans, but that is now the world which we live.
Mark Russell, the mind that has given us Prez, has once again written a series filled with biting commentary and next level satirical wit. To make things more fun I assume he is doing this with characters more often associated with selling children sugar charged breakfast cereals.
There are a lot of different tones at play here. To start off we get quite the visual gag of trying to send a monkey into space via dropping a large dinosaur onto an over sized seesaw. Shortly after you have a depressed war veteran attempting to call suicide hotline only to be put on hold. Two very different types of comedy that may be too much for some people. I could easily see some not being able to take the oddity of this series.
After the attempt to launch a chimp into space the action catches the attention of alien creatures that come down and visit. Seeing how primitive the world is they shortly leave, however shortly after their adolescent coeds show up to have galactic spring break. They cause major death and destruction leading Fred and Barney to rally their fellow Water Buffalos into battle. By the time all the events unfold and the last page was read I was left awestruck. It is challenging to even quantify the experience of this series so far. Part of you wants to laugh at its audacity, part is shocked DC and Hanna Barbera would let this be released, and part of me just wants a hug due to how darkly depressing things can get. I can not guarantee you that you will read this series and enjoy it, but I can guarantee you it will be like nothing else you read this year.