We’re not quite at the one year mark on “Rebirth,” but things do feel like they’re starting to come together. The Titans know that something’s up with “Manhattan,” Batman and the Flash are going to investigate the button next month, and we’re about to peel back the curtain on Superman’s mystery. But…we’re not quite there yet. Let’s see what the deal is with DC this week.
Action Comics #974 (Jurgens/Zircher/Segovia/Thibert/Arreola): Grrrr. Action has had Jurgens doing the best Superman he’s done in years, but this issue is stuck spinning its wheels. This is the problem with publication schedules and big events: you end up with “filler” issues that don’t really resolve anything. We get a little more sense this issue of what’s up with mystery-Clark, but all we know for sure is that he’s weird, creepy, and a little childish. (Stalker alert! Keep far, far away from this Clark.) Then there’s the split aspect of this story which drops hints about Superwoman, but honestly, that stuff is going to get resolved in Superwoman and is out of place in this book. This issue is probably a necessary prelude to next month’s “Reborn,” but it’s not helping those who are impatient. Rating: 2.5 capes out of five.
Batgirl #8 (Larson/Wildgoose/Lam/Lopes): Hope Larson’s Batgirl is shaping up to be DC’s millennial zeitgeist book. Off the top of my head, I don’t think DC has any other titles about a super-genius young adult female who, when she’s not crime fighting, goes on dates to escape rooms, volunteers to teach coding to kids, and then goes to weirdly themed nightclubs with her transgender friend who’s complaining about discrimination at the fertility clinic. Yes, that’s a mouthful. If modern YA-adventure isn’t your thing, it’s still a distinctly Bat-book that remains safely out of Bruce’s shadow, with Babs dating the Penguin’s son and fighting a revamped Magpie. Rating: Three and a half phone apps out of five.
Blue Beetle #6 (Giffen/Kollins): Oh man, is it difficult to get into Blue Beetle. Part of the problem could be that it just isn’t connecting–so far–to the larger “Rebirth” puzzle. Most of DC’s books have at least a sense of interconnectedness, where even if they’re not directly tying together, there’s at least ongoing themes and motifs about legacies and time travel and Batman showing up everywhere. Blue Beetle remains independent, and maybe that’s a good thing, but we need to care about the characters enough to invest. OK, things are a little better this issue with clues of a larger Beetle legacy, and Dr. Fate finally does something scary. Still, this is not the standout Rebirth book. Rating: Two scarabs out of five.
Detective Comics #951 (Tynion/Duce/Sinclair): There’s a practical question as to how long the Batman books can keep up the pace of every story being an “oh, shit” moment. This was one of the downsides of Scott Snyder’s Batman run, where every story was an apocalypse in miniature and we had few simple, introspective stories. Tynion’s “Rebirthed” ‘Tec is good, but it’s now entering into its third apocalyptic arc, and this one’s definitely much bigger than the last two with Batman being framed for a very, very bad crime. The League of Shadows has declared all-out war, and it’s very, very bad, with one particularly killer fake out at the end which continues to leave us wondering where Batman’s most infamous villain is still hiding. Don’t get me wrong, “League of Shadows” is good and continues to evenly juggle the book’s large cast well…but it does make you wonder what you do when the Bat-threats keep escalating like this. Rating: Three and a half blades out of five.
Flash #17 (Williamson/Di Giandomenico/Gianfelice/Googe/Plascencia/Sotomayor): I wonder if Flash’s Rogues aren’t going to suffer the same problem. The Rogues have been written and rewritten so many times that escalation is going to have to be in their future at some point. That day isn’t today, though–Williamson ultimately keeps them grounded in an elaborate heist, but still just a heist. They’re close to crossing a particularly nasty line, but it hasn’t happened…yet. So this book maintains its optimism, but it’s inching just a little further away. The downside–this issue’s got three artists, never a good sign for a title on a twice-monthly schedule. Rating: Three lightnings out of five.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #15 (Venditti/Van Scriver/Wright): So this book now seems to have expanded to Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, and also the Yellow Lanterns and We’ve Got a Blue and a White One Too. In other words, this book is starting to get a little busy. It’s probably got the right creative team for the job, but unless you’re deep into GL history, this could get a little thick for readers. I mean, Hal and Kyle and Saint Walker are fighting some space thing over here, while Guy has ditched his ring to fight a specific Yellow Lantern over there. The latter is probably the more interesting and more grounded plotline of the two. Rating: Three rings out of five.
Justice League America #1 (Orlando/Reis/Prado/Albert/Ferriera): Two issues in, and Justice League America is still missing its heart. If you want the well-known Justice League, you go read Justice League. Orlando’s “JLA” needs to prove that it’s something more than “Batman and a bunch of B-grade characters.” The book’s refrain is that this is “the Justice League that people can trust,” but…it’s got Lobo. So between the unclear thesis and the very rapid pacing of this story, it’s hard to tell why we should care about this book. Well, it does have some very nice Ivan Reis art, and the opening salvo at least lets him further develop a barely tapped character that Reis drew in The Multiversity, and some new characters who…well, let’s just say these folks are an open parody of some folks at that “other” comics company. There’s some fun eye candy in this book even if the story isn’t very filling. Rating: Two and a half dolphins out of five.
Kamandi Challege #2 (Tomasi/Adams): All kids need some Neal Adams exposure. It’s nice to see an old-timer still getting some visibility, as with the recent reprint of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali and the parody in Harley Quinn. In keeping with the “challenge,” this story starts fresh with a new creative team that picks up from the “oh shit” moment of last issue (and will continue on like this for the next year). It’s straightforward, fun, extremely Kirbyesque, and a decent introduction to the character of Kamandi. One does have to wonder if there’s an overarching plot here, since this issue does introduce some surprise elements (are the New Gods getting wrapped into this?) and suggests a Multiversity connection as well. Also, Kamandi ends up at the place you’d be most likely to find a human after the apocalypse. Wokka-wokka! Rating: Four and a half flying chairs out of five.
Suicide Squad #12 (Williams/Romita Jr./Barrows/Friend/Ferriera/White/Skipper/Lucas): This new arc continues to be a letdown with the weak JRJR art and an uninteresting villain. The better story is in the backup with the “Who killed (SPOILER)?” mystery, where the art is tolerable and there’s a little bit of a humorous rundown on which Squad member could have done it. A solution is presented this issue, but this is only part 2, so it’s a little early for it to be solved that easily. Rating: Two and a half lockups out of five.
Teen Titans #5 (Percy/Pham/Von Grawbadger/Charalampidis): Interesting to contrast this against Detective this week, since that book has some brutal League of Shadows stuff going on. Here, it’s a little more campy—still totally evil, but in that digestible, kid-friendly sense. The solution is a little been there, done that, but it gets the larger problem off the Titans’ backs and sets them up as an ongoing team. I’ve said this before, but Teen Titans is shaping up to be a decent, “graduate” book for kids moving from younger comics to standard superhero fare. Now, let’s see if this can continue outside the Batman’s shadow in future issues. Rating: Three titans out of five.
The Hellblazer #7 (Oliver/Tan/Santos): Same as with Blue Beetle, Hellblazer is unconnected from the larger “Rebirth” puzzle and is a little hard to connect with right now–doubly so in that it’s connected to Constantine’s Britishisms and a larger problem of the reader having to be “into” this kind of story. There’s something in here about a dying old man who knows something about djinn, and people are trying to kill him, and some poor sap seems to have inherited his powers. What that means, we’ll have to find out next month–this issue is setup, but to what, it’s hard to tell–which means it’s hard to care. Rating: Two smokes out of five.
The Winner: Kamandi Challenge is an essential part of a Kirby-infused diet and is this week’s winner despite technically not being a Rebirth book. Let’s hope it can keep this up when it changes teams again next month.
The Loser: Hellblazer. No, Blue Beetle. No, Hellblaz…oh, it’s a tie. They’re not awful, they’re just dry and not really keeping in the momentum of the other “Rebirth” books.