Getting close to one year into “DC Rebirth” and the company has shown a surprising commitment to its titles. It probably helps that, as a whole, DC’s sales are way up and a large market share has been reclaimed from Marvel. No cancellations have been announced yet…but there are weaker books in the current crop which, objectively, aren’t performing as well. Blue Beetle and Hellblazer may go at some point, so if you’re enjoying them, now’s the time to signal with your dollars that you want them around.
We’re reviewing Action, Wonder Woman, and Deathstroke separately this week, so stay tuned for those.
Batgirl #9 (Larson/Wildgoose/Lam/Lopes): So Hope Larson has some fun with all her young-adult centric Batgirl by asking questions about datamining and whether Pokemon Go has sinister corporate motives behind it. Everybody’s got their noses buried in an app, and maybe that’s silly, until you realize that it’s not too far off from the real world. Qui bono where everyone’s got their phone running all the time? It’s a superhero-specific story, sure, but hopefully readers get the message that maybe we need to put our phones down for once. Maybe read a comic instead. Rating: Four bats out of five.
Batman Beyond #6 (Jurgens/Chang/Maidlo): “Rebirth’s” game of rebuilding the DCU is definitely afoot here, as Batman Beyond is walking the fine line between restoring the classics and acknowledging what came before. Pieces are being put back into place: Bruce is back, Terry’s supporting cast is being worked into his Bat-life, and a villain from the show reappears here. However, nods are still made to the gosh-awful Future’s End storyline, though not with too heavy a hand. This isn’t exactly the DC Animated Universe, but it’s close enough to feel comfortable. Batman Beyond’s first arc may have been weak, but this second one is off to a decent start. Rating: Three and a half schways out of five.
Blue Beetle #7 (Giffen/Kollins): Man, this issue is confusing. Much of the problem is that the book lacks heart—literally, Jamie spends the entire issue comatose, with the story really being a fight between Dr. Fate and Arion and whatever the heck the Scarab is. Ted shows up and doesn’t do much of note. Jamie’s family and friends are in the background and do even less. In contrast with Batgirl being a very grounded millennial book, Blue Beetle is caught up in something so big that it loses sight of its main draw. Rating: Two scarabs out of five.
Detective Comics #953 (Tynion/Blanco/Duce/Sinclair/Passalova): So much of the Batman’s world is a painful intertwining of family and abandonment, but most of the characters have at least had a parent taken from them involuntarily. Cassandra’s one of the few who was actively abandoned by a parent, and that hits her harder than any fist could. She’s got a surrogate family to replace it—there’s a sweet moment with Clayface here—and then she meets mom, and she’s just not good enough. Ouch. And then the real villain apparently makes his move on the last page. This needs to be a little tighter, but at least there’s a theme overcoming the general “disaster of the week” hitting Gotham in this story. Rating: Three bats out of five.
Flash #19 (Williamson/Merino/Owns/Di Giandomenico/Sotomayor): Sometimes life sticks you with people you don’t want to be with. In this case, it’s an old enemy who Barry is forced to team with to save his life. But it’s also Nu-Wally learning some things about his dad he didn’t want to know. And then he learns some things about Barry which he should have known, and it doesn’t make things better, but worse. This is a nice, tight little issue of The Flash which has a good theme running through it. Oh, and the last page is pretty important for next month’s “The Button” crossover. Like, really, really important. “Oh, shit” important. Rating: Three and a half lightning bolts out of five.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #17 (Venditti/Van Scriver/Wright): Well, the cover kind of gives things away on this issue—there’s more status quo resetting as Kyle Rayner becomes a Green Lantern again, right down to his 1990s uniform. The challenge Venditti has ahead of him is keeping Kyle unique—Hal reminds us he’s the “greatest” Green Lantern—in a book where Hal’s name is on the cover. So we’ll see. The goofier thing is that something of grave importance happens in this issue, but it’s totally unclear what it was beyond the implication that it has something to do with Doctor Manhattan. So…pick this issue up out of its key importance to “Rebirth,” but realize that the whole picture isn’t there. Rating: Three and a half rings out of five.
Suicide Squad #14 (Williams/Romita Jr./Barrows/Friend/Ferreira/White/Lucas): Does the Squad have a reason to exist if the government isn’t blackmailing them? Harley seems to think so—the team is (apparently) half dead and half corrupted, but they’re still her team…and when you think about it, Harley knows betrayal and family. Boomerang seems to think so too, but less because he cares about the Squad and more because he knows he’s damned, and the Squad is where people like him belong. The split formatting of this arc is goofy, but there’s the formations of a story here. But again: ugh, that Romita art. Rating: Two and a half squads out of five.
Teen Titans #6 (Percy/Von Grawbadger/Pham): If this book has anything, it’s personality. The Teen Titans are definitely coming together as a collective unit, with Robin being the team jerk, Beast Boy being the prankster, and Kid Flash just trying to have a normal day between them. Raven and Starfire could still stand some development—they become background noise in this issue—but maybe that’s OK since a chunk of the story is devoted to reintroducing Aqualad, a great character who was introduced in 2010 long enough to vanish in the 2011 reboot. At this point, Justice League and Teen Titans are great “one stop shopping” books for a DC reader looking to see the DCU as a whole. Rating: Four Titans out of five.
The Winner: If there’s any doubt, it’s Teen Titans, the only downside to which is that Raven and Starfire need to be fleshed out a little more. Batgirl was a close second, although the issue is so grounded in 2017 that people reading the book 20 years from now may have no clue what they’re looking at. But also, do check out The Flash and Hal Jordan for their last few pages.
The Loser: Blue Beetle needs some serious work. Eight issues in and the book is seriously overcomplicated and losing sight of the fact that it’s about a teenage kid.
Also, I couldn’t get through The Hellblazer this week, so no mini-review of that one. Constantine’s book is so off-the-wall that it doesn’t feel like a real “Rebirth” book…which accounts for why Hellblazer has traditionally been a Vertigo book. It may be under a superhero banner, but it just doesn’t fit here.