Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Rebirth and Other Comic Book Stuff

Hey! It's Wednesday which is New Comic Book Day! So let's talk some comic book stuff, shall we?  

During my time off last week, I caught up on some comic book reading. I picked up the Rebirth issues and the new #1s of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. So based on these core titles of DC's flagship characters, how is this Rebirth thing working out? 

Batman was in strong shape before Rebirth so this title did not actually need the kick start from Rebirth. Yet Batman was the strongest of the titles I sampled. 

This is not unusual for Batman in relationship to revamps at DC. Prior to that whole New 52 mess, DC was floundering but Batman was a strong performer. Batman did not need the big lift of a company wide makeover. Yet Batman was the strongest title that came out of the New 52. 5 years into the New 52, Batman was in solid shape even as most of the DC line was in disarray. Rebirth was designed to fix a lot of problems at DC but Batman really didn't need fixing. Yet there's Batman, coming out of the gate all gangbusters. It helps to have a top up and coming talent Tom King as the writer with fan fave artist David Finch on board as well. 

There's a bit of a way over the top rescue sequence that takes up the bulk of Batman#1 (Batman vs. a jet airliner about to crash into Gotham City. Really.) but my reaction was not "Oh, that's ridiculous!" but more "Oh, hell YEAH!" Tom King's Batman is both inhumanly focused and driven to succeed at a virtually impossible task while his humanity drives other concerns: protecting the lives of innocents in the plane and on the ground, the welfare of his associates (as it looks like Batman might not survive this desperate gambit), his question to Alfred if his parents would be proud of him. Tom King upends some long time assumptions about what makes a Batman story work but presents a Batman we instantly recognize and empathize with. 

While Batman starts off strong, I'm less positive about Superman and Superman was the one most desperately in need of the boost that Rebirth would bring. 

Prior to the New 52, Clark Kent (Superman) and Lois Lane were married. With the New 52, we are introduced to a young Superman with a new background and Lois Lane shacking up with some dude. The Superman of the New 52 was too much of a change from what we knew. When the Convergence event came around last year, Pre-52 Lois and Clark were brought back and later given their own series spinning out of that event. Still, things were different. Lois and Clark had a son named Jonathan and were living on the New 52 Earth in hiding. Then, prior to Rebirth, the New 52 Superman finds out he's dying. And then he does that. Dies, that is. Little fanfare. Alas, New 52 Superman, we hardly knew ye. Or cared.  

So Rebirth begins with Pre-52 Superman renewing his super hero career in a world that knows only New 52 Superman. We have the strange oddity of the Superman that many readers recognize as the true Superman living in a world where he is an interloper. We have Superman interacting with Lana Lang but its not his Lana. We see Superman getting a visit from Wonder Woman and Batman, long time friends and allies but they are not his friends and allies. It should be an interesting twist on the Superman mythos but all I can think of is that its a confusing mess. 

Superman#1 doubles down with both wastes of space (a double page spread of Pre-52 Clark opening his shirt followed by another two page spread of a montage of Superman stuff) and pages overstuffed with expository dialogue. And while we're trying to wrap our heads around Superman's status quo, we have young Jonathan's struggles with his powers and the changing state of his family's life shoehorned into the narrative. Poor Lois, she's reduced to semi-happy homemaker.  

Writer Peter Tomasi is a very capable writer with strong runs on Green Lantern Corp and Batman & Robin. Who knows? Maybe when everything is sorted out, Superman will be a series equal to Tomasi's other work. But until then, Superman is off to a wobbly start. 

Finally, I come to Wonder Woman which marks the return of writer Greg Rucka to DC Comics in general and to the adventures of the Amazon Princess in particular. WW falls in the middle between Batman and Superman. Diana is confronting contradictions in her history but she's kicking butt to get to those answers. We get a check in with Steve Trevor who is doing some butt kicking of his own in a separate plot line that I'm sure will converge with Diana's quest at some point. So far, Wonder Woman seems a little too "paint by numbers" in terms of story but Rucka does have an inherent understanding of what makes Diana tick. 

The big attraction here is the art of Liam Sharp paired with colorist Laura Martin. These two are a potent combination, bringing some of the best art I've seen on Wonder Woman since the heyday of George Perez and Phil Jiminez. I hope these two can stick with this title long term. 

Batman by David Finch, Superman by Patrick Gleason and Wonder Woman by Liam Sharp


Got a couple of trade collections last week. One was Volume Three of Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Unlike the first two volumes which each presented a six issue storyline, the 3rd book collects four issues of the series, each a self contained story from 4 different times in the life of our starring femme fatale, Josephine. Each story gives us more puzzle pieces to who Josephine is and how her powers work. One story tracks Josephine back to the Middle Ages so her story goes back at least that far. We find out Josephine can be killed but she gets better. And we see more of the supernatural monsters that have been pursuing her for nearly a thousand years.  

Art by Sean Phillips 

While we have more bits of information to understanding the nigh immortal Josephine and her power over men, I am looking forward to a return to form with the 4th volume where we will hopefully can put that information to use as the narrative moves forward. 


The other book was the exact opposite of Fatale in tone and style, the 2nd trade paperback of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl featuring the work of writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson. As always, North and Henderson present a super hero who is most unique both in powers and temperament. Doreen Green approaches the problems that hound most super heroes with a positive spirit. She has a knack out of talking villains and menaces out of what they want to do. And if that doesn't work, well, Doreen's motto is "I'm here to eat nuts and kick butts!" 

Art by Erica Henderson

If the stories themselves weren't entertaining enough, the ancillary material is very funny as well. Each story begins with a Twitter run down where Squirrel Girl references previous adventures which inevitably draws in Tony Stark somehow. And there's the running commentary at the bottom of nearly each story page. And the trade also collects the letter pages from the individual issues. That is virtually unheard of but the readers are an extremely vital part of the community of Squirrel Girl fans with their pics of SG cosplay and suggestions for team ups and story ideas. 

The book is supplemented with pages of other Squirrel Girl appearances scripted by Dan Slott who is very good at dialogue and has an excellent sense of humor. Slott kept Squirrel Girl in the consciousness of Marvel readers by including her in various books he wrote, especially his projects involving the Great Lakes Avengers Initiative X-Men Avengers. 

Meanwhile, North and Henderson are doing an awesome job with Squirrel Girl's solo adventures. I highly recommend this book.  

And that's all I have for today's post. Tomorrow's post, I take a look at Finding Dory which the family went to see over a week ago while I was on break from the blog. 

And more new stuff to come. Thanks for dropping by. Remember to be good to one another. 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You 

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