DC Rebirth Week 11 In Review

Each week here on Monkeys Fighting Robots, we are looking at every DC Rebirth title and tracking its progress. Books will be rated on a scale of “Buy It”, “Borrow It” or “Bin It”. Spoilers ahead.

Supergirl: Rebirth #1 (Steve Orlando, Ray McCarthy and Emanuela Lupacchino)

Did you know that Supergirl had lost her powers? No? Me neither. It doesn’t really matter either way as this opening issues sees the Girl of Steel regain her extraordinary abilities just in time to fight off a monster linked to her father’s increasingly questionable past. DC has made strives to create interesting female-led series following the unexpected cult status of the Batgirl of Burnside revamp. Stylistically, this series attempts to capture a similar voice that humanises an otherworldly character. It misses out on adding some artistic flare to character by remaining firmly dedicated to the DC house style, but it is difficult to fault the interiors themselves. Focusing the story on a young Kara Zor-El/Danvers trying to adjust to human life is an interesting reversal of the traditional Superman version of the hero’s journey, but that isn’t new. It’s quite clear that DC is attempting to capitalise on the success of the Supergirl TV series by situating Kara as an undercover agent of the D.E.O. For our money, the Adventures of Supergirl provides the perfect accompaniment to the show and the Batgirl of Burnside, but in its absence this core Supergirl provides an intriguing entry point for the character.

Recommendation: Buy It.

Suicide Squad #1 (Rob Williams, Scott Williams and Jim Lee)

Amanda Waller is one of the most interesting characters in the DC universe. She walks the grey in a way that few other characters do, being one who feeds on the morally dubious nature of pro-active American exceptionalism. This is the focus of this issue, a character study that goes through the process of how one can live with the choices Waller had to make, as the Squad begin an incursion into Russian territory. There is an element of DS9‘s “The Pale Moonlight”, an examination which allows you to understand, if not condone the actions involved. The main story is followed by a back-up feature which analyses everyone’s favourite sharpshooter, Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot. This is one of the few stories in recent memory that have truly questioned the influence of super-heroics on the populous and the oft-cited escalation of the criminal element. The result is a touching piece that truly understands and expands the character. Overall, we have a surprisingly deep issue that is extenuated by the wonderful interiors of Scott Williams and the king of comics himself, Jim Lee.

Recommendation: Buy It.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1 (Shawna Benson, Julie Benson and Claire Roe)

It’s refreshing to have the Birds of Prey back on our shelves, but alas there is no subtly in this issue. The thematic clash between the ruthless tactics of the re-emerged Huntress and the “by the book” nature of the Batgirl-Black Canary combo is as classic as it gets, but something is lacking. Instead of trusting its audience to be able to understand this conflict, it bombards us with expository, nonsense dialogue that violates the cardinal rule of “show don’t tell.” It’s wooden, unnatural and unbecoming of the creative team behind it. The revival of the Birds of Prey, with the central Oracle mystery along with fantastic artwork, should be a no-brainer. The problem is that it becomes a literal no-brainer, by hand-holding its audience throughout. Rather than challenge or trust its readers to intuitive some of the series finer nuances, it hits us over the head with those themes until they lose all meaning. This is series needs to do better. Shoddy writing cost us a Birds of Prey book last time around, we can’t allow it to happen again.

Recommendation: Borrow It.

Harley Quinn #2 (Patrick Gleason, Peter J. Tomasi and Chad Hardin)

Sometimes, even critics need to put your hand up and say that a book isn’t for them. Every so often, a critic can recognise that the work they are examining may be put together well, but that it doesn’t resonate with them personally. Harley Quinn doesn’t deserve that benefit of the doubt. Unlike Deadpool comics, which many will agree are finely crafted although they do not speak to them, there is something about the Harley Quinn ongoing series which does not sit well with me. There is nothing inherently wrong with the current trajection of the Harley Quinn ongoing series, in which the former clown princess of crime goes on a number of misadventures as a fun-loving, roller-derby playing anti-hero. The problem is that, in doing so, they have shed the character of the complexity which makes her interesting. Deadpool on the other hands remains interesting because even though it is wacky; Wade Wilson is a deeply flawed character that can have touching relationships with those around him. Harley, on the other hand, focuses on Looney Tunes inspired antics without anything of substance beneath it. Having her move on from the yolk of the Joker creates so much potential for story-telling, but it is squandered if we are left with a character without a purpose. Comedy comics are all well and good, but even they need something to ground them. If you don’t believe me, give Archie Andrews a call and see what he tells you. Could I be out of touch? No, it’s the fan-base that is wrong. This is wasted potential of a character whose pedigree is deserving of more respect. If this is what we consider to be the fourth pillar of DC Comics, then our medium needs to take a serious look at itself.

Recommendation: Bin It.

Justice League #3 (Bryan Hitch, Sandu Florea and Tony S. Daniel)

Reading stories like this make me ashamed. This is an embarrassment, a story with no consequences and no heart. It’s a story that merely exists, thematically void of anything that would make it appealing. Hitch arms those who would dismiss comics as a refuge of inept story-tellers, for those lacking the necessary talent for prose. There is nothing wrong with  a popcorn book, indeed they are often refreshing when the industry takes itself too seriously, but they aren’t memorable. There is misconception that existential threats are uninteresting because within the realm of super-heroics, there are no true stakes. Superman will save the day and all will be as it were. Yet, those world-shattering crises need not be emotionally empty. When they are used as a lens to examine relationships or provide a character study, they are remarkable tools for growth. Infinite Crisis worked because the story wasn’t really about Superboy Prime’s attempt to influence the multiverse, but rather accepting change in one’s life. The best artists in the world can’t save a book that doesn’t have a heart. This creative team don’t get that and do a disservice to what should be the flagship book. The fact that this book was the top-selling comic in July shows the brand power of a name like Justice League, even if the quality of the story within should leave us all with a bitter taste in our mouths.

Recommendation: Bin It.

As DC Rebirth continues, the numbers of book grows, and when coupled with the bi-monthly publication schedule, some books are read but don’t merit their own reviews. Batman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow, in particular, are three books which do not require more praise. If you’ve been following these series, you will know that they are some of the finest examples of comic storytelling on offer. Meanwhile, Green Lanterns maintains its mundanity, and don’t expect anything other than bland callbacks to the 90s in the continuing adventure of Superman. Sales indicate that the DC Rebirth has been a tremendous success even if perverse incentives are rewarding the least worthy. The Book of the Week goes to Suicide Squad as an effective example of a character study in comic form. The Dishonourable Mention lands firmly at the feat of Justice League which will endure regardless. This week’s offering would merit a bronze, but DC is going to have to up its game if its flagship title dares to aim for gold.

Review copies were kindly provided by the publisher.

Gary Moloney
Gary Moloney
Some would say that he is a mine of information, too bad most of it is useless. You can read his own comic work over on garymoloney.tumblr.com. Follow him on Twitter @m_gearoid.