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.
Batgirl #1 (Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque)
It’s hard to follow-up on a widely successful run, let alone two. Gail Simone’s Batgirl was critically revered, an emotional contintuous of the work she had done with the character in Birds of Prey. The controversial Burnside era from Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart won over it’s detractors and ingrained itself in the wider pop culture consciousness. This is a title actively read by non-comic fans, so needless to say there were big shoes to fill. Thankfully, DC has just the creative team as Hope Larson and Rafael Abuquerque take Barbara Gordon on a backpacking journey of self-discovery. Taking some time out in Okinawa, Barbara Gordon goes in search of her spiritual predecessor, the hereto unseen Golden Age heroine Fruit Bat. It’s worth noting that this arc takes place before last week’s adventure with the Birds of Prey, meaning it’s Barbara striking out on her own without much of her support structures. Barbara is as quirky as ever, but that doesn’t detract from her status as a serious crime fighter and super-genius in her own right. While not as stylised as before, the interior artwork retains the charm of that which came before with a more rough shonen manga approach, heavy on pencils. It may play into some cliches regarding mysterious figures from the character’s paths or how the West mysticism-inspired understanding of the East, but this inaugural issue lays a solid foundations for a jet-setting adventure.
Recommendation: Buy It.
Nightwing #1 (Tim Seeley and Javier Fernandez)
There are big changes on the horizon for Dick Grayson. Having spent a year or so as an undercover agent of Spyral, Nightwing has now become…an undercover agent of the Parliament of Owls. Okay, so not much may have changed, but Grayson is back in the beloved blue and black. It feels right, even if I enjoyed his New 52 re-design. As part one of the “Better than Batman” storyline, this issue acts as a wonderful character study and exemplifies why he is often singled out as the people’s favourite DC hero. One problem, however, is Dick’s continued pining for Barbara Gordon. We had an entire issue of Batgirl dedicated to telling Dick that his hopping in and out of her life, expecting them to continue where they left off was not okay. Her willingness to her play into his expectations, to a certain extent, seems out of character. True, they are close friends with a complicated history, but too often Dick gets carte blanche in his romantic life, and it would be nice to see writers push a more nuanced tone to their relationship. It’s time to call an end to shipping that particular relationship.
Recommendation: Buy It.
Titans #1 (Dan Adnett, Norm Rapmund and Brett Booth)
The return of Wally West was a watershed moment for the DCU. It’s launched the DC Rebirth in a flash of yellow and red. Titans is a natural home for the former Kid-Flash, a book fundamentally about friendship that uses superheroics as a framework for discussing the trials and tribulations of everyday life. The team’s mission currently is to uncover those who have been manipulating reality and altering their memories. While we known the editors are the true culprits, the in-universe puppet master, Dr. Manhatten, remains elusive. Yet, this search takes a backseat to more heartfelt character moments that allow the team and the audience to re-discover their emotional ties. The book focuses on the re-unification of an estranged family and the joy or pain that comes with it. The Fearsome Five may be plotting in the background, but we care more about spending time with these characters. It’s telling when relationships are so palpable that they leap off the page. This team has been missing from the continuity for nearly half a decade; we can afford to take our time re-acquainting ourselves with their dynamic. Titans together.
Recommendation: Buy It.
Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth #1 (Scott Lobdell and Dexter Soy)
This book interests me, and that is something I’ve rarely said for a Scott Lobdell comic. It becomes incredibly obvious that Lobdell understands the character of Jason Todd like few others do. This should come as little surprise given he has been writing the character in one title or another for the last five years. Red Hood is always pitched as the guy who is willing to go places that Batman can’t. His ambiguous morality is exemplified by his bookshelf containing copies of Machiavelli’s The Prince and Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War. This incarnation of the book seems concerned with fully examining his uneasy nature with his former mentor, something the original “Under the Hood” arc did to great effect. This issue gives us a cliff-notes version of Jason’s life with some rather touching moment that demonstrating the humanity that Batman often strive to hide from the world. However, while the character work is excellent, the set-up for this story-line is quite unoriginal. Make sure you sing along if you know the words. Batman’s former Robin must infiltrate an underground network of questionable characters and uncover their plan. I think Nightwing wants his series premise back. Indeed, Jason himself acknowledges this when he challenges Batman’s hesitancy towards the plan, arguing, “why? because my name isn’t Dick Grayson?” It does seem odd that DC would put on such a series at the same time Nightwing is hanging out with the Parliament of Owls, just as it was interesting that they would have Dick go undercover again following his stint with Spyral. If you are wondering about the rest of the titular “Outlaws,” then you are out of luck as Bizzaro and Artemis only feature on the cover. I am willing to give this book the benefit of the doubt despite its dubious pedigree and what it did to Starfire back when the New 52 began. It may aspire to Nightwing. Let’s see if, like our good Mr. Grayson, it knows how to stick the landing.
Recommendation: Buy It.
Wonder Woman #3 (Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp)
Greg Rucka’s latest work on Wonder Woman has been a mixed bag. The structural switching between two alternating story lines doesn’t make for the most natural of reading experiences. This issue serves as a significant improvement that explores the relationship between Cheetah and Diana, one I imagine most readers are unfamiliar with. The story of Cheetah is that of Barbara Ann Minerva, a woman cursed by the God known as Urzkartaga. The powers bestowed upon Barbara were meant to give her immortality, but only if the host is a virgin. As such, Barbara received the power of the Cheetah, but lives everyday in agony, hungering for human flesh. It highlights the stigma that society has placed around female sexuality, particularly when it becomes apparent that Urzkartaga has done this before. There is a fundamentally powerful point that emerges late in the book about the exploitation of women by the patriarchal and the importance of solidarity. Those with privilege often don’t misuse it out of a veiled rational known only to them. In many cases, they do so because the power they possess is reason enough. Wonder Woman is an inherent feminist character and it is always refreshing to see creative teams who understand what that means. This book doesn’t lecture to its audience, it merely points to the hypocrisies of our everyday lives.
Recommendation: Borrow It.
Action Comics #960 (Dan Jurgens and Tyler Kirkham)
“Hey Dan, you know how everybody loved Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? What are you talking about? Of course, they did! So listen, we are going to bring back Doomsday and have the new/old Superman fight him. Wait, there’s more. We are going to do this at the same time that Super-Lex first meets this new/old Superman, so any character drama is put to one side for the sake of action. We will also have Wonder Woman turn up for some fight scenes that are lifted out of Zack Synder’s latest entry in the DC Cinematic Universe. Yes, I know that this Wonder Woman had a past with with the New 52 Superman. No, we aren’t really going to address it. No, this will be the first chronological meeting between Diana and the new/old Superman. Yes, the weird human Clark Kent will still be in the picture. No, we aren’t giving any hints as to what’s going on there. Confusing? How is this confusing? What do you mean it’s not the 90s anymore? No, we aren’t going to drop this joke anytime soon. ”
Recommendation: Bin It.
Detective Comics #937 (James T Tynion IV, Raúl Fernández and Alvaro Martinez)
If Batman Inc was about the idea of franchising crime fighting, Detective Comics‘ opening storyline is what happens when its co-opted by the military industrial complex. How do you deal with an entire squad of commandos modeled after Batman? The Batmen are elite soldiers combining Bruce’s techniques and symbolism with military precision and discipline. The result is an arc that manages to weave the entirety of the Batman universe into a complex story about how we approach subversive elements. At the centre is a very personal story about the Kanes and Waynes, two related-families with two radically different approaches to dealing with the scourge of crime. Do we trust the government to wield the kind of power and technology that Batmen possesses? Do we trust Batman? In light of the surveillance culture we live in, Detective Comics is telling one of the smartest stories around.
Recommendation: Buy It.
This is one of the best weeks of the DC Rebirth movement so far, even if one or two books leave much to be desired. The Book of the Week goes to Red Hood and the Outlaws, because everyone deserves a chance. The Dishonourable Mention goes to Action Comics, because we deserve a better class of Superman. What did you think of this week’s offerings? Let us know in the comments below and make sure you stay up to date with us here at Monkeys Fighting Robots.
Review copies were kindly provided by the publisher.