Comic Review – DC Universe Rebirth (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

DC Rebirth has finally started. After months of vagueness, speculation and secrecy, spoilers for the one shot DC Universe Rebirth went online this week before the issue hit the stands. Regardless, I somehow managed to avoid these spoilers despite existing on the internet (no mean feat these days), and as someone whose pull list of DC Comics has whittled down to two books as of late, I was eager to see what was in store for this relaunch/reboot/totallynotareboot/shot in the arm from DC. I’m going to give it a quick review, trying to avoid spoilers where I can while still commenting on the reveals contained in the issue.

Rebirth was written by Geoff Johns, the long time Justice League writer responsible for ‘rebirthing’ both The Flash and Green Lantern in the past, to great success.  Joining him on the book are several artists: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli, Hi-Fi and Gabe Eltaeb, with letters from Nick J Napolitano.

Rebirth cover

Cover by Gary Frank & Brad Anderson

Five years ago, following what transpired in the Flashpoint event when Barry Allen attempted to save his mother’s life and had to deal with the consequences of meddling with the time line, the DC Universe was changed. This resulted in a modern DC Universe referred to as ‘The New 52’ until recently, despite the number of books no longer being the 52 that launched when this reboot first happened. The time frame of the superhero universe as we knew it had been shrunk to 5 years, legacies were lost, relationships and friendships were weakened and characters were forgotten. This isn’t a unique criticism from me, rather it forms the backbone of Rebirth, and the resurgence of all of this seems to be what will occupy the DC Universe for the foreseeable future.

The damage done to the timeline wasn’t caused by the Flash’s jaunt into the past to save his mother it seems. Instead it was a mysterious figure from outside of time that interfered when everything was being put back together. A long lost character, aware of the damage done, struggles to return to the world and to contact those he once knew, who have all since forgotten him. If he can’t make it though, he’ll at least try to get a message through that the world is wrong and in danger, even if it kills him. Meanwhile, throughout the issue the identity of the culprit who put the universe back together wrong is slowly teased, until it is made clear by the end. More on that in a bit.

Throughout Rebirth there is a definite feel of making amends and of course-correcting. Adventure, fun and romance are all injected into the universe, along with touching base with characters and concepts that have been missing over the past 5 years. But rather than totally erasing the New 52 universe and acting like the old reality never left, DC is trying to have its cake and eat it too by melding the two together. There is a risk of trying to serve too many masters here, and they could wind up not satisfying anyone, but DC clearly feels like the risk is worth it.

As for the gamble? We’ll see if it pays off. Rebirth is at its heart, a very enjoyable and lengthy comic. There are emotional beats that absolutely land. Of the two big reveals? The first absolutely worked for me and paid off in a big way later. As for the big twist at the end? Not so much. Trying my best to avoid spoilers in case you too have managed to dodge them up until now. The person behind the curtain as it were (or people in a way) involves melding another comics property into continuity that as yet is unconnected with the DC Universe. And honestly? I don’t think works. I don’t think every story needs to be a part of the universe (or multiverse) and while it serves here as a convenient explanation for the world we now have, in my opinion it severely undercuts the impact of that other story and world from which these characters have been taken. Ultimately though, if the stories to come are interesting it doesn’t really matter.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the art. In the past, especially when dealing with events, DC has drawn in multiple artists into a single book in a manner that feels jarring. From page to page, the flow of art has suffered from inconsistent and often nonsensical changes between pencils and sometimes colours too. Rebirth avoids this by having discrete chapters completely drawn by a single art team, allowing for a compartmentalised yet complete flow. There is a kinetic and vibrant feel throughout the book that benefits from being framed around the particular narrator of Rebirth. This vibrancy is key to the overall tonal shift of bringing a sense of wonder and adventure back into the book, where big and fun superhero art is pushed to the forefront. And the colour palette across the chapters is consistently bright, adding to the sense of optimism as things move forward.

Rebirth splash

Art from Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Hi-Fi

As a single issue, I really enjoyed DC Universe Rebirth. It looked great, and it seems to be forcing, however haphazardly, legacy and fun back into the DC Comics universe. I may not be hugely keen on the mechanisms they are using, but I am fascinated to see the effect that Rebirth will have on the line. As such, I’m not going to give the issue a score as in this situation I don’t think it would be conducive to the overall discussion about the comic and Rebirth at large. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the issue and what you hope will come out of Rebirth, so please comment on the article or get in touch via twitter @lost_lighthouse or @spacecowboyface to let us know what you thought. Kit and I plan on checking out the majority of the new series in the wake of Rebirth, so watch this space for what we think of a lot of the new #1s over the coming months.

Adam

Comic Review – Cyborg #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up Cyborg #1 from DC Comics, part of their new ‘DCYou!’ initiative that has seen the launch of a few new titles in the wake of Convergence with a focus on underutilised or slightly more eclectic characters that haven’t had a great deal of focus since the line-wide relauch in 2011. Despite being a member of Justice League line up since then, Cyborg hasn’t had his own book like all the other leaguers until now. Cyborg was written by David F. Walker, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Joe Prado, coloured by Adriano Lucas and lettered by Rob Leigh.

Cyborg opens on a battle in a distant galaxy between two tech-based alien races, the Tekbreakers and the Technosapiens, with one group retreating in the face of an insurmountable enemy that seems able to absorb their defeated prey. Throughout the issue we return to this fight, as a few survivors escape and their pursuers analyse the tech they left behind. This action allows the Earth based scenes room to breathe and to be far more character focused, something that Victor Stone has been lacking in the past few years. Here we see him arriving at STAR labs, against the backdrop of protesters outside, to discuss some of his recent upgrades with his father and his team, and to figure out why his tech seemingly evolved in the face of his impending (or actual) death. While Silas Stone fusses over the intricacies of his implants and what they mean, Victor feels more like a lab animal than a son as his father fails once again to truly pay attention to him, focusing on the science of his son rather than the human being that he still is.

By having all of the action and suspense in this issue take place on a different planet, Walker deftly weaves a narrative around the actual character of Cyborg that takes elements that have been touched on very briefly before and constructing a real emotional core for the book. Victor talks about how he would rather be seen as a monster than totally ignored, and struggles with the fact that his father does just that and hardly seems to notice. Talking to his friend Sarah, who treats him like the man he is, allows him to open up and relax, and we get to see how affected he is underneath his stoic JL member facade. Reis’s pencils are strong here as usual, and while the STAR labs scenes look great it is in the action scenes between the Alien/Thing-style Technosapiens and the soldiers that look particularly good. Prado and Lucas finish the art off really well to give a beautiful looking book.

Considering how every other founding member of the current iteration of the Justice League has had a solo book since the DC relaunch and are now all in the low #40 issues, this series has been a long time coming. It’s nice to see then that the first issue of Cyborg indicates that this is the book the character deserves, with a strong emotional resonance and great character work and art. Pick this up at your LCS or digitally now.

Score: 8.5 Operating Systems out of 10