Friday 3 June 2016

This Week's Comics featuring the Rebirth Roundup

What's this? DC are showing restraint? Unheard of! Its the first week after DC Universe: Rebirth and we're only getting four one-shots to flesh out the status quo of some central pillars of the newest DCU: Batman, Superman, Green Lanterns and Green Arrow (Wonder Woman once again gets left in the cold until later because this is a DC reboot we're talking about and she didn't want to come your party anyway, icky boys). You know what, though? It's good. Well, its mostly good. Its 75% good, we'll get there.

Whilst on the Marvel side of things... sweet Jesus was that a game of two halves.

Be warned, there are minor spoilers for all issues discussed but the only things I really go into specifics on are the identities of the secret Hydra agents in each and every series. On with the motley:

Batman: Rebirth

This was quite a nice mood piece. Whilst there are a few concessions to setting up a new status quo with Bruce having some meetings with Lucius Fox and Duke Thomas in the main its a done-in-one about Batman fighting Calendar Man. I've always rather liked Calendar Man and he gets a nice little update here. In all honesty, of DC's four offerings this one gives the least idea of what the series spinning off of it will be like (mainly because three titles will be spinning off of it) but its a nice little story regardless. Fond memories of the animated series always abound when a quality Batman done-in-one comes along and in a week full of nostalgia buzz this didn't feel at all out of place.

Spoiler: Duke Thomas isn't a Robin anymore, he's Hydra.

Green Lanterns: Rebirth

Now, this really takes me back: Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver, an ancient secret underpinning the Green Lantern mythology, poor release schedule co-ordination so that one GL series spoilers the events of another (unless Edge of Oblivion #6 came out and I didn't notice, which is possible)... it feels like 2006 all over again.

Which isn't to say that nostalgia is all this comic has going for it. Of all the Rebirth one-shots this week this one has the most new(-ish) ideas. Yes, Simon Baz has been knocking around since the dawn on the New 52 but this is somehow the first time he's had his own ongoing series. In fact, there's a feeling here that Johns is getting to pull the trigger on a few ideas both he and other GL authors have had over the New 52 but not been able to properly expand. So we have Baz and fellow rookie Jessica Cruz (who was something to do with Forever Evil, I think) as the Green Lanterns of Earth with Hal acting as the grizzled old warhorse of a precinct captain telling them to both shape up. It seems that Hal has regained some sense of authority and gravitas with Rebirth, something he sorely lacked when he was running the Corps a while back.

I quite like Simon's FBI contact/parole officer, the man who arrested him on terrorism charges (and for a few things he actually did, too) and who now wants to make amends. Jessica Cruz I am less sold on but I'm willing to give it time, even if only for the fact that she seems to be a rather introverted soul and you don't tend to see those as superheroes.

Spoiler: Simon Baz is Hydra.

Green Arrow: Rebirth

Well, here's a no-brainer that should have occurred to someone about five years ago! The big idea for Green Arrow's Rebirth is bringing Black Canary into the series. I am genuinely surprised that no one had this idea before. Given the blank slate continuity the first New 52 writers were handed I'm shocked no one thought of trying to build this romance from the ground up. Okay, it's not Lois and Clark levels of legendary but it is one of the bigger DC romances and the chance to tell it as a coherent series of events under a single creative team sounds like a winner to me.

Which is all to the good because otherwise Benjamin Percy's angle on the character is the bog standard GA plot of “How can someone this rich consider himself a man of the people?”, ground that Green Arrow has been treading off and on since the Hard Travelling Heroes era of the 1960s.

Spoilers: Black Canary is implied to be Hydra but its actually the homeless girl.

Superman: Rebirth

And here's where the wheels come off the wagon because this issue is mostly infodump and it doesn't make an awful lot of sense. Okay, I get the idea that the New 52 Superman is dead and the pre-Flashpoint Superman has somehow been hanging around for a couple of years raising a son with pre-Flashpoint Lois Lane (are there two Loises now?) and he's going to take over. I get this because it is laboriously explained to Lana Lang over about half the comic as beardy older Clark recaps the events of The Death of Superman to explain a certain amount of graverobbing.

I say this as a man who has been reading Uncanny X-Men monthly for over two hundred issues: this is one convoluted damn reboot and I'm not sure it needs to be. Everything else DC put out this week has had a very explicit back to basics structure where a new-ish character or two get used to explain the basic premise of the series. That sort of happens here with Lana but the situation that's being introduced to us through her eyes is one that is probably going to need to be explained again and again over the next few years for the benefit of new readers in a way that, say, “Here are two rookie Green Lanterns getting on each other's nerves in classic buddy cop movie style” won't.

Frankly, the only interesting thing I read here was the revelation that (spoilers) Lana Lang is Hydra.

Spider-Women Omega

In a few paragraphs time I am going to have a massive “you done fucked up” rant at Marvel over one of their crossovers. I wanted to do this review first to reinforce the fact they can do these things right when they put their minds to it. Spider-Women has been an awesome little crossover: eight issues of tightly plotted, well thought through story that managed to be an “event” for all three participants and pushed all of their individual plotlines forward even as it remained fairly self-contained. Good story, good mutual marketing exercise for three lower-tier series, satisfying action beats, the works.

Over those eight issues we've seen Gwen's world expanded in interesting ways, Silk's family issues explored, and Jessica enduring her first extended separation from her child. There are a couple of new characters on the board who I hope to see in future and two of the three leads got status quo shifts out of the deal.

All in all, not a bad two months work and I heartily recommend it once it comes out in trade.

Spoiler: both Cindy Moons are Hydra.

Civil War II (Manchester United nil) #1

There have been a couple of WWE pay-per-views recently that have shuffled the United States Title off onto the pre-show card, squandering the hard work John Cena put in lending the belt legitimacy and making people who paid the rather large non-Network price of the PPV question their purchase if a whole title fight is going to happen practically off-camera.

Why am I bitching about wrestling booking in a comic review? Well, because this comic has a huge fight with a major villain in which a beloved character dies happen off-panel. You get to the end of the series' set-up, turn the page and BAM! Someone's dead, someone else is in a coma and the actual fight is filled in with exposition and a couple of flashback splash panels. Result: a very talky issue that could have been broken up by having a huge fight scene in the middle of it and just decided not to.

On the plus side I like that Tony takes the side of this ethical debate I didn't expect him to. I was all ready for him to be the bad guy again, or at least the authoritarian guy which largely shakes down to the same thing when geeks are your main audience. Yet he's the one who recoils at the idea of acting on precognitive visions and for pretty specific reasons. He isn't against it for broad philosophical reasons but for ones that are entirely specific to the situation, ones about it being hard to externally verify what the Inhuman precog sees or how accurate his visions might be.

Still, a huge fight in which a major character gets chopped would have been nice to actually see.

Spoiler: all the Inhumans are Hydra. The ones from Uncanny Inhumans, the one from Uncanny Avengers, Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl, all of them. Except Lockjaw, he's too cute, he failed the entrance exam. (Don't worry, I'm sure this was a one week joke. Mostly sure.)

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