DC continuity has taken many names. The current canon, titled DC Rebirth, kicked off in June 2016 and has since treated millions to a newer, bolder brand of storytelling that reimagines without sacrificing the essence and energies surrounding its characters and concepts. With one foot planted firmly in what has worked and the other in what could work, DC strives to make its new continuity both exciting and familiar for its fans. In many ways, Rebirth has perfected what The New 52 struggled with: guiding old characters in new directions rather than dragging new characters in old directions.
Readers like familiarity, but they also like originality. Many publishers can’t satisfy this need because they don’t know where and how to imbue originality into a story without completely ridding its characters of the qualities that enamored readers in the first place. However, while Rebirth boasts a quality few expected, it isn’t without weak points. Some of the continuity is wildly inconsistent, and a number of popular characters suffer in solo titles and shine in team books. As far as narrative overhauls go, though, this reigns as the most competent. Join us as we take a look at the high (and low) points of this spectacular relaunch of a truly special brand.
15. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: BROUGHT BACK SCOTT SNYDER
Scott Snyder’s writing ranks as some of the best ever offered by DC. Together with legendary artist Greg Capullo, Snyder crafted a Batman saga that was memorable, exciting, heartfelt, and respectful all at once. Their arcs together were epic and have quickly become some of Batman’s most memorable stories. The two understood Bruce Wayne and appeared to have a blast exploring him, making their eventual departure from the book a very bittersweet one.
Now, Scott Snyder pens All-Star Batman, a superb ongoing series with art by everyone from John Romita, Jr. to Francesco Francavilla. DC wisely brought him back after realizing the character can’t truly thrive without Snyder’s talent, and All-Star Batman has been one of Rebirth’s best titles ever since. Given Snyder’s track record, it probably will be for a while.
14. WHAT IT DID WRONG: THE CROSSOVERS (SO FAR)
If we’re being honest, Rebirth’s recent crossovers haven’t really been spectacular. Justice League Vs. Suicide Squad showcased blockbuster action and beautiful art but didn’t ground itself in any real emotion or sentiment. “The Button”, the Flash/Batman crossover event that saw the return of Eobard Thawne and Flashpoint Batman, suffered from concepts that kept its paper-thin story fixed in one spot.
The recently-released Teen Titans story, “The Lazarus Contract”, stands tall as the strongest of the three, but it still lacks key ingredients that every serviceable story needs, especially an epic Titans story that pits the team against Deathstroke. We hope that November’s Doomsday Clock will subvert this trend by actually boasting quality and giving us payoffs that aren’t forced or reluctantly given. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
13. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: AQUAMAN
For years, Aquaman experienced some…..difficulties winning over fans. His reputation as the guy who rides oversized seahorses and summons innocuous undersea armies preceded him, but that didn’t stop Geoff Johns from transforming the character into a bad-ass hero. Obviously, his exposure in the Justice League animated series played a large role in the character’s overdue popularity, but it was the aforementioned New 52 series that solidified Arthur Curry as one of DC’s most incredible creations.
Impossibly, Rebirth takes Aquaman to glorious new heights, gifting readers with a story so personal, so powerful, that it’s difficult not to view Curry with soft eyes and a kind heart. Writer Dan Abnett’s name may not carry the same clout as that of Johns, but he continues to prove his skill and understanding of the character through meticulous plotting, sharp writing, and overwhelmingly spirited fun.
12. WHAT IT DID WRONG: THAT DAMN NEW FRONTIER CALLBACK
Okay, this one got us a bit fired up, mainly because it makes little sense. Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier is a masterpiece, and it’s a masterpiece that must stand on its own. Apparently, the big wigs over at DC don’t agree. They shoehorned Dinosaur Island and The Losers into a plot that neither deserved it nor called for it; it was a dumb move made with the purest of intentions.
It’s important for DC to realize that not every story needs to be connected. Not every story needs a common thread, and it’s not a bad thing to keep universes apart — hence, the term “multiverse”. Rebirth is Rebirth, and The New Frontier is The New Frontier. Let them speak for themselves and stand on their own.
11. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: TOM KING’S BATMAN
Easily one of the most inventive writers in the industry, Tom King is perhaps best known in today’s comics crowd as the man who domesticated Vision and made him a family man. With such an impressive feat on his CV, King had many opportunities opening before him, and we’re lucky that he chose to walk through DC’s doors.
Writing the main Batman title for DC’s massive relaunch would reduce any Bat-fan to a frothing, screaming monster, but King handles the excitement and pressure with a grace that’s as evident as it is comforting. He’s one of DC’s best creative decisions to date, and it’ll be exciting to see him come into his own even more as he continues his journey with the Caped Crusader. King is currently penning the latest Batman arc, “The War of Jokes and Riddles.”
10. WHAT IT DID WRONG: JESSICA CRUZ AND SIMON BAZ
We’re sure that during writers’ meetings, the chemistry between Green Lanterns Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz was present. Somewhere along the way, this compelling dynamic was lost. Having read most of Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, we can say that Cruz and Baz are more interesting apart than they are together. The problem? They’re almost always together.
Cruz interests us more than Baz does because she’s a more sympathetic character who has more of an intriguing arc. Her crippling anxiety and aversion to most people make her transformation into a Green Lantern a fascinating one, one that should be explored through her as an entire person and not just as a person with anxiety. She’s deeper and more interesting than that, and it’s time we saw her that way.
9. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: COMPELLING NEW CHARACTERS
Speaking of Tom King’s momentous Batman run, did we mention that he introduced us to two great new characters right out of the gate? Gotham and Gotham Girl may be among DC’s most inspired characters yet, but they aren’t the only memorable characters DC Rebirth gave us. Justice League writer Bryan Hitch introduced us to The Kindred and The Keeper (known to the heroes as Molly), two villains with devastating powers and incredibly compelling motivations.
We do feel that classic villains such as Darkseid, Sinestro, and Braniac need to show up on occasion, but it’s high time DC started creating rather than recycling. So far, it looks like they’re doing just that. Save the big guys for big stories and put more creative energy into introducing new characters.
8. WHAT IT DID WRONG: ONGOING TITLES THAT AREN’T GOOD
We’re sorry, but characters like Cyborg and Blue Beetle don’t do well in their own books. They function far better as parts of a team; DC needs to cut their solo titles quickly. Interest in these stories hasn’t increased much over the years either. Cyborg works so well as a member of the Justice League; we don’t need to see him strike out on his own. It’s not interesting. We’re not saying it couldn’t be at some point, but given the current handling of the character, it’s highly unlikely that a standalone series will ever be necessary.
The same problem plagued the New 52, as titles like O.M.A.C. didn’t fare well, even if the few people who read and liked them REALLY read and liked them. These small but loyal followings weren’t enough to persuade DC’s editors to keep the books on shelves so they disappeared into obscurity.
7. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: MADE SUPERMAN A FAMILY-CENTRIC BOOK
Clark Kent has always been somewhat of a family man (even if he didn’t always know it), but Rebirth has added seldom-explored dynamics that deepen the meaning of “family” and what that means for Superman as a character. Having Lois Lane, Superboy, and Superman live under the same roof made for some fun reading, and the occasional inclusion of Batman, Damian Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth only doubled the entertainment value.
It’s new, focused directions and ideas like this one that helps catapult DC’s Rebirth to greatness, and we can’t wait to see where this book takes us next. Giving Lois and Clark a little super kid didn’t really work in Superman Returns, but what we’ve seen so far has been just what the character needed. It’s a special book in every way it can be, and it comes highly recommended by us.
6. WHAT IT DID WRONG: “KILLED” HAL JORDAN (AGAIN)
After “dying” alongside Sinestro during the events of The New 52, Hal Jordan came back as a Black Lantern, summoned Nekron, defeated First Lantern Volthoom, and then got to be a Green Lantern again. Early on in Rebirth, Hal Jordan “dies” again, this time in battle against…..you guessed it! Sinestro, you complicated bastard.
However, now it’s Ganthet, with the help of White Lantern Kyle Rayner, who pulls Jordan from death’s clutches and enlists his help uniting the Green and Yellow Lanterns. Killing Jordan has now become a trope, a “We can’t think of other ways to create drama for him, so let’s just kill him.” Here’s to hoping that the greatest Green Lantern alive doesn’t bite the space dust once again. It’s getting old. Fast.
5. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: LIGHTER TONE
The New 52 sported a dark, brooding tone that upset some readers. Scott Snyder’s “Court of Owls” storyline turned into one of Batman’s most disturbing adventures pretty quickly, an act that the creative team followed soon after with the Joker-centric “Death of the Family”. Couple that with titles like the Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover, “Rotworld,” and you’ve got continuity that takes the occasional darkness of DC in a terrifying direction.
Conversely, Rebirth adopts a lighter tone, splashing the pages of its books with deeper, fuller colors and infusing the stories with a levity that was notably absent from most of the New 52. While DC’s previous relaunch might have matched the tone they would set in both Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Rebirth feels more hopeful in the way Wonder Woman did when it hit theaters.
4. WHAT IT DID WRONG: REVISITED FLASHPOINT
While 2011’s Flashpoint marked a huge step up for DC events, it doesn’t exactly belong in the Rebirth continuity. That being said, we’re not opposed to experiencing the residual effects of the reality-altering story, especially if it serves DC canon in a way that isn’t contrived or convoluted. Unfortunately, when Eobard Thawne and Thomas Wayne were brought back in “The Button”, it was both. This took away the impact of Flashpoint.
Flashpoint was so important to the past, present, and future of the DC Universe, but it would serve the continuity better if the editors brought it back for a legitimate reason. Re-introducing and subsequently killing off Flashpoint Batman also did little to tug at the heartstrings; the note he passed across reality to Bruce held a poignancy that even his reappearance didn’t possess.
3. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: GAVE BIG TITLES TO RELATIVE UNKNOWNS
Writers like Tom King (Batman) and Joshua Williamson (The Flash) aren’t technically new comic scribes, but they are newer DC hires (even though King interned at DC back in the day and co-plotted Grayson). Both have been writing comics for years, with King coming off books like Vision and Williamson enjoying success as the writer of the immensely popular Birthright, Nailbiter, and Ghosted.
Both King and Williamson have put out superb stories, but hiring them as the respective writers of Batman and The Flash still presented risks that could have proved devastating for DC. Neither of them was a household name, even amongst those who read and enjoyed Birthright and Vision. Fortunately, DC placed their faith in the right guys and was handsomely rewarded for it.
2. WHAT IT DID WRONG: NO SWAMP THING/ANIMAL MAN
Two of the best, most tragic characters in the DC Universe have been criminally absent from Rebirth (for the most part). The characters in question? Why, Animal Man and Swamp Thing, of course! Their crossover event, Rotworld”, proved that these guys can pack a punch with tight, tense narratives, and it’s time to bring them back and show ’em some love.
Acclaimed writers such as Brian K. Vaughn, Alan Moore, Scott Snyder, and Jeff Lemire have all tackled at least one of the two, giving us award-winning runs that prove the value of these tormented characters. Grant Morrison’s lengthy tenure as the writer of Animal Man earned him almost universal acclaim and landed him dozens of high-profile gigs. We’ll see if DC decides to give them their own ongoing Rebirth series; it’d be great to see them both in action again. With some luck, they’ll bring back Snyder and/or Lemire.
1. WHAT IT DID RIGHT: THE TIES TO WATCHMEN
It didn’t seem like the most creative story to have the Watchmen interfere with the lives of Batman, Superman, and other beloved heroes. Sure, all of the aforementioned properties are indeed DC properties, but the Watchmen exist in a timeline all their own. Why couldn’t the editors at DC have just left them in their own revered corner?
Fast forward a year, and the results have been pleasantly surprising. With Geoff Johns’s Doomsday Clock event series fast approaching, we can’t help but be curious as to how a Dr. Manhattan and Superman confrontation would go down. It’ll likely be the payoff to end all payoffs; two titans coming together for a conflict that will reshape the DC Universe will definitely be worth it, and we can’t wait.
Did you like or hate anything else that DC Rebirth has done? Let us know in the comments section!
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