Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on “Batman” has been extremely popular with fans, but — in “Batman: Rebirth” #1 — they officially leave Batman’s core series in the capable hands of writer Tom King. Batman is back to the classics in this issue, which both connects to Snyder’s run and establishes a new legacy. King and artist Mikel Janin make an impression as Bruce takes on a new ward, goes up against one member of his vast rogues gallery and faces the everyday horrors of Gotham City. “Batman: Rebirth” is an excellent jumping on point, and — although some fans may feel it’s slowly paced — there is much beneath the surface of this story.
For those unfamiliar, writer Tom King is known for his excellent work on Marvel’s “Vision” series as well as the recently-concluded DC Comics title “The Omega Men.” Though he has some big shoes to fill on “Batman,” he immediately delivers by giving us an introspective look at the character both in and out of the suit. We are expertly shown all facets of Bruce Wayne: hero, businessman, detective and protector. King also makes use of Calendar Man to frame the issue, neatly tying together the cyclical theme: seasons change, comics change and everything eventually comes full circle. It’s a subtle narrative, deftly executed in an otherwise light issue. This is also the first time I can remember this villain being written as someone formidable, and King even manages to make him a little terrifying.
Since the issue is all about laying the groundwork for the ongoing series, the dialogue is kept to a minimum and there isn’t much characterization for anyone aside from Bruce. Luckily, though, the rare dialogue-heavy scene between Lucius Fox and Bruce Wayne isn’t burdened by the speech bubbles; letterer Deron Bennett’s perfect placement creates an easy point of focus for the reader and helps the conversation pacing as Bruce address the cycle of their relationship.
Artist Mikel Janin pours every single drop of his talent into bringing us a book with extraordinarily clean lines. This is a particularly attractive rendering of Bruce, and Janin’s panels are definitely designed to keep the reader’s eyes trained on the action. From subject-to-subject transitions to the implied lines of sight, the story moves at a slow pace, but the art keeps readers invested in what’s going on. The most standout panels include the actual rebirth of a character, which is wonderfully creepy and will definitely stick with readers long after they’ve finished the issue. Janin’s sprawling backgrounds are filled with details, though those same heavy inks occasionally distract from what’s going on in both the Batcave and the underwater bomb sequences.
Paired with her tonal contrasts, June Chung’s phenomenal use of subdued colors assist in packing the punch of King’s storytelling during the more intense scenes. The use of the softer golden colors also help King’s writing evoke a more classic feel for the issue, a nice change from FCO Plascencia’s darker range of colors in Snyder and Capullo’s previous run.
“Batman: Rebirth” #1 is a solid introduction to Tom King’s Batman. Scott Snyder helps co-write a loving farewell and yet another brilliant piece of storytelling, while King and Janin effectively lay out a horrific spin on an underused villain, give us almost no details on what’s to come and leave readers on a cliffhanger that will have them begging for more. Batman fans can’t ask for much more than that!