Rearranging the deck chairs: DC Rebirth titles, Week Five!

So this week, DC ramped things up with ... two (2) official "Rebirth" titles and one (1) new #1! It's a smorgasbord of comics!!!

Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth ("Forged") by Robert Venditti (writer), Ethan van Sciver (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Andrew Marino (assistant editor), Mike Cotton (editor), and ALLEGED SERIAL SEXUAL HARASSER Eddie Berganza (group editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC. Hal Jordan, Sinestro, and Carol Ferris created by John Broome and Gil Kane. Lyssa Drak created by Geoff Johns and Dave Gibbons. Ganthet created by Larry Niven and John Byrne. Kyle Rayner created by Ron "Hey, who put that refrigerator here?" Marz and Darryl Banks, which is what Wikipedia says even though Bill Willingham was the artist on the issue in which he debuted, so what the hell, Wikipedia? Jessica Cruz created by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis.

Of course, we begin (alphabetically) with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, which is a pretty bad comic. Robert Venditti has written some good comics in the past, and he's also written some comics for DC. This is one of the latter! As the title indicates, it stars Hal "I'm less interesting than an HGTV marathon about grout" Jordan. I guess Green Lantern comics sell well since Johns took them over, although I really have no idea why, because Hal Jordan is one of the worst long-running and famous characters in comics history. He's a space cop. Yes, he has a magic wishing ring, but he's a space cop, and in the Jack Webb mold, not the Philip Michael Thomas mold. At one point in this comic Hal narrates that he's "never been one to play by the rules," which made me laugh. Hal's idea of not playing by the rules is not parting his hair perfectly straight. The only reason he ever doesn't play by the rules is because the writers go out of their way to make the rules ridiculous, so Jordan does the noble thing by breaking them, but he's still all about order, even when he's not in the Green Lantern Corps. I don't think it's a coincidence that DC decided to kill him in 1994, which is about when the idea of police brutality really started to seep into the mainstream (meaning: white) culture of the U.S., after the Rodney King beating made it clear that hey, maybe those black people were really telling the truth all those years! Hal is the epitome of white, heterosexual, male justice, and so he had to go. I mean, yes, he was replaced by a white, heterosexual male, but Kyle was an artist, maaaaannnn!!!! It was a wise move by DC, but it pissed in the cornflakes of Geoff Johns's childhood, so Hal had to come back. And he's been ridiculously boring since he came back. I mean, when his stupid bomber jacket (which, of course, has its own fucking origin story) is more interesting than he is, simply by being a distant cousin of the greatest jacket in recorded history, you have a problem. The other problem? The bomber jacket isn't in this issue!

Sigh. I guess I should write about this issue and Hal's strange Triumph of the Will (seriously, Hal is not only a space cop, he might be a space Nazi, too). Venditti gives us a seriously aged Sinestro hanging around on Warworld, which has taken Oa's spot in Space Sector Zero (did Sinestro and his Yellow Corps destroy Oa? does it matter?), chatting with some chick named Lyssa who sets him up for some exposition. It's not a bad beginning, I guess, as I assume we're supposed to be intrigued why Sinestro is so old and what happened to the Green Lantern Corps (unless those questions were answered in the pre-Rebirth Green Lantern books ... this Rebirth is kind of weird in what it brings over and what it ignores from the DCnU). But then we check in on Hal, who has somehow become a being of pure will. He's out on some dead world somewhere, and he reminisces about his life briefly before he decides to hit a rock with a big hammer. Okay, so what is that? He holds out his hand and a green rock appears in it. He doesn't say what it is, so we're left to guess. He makes it into a ring, so perhaps the rock is the expression of his own will? That seems to be it, but it's kind of weird. Anyway, he hits it with a hammer a bunch of times until it turns into a power ring. Good for you, Hal! While he's doing this, people around the galaxy - Ganthet, Kyle Rayner, Jessica Cruz - are feeling the effects, and they don't seem to be happy. Sinestro feels it, too, and he visits Parallax - who he has trapped in a giant jar - to ask one more "favor" (as he doesn't seem to take "no" for an answer here). Hal makes his ring and flies off, and that's the end. Yawn.

There are some things that don't make sense about this book - Hal knows Simon Baz is still alive and is not "gone," because he spoke to Simon Baz in Green Lanterns: Rebirth. I hate to be a stickler for these sorts of things, but when does this take place? I assume it must occur before Green Lanterns: Rebirth, because Hal has a ring in that comic, but why on Earth did DC release that one first? It makes no sense. But that's just a minor nitpick. The thing that occurred to me as I was reading this comic, and which might make it actually enjoyable, and which DC would never allow, is if Venditti writes Hal as a villain. He's just so damned smug and douchey that I think he would work really well as a villain, not necessarily the insane guy from "Emerald Twilight," but a less crazy version of that. Hal, let's be honest, always thinks he's right, even when he's driving drunk and killing his friends. He narrates as he's about to make the ring that if it works, he'll "make everything right." The supreme arrogance of that statement is wonderful, because it's something only a villain would say. On the final page, he narrates that he's going to cause some trouble. This is obviously Venditti's way of making him edgier, so that he'll be interesting, but wouldn't it be fascinating if Hal decided to "protect the universe" (as he swears to) by becoming a despot? I mean, he makes a magic wishing ring out of his own will, which is kind of terrifying. Hal's always been the douchiest DC hero - yes, even more so than Green Arrow - so making him a villain who believes that he's right no matter what wouldn't be a big stretch. If van Sciver is drawing it (which he is for some of the new series, if not the first few issues), it's even better, because van Sciver's etched art has a good Nazi aesthetic about it. If Venditti is just going to have Hal be a space cop, fighting bad guys, this will probably be quite dull. Just like its hero!

I can't say too much about van Sciver's art - it's pretty, sure, but I've always found it a bit sterile, and that's just that. I will say that much like Green Lanterns: Rebirth, where we got a full-page splash of Hal hanging in the sky doing absolutely nothing, in this comic we get several useless splash pages in a 20-page comic. The first is Warworld on Page 2, which is kind of neat but lacks a sense of scale so we don't really get a sense of how big and imposing it is. The title page is Hal standing around doing nothing, so that's a waste. The first time he hits the rock, van Sciver gives us a double-page splash which is kind of impressive, as Hal looks huge and the impact of the hammer cracks the universe open so we can see the people affected by its tremors. The page with Parallax is pretty good, as we a nice sense of how big it is yet how tamed Sinestro has it, so that's neat. Two of the final three pages are splash pages of Hal, one of him standing there as he finishes his oath and raises his fist, so it's nice and dramatic but moves the story along not one whit, and the final page of the issue, where he flies through space with a shit-eating grin on his face. That's a lot of waste in a 20-page comic, and it's not like the pages without full-page drawings are packed with content, either. This is a very quick read because van Sciver uses very few panels and Venditti doesn't really care too much about delving into an actual plot or even the motivations of the characters. Sinestro is evil because he's, you know, Sinestro, and Hal Jordan is Space Cop. That's all you need to know!

I know I'm not the audience for this comic because of my antipathy toward Hal "If I were food, I'd be a slice of unbuttered toast" Jordan, but if you're a Green Lantern fan, how can this comic be good for you? It doesn't do anything. We know Hal Jordan will get a ring, and we know Sinestro is a bad guy. At the end of the comic, the only things we've learned is that Sinestro is a bad guy and that Hal now has a ring. Wow, impressive. Some "Rebirth" titles have tried to tell a story, and some have not. Venditti doesn't really try, and that's depressing. Van Sciver is probably DC's highest profile artist. I might not love his art, but give him something to do, people! Sheesh!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

New Super-Man #1 ("Made in China Part One") by Gene Luen Yang (writer), Viktor Bogdanovic (penciller), Richard Friend (inker), Hi-Fi (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Paul Kaminski (editor), and ALLEGED SERIAL SEXUAL HARASSER Eddie Berganza (group editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC.

I still don't quite get what's going on with the "Rebirth" titles. Some people here at the blog have told me that the first issues of the series that launched with "Rebirth" - Batman and Superman most notably - were pretty good, and I even wrote that Action and Detective, which didn't get a "Rebirth" issue, were decent comics. And now we get another comic that doesn't have a "Rebirth" issue, and what do you know? It's pretty good! Not great, to be sure, but far better than HJ&tGLC:R (phew!). So what was the editorial diktat when it came to "Rebirth" issues? "Introduce these characters that people have known for decades, and be sure to make them as bland as possible"? "Hey, we lined up some pretty cool artists who can't keep a monthly schedule, so be sure to write as few words as possible so they can do a lot of splash pages that they can sell on the original art market"? It's just weird, because Gene Luen Yang, who knows a thing or two about writing, gives us a fairly decent origin story in New Super-Man #1, and Viktor Bogdanovic still gets to draw a couple sales-ready splash pages!

But this isn't about a "Rebirth" issue, this is about New Super-Man, or "Chinese Super-Man" if DC were being honest. While Yang knows what he's doing and sets up the whole thing better than many of the "Rebirth" issues, that doesn't mean this is all that good. It's fine, I guess, but a few things bug me. First, Jesus H. Murgatroyd the names of the characters: Kong Kenan is the "new Super-Man" and Laney Lan is the reporter who interviews him, while Luo Lixin is the rich fat kid who Kenan torments (I'll get to that in a minute). Sweet Fancy Moses, enough with the stupid "clever" names for Clark Kent, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor analogs. It's just ... ugh. But that's a minor nitpick - the real problem is Kenan, who's an utter douchebag. I mean, a good redemption story is fine, and Yang obviously has a lot to get to with this story, but Kenan is such a tool that it's kind of hard to care about his redemption story at all. We're introduced to him as he's bullying Luo Lixin by stealing his lunch (what is this, 1955?), and when Lixin stands up to him, he's about to beat him up when Blue Condor, "one of Shanghai's - and China's - first American-style super-villains" shows up and grabs Lixin. Kenan instinctively picks a fight with Blue Condor (he can't even stop bullying when he's freaking out!), accidentally rescuing Lixin and becoming a media star when Laney Lan catches him on video. "Dr. Omen," the leader of a shadowy government organization (is there any other kind?), sees this and decides that Kenan would make a good Super-Man - they have some way to give him powers - and so he puts on a containment suit, goes into an "origin chamber," and becomes super. Just like that. Easy-peasy!

The big problem, of course, is that Kenan is a tool. Yes, his mother is dead and that makes him sad, and yes, presumably he will see the error of his tool-ish ways and become an actual hero, and yes, Yang does this to contrast him with his father. I get that. The best part of the comic is when Kenan returns home and tries to tell his father about what happened, but his father is uninterested because he's concerned about a shadowy government organization that he's convinced actually exists and which he and his friends are trying to expose (it couldn't be the same one that later recruits Kenan, could it?!?!?). Kenan's dad knows what really happened with his son - that Kenan was being a bully - and he also makes the point that Laney Lan and her news organization are trying to distract people from the real problems. Yang puts a lot of interesting text and subtext into these three pages, and they show that Yang really does know what he's doing when it comes to writing. He has to make this a superhero book, of course, and that part is fine, but the part with Kenan's dad is the real meat of the issue. Yang can criticize China because he doesn't live there, but he can also use China as a metaphor for the U.S., where we're constantly distracted by shiny things (like fucking Pokémon) instead of paying attention to more important things (to be fair, this is a global condition, not just an American one). The fact that the shiny thing in this comic is a superhero is interesting, and I really do hope Yang does some good stuff with that. This is the kind of superhero book I should like, and while the first issue isn't great, there's enough in it to be intriguing.

Bogdanovic's art is fine, but nothing special. He's channeling Greg Capullo a bit, which isn't a bad thing, and Yang gives him pages of content, so the layouts are a bit tighter than in, say, HJ&tGLC:R (phew!), so the book feels longer. The art is generic "DC House Style," which doesn't make it bad but does make it somewhat forgettable. The final page is keen - I won't give away anything, but Bogdanovic gets to draw some nifty characters, so that's nice. The art is perfectly pleasant, but it doesn't make much of an impression. So ... yay?

I may get the trade of this when it shows up. Yang has written some truly great comics, so I have some confidence in him, even if many great writers have braved the salt mines of DC and Marvel and been less than excellent. But this is a decent start, and if Yang is truly committed to it being more than just a superhero comic, it could be really good. DC won't mind if he writes about government oppression and censorship, will they? They're probably too busy worrying about whether Wonder Woman wears underwear or not.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nightwing: Rebirth by Tim Seeley (writer), Yanick Paquette (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Carlos Mangual (letterer), Dave Wielgosz (assistant editor), and Rebecca Taylor (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC. Dick Grayson created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson, but Nightwing created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez. Damian Wayne sort-of created by Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham, but really by the God of All Comics and that Kubert kid - you know the one, no not that one, the other one! Helena Bertinelli created by Joey Cavalieri and Joe Staton, and who figured she'd last this long? The Tiger King of Kandahar created by Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Mikel Janin. Midnighter created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Lincoln March created by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.

Back in Rebirth-Land, we get "Where's Dick Grayson's Butt: Rebirth," as writer Seeley and artist Paquette somehow manage to give us 80 panels in a 20-page comic and only get Dick Grayson's butt into one (1!!!) of them. Considering that for many people, Dick Grayson's butt is the best character in DC comics right now, that's either a commendable achievement or a fire-able offense. Whose side are you on?!?!?

Unlike many "Rebirth" issues, however, this is pretty good. Yes, Seeley sets things up, as the All-Mighty Editorial mandates, but he's a good enough writer that he gets some nice conversations into the book and wraps up Dick's job as Agent 37 of Spyral as well. It's astonishing what writers can do when they're actually trying, right? I haven't read the final trade of Grayson yet, so some of this was spoiler-iffic (not that I really care too much about spoilers, but still), but if you hadn't read Grayson at all (and you really should; it's pretty keen), you get a good sense of what Dick has been up to and his current status quo. Seeley gives us a scene with Helena Bertinelli (which includes a wildly unnecessary full-page splash; I mean, most full-page splashes are unnecessary, but this one ... wow) that point us toward her new status quo in Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (which I think was supposed to be out already, but hasn't shown up yet); a scene with Agent 1 that has some relevance to the larger plot; a scene with Midnighter that introduces a superb creature into the DC universe, gives us the only view of Dick Grayson's butt in the comic, and puts their relationship in some kind of stasis (I'm sure it will be revisited, but I don't know when); and a scene with Lincoln March and the PARLIAMENT of Owls (they're much cooler than the stupid old Court) which sets up the main plot of the new series. Meanwhile, Dick is hanging out with Damian, playing video games and chatting about stuff before he sticks something up Damian's nose. Yes, he really does. Finally, Batman shows up to make sure that Dick is sure he wants to go undercover as Nightwing to infiltrate the Parliament (they think he's on their side for some reason), and we're off. Seeley actually manages to create a set-up issue that feels important. It's not that difficult, "Rebirth" writers!!!!!

One thing Seeley does well, and which makes or breaks these "Rebirth" issues, is get the characters' voices down. Dick and Damian were the best Batman and Robin of the millennium, especially because Bruce Wayne is such a fucking wet blanket most of the time, and Seeley picks up on their dynamic really well - Damian is snarky toward Dick, but he does respect him, while Dick doesn't order Damian around, which makes Damian open up to him more. Seeley also writes a pretty good Midnighter and Batman, so their appearances in the book work, too. There's a sense of danger, of course - the Parliament shows that it doesn't mess around - but Seeley understands that Dick has always been a lighter figure, so he jokes around with Agent 1 and Midnighter and he wants to help Helena, even if she's having none of it. Instead of relying on a plot that may or may not be interesting - I mean, going undercover in an evil organization is a good story but not exactly a new one - Seeley is showing us why Dick is a character we want to read about. Unlike Venditti in HJ&tGLC:R (phew!), he doesn't present Dick as a bunch of clichés, but as a person, and that makes a huge difference. Seeley doesn't completely dispense with the clichés - it's a superhero comic, after all - and Dick's narration about how he chose the name "Nightwing" is dumb (and I'm sure it's not why Marv Wolfman chose it), but it's not so much of the comic that it drags the rest down. Most of the time, Seeley lets Dick's interactions with others show us what kind of person he is, and it's effective.

Paquette does his job, too, although his art is a bit weird, and I can't put my finger on why. I didn't think of who was drawing the comic while I was reading it - I knew I was getting the "Rebirth" issues, so I haven't really been paying attention to the creative teams until I start writing these - and the credits are on the last page, so it didn't register right away that it was Paquette. I actually thought that the art looked like someone trying to draw like Paquette and doing a pretty good job of it, so imagine my surprise when I got to the last page and saw that it was someone trying to draw like Paquette - Paquette himself! It's bizarre - I can't quite say why it made me think that it wasn't quite Paquette, but the art is still good, of course. He gets to draw three boring full-page splashes, but he also gets to draw two action-packed ones, which is a fair trade-off, I guess. He does a nice job making the Parliament spooky, putting them in a labyrinth in Crete (labyrinths are creepy, yo), and he nails the interaction between Dick and Damian, which is crucial to the success of the book. I just don't know what I was thinking when I thought it was someone trying to draw like Yanick Paquette. I have weird thoughts sometimes.

Anyway, like some other "Rebirth" titles (but unfortunately not the majority of them), Nightwing does its job and manages to be a good comic, too. It can be done! Why can't more writers realize this?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Okay, I kind of have to address the advertisement in the middle of this week's comics, don't I? I'm not going to bash the fact that the ad exists, as DC once again sticks eight pages of non-story in the middle of each issue (a house ad, two pages about the Wonder Woman comic and a sidebar about the new Francis Manapul Trinity book), the four-page Snickers ad, and one page about the Justice League), but I am going to talk about the actual Snickers ad (full disclaimer: I LOVE SNICKERS. Seriously, Snickers and Kit Kats are the motherfucking bomb, yo). Have I just been reading too many crazy wimmin-folk recently, or have I just lost my Man Card (I'm not sure if I ever had it), but does that advert seem oddly anti-woman to anyone else? Let's break it down:

Page One: Doomsday is holding up a rock, about to crush Superman and Batman, and Superman says "not again" but Batman, being Batman, says he'll handle it.

Page Two: Batman holds up a Snickers bar to Doomsday, and we get a close-up of Doomsday's face, complete with crossed eyes as he looks at the candy bar. Batman tells him he gets really cranky when he's hungry. So this is just like Snickers commercials, which have gotten kind of annoying but are still pretty clever.

Page Three: Surprise! Doomsday is actually Wonder Woman, and she's back to being herself now that she's gotten some Snickers. Superman says it was quick thinking on Batman's part, and Batman tells him he should see Robin when he gets hungry. Everyone has a laugh and, presumably, eats a Snickers bar (I could totally go for a Snickers bar right now, and I don't need any commercial to convince me of this, because see above: Snickers: Bomb, Motherfucking).

Did anyone else read this the way I did? I mean, there's so much going on, symbolically, in this advert that I'm shocked no one at DC said, "Hey, wait a minute ..." Let's start with the fact that it's Wonder Woman. Why couldn't it have been Batman? Using Wonder Woman in this way makes the entire ad weird - she becomes a monster when she's "hungry," which can be read so many different ways - menstrually, most obviously, as "woman = cranky = period" is such a common stereotype that I can't believe someone at DC didn't see it. The idea of women stress-eating is another way we can read this, and while men can stress-eat, too, it's not quite the stereotype. The Snickers commercials have some men "playing" women - Willem Dafoe as Marilyn Monroe, Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi as Marcia and Jan Brady - but they get to speak, and Doomsday is just a spiky angry force of nature, so the humor - such as it is - is muted a bit. Anyway, the cross-eyed look on Page Two is weird, too, especially when we realize it's a woman that Batman is waving this phallic-shaped object in front of (I know, sometimes a candy bar is just a candy bar, but bear with me, can't you?). It's almost as if "she" is delirious, mesmerized by the candy bar, and the metaphor is just a bit too offensive, as if "she" can't control herself when confronted by the phallic symbol. This is reinforced by Wonder Woman's "Ah, much better" line on Page Three and her pleased-as-punch look on her face - again, this is taken right from the commercials, but there's a big difference between print and video, and on television we actually see the people eat the Snickers and their inflection makes it clear they're just happy to have a candy bar. We don't get that with this ad, so it remains weirdly sexualized. Plus, Batman's statement about Robin getting a certain way when he gets hungry is also weird in the context of the rest of the ad.

I know I'm reading far too much into this, but it's still a strange thing for DC to do. Of the three heroes, Batman is the "cranky" one, and it seems like it would be smarter to have him as Doomsday, especially because when we first see the ad and Doomsday, it seems strange that a non-powered Batman has the solution. Doomsday would crush him, in other words, and having Wonder Woman and Superman confront "Doomsday" would make more sense. It's just a really weird advertisement. I deliberately haven't searched for responses to it on-line, but I wonder if I'm the only one seeing this. Damn Kelly Thompson for making me read stuff differently!!!!

Speaking of sexism, Daniel Joyaux, who posts here under the name Third Man, has been getting in some fun Facebook spats over Ghostbusters. I have very little interest in seeing the movie, mainly because I hardly see any movies in theaters anymore because I don't have the time. I'll watch it when it shows up on cable, because it looks like the kind of movie that's entertaining but very slight, which is how I see most "summer movies" these days. I don't give a shit about Paul Feig rebooting the movie, just like I didn't give a shit about the remakes of Total Recall (which sucked) and RoboCop (which I haven't seen) or any of the other things that are getting remade in Hollywood's creative black hole. I didn't think I liked Melissa McCarthy, because she seems so unfunny in real life, but I've seen parts of Spy over the past few weeks (it's been on HBO!!!!), and it's really funny and she's pretty funny in it, so maybe I just don't like her as a person but her movies are good. Whatever. I don't care about Ghostbusters, either the first one, the sequel (which, let's face it, was the original cast shitting all over the original, so maybe cut the ladies some slack?), or this movie. Daniel, however, made an infographic about the movie to determine whether or not you're sexist if you don't see it, and he asked if I would post it here. I'm not entirely sure how tongue-in-cheek this is - Daniel does seem fairly strident about this topic when he discusses it on Facebook - but it's kind of fun. Check it out here! I'm just doing a nice thing for a long-time reader of the blog and a pretty cool dude - I literally don't care if they remake the greatest movie of all time, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, with Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez as the stars. If Ghostbusters tanks, I don't care. If it sets box office records, I don't care. It has literally no impact on my life whatsoever.

Finally, I need to talk about my spending habits. Comics haven't gotten significantly more expensive for a while, although Marvel has committed to the whole 4 dollars-for-20 pages thing, but I don't buy Marvel single issues anymore. But this week was, well, the perfect storm of comics. This week, on just brand new comics that came out this week, I spent ...


Yep, I cracked the heretofore-unimaginable $300-barrier. Holy shit. I didn't spend money on these DC comics, because I used store credit to pick them up. But this week was just a monster, and it crushed me. Has anyone reading this ever spent $300 on one Wednesday on new comics before? I don't mean that this week you finally decided to pick up that issue of Amazing Fantasy #15 that your store has on its wall. I mean just regular new comics that arrived in stores that very day. I certainly haven't, so this is a new record! I really think I need an intervention. Who wants to stop me from buying so many comics????

I hope everyone has a great day! If you do go outside, try to look up from your phone once in a while!

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