I’ll be reading and reviewing, in some sense of the word, the contents of each upcoming first issue (the Rebirth one-shot if the series has one or the traditional #1 if the series does not have one) to gauge exactly what the line ends up looking like.
Mild spoilers follow for Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth #1, New Superman #1, and Nightwing: Rebirth #1.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #1
Written by Robert Venditti
Art by Ethan Van Sciver
Colors by Jason Wright
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Robert Venditti continues writing the adventures of the Green Lantern Corps having first picked up Green Lantern after Geoff Johns departed the book in 2013. The DC You initiative gave his book a new, outlaw makeover that Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps #1 is leaving behind for a more familiar look. Instead of simply being a return to how things were before, though, there’s a premise that feels worthy of a renumbering: due to the events of another, canceled Green Lantern title, the Corps have been displaced and now Sinestro has finally conquered the universe. Hal Jordan’s no longer a cop or an outlaw, he’s a rebel. While that does somewhat recall the Green Lantern-adjacent Omega Men, this book has a decidedly grand space opera spin on things.
The opening scene along with the other check-ins with Sinestro gives Ethan Van Sciver a lot to tear into. His War World looks bulky and dense, spitting out bursts of Jason Wright’s hot yellows and appearing to lumber. Sinestro’s withered body mirrors the spindly limbs of Parallax, all cramped together in whatever container Sinestro keeps it in, yet his eyes continue to carry malice and judgment that allows him to remain threatening. The scenes of Hal forging a new ring or flashing back to past events can’t compete with the cool of what Van Sciver is crafting with his aliens and ramshackle planets.
As the Sinestro scenes stand-out in the art, they also stand-out in the writing. There’s a slow and steady pace to the roll-out of information that makes the reveals feel impactful. Hal’s scenes struggle with that as they are more obviously playing catch-up for readers rather than take them through a reveal. They’re uninteresting and looks especially so when compared to the Sinestro scenes that surrounds them which is somewhat troubling when considering that the less interesting character’s name is the title of the book. It’s impossible to know for certain how much of this book is going to be committed to Sinestro and War World going forward but they are certainly the draw here.
Half good yet half boring, the premise presented here isn’t a bad fit for what DCU Rebirth #1 posits about the state of the DC universe: evil has more-or-less won in some way but now it’s up to the good guys to bring things back to the way they are supposed to be. Is that a return to “hope and optimism” here? Depending on how one interprets “will over fear,” it may very well be.
New Super-Man #1
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Pencils by Victor Bogdanovic
Inks by Richard Friend
Colors by Hi-Fi
Letters by Dave Sharpe
This feels more like the first part of a story than part one of a story. Readers are introduced to Chinese high school student Kong Kenan on the fateful day that he is set to become the titular New Super-Man. The introduction to Kenan, putting him on the opposite end of the bully equation than superheroes usually start off on, is one of the most inspired elements of Gene Luen Yang’s script. The Kenan that readers meet is a bully and would-be womanizer without much in the way of likability before a fateful encounter with a supervillain sets him on a new path that appears to be the drive of the series. Whether he deserves them or not, Kenan is being given the powers of Superman and that’s a good hook; a slight spin on the “with great power comes great responsibility” ethos of Spider-Man that uses Superman as a moral paragon to aspire to.
Unfortunately, there are some fumbles when it comes to reaching that point. The business of how Kenan is brought in and given his powers happens quickly, calling into questions about the logistics of the operation. The quick cut to a new location and Kenan in what is going to be his costume feels sudden, like it’s missing a page or two establishing where he is and introducing him a bit to the organization he’s going to be joining. With how long the initial introduction of Kenan and his encounter with a supervillain plays out, it feels like the book is rushing in the later scenes rather than keeping or moderately picking up the established pace.
I can’t speak to the accuracy of Viktor Bogdanovic’s Shanghai but it’s portrayed here as a futuristic environment with an interesting hybrid of architectural styles and screens. It appears like a true city of tomorrow. Of course, it might appear that way because the environmental design aesthetic has been borrowed so heavily in science fiction works like Blade Runner and HER. I was struck by the body types on display in this issue as Kenan along with his father and the kid he is seen bullying are somewhat portly. Kenan’s got a round face and a bit of a belly that are slimmed down as he’s simultaneously muscled up with the gain of his new powers. That element of a physical transformation struck me as unfortunate in its implication given how he is initially presented as not living up to the Superman ideal. He’s a mean bully, something that his experiences in later issues will most likely change so the physical transformation feels like it’s saying that someone representing the Superman ideal can’t be a bit fat either. It may not be an intentional message or Kenan might explore how he feels about his physical change in later issues but, as it stands, I could see this turning off some readers who look more like Kenan at the start of the comic.
Nightwing: Rebirth #1
Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Yanick Paquette
Colors by Nathan Fairbairn
Lettered by Carlos Mangual
Dick Grayson was in a great place before the relaunch with a title, Grayson, that received a lot of positive critical and fan reaction. Writers Tim Seeley and Tom King turned what seemed like an iffy premise into a fun book that was really going out there to play with some of the more fun elements of the DC universe. Now Dick Grayson has his secret identity back and he’s ready to be Nightwing again as he prepares for his new mission in Nightwing: Rebirth #1 by returning series writer Tim Seeley and artist Yanick Paquette.
Keeping Seeley on this book works for the best here as it’s apparent that the tone isn’t aiming to be far off from that in Grayson. The “Jim and Juan” joke carries over here which is most likely going to be lost on readers who aren’t familiar with the previous series even with the benefit of the speaker visibly leering over Dick. For the most part, though, the book does an admirable job of presenting all the necessary information necessary for readers to understand where Dick has been so that his decision about where to go next carries some weight. Readers don’t find out in this issue how Dick’s secret identity was restored or what the last mess with spy agency Spyral was, they’re simply made aware that these things occurred in some way as the sporadic narration enforces Dick’s adaptive nature.
The relationships are what carry the issue even as the threads for the first arc of Nightwing are established. Dick hanging out with Damian (equal parts the brother and the son he never had) or fighting monsters with his “nemesister” Midnighter makes the book come alive. Twenty pages of Dick and Damian playing games in an arcade would have been worth the cost of admission with the way Seeley handles their voices and allows Damian to feel more like a child than he often gets to in other comics.
Paquette doesn’t lean into the beefcake that was practically a main character in Grayson but his figures do carry themselves with a certain grace. Dick in particular has a great jawline and a solid haircut that, while not looking unearthly in his attractiveness, certainly makes him stand out. The color work of Nathan Fairbairn ties all the issue’s threads together by making the fantastical sit right beside the ordinary without sacrificing either. There’s a warmth that pervades the issue because of him and, coupled with the pleasant interactions between Dick and his friends, does a lot to make this issue feel in-line with the “hope and optimism” branding of Rebirth that many of the titles haven’t matched up with yet.