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 Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1 and The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1.
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey: Rebirth #1
Written by Julie and Shawna Benson
Art by Claire Roe
Colors by Allen Passalaqua
Letters by Steve Wands
Claire Roe draws Batgirl as a monster made of muscle. In her first appearance on page, Batgirl is seen leaping at a few criminals with her body’s musculature rippling in motion. She’s more squat than usually depicted; her thighs are large, mid-section broad, and shoulders built. Batgirl looks like 160 lbs of pure “fuck you” muscle coming in like a truck. Eyes closed and smiling… She’s having the time of her life and that is how you start a comic book like this.
This issue is, unfortunately, a bit torn between filling readers in on backstory and kicking off Batgirl and the Birds of Prey’s first story arc. A lot of the backstory is delivered in a five-page series of flashbacks ends up feeling superfluous and better delivered later in present day pages where Barbara Gordon and Dinah Lance interact with each other. Readers get a feel for what sort of relationship they have and can see how protective Barbara feels about her former identity as Oracle. The flashbacks end up being superfluous when that space could have been better served expanding on one of the scenes featured in it like one between Barbara and her father or a specific moment from her time as Oracle instead of drudging up The Killing Joke again.
The introduction of the Huntress into the book doesn’t work as well as Batgirl or Black Canary’s as she’s introduced delivering a monologue detailing her backstory and current motivations. It’s not very natural and when the reveal comes that she’s not reciting this to someone she intends to murder but someone she has already murdered, the whole thing comes across even sillier. It’s a TV monologue distinctly not suited for the medium of comics. Hopefully, Julie & Shawna Benson can move past devices like that now that the set-up is out of the way after this issue.
This is a marvelous DC Comics debut for Claire Roe that looks especially good thanks to the contributions of Allen Passalaqua’s colors towards creating various tones across these 20 pages. It’s one of the strongest debuts of a Rebirth books even with some of its slight failings.
The Hellblazer: Rebirth #1
Written by Simon Oliver
Art by Moritat
Colors by Andre Szymanowicz and Moritat
Letters by Sal Cipriano
Have you ever been watching a movie you really liked on cable even though you’ve got the DVD on a shelf in the next room? And right when it’s getting up to that really great line, your squirm around in your skin as Curtis Armstrong says, “Sometimes you gotta say, ‘what the hell?’” That’s not the line, what the fuck was this channel thinking when they decided to buy the rights to show a movie that requires neutering to be aired? Heck, they even cut around the scene of Cruise and De Mornay fucking on that train. The business is sanitized past a point of appearing risky.
That’s what reading this comic is like. John Constantine returns to England after his time kicking around New York City and his narration treats this as a return to form. But he still swears with hideously censored swear words (seriously, the decision to replace the word “fuck” with tiny skulls elicits an eye roll) and doesn’t get up into anything as violent or sexual as the last series relaunch did right out of the gate. The book feels weightless as it never dares to really depict something like the curse Constantine is afflicted outside of a couple panels involving a rash. And when that curse gets spread out all over London, it doesn’t land because the seven panels depicting ordinary people with the curse doesn’t even go so far as to give them that rash from earlier. Stakes are completely divorced from the book’s conflict.
Stakes aren’t there in the writing either. Constantine is flippant throughout the entire issue, playing a game of chicken involving the lives of eight million people. It’s certainly not out of character for him to be this cavalier in the face of danger but the book itself carries that tone as well, creating difficulty investing in it. There’s also a matter of the issue being stretched thin and still occasionally confusing in spite of how much room is left. At one point, Constantine cuts himself and uses his blood for a spell but his dialogue in that panel and further dialogue refers to it as demon blood. Is Constantine a demon? Or did Moritat draw a scene incorrectly and no one caught it in time to change the dialogue in time? If it’s the former, then that needs to be made clear. But if it’s the latter, then that’s just incompetence from editorial for not catching it.