If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting with bated breath for Rebirth to arrive. Last week, we got our first look into DC’s new direction, in the form of DC Universe: Rebirth #1. And it was stellar! Rebirth #1 was a tremendous step in the right direction, but being the ever cautious skeptic, I wondered if lightning was going to be able to strike twice. Before we begin our examination of Batman: Rebirth #1, I want to take a quick moment to point out that this review will contain spoilers. I’m not going to highlight every single scene or pour over ever line of dialogue in detail, but I am going to talk openly about the parts that I have chosen to discuss.
The first point I want to make about this book is how, if at all, it connects to Rebirth #1. It looks to me as if the character-specific one-shot Rebirth titles are not a continuation of the story presented in Rebirth #1. They are simply stand-alone stories meant to bridge the gap between, and demark the point at which, DC segued into this new direction. And that is fine with me. It’s what I expected, so I am not at all thrown off. But I can see how some people might have been under the impression that Rebirth was the title of a specific storyline, and not an umbrella title meant as a brand-name for DC’s new ideals. Now, let’s get to the story.
This issue is written by Tom King AND Scott Snyder. It’s a changing of the guards, which is nice, but also doesn’t give us a true representation of what to expect from King’s upcoming work since Snyder’s influence is still felt throughout the book. This is an important point to keep in mind, because this story is not flawless. But since we have two writers contributing to the story, I can’t officially pinpoint who is responsible for what (I have my suspicions though). Are the parts I don’t like King, or are they Snyder. If it is the former, then that doesn’t bode well for the future. However, if it is Snyder, then no biggie. I’ll just have to wait till next issue to get a true sense of what King has in store for us. And that is a shame really. If this book is supposed to inspire new readership, giving us a dose of King on his own would have been a far better course of action in my opinion. But who am I kidding. Regardless of how this issue turned out, we are all still getting Batman #1. I mean…it’s Tom King.
Now it’s time to get into that spoilery section of the review. So, you still have time to turn away if you’ve had a change of heart.
I’m going to start with a scene that displays some of my favorite moments from the book, but simultaneously shows my least favorite moment as well.
Seriously? Yep. That is Bruce Wayne doing one-armed pull-ups off the edge of a helicopter pad over a fatal drop. This is grossly, Grossly, GROSSLY out of character! Before you think I am over reacting, let’s take a moment to really think about this.
Everything about the Bruce Wayne persona has been methodically chosen to dissuade anyone from thinking that Batman and Bruce could possibly be the same man. Bruce would never put his Batman physique on display like this without a good reason. In the past, when a crime was occurring and he was in his Bruce Wayne guise, he always found an indirect way to deal with the situation. He wouldn’t unveil what he was actually capable of. This is revealing a level of abilities for no reason other than to show the audience how cool he is. And that is just silly. Admittedly, it’s not like he has a captive audience, but anyone looking out the window of an adjoining skyscraper could easily see this, snap a photo, and plaster it all over the internet. It’s just not worth it.
This scene also displays unnecessary peril. Batman isn’t a risk taker. One could argue that he risks his life every night he goes out on patrol, but I say that is an exaggeration. He has considerably stacked the odds in his favor, planning out everything to the Nth degree to minimize that risk to the point that it is almost nonexistent. When he does take a risk, it’s to save a life. Here, he isn’t putting his life on the line to save someone else, he’s just doing some pull-ups. And that just compounds the silliness of it even more.
I wish I could stop there, but this one little thing (that was probably thought to be harmless fun) has yet another negative connotation. Every word or action that a writer has a character perform speaks volumes to their understanding of the character’s mechanics. Given that this is the first issue of Batman in Rebirth (a concept that was supposed to return characters to their classic interpretations), this is not only setting a precedent for the Bruce to come, but informs on us the understanding the writers have of the character. When I see things like this, it makes me think that no real time was spent ruminating over what this would convey, only that it looked cool. And that is ultimately hollow and superficial and displays a misconstrued understanding of the character at his most basic levels. Look, this is the first Batman issue of Rebirth, and we are already getting things “wrong”. This is not making me happy.
But like I said, this scene also had some of my favorite moments, and that stemmed from the dialogue. The man in the suit trying to talk with Bruce is Lucius Fox. He has come to inform Bruce that through the miracle of accounting he has gotten Wayne Enterprises out from under Government control. To be honest, so much has happened in the comics since that development, that I had completely forgotten all about it. I’m glad they resolved it, but even if they had not, I think I had already written it off as something that worked itself out. It’s also a great scene because they discuss the cyclical nature of comics. Not that the characters directly discuss comics, but in the sense that Bruce losses and regains his fortune all the time. The dialogue has a wonderful meta quality about it. There is also a really intriguing parallel that is drawn which highlights the similarities between Bruce and his Father. All in all, the dialogue for this scene was seriously on point, and I loved it. With such great character dialogue, but such uninformed character actions, it really makes me doubt that the same person came up with both. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on who was responsible for what in this scene.
Change for the Sake of Change.
I find this to be a thoroughly unacceptable practice. What am I talking about? This:
That is Calendar Man, people. CALENDAR MAN! In this story, he ages but then molts out of his old skin into a younger self. What?!?! Come on! Calendar Man is just a normal person. His whole gimmick has always been that he knows everything connected with the days, months, years, and holidays. Much in the way that Two-Face gears his crimes around the number 2, Calendar Man plans heists that coordinate with the day/month/holiday. He has never been depicted as superhuman or supernatural. If they want to change things, fine, but this metamorphosis also has no explanation within the context of the story. It just is. And that is not cool with me. You can’t just change things and not tell us why or how. On top of that, you have to at least give me some reasonable benefit for doing it. I’m seriously just like, “Why?”, and left dumbfounded.
Robin doesn’t need you?!? You did not just say that to Batman!
Do you think that is a standard Batman scowl, or is he reacting to what he just heard?
As a character, I like Duke. But oddly enough, even though Snyder created him, I think Lee Bermejo actually did a better job at bringing the character to life and making him believable and likeable. This whole development is just making me remember how unjustified it is for Batman to offer Duke a position as anything. Why are they best buds again? Because he saved him in Zero Year? That’s fine and all, but I never felt like their relationship developed past that. I mean, he was there running around in the Batman comic, but they never bothered to develop their connection. He’s just part of the team because Snyder says so, not for any intrinsic reason. And that kind of stuff never sits well with me.
Art for this issue is handled by Mikel Janin, of “Grayson” fame. And while it is a pleasure as always to look at his illustrations, there is definitely something different about the work in this comic as opposed to the art from Grayson. In Grayson, the lines are very clean and sharp, but here, there is a muddy quality to the visuals. Almost scratchy at times. That’s not at all to say that anything about them is less polished. It almost seems more of an intentional choice to make things look more rough.
- I see something that looks familiar! If you don’t recognize the bottom image, then I’m sorry, but shame on you. Now go read Batman #404-407 (1987). Or more commonly known as, Batman: Year One.
- Duke calls Batman, Mister Batman. It comes from the fact that he always called him Mister Wayne, so he’s just transferring it over now. However, there was another character who used to call Batman, Mister Batman. It was Talia Al Ghul. Back when they first met and were flirting with each other, it was her pet name for him. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but it makes me uncomfortable to hear Duke calling Batman by the pet name his former lover used on him.
- You want to get a small taste of what may be in store for us on Tom King’s upcoming Batman book.
- You are a fan of Mikel Janin’s artwork.
While DC Universe: Rebirth #1 was an explosive first issue that generated a lot of momentum for DC’s newest initiative, Batman: Rebirth #1 did not capitalize on that good will. While a perfectly acceptable issue, it’s still nothing more than mediocre with several obvious shortcomings. It also doesn’t help that two different writers contribute to the story, meaning, we won’t get a true sense of Tom King’s take on Batman till June 15th.
SCORE: 6 / 10