Batman #1 — Writer: Tom King; Pencils: David Finch; Inks: Matt Banning; Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Titans: Rebirth #1 — Writer: Dan Abnett; Pencils: Brett Booth; Inks: Norm Rapmund; Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Green Arrow #1 — Writer: Benjamin Percy; Art/Colors: Otto Schmidt
Green Lanterns #1 — Writer: Sam Humphries; Pencils: Robson Rocha; Inks: Jay Leisten
DC’s Big Two get their second relaunch titles this week, as do a couple of the second-tier heroes. Superman continues to be the most changed, as we now have a Clark Kent from another universe, married to Lois and with an eight-year-old son who’s starting to exhibit powers, taking over for his new-52 doppleganger, who’s gotten himself killed, apparently permanently. While Action Comics seems to be focusing on the new/old Supes in Metropolis, this book has more of a spotlight on Jon, the son, and life in the country with a kid who’s just found out his dad is Superman, and is starting to exhibit powers himself. So far, it’s decent, straight-ahead superhero stuff, in both story and art (both Tomasi and Gleason are reasonably-old pros), with the intriguing new premise driving readers to check it out, and a last-page cliffhanger to bring them back; with a new issue every two weeks, it shouldn’t be long before we see how effective this new set-up and creative team will be. Batman #1 doesn’t benefit from any big changes — but, considering it’s been the best-selling new-52 title, it doesn’t need any; while Detective Comics looks to be focusing more on the supporting cast, this book has a tight spotlight on the Bat himself: new writer Tom King starts with a literal splash, as our hero, talking to Jim Gordon by the Batsignal, watches an overhead jumbo jet get nailed by a missile, and has to figure out how to save it, and keep it from crashing into his city, within five minutes. It’s a great action sequence, the kind that would start a James Bond or Mission: Impossible movie, and an encouraging hint of future thrills — especially with Finch, who has a lot of experience drawing the Dark Knight, making everyone look familiar and dramatic. Of the other titles, Titans: Rebirth is the most surprising: it’s an extension of the DC Rebirth comic, as Wally West encounters his former teen comrades, and tries to get them to recognize him, so it’s an essential piece of the meta-plot (who created the new-52 universe, and changed everyone so much, and why?) that looks to be an undercurrent in the company’s offerings for the next year or two. Green Arrow‘s first ongoing issue builds from its Rebirth one, with Oliver in a rapidly-developing (but on/off) relationship with Black Canary. That quickly takes a back seat to Oliver Industries, though, where something shady is going on — and the outlines of a massive conspiracy are revealed (just how big a conspiracy becomes clear by the final page). OK, although it would be nice to see a debut issue that didn’t immediately screw up a hero’s life, and let readers appreciate the status quo and supporting cast before beginning a long multi-part saga. Green Lanterns follows a similar pattern, as we get scenes of Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, co-GL rookies tasked with guarding the Earth while all the other ring-wielders are off-planet, as they begin to learn the ropes — but, of course, their very first case ends up connected to the first-arc adversaries revealed at the end of the GL: Rebirth book from a couple of weeks ago (no spoilers, if you haven’t read it, except to say that Leisten, the colorist, really gets to give all the red shades of the color palette a workout…). Again, decent enough — and Rocha gets a couple of splash pages to show off, and doesn’t waste them — although it’s not traveling a particularly unfamiliar road.
Justice League #51 — Writer: Dan Abnett; Pencils: Paul Pelletier; Inks: Sandra Hope; Colors: Adriano Lucas
Scooby Apocalypse #2 — Plot/Breakdown: Keith Giffen; Writer: J. M. DeMatteis; Pencils/Inks: Howard Porter; Colors: Hi-Fi
Astro City #36 — Writer: Kurt Busiek; Art: Ron Randall; Colors: Peter Pantazis
Of the non-Rebirth DCs, Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade is, not part of DKIII, but a prequel to the first, 1985 volume, showing how the Joker/Batman/Robin relationship got to the point where it is in that story. The timeline’s a little wonky (especially with a Jason Todd Robin), and, as with DKIII, the heavy lifting seems a lot more Azzarello than Miller, but we get to see the first signs of an aging Bruce Wayne, and of course John Romita Jr. doing sixty pages of a quietly-sinister Joker (plus a couple of other villains too) is more than worth the $6.99 price. Justice League #51 is written by Dan Abnett, who also did Titans: Rebirth, and it sets up a future villain/plotline for that series, as we see the first day Batman brought Robin (the original Dick Grayson one) to a Justice League gathering, not too long after the encounter with Darkseid that brought the new-52 version of the team together; since Titans looks like it might be a major ongoing player in the new DC mythos, this might be worth a look. Scooby Apocalypse continues its updating of the Scooby-Doo franchise, with this second installment continuing to recount the origin of the Jim Lee-redesigned characters, involving a nano-virus that transforms everyone it touches into monsters; the Giffen/DeMatteis writing team helps considerably, with the characters’ voices recognizable despite their changed circumstances, and so far this has been much less stupid than it could have been (faint praise, but still…). Swamp Thing concludes its run, also in apocalyptic fashion, as the swamp monster, now possessed by his arch-enemy, runs wild, and Len Wein gives Kelley Jones the Spectre, Zatanna, the Phantom Stranger and the Demon, among others, to draw fighting him; watching Jones deliver in his signature EC-horror/superhero hybrid style makes it all work. That leaves Astro City, which concludes a two-parter featuring Jack-in-the-Box that, with its bifurcated bad guys and weird, acrobatic action, becomes a tribute to Steve Ditko — not unusual for a series that’s always respected its classic predecessors, from naming streets in its title town after them to combining the best of the golden, silver and modern ages in the avatars that make up its cast.
Civil War II: X-Men #1 (of 4) — Writer: Cullen Bunn; Art: Andrea Broccardo; Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Vote Loki #1 — Writer: Christopher Hastings; Art: Langdon Foss; Colors: Chris Chuckry
Star Wars: Han Solo #1 (of 5) — Writer: Marjorie Liu; Art: Mark Brooks; Colors: Sonia Oback
Marvel Civil War II books and assorted first issues — Civil War II itself continues to set up its conflicts, with Tony Stark kidnapping the future-casting Inhuman Ulysses to try to figure out how his power works and everyone chasing after them, leading to yet another future vision that’s a game-changer; this installment’s mostly conversation, but that’s a Bendis strength, and Marquez is one of those artists who can make even people talking look good (plus,since it looks like next issue will be a huge fight, it’ll all even out eventually). Civil War II: X-Men builds on the natural antagonism between the mutants and the Inhumans (whose terrigen mists don’t harm gene-neutral humans, but are deadly to most mutants), with Storm’s team arguing for compromise, and Magneto’s, naturally, looking to strike first and eliminate the possible threat: it’s mostly set-up, and how you feel about it will depend on how much you care about the Master of Magnetism. Vote Loki is a mini-series (although Marvel hasn’t revealed how many issues, an annoying habit they started with some of their Secret Wars spin-offs last summer) about the Lord of Lies running for president of the US (insert your own Donald/Hillary jokes here; the script certainly does, although it names no names). The main attraction is the art by Langdon Foss (Winter Soldier and The Surface, among others), which has an appealingly-sketchy, open indy style that fits the book’s tongue-in-cheek satire. Finally, Star Wars: Han Solo is exactly what you think it is, picking up on the charming rogue just after Episode IV, as he tries to resume his smuggling career but finds that his heart isn’t in it; then, an undercover mission involving a space race comes up, and… well, you can guess where it’s going, but writer Liu (who’s been having a lot of critical acclaim for her Monstress series) has a confident, light touch with the plot, and Mark Brooks uses a photographic style that makes everyone look suitably swashbuckling and on-model.
Hellcat #7 — Writer: Kate Leth; Art: Brittney L. Williams; Colors: Megan Wilson
Amazing Spider-Man #14 — Writer: Dan Slott; Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli; Inks: Cam Smith; Colors: Marte Gracia
Scarlet #10 — Writer: Brian Michael Bendis; Art/Colors: Alex Maleev
The other Marvel books — Black Widow continues to be a breakneck international spy thriller, with Waid and Samnee working completely in synch after all their years on Daredevil (Waid’s confident enough in his collaborator to leave him a number of wordless panels, and Samnee delivers a number of clear, super-well-composed pages with no words to clutter up all those pretty pictures). Hellcat makes good use of Brittney Williams’s charming, cartoony-manga-influenced drawing, so much so that it’s easy to miss how solid (and continuity-enhanced) Kate Leth’s plotting is; this issue guest-stars Jessica Jones, and the byplay between her, Patsy, old frenemy Hedy and She-Hulk is a lot of fun. The book ends happily, too, although with the Civil War II crossover gremlin looming next issue, the comic’s lighthearted humor and heart are going to be sorely tested. Amazing Spider-Man is the middle chapter of a three-parter with the powers-stealing Regent, who’s rapidly collecting heroes and using them to become an unstoppable Super-Adaptoid-type conqueror; between a bunch of guest shots (Iron Man, Mary Jane Watson and Miles Morales, especially), all the action and the Alex Ross covers, this has been an easy-to-like run for the webslinger. So too for International Iron Man, which, although it’s got a big “Civil War II”plastered on its cover, is just a continuation of Tony’s quest to find his birth parents, wrapped around a confrontation with a former flame who’s now become a highly-successful arms dealer and terrorist (as one does… at least in Tony’s world). The Bendis/Maleev combo combines characterization and conversation effectively in both words and pictures — but does so even better in the same team’s creator-owned Scarlet, from Maleev’s child’s-scrawl style in the opening flashback scenes to the wordless, intense violence during an outraged citizens/corrupt cops and politicians confrontation at the end; this comic’s had an erratic schedule (to put it mildly — a year between issues, and then three within six weeks), but has an intensity and heightened-realism resonance that makes it easy to forgive.
I Hate Fairyland #6 — Writer/Artist: Skottie Young; Colors: Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Jughead #7 — Writer: Chip Zdarsky; Art: Derek Charm
Lumberjanes #27 — Writers: Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh; Art: Ayme Sotuyo; Colors: Maarta Laiho
Only a couple of indy books to note this week, as DC’s Rebirth sucks up all the oxygen: Kyle Baker is always worth a look, and when he’s doing a tribute to Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka, as here in Circuit Breaker, it’s even more fun, watching him toggle between cartoony and realistic characters in this story about Japanese society after a series of US/Japan robot wars (writer McCarthy has a couple of inspired moments, too, like the US robots all spouting Marvel comics slogans like “It’s clobberin’ time!”), and the young girl, who’s secretly a robot herself, who’s trying to bridge the human/machine divide. I Hate Fairyland is Skottie Young unleashed, standing regular Oz/Wonderland tropes on their heads with his tale about a young girl who ends up in a fantasyland, fails to solve a series of Dorothy-like quests that would get her home, and, 25 years later, is a 30-year-old, still in a child’s body, who has gone utterly, murderously insane. Great, over-the-top fun, if you aren’t bothered by cute cartoon characters suffering imaginative bloody deaths. Jughead, having completed its first arc last issue, sees its title character and his red-headed best friend going on a summer camping trip, and, obviously, running into a series of hazards (a Mantle family reunion, where everyone’s as obnoxious as Reggie, is only the first). Derek Charm has the unenviable task of following the great Erica Henderson on art, but does OK; it helps that Chip Zdarsky continues to supply funny scripts that acknowledge the characters’ long histories while still finding new angles on them. That leaves Lumberjanes, supplying its usual monthly dose of slapstick, adventure, sharp characterization and subtle humanism: proof that great kids’ comics can attract a wide, enthusiastic audience.