The world has been reborn.
Last month’s release of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 kicked off a new era of storytelling for the publisher. The house that gave us Batman and Superman is looking to make up for the mistakes of the New 52 canonical reboot, reinstating old plot points that were erased from their timeline and even bringing back old versions of classic characters that had been discarded in favor of newer, “edgier” ones.
Rebirth #1 promised us character driven stories filled with more heart than fist. Can they deliver? Each week, Kyle Pinion and Alex Lu will dig into the Rebirth titles kicking off DC Comics’ line overhaul to find out. This is week four of DC Reborn.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. You’ll find our buy/pass recommendation for this book near the bottom of the article, so if you’re looking for a quick guide before heading out to the store, you’ll find it there!
Detective Comics #934
Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Eddy Barrows
Inks: Eber Ferreira Colors: Adriano Lucas Letters: Marilyn Patrizio
Alex Lu: Two weeks ago, DC launched a new run on Detective Comics featuring James Tynion IV on scripts and Eddy Barrows on art. Frankly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Detective Comics and Batman have always had a bit of an identity crisis, but it seems like the creative teams behind those books have finally solved it. In Detective Comics #935, Tynion and Barrows continue to channel Batman Incorporated and Batman Eternal by assembling the extended Bat-family and having them train to combat an as-of-yet unrevealed threat to Gotham. It’s not a particularly complex plot, but it is an effective one because it allows readers to engage with the characters as an ensemble, which is something we rarely get to do outside of events.
This book lives and dies by the relationships between the members of the Bat-family. Tynion writes these interpersonal narratives in a truly affecting way, showing how much he has grown as a writer since his DC debut about four years ago. Stephanie Brown and Tim Drake share a beautiful moment together that is interrupted by Cassandra Cain, who we learn is a deadly fighter but an adorably unaware person off the battlefield. Kate Kane voices her doubt with Batman’s plan to her father. The two share a strained relationship that never erupts into a direct fight between them, but is expressed through the passive aggressive verbal jabs they throw at one another. These are deep moments of insight that I had forgotten DC was capable of.
I know you weren’t as high as I was on the last issue of Detective Comics, Kyle. Has your opinion changed at all?
Kyle Pinion: Not largely. Don’t get me wrong, I think this issue was bit of an improvement over the last, which I thought was painful to read in parts. This week’s offering at least gave us some character beats that I could grasp onto, particularly the interactions between Tim, Steph, and Cass that at least underline the beating heart that can make this title’s concept work. But I’ll be damned if Tynion can’t get the hell out of his own way with the dialogue. On one splash-page, I counted more than 60 words, and there are moments where it almost looks like the dialogue balloons are threatening to overtake Eddy Barrows’ work here. Marilyn Patrizio had a bit of a Herculean task ahead of her to make all of this work together, so hats off to her.
And it’s not even just the sheer volume of text that I find troubling, it’s also the content itself, where characters literally relay every single thing that’s on their mind. I know in Big Two comics, there’s a sense of having to weigh dialogue down with exposition in order to catch readers up, but I find this to be an on-going bad habit of Tynion’s, and I wish he would turn the keys over to Barrows and let the art do the talking sometimes.
The story is structured well, to its credit, and I was fan of certain pages were arranged with painted visages of Batwoman and Red Robin during their more emotional moments. That’s the kind of clever I was hoping from a Tynion and Barrows’ collab. But I still largely find this book to be a frustrating read, not because it’s terrible, but because it’s so close to being good that its flaws stick out more prominently.
Alex: True enough, I agree that Tynion has a tendency to overwrite. However, I’d hardly count him among the worst offenders, considering I’ve seen entire paragraphs in word balloons of The Walking Dead. In addition, I honestly never thought the writing truly overstepped its bounds in Detective Comics #935. I think Barrows would have been capable of expressing some of Tynion’s dialogue through visuals, but none of those moments were so egregious that I felt like my enjoyment of the book was lessened.
There aren’t many books among the Big Two’s catalogue that so effectively combine solid scriptwork and singularly gorgeous art. Like you said, Barrows is a bonafide star when it comes to layouts, constantly trying new shapes and visual motifs across pages. Yet, even his most experimental ones– the panels on one page are arranged in the shape of the Batsymbol– are never hard to parse. The painterly moments stand out as well, as they are generally the best examples of Tynion’s script working together with Barrows’ art.
Perhaps it’s just the English major in me that allows me to tolerate the number of words Tynion puts on the page. Looking over the book again, there certainly are a lot, but it never felt that way upon my initial read. I’d put this book in my solid buy camp– what does it need to get into yours, Kyle? Does Tynion just need to loosen up a bit?
Kyle: Yep, that’s basically all it boils down to. Let the art do the work at times and just tone it down on the big, long speeches. The book has a solid emotional core as you note, and there’s a lot to take advantage of – particularly that Steph and Tim thread which pulled on all my nostalgic strings. I haven’t given up hope yet! Interestingly, how funny is that both Action and Detective have mystery men running in the background? Hey, maybe it’s the Comedian? (I really gotta let this one go…)
Stay tuned throughout the day as we post reviews for The Flash #1, and Wonder Woman #1!