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 three 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!
(Editor’s Note: We’ve switched up the formatting on the DC Reborn series a bit. We’ll still be reviewing all the series that come out each week, but we’ll be posting one review per hour instead of all of them at once. We’ll also have a round up post and final thoughts at the end of the day. Happy reading!)
Storytellers: Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Inker: Mick Gray
Colorist: John Kalisz Letters: Rob Leigh
Alex Lu: Uhm, where was this book two weeks ago? Talk about a 180 degree turn! If you’ll recall, Kyle, neither of us were fans of Superman: Rebirth #1. It was an ostensibly forward looking book that spent all its time dwelling on the convoluted past of a dead Kal-El who has been replaced by an older, alternate dimension version of himself. Much like that oneshot, Superman #1 doesn’t spend much time with the current Superman, but instead focuses on his son, Jon. Jon is a fascinating young boy, half kryptonian and half human (I accept this at face value, for better or worse)– he’s blessed with his father’s powers but none of his knowledge or upbringing. It’s up to papa Kent to bring young Jon up the way he was raised by the two humble farmers who found him sleeping in their field, but the journey is not as easy as it may seem.
Whether or not this book works for you relies entirely on how much you like Jon as a character, and I think writer Peter Tomasi does a great job of establishing the young Kent as a relatable young person. In many ways, he’s a stand in for the reader– in awe of this all-powerful, inspirational figure– except through Jon, the reader actually gets to live out their fantasy of having Superman’s powers. I really adore how well the Kent family– Jon, Lois, and Clark– all work together. They are the most loving, realistic family I’ve ever seen in the DC Universe. It makes it much easier to connect with all three of them, especially Clark, whom many writers can portray as too distant from human relations.
That’s why the climax of this book lands with such a big punch to the heart. After Jon kills his cat, Goldie, with the neighbor girl as witness, you know things will never be the same for any of the Kent family. Jon robbed himself of his own innocence, exposing the world to what unchecked power– even with good intentions– can do.
Kyle, what did you think of this issue? Were you as astounded by the turnaround as I was?
Kyle Pinion: Indeed! When Tomasi was announced as the writer of the Superman on-going, I knew off the bat that his sentimentalist streak would be a very good fit for the character and a nice about-face from the somewhat coarser, younger Superman that never seemed to smile, or have a good time at all. This is why I was so bummed by the way the Rebirth issue sputtered out the gate and it instantly shook my confidence in the direction Tomasi might have been heading. I was already not particularly fond of his work on Superman/Wonder Woman and Detective Comics in the months preceding this launch, but as it turns out, all he needed to do was be reunited with his Batman and Robin collaborator Pat Gleason and suddenly, the old magic returned.
Things are likely helped by the fact that Gleason is listed as a “storyteller” along with Tomasi, which generally is code for co-writing. Given that Gleason’s Robin: Son of Batman was one of the fun bright-spots of a pretty well-rounded DC You initiative, I can spot the positive influence that these two have on one another. It helps that Gleason is easily one of DC’s most striking and dynamic artists. That two-page spread of Superman in the costume, with his origin tale behind him is *gorgeous* and one of the most economical ways I’ve seen that background showcased since All-Star Superman.
Look, I’m a sucker for cute kids, and Gleason’s rendering of Jon just makes you wanna pat him on the head, especially after the utter tragedy of Goldie. Stupid Hawk!
This is a really unique way to open a relaunched Superman series. I can only assume that the main “Superman slugfests” will take place over in Action, appropriately enough, and with Superman, it’s going to be all about Jon’s journey…maybe in a lead-up to the Super-Sons title. I had such a great time reading this. It was marked with emotion that struck a chord with me, I adored the sequence where Wonder Woman and Batman confront Superman, all from Jon’s perspective, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
This is most excited I’ve been about Superman comics in some time, really. Because, frankly, it finally feels like I’m reading Superman. There were good runs here or there, but for whatever reason, his predecessor never quite clicked into the role the way I wanted. This is the Superman I’ve been missing.
Alex, do you think the split of story focus between the two titles works in a way that you find satisfying?
Alex: Absolutely. I think that, while I am not as sold on the direction of Action Comics as you were, Kyle, the decision to create what appears to be a fundamental split in the nature of the stories being told in that book and Tomasi’s and Gleason’s Superman is genius. It allows DC to capture different sectors of the market with the same character, which is about as creatively economical as you can get. I’ve been waiting a very long time for a Superman book outside of All-Star Superman to do something that resonates with me and is unlike anything I’ve ever read before– this book looks to be it.
I want to shower some praise upon Gleason as well, because he really kills it in this issue. It might just be the inks, but his work in this issue reminds me a lot of Greg Capullo’s art on Batman with its deep blacks and strong sense of composition. Interestingly, the first nine pages of this book are basically all splashes, but given the level of detail in Gleason’s art, I’m certainly not going to begrudge him for taking the space to flex his artistic muscles! The way that he draws eyes is particularly captivating, in my opinion– he clearly exaggerates them on most characters, Goldie included, but as basic cartooning theory tells us, big eyes melt people’s’ hearts. Finally, yes– that splash that showcases Superman’s past is one for the ages.
Okay, real talk now though. This might be some tin foil Cleganebowl theorizing, but I think that the opening pages of this book insinuate that this Superman might be Dr. Manhattan– or at least connected to him. Did you see this, Kyle, or am I totally off-base?
Kyle: No I saw what you meant, the blue hand-print and all, but it’s hard for me to imagine they’d want to undo all the good work they’ve done thus far with the character (which has taken far too long to correct, with way too many misfires with both fans and critics) so I’m unsure what they’re getting at. Then again, that panel comes right on the heels of another Mr. Oz mention, which I think we both agree is probably just Adrian Veidt in a really bad disguise, so we’ll see where this leads. I did think it pretty funny that he sees that blue hand-print goes “Hmm?” and then never mentions it to anyone again. I’m pretty sure I’d be mentioning that to Lois the first chance I got.
Maybe we’ll luck out and it’ll have something to do with the upcoming Eradicator storyline (somehow?) instead.
Hey, speaking of eyes, my favorite bit was how Jon perceived Batman and Wonder Woman’s eyes in that scene. It was neat to see Gleason approach them with those same deep black hues you cite, rather than the expressive take he’s so well known for. I liked that sense of otherworldliness.
Really, I liked everything about this issue, but my praise is reaching gag-worthy proportions. Definite buy for me.
Alex: Same here. Don’t forget, Superman’s eyes were just as terrifying as the rest of the Trinity’s in that moment! I can’t even imagine how Jon must feel right now– I certainly can’t wait to find out.
Stay tuned as we post our final review: Titans #1!