In Review: DC Universe: Rebirth #1

Lives up to and exceeds all expectations.

The covers: A pair to track down on this opening chapter of the Rebirth saga. The Regular cover, which is the image used to accompany this review, is by Gary Frank and Brad Anderson. It’s a wraparound cover featuring, from left to right, the Martian Manhunter, Jessica Cruz, Cyborg, Starfire, Green Arrow, Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Supergirl, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. All the characters are reaching for the electrical outburst on the far right from which a hand is emerging. Nice tease and excellent images of all the characters, though the coloring makes this dull looking. The Variant cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair. This, too, is a wraparound cover. The front features an hourglass held by a gigantic hand in silhouette. Several heroes are breaking out of the timepiece, including Harley Quinn, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, Batman, Captain Marvel, Robin, Kid Flash, and Batgirl. On the back are two other hourglasses being besieged by two bolts of lightning. One contains the 1980s versions of Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Cyborg. The other contains Golden Age heroes Doctor Fate, Flash, Dr. Midnight, Green Lantern, Hourman and Black Canary. This cover is colored much more brightly than the Regular cover, so for that it gets a grade bump. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A

The story: Geoff Johns’s opus opens up with an unknown narrator giving some background information about him or herself. This individual claims he or she used to be an optimist. Until something broke and time was lost. “I lost time. Everyone did.” This individual goes on to say that “I always found my way home. Because I had a lightning rod to ground me. But as hard as I’ve tried, I haven’t been able to find her. So I’ve been searching for someone else I can make contact with.” The scene pulls in to Earth and dives to the surface, to a city during a lighting storm, before arriving in the Batcave. “This is Bruce Wayne. He knows what it’s like to lose everything, too. Maybe Bruce can help me.” The Dark Knight is absorbed before his massive array of computer screens, each filled with a different image of Superman. He shifts the images to the Joker: three different images of the Clown Prince of Crime. He says to himself, “The chair said there were three. I need to find out what that really means.” There’s a spark of electricity near him which grows into a lightning sized bolt that almost fries him and the unknown narrator cries out, “Bruce!” The look on the Caped Crusader’s face has the narrator realize, “I’m forgotten.” I’ll keep things spoiler free, though the Internet has been giving details for several days. This individual is the link of every story and character encountered in this saga which seeks to reshape the DC Universe. Johns is doing everything perfectly. The narator’s origin is retold and how this individual is following in the deadly footsteps of his mentor. For fans of the 1980s, this will seem very familiar and very chilling. Characters that make appearances include The Flash, Johnny Thunder, a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Atom, Blue Beetle, Doctor Fate, Jessica Cruz, Pandora, the Justice League, Aquaman, Mera, Swamp Thing, and Constantine. Pages 48 – 54 are comic gold. Even if this is a reader’s first exposure to a DC comic, it’s outstanding and will make one a fan of both characters. With this character’s doom averted, the story moves into entirely new territory on the final four pages, bringing one group of characters into the DC Universe. There’s a four page epilogue that reveals, for those who’ve been reading comics for some time, whom may responsible for this universe’s rebirth. I can’t give this a perfect score for a story because it’s introducting so many characters and only touching them briefly. A good chunk of time is only spent with one character, and he’s fantastic, but I had my own favorites that I wanted to see more of. Still, a fantastic read. Overall grade: A

The art: The illustrators for this book are Gary Frank and Ethan Van Sciver for Chapter 1, Frank for Chapter 2, Ivan Reis providing pencils and Joe Prado and Reis providing inks for Chapter 3, Phil Jimenez and Frank penciling and Matt Santorelli and Frank inking Chapter 4, and Frank and Reis doing the pencils and Frank and Joe Prado doing the inks for the Epilogue. For such a collection of artists, the visuals are smoothly read, with no awkward transitions between teams at any point. There are several highlights in this book that are going to be looked upon as classic images: the splash on Page 6, the arrival in the first panel on 35, the last panel on 36, the arrival on 39, the pleading pose on 44, all of 48 – 54 (that embrace on 54 creates goosebumps every time it’s looked upon), and the splash on 60. Chapter 4 is the strongest piece of the issue, with the art being very familiar to the visuals provided by George Perez and Jerry Ordway to an iconic series. This is intentional, given what’s occurring to the narrator and what this individual’s powers are. As someone who read that epic series when it was coming out, month after month, these visuals took me back to the drama and shock of that series. Every page looks great and will be poured over as the Rebirth continues into next month. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Brad Anderson and Jason Wright color Chapter 1, Anderson goes solo on Chapter 2, Hi-Fi does Chapter 3, Gabe Eltaeb and Anderson do Chapter 3, and Anderson and Hi-Fi do the Epilogue. All of these artists do a superior job, with highlights being 6, 8, 17, 18 and 19 (which give a hint as to who the blonde haired individual is), 35, 39, 44, 48 – 52 (those yellows, oranges, and reds are terrific), 54, and the colors on the final two pages all but giving away who the narrator is, with the color of the narration balloons being also a big clue. The colors on this book put a tremendous punch into every character’s appearance, especially the individual trapped in time. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration and dialogue (the same font), sounds, transmissions, yells, handwriting, and chapter titles are all crafted by Nick J. Napolitano. There’s a lot — no, really; a lot — of dialogue to go on several pages and Napolitano inserts it so smoothly that no details in the visuals are obscured. This is the sign of a strong letterer. I would have preferred to see the narration be a different font than the dialogue and not rely on the colorists to differentiate them, but that’s a small nit. The sounds are amazing, and the stress put in the character’s speech that provides the common thread of this issue is chilling. Overall grade: A

The final line: Lives up to and exceeds all expectations. DC is mending fences. Let’s hope all the monthlies live up to this beginning. Overall grade: A

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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