NOTE: This article contains mild SPOILERS for DC’s “Rebirth” comics.
Any fan of big business, or the entertainment industry as a whole knows that making major pivots or adjustments in response to fan feedback doesn’t usually happen overnight. But with DC Comics’ newer, hipper, and ‘edgier’ continuity launched with the New 52 turning off as many old readers as it brought in, it was time for a change: and the DC Universe: Rebirth is it. And with just a handful of weeks under their belt, the company-wide relaunch has been a complete success.
We gave potential readers, lapsed fans and curious newcomers an idea of what to expect from the entire Rebirth line-up before it actually launched – but now that “Rebirth” titles are filling up digital and physical comic book shelves by the week, we’re checking back in. Not only has the “Rebirth” been a financial success, but it’s delivered a ton of unforgettable moments throughout a variety of critical hits already.
So, which of DC’s “Rebirth” books (in no particular order) should you be reading? We’ve got you covered.
No surprises here: one of DC’s most iconic heroes helped lead the “Rebirth” charge of returning to a character’s core identity – while breaking completely new ground. After a “Rebirth” issue that introduced Batman’s new costumed partner came an unforgettable (and easter-egg-filled) first issue that put Batman’s mortality in the spotlight. But when he was at his most vulnerable – literally moments from death – two new figures arrived on the scene to save him, and completely change the face of Gotham City.
The arrival came in the form of two new superheroes: Gotham and Gotham Girl. Blessed with… well, the powers of Superman, for simplicity’s sake, the two young heroes were just as determined to protect Gotham as Bruce Wayne ever was. And with powers he could never gain himself, Batman accepted that these may be the successors Gotham truly needed. The story that followed saw Batman uncover the identities and origin story of Gotham and Gotham Girl, and the shadowy appearance of two nightmarish DC villains (and Amanda Waller). But it’s the chilling reminder that someone with the power of a god can be as much of a threat as a savior that forms Tom King and David Finch’s true story… while setting the stage for the next major arc.
Best Moment So Far: The recreation of an iconic “Superman” scene (with a horrifying twist) is a top contender, but there’s just no competition when Alfred Pennyworth suits up as the Batman.
14. Green Lanterns
There were plenty of fans of both Jessica Cruz (winner of an alternate universe, then legitimate Green Lantern ring) and Simon Baz (new Lantern recruit from the New 52 launch) before they were given their very own team-up title, but “Green Lanterns” has doubled down in a big way. Writer Sam Humphries has focused his self-described Lethal Weapon-esque space cop adventure on the most controversial – but more relevant – aspects of each character, with artist Robson Rocha bringing it to life. For Simon, it’s the fear and anger he still feels after false imprisonment on suspicion of terrorism, and for Jessica, it’s crippling anxiety and self-doubt.
That may make them unique (and much-needed) reflections of readers – particularly those facing racial prejudice, or anxiety of their own – but it only makes work as a fearless, self-assured ring-slinger more complicated. Making the most of that weakness, the Red Lanterns have struck Earth – hard. With hopes of planting a ‘Rage Seed’ in Earth’s core, and slowly turning thousands of innocent humans into rage-fueled maniacs, the larger mysteries of a new Guardian (with a new ring) and Simon’s gift of ‘Emerald Sight’ will have to wait for their chance to expand on the heroes’ mythology.
Best Moment So Far: Every time Simon and Jessica suck it up and head into the fight is worth a cheer, but Simon actually purging rage from a Red Lantern (Bleez) shows the ring – and Simon – is more powerful than previously thought. Her fate not long after is just as powerful, if infinitely more tragic.
13. Justice League
It goes without saying that in the event of any DC reboot – or, in the case of “Rebirth,” a company-wide, in-continuity ‘returning to center’ – the Justice League is a title to keep a close eye on. And even though the heroes of the team have their own missions and villains to worry about in solo books, the collected team-up under Bryan Hitch and artist Tony S. Daniel is hinting at a massive story and addition to DC mythology. The first “Rebirth” issue focused on an attack from a strange, mind-controlling, city-sized insect, but the “Extinction Machines” story in series proper is even bigger – and even more vague.
The average comic book reader won’t need much convincing to pick up a “Justice League” comic, and Daniel’s artwork is worth the price alone. But with a collection of enormous beings – composed of humans absorbed into one massive form – standing on all sides of the Earth, united to apparently end all life… well, let’s just say there’s more than enough mystery and prophecy to go around. We don’t yet know what the secret or history of the “Kindred” is, but the scale and intrigue has us convinced Hitch is up to something special.
Best Moment So Far: The mysterious “Kindred” managing to drain the powers of both a Green Lantern and The Flash was confusing, but it started to make sense when Issue #3 ended with the beings appearing to condense the Speed Force, Emotional Spectrum, Magic and Cosmic side of the DC Universe into physical form.
When the New 52 was brought to a close with the death of one Superman, it went without saying that the solo “Superman” series would be a necessity to truly grasp the meaning and mystery of the hand-off, and so far, the desire to give Clark Kent, Lois, and Jonathan the spotlight and a chapter of their own has succeeded. Even that brief an introduction to Superman’s current complications should soften the blow of hearing that early on, “Superman” is juggling a few different tasks. The first of which being focused on helping Jonathan come to terms with his new powers (with special attention paid to his heat vision). Father and son team up before long… but then the real threat emerges.
While the Man of Steel has been dealing with a villain from his past in the pages of “Action Comics,” Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason have pitted him against another re-imagined opponent from the same comic book story: The Eradicator, an alien entity corrupted into destroying everything that isn’t Krpytonian. It’s a well-drawn, well-told trip down memory lane for older fans, but isn’t just recycling old stories, either. In fact, the book has already given Lois Lane an unforgettable moment, a trip to Batman’s moon base, a communion with the spirits of dead Kryptonians… you get the idea.
Best Moment So Far: Tomasi and Gleason have delivered plenty of fan service moments already, but even better than Jonathan’s comb-punch with his dad or Lois donning a suit of armor to protect her son is the new origin of Jonathan Kent’s own cape (taken from everyone’s favorite canine: Krypto the Superdog).
Geoff Johns made sure that his last major comic writing gig for the foreseeable future (shifting instead to DC Films) would be a memorable one by delivering the return fans had been begging for: Wally West. It may have been as memorable as a resurrection can get, it was his knowledge of strange threats behind his own appearance and the New 52 Universe that piqued fan curiosities. But with Barry Allen still laying claim to “The Flash” comic in DC’s line-up, to “Titans” Wally West soon fled. And once again, fans still glowing from seeing Wally return to his friends and family are in for a treat.
Sure, the villainous Rogue Abra Kadabra has taken credit for making Wally “disappear,” and has since conjured up doppelgangers of the Titans’ “teen” selves to tear them apart. But so far it’s the welcome back tour that’s satisfying fans. Seeing Wally and Barry reconnect was one thing – seeing the same reunions between Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, Roy Harper, Garth and more is a condensed reminder that the bonds established by the Teen Titans the first time around will be seeing Wally through – even if one Titan may have already been killed…
Best Moment So Far: The massive group hug welcoming Wally back was a dream come true for the sentimental, but as we mentioned above, seeing the fully-grown Titans taking on their younger, rawer, and less disciplined selves is just as cool as you would imagine (plenty of that credit going to artists Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund).
10. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps
Of all the “Rebirth” titles returning to the roots of the heroes, or beginning new chapters simple for newcomers to jump on board with, “Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps” stands apart. Because as Jessica and Simon take over their duties as the new Lanterns of Earth, the landscape for the Corps as a whole is not looking good. Assuming some readers may have strayed from Robert Venditti’s “Green Lantern” series prior to the “Rebirth,” allow us to set the stage: The Corps is gone. The Guardians are gone. The planet Oa is gone. And Hal Jordan has put his time as ‘Green Lantern of Earth’ behind him.
Obviously, that’s a pretty bleak setting. But Venditti wastes no time in making the most of it – because it’s also the perfect opportunity for Hal to embrace the ring once more, and arrive on the scene to show the galaxy (and the reader) that willpower isn’t dead. And as long as he’s still fighting, nothing is certain. The series does give readers a bit of a crash course to get them up to speed, and before long, Sinestro’s communion with Parallax, campaign of fear, and the re-emergence of the Corps’ most familiar faces hits every single note fans hope for in a “Green Lantern” adventure.
Best Moment So Far: Artist Rafa Sandoval has been delivering pitch-perfect visuals for a while now, but it doesn’t get much better than Ethan Van Sciver returning to chronicle Hal’s crafting of his very own ring from the force of willpower itself – sending tremors throughout the spectrum and its wielders as a warning that the light’s greatest champion was coming back into the fight.
9. The Flash
As most fans of the DC’s scarlet speedster will tell you, the mandate to “return to the heart” of a hero like Barry Allen is easier said than done. Not because it’s a more difficult task… simply because Barry never strays too far from it to begin with. So with “The Flash: Rebirth,” writer Joshua Williamson had to craft a challenge of his own – namely: give Barry what he’s secretly been missing and longing for… and build a new threat out of that. In practice, that means having the Speed Force lightning that chose him as its speedy champion choose a brand new partner. And then another… and another… and another…
The rush of nostalgia that came flooding back when Barry recalled his time with Kid Flash in “DC Universe: Rebirth” clearly struck a chord in the DCU itself, creating a new generation of speedsters for Barry to train. Sure, there are still ghastly crimes, Speed Force battles and a brand new villain, but even Barry acknowledges that he’s beginning a new chapter of his career: Barry Allen the Teacher. That’s reason enough for any Flash fan to pay attention, and with artist Carmine Di Giandomenico launching the series with energy crackling off the page before handing it off to Neil Googe’s softer, expressive style, it’s every bit as wholesome as Barry himself.
Best Moment So Far: Barry Allen’s always had an abundance of leadership and ideal mentoring qualities, but seeing him issuing commands to his speedster partners (one a CCPD detective, the other a S.T.A.R. Labs instructor) along with two students turns a cool idea into a new kind of action scene for The Flash. The students’ amazement that The Flash actually knows their names is just icing on the cake.
8. All-Star Batman
Look, nobody needs to be given a justification for reading anything written by Scott Snyder. And after delivering what will probably be looked back on as the most consistently solid fifty issues of “Batman” comics, Snyder’s departure was a hard pill to swallow… until fans learned he’d be able to tackle a new “Batman” story all his own. The title alone – “All-Star Batman” – set hopes sky high, and the first issue showed what story Snyder had in mind that could call upon the specific talents of artist John Romita, Jr. In short: a trip across the country to an unknown location, with Two-Face cuffed at his side, and every villain or vigilante coming to take him down for the fat prize on his head.
As if it weren’t enough to pit Batman against one enemy after another in a road trip from Hell – or let inker Danny Miki and colorist Dean White make Romita’s pencils look better than ever before – Snyder also has a back-up story enticing enough to sell copies on its own. We still don’t know which narrative we’re most curious to see play out – Batman and Two-Face’s mysterious journey, or the “secret history” of Batman’s many sidekicks and their training – but fortunately for us, and readers, we don’t actually have to decide.
Best Moment So Far: Being ganged up on by Firefly and Black Spider leaves Batman scrambling. But after a nifty diversion in a rural field lets Bats get the drop on his enemy, he makes the most of it – chainsaw in hand. Yep, chainsaw. Once Firefly gets a look at how he’s used it on his partner, all it takes is a glance to send him running.
7. Action Comics
As we mentioned above, it’s the solo “Superman” book that’s covering Clark Kent’s return to the job, training his son, and battling a new Eradicator. But in the pages of “Action Comics” – the other Superman-led DC title – he’s got a more epic battle on his hands. It seems that writer Dan Jurgens has decided that after finally deciding that the world needs its Superman – even an older version returned from a parallel universe – Clark Kent should be faced with his greatest enemy: Doomsday. You see, while this older version of Clark already battled Doomsday two decades ago, the Kryptonian monster had yet to raise his nasty head in the New 52’s younger timeline.
The rematch with Doomsday calls on familiar imagery from the original “Death of Superman” story, but is much, much more than a retread. Jurgens makes the most of the changes, focusing on Lois Lane’s horror at seeing history possibly repeat itself, and the added risk (and motivation) this time around with Superman having a wife and child to worry about. Add in an actually-totally-good Lex Luthor in an armor suit helping Supes out – along with Wonder Woman – and the added wrinkle of a de-powered Clark Kent among those in harm’s way (it makes more sense in the actual comic, trust us) and “Action Comics” is doing its star proud. Both “Superman” books are treading new ground with plenty of homage, but “Action” has Doomsday to help tip the scales.
Best Moment So Far: We won’t outright spoil the conclusion to Superman’s battle with Doomsday, but seeing Wonder Woman arrive in the nick of time, and Supes concoct the perfect strategy to win the fight he previously lost is a thrill for any Superman fan, young or old.
6. Detective Comics
Nobody would have complained if writer James Tynion IV had come up with yet another Batman-focused story for the reborn “Detective Comics” to go along with King’s and Snyder’s, so it’s a good thing that his best story not only relied on most of the recent Batman family characters, but moved the spotlight from the caped crusader. With the first issue post-Rebirth, “Detective Comics” had already established itself as Batwoman’s story, giving the criminally-underrated Kate Kane her time in the sun. But as the issues have rolled out, everyone – Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and even Clayface – have gotten a memorable moment of their own.
Moving the sidekicks center stage makes this a must-read for any of their fans, fleshing out the world of Gotham City by showing that at time, Bruce Wayne might actually have the least going on out of everyone fighting alongside him. The villain(s) of the story also happen to be Batman’s worst nightmare, and directly tied to a member of the team. But with a new headquarters, new heroes, and new ambitions for the team members, Tynion has made “Detective Comics” the go-to book for fans of the larger “Batman” world.
Best Moment So Far: Seeing the reformed villain Clayface reveal his brilliant escape plan for the rest of the team in Issue #936 is hard to beat, but the latest cliffhanger starring Tim Drake entering his greatest fight yet takes the top spot.
5. Red Hood and the Outlaws
Every fan of the Bat knows the story of Jason Todd a.k.a. Red Hood a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. ‘The Boy Who Died.’ The hotheaded street rat recruited by Batman as his next Robin, beaten to death by the Joker, only to return from the grave as a bitter, brutal badass in a red helmet. Unfortunately, for as iconic and significant as Jason’s death may have been for Bruce Wayne… Jason didn’t just go away. And for obvious reasons, writers since have had a hard time finding a lasting place for him in the larger “Batman” universe. Part hero, part villain, harmless to heroes or downright homicidal… the character has changed like the seasons (fans can’t even agree on his hair color).
So imagine our surprise to find that not only was “Red Hood and the Outlaws: Rebirth” a visually thrilling book – courtesy of artist Dexter Soy – but an introduction to Jason Todd that was both faithful to the character, and a more promising start than we ever expected. Writer Scott Lobdell gives a recap of Jason’s origin story for new readers, positioning Jason as absolutely nothing like the man Bruce Wayne wanted him to be – but that doesn’t mean he’s useless, a lost cause, or lacking where it matters. At least, that’s the point Jason is out to prove (with a strong implication that his childhood with Bruce means more to him than he would admit). That alone makes “Red Hood” a comic not to be missed, with Lobdell and Soy the kind of gritty, attitude-soaked team that Todd would probably have chosen for himself.
Oh, and he’s also going to be teaming up with a renegade Amazonian warrior and Bizarro. So there’s that, too.
Best Moment So Far: There’s been several great moments thanks to Lobdell’s “words” and Soy’s “art” (as they’re credited in the book), but nothing can compare to the heartache, regret and power of seeing Jason’s hands reaching out for a photo of he and Bruce actually smiling – kept on a shelf next to the Batmobile’s wheel he stole on the night the two first met.
All right, time for Jason Todd to step aside and let the original Robin shine. Although, to be fair, Dick Grayson doesn’t really need any cheerleaders for his side, considering his own “Rebirth” was the best-selling title in DC’s entire line-up, second only to the Justice League and Batman (take a second to really let that one sink in). Thankfully, those who put their faith in Nightwing haven’t left disappointed, with writer Tim Seeley delivering a story that doesn’t just continue Batman’s conflict with Gotham’s Court of Owls, but is once again forcing Grayson to wonder what kind of hero he wants to be. That’s mainly due to Grayson’s new Court-appointed partner, Raptor, whose methods are bit more meta and… questionable than someone like Batman would appreciate.
There’s a kind of simple brilliance in using “Rebirth” to have Dick let his mind wander to his circus beginnings, and how they actually defined – and continue to define – how he sees the world, and his place in it. By adding an effective assassin who is, in many ways, the kind of hero that the young Dick Grayson would have dreamed of becoming, Nightwing has a dilemma on his hands. The reality check of seeing a nomadic circus acrobat face off against the daughter of a police commissioner is fruitful territory for a good writer. But when those two happen to be Nightwing and Batgirl… readers may start seeing their favorite heroes in new ways. The bottom line? Dick Grayson is infinitely more interesting than just ‘Batman’s sidekick’ – and “Nightwing: Rebirth” is making that perfectly clear.
Best Moment So Far: Raptor introducing himself by beating Nightwing bloody is a good first impression, but we won’t be forgetting Javier Fernandez’s artwork leading Dick, Raptor and Batgirl through a mansion-sized maze any time soon.
3. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey
Heading into DC’s “Rebirth” there was one superheroine whose stock was obviously on the rise, with the publisher making the most of fan excitement and enthusiasm for Barbara Gordon a.k.a Batgirl. Headlining not one, but two DC books, the assumption that “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” would be a worthwhile read out of the starting blocks seemed a safe one (especially with Batgirl becoming a mascot for young female readers everywhere, and Black Canary getting TV exposure thanks to The CW’s Arrow). But we didn’t know just what to expect from Shawna and Julie Benson, shifting to comics from their run on The 100, or artist Claire Roe – the three women forming what they referred to as a ‘superheroine trio’ of their own.
The reality was one of the strongest first issues in the “Rebirth” line-up in terms of setting the tone, characters, and conflicts in place. As always, Batgirl was the plucky-but-potentially-explosive prime mover, Huntress was a deadly fighter out for (justified) revenge, and Black Canary was… well, keeping so cool a head as to imply she’s compiling a shopping list while cracking skulls. The first issue doubled down on that attitude and fun, delivering three badass women DC readers could root for while demonstrating just how much early success can be bought when writer and artist are so clearly working towards the same goal.
The Black Canary fans have longed for? Check. Character and conflict based on actual human traits? Check. But perhaps the best compliment that can be paid to “Batgirl and the Birds of Prey” thus far is that it’s a perfect counterpart to one of DC’s most surprising hits – and the next entry on our list.
Best Moment So Far: The first issue is basically Roe demonstrating the full range of Dinah Lance’s eyerolls and scowls, but hat’s the exact moment that “All-Star” begins its back-up feature, showing what happens after the scene.
2. Green Arrow
For those following the release (and reception) of DC’s “Rebirth” it should come as no surprise to see Benjamin Percy’s “Green Arrow” on our list of must-reads, after the hero’s first issues didn’t just lead off the company-wide initiative but sold more issues than Oliver Queen had ever thought possible. It was no accident either, since the art style of Otto Schmidt was more than enough to turn heads – assuming the covers, drawn by artist Juan Ferrayra (currently drawing the interiors, as well) didn’t. But it was Percy’s continued interest in stripping Oliver down to his core that kept fans coming back, having shown a new crop of readers why Green Arrow is his own kind of hero – despite what other adaptations might imply.
The Percy/Schmidt pairing saw Oliver united with Black Canary after the New 52 had kept them apart, and sent Oliver up against a massive, twisted, all-powerful conspiracy out to erase everyone Oliver cared about. Ferrayra’s work has been just as acclaimed as that conflict reached a fever pitch, and for fans of the Green Arrow both old and new, the future has never looked brighter for the archer (even if it’s also insanely dark and horrifying at the same time).
1. Wonder Woman
Coming off the debut of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, and having delivered an intriguing and refreshing relaunch courtesy of Brian Azzarello for the New 52, more eyes than ever before were resting on “Wonder Woman: Rebirth” – and DC knew it. Why else have Greg Rucka, a writer famous for his previous time with Diana lead the charge? And lead it he has, with the twice-monthly release schedule being used to tell not one, but two Wonder Woman stories at once. One, a new origin story, and the other set in the present day, as Diana seeks to unravel the truth of her ever-changing history (how’s that for meta?).
The pitch may be promising, but the results have exceeded most hopes. A new origin story going forward is always a draw, but Rucka and artist Nicola Scott are already crafting one of the most intriguing, reverent and visually polished origins Diana has ever gotten. On opposite weeks, Rucka and artist Liam Sharp are hitting the same sentimental notes as they lead Diana up against past friends and foes in search of the truth, exposing the core of her character in as poignant and powerful a manner as can probably be done in single issues (while also turning in one of DC’s best-looking “Rebirth” titles, period). Words can only describe the series so much, so we’ll be direct: if you read just one “Wonder Woman” comic, or have been meaning to for some time, now is the time.
Best Moment So Far: Scott and Sharp are hitting the bullseye on two completely different targets, so it only seems fair to single out the moment their efforts combined: when the grizzled, scarred Steve Trevor of today (by Sharp) looks back on his photo of a young Diana (by Scott), taking him – and the reader – back in time.
Those are just the comics that we feel have burst out of the gate with momentum, or shouldn’t be missed my most comic readers. But which “DC Rebirth” titles are currently at the top of your list? Be sure to name your own favorites in the comments for other readers to catch, and any questions you might have about these “Rebirth” titles and more!