NOTE: This contains SPOILERS for "Batman", "All-Star Batman", "Detective Comics", "Nightwing", "Batgirl and the Birds of Prey" & "Red Hood and the Outlaws"
It's not easy being a modern comic book fan. That is, being a comic book reader. Because as easy as it may be to tune in to your favorite superhero TV show or take in a comic blockbuster, keeping up to date with a beloved hero can get complicated fast. And if you do manage to make time for the dozen ongoing series you're hoping to follow, there's the price - and the fact that major publishers usually can't wait to reboot or relaunch their entire catalogue, erasing or retconning the stories that preceded it.
Knowing that the bigger the hero, the bigger the challenge of keeping current, there are few modern comic heroes as big as Batman. So as DC Comics rolled out its "Rebirth" initiative, plenty of eyes were on the Dark Knight's many comic books and extended family members. Not a reboot, but a refresh - with new writers and artists launching new books with new stories.
So to catch curious fans up on what DC's "Rebirth" has meant to Batman, or to help newcomers decide which books to snag, allow us to break down the Batman Family Rebirth: What New Readers Need to Know.
Writer Tom King and artist David Finch wasted no time in showing why they were entrusted with one of DC's most coveted titles, delivering an easter egg filled first issue that started their first story with a bang. Two bangs, actually, in the form of two brand new superheroes who arrive on the scene to beat Batman at his own game. But instead of opposing 'Gotham' and 'Gotham Girl,' Bruce Wayne decides to embrace them, viewing two superpowered do-gooders as his true legacy - Gotham's own Superman and Supergirl... with Batman's tutelage.
The story sees thrills and tragic twists aplenty, with Batman finally forced to call the Justice League to Gotham City, Alfred finally getting into the Batsuit, and some cryptic teases about coming plot lines, villains, and relationships - with the added hint that Gotham Girl winds up marrying a member of the Batman family.
The story of Gotham and Gotham Girl sets an even larger story in motion... literally. With "Night of the Monster Men" the first "Rebirth" crossover event, Batman sees massive mutated kaiju start walking the streets of his city, destroying entire buildings with a swipe. The story calls on practically the entire Batman Family, hinting at some ongoing adventures in their own titles (which we'll get to soon). It's a threat that has yet to be completely solved, but King has already revealed Batman's next chapter.
Once the "Monster Men" are dealt with, Bruce Wayne will need to track down and capture the villain responsible for his recent headaches (the Psycho Pirate) from a secure holding facility. But to do that, Batman will first have to assemble a team capable of completing the mission... but potentially expendable. In other words: Batman will build his own Suicide Squad.
Fans of Scott Snyder's "Batman" tenure as the lead Bat-writer following the New 52 reboot migrated to "All-Star Batman", the new series conceived of and launched by Snyder himself. The idea is to call on a variety of artists over the comic's run, and the first selected is John Romita, Jr., as the bond between Batman and Two-Face gets a lot more complicated. Well, the bond between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent, to be more specific. The story picks up after Dent launches an attack on all of Gotham - foiled by Batman and new partner, Duke - and Bruce decides to put an end to Two-Face once and for all. With help from Harvey Dent, who, before being lost to his other personality, informed Bruce that he had solved the problem - now he just needs to reach the cure.
That means a journey of hundreds of miles, with every supervillain for hire out to bring down the Bat for the fat reward Two-Face has offered to the world. It's an easy road trip to hop on, but the backup feature is just as enticing. With Batman trying "something new" with his new partner Duke, he's jumping his ally to the final training his sidekicks underwent: The Cursed Wheel. Snyder's ideas of how Dick, Barbara, Tim and Damian rose from sidekick to hero is too good to pass up, giving readers two reasons to pay attention.
Then there is the other Bat-book, putting the Dark Knight somewhat on the sidelines, with writer James Tynion IV shifting the spotlight to his support players. With a new military force building in the shadows, Batman must unite his sidekicks and allies into one disciplined team: Kate Kane/Batwoman, Cassandra Cain/Orphan, Stephanie Brown/Spoiler/ Tim Drake/Red Robin and a reformed Clayface. Facing enemies who are basically Batmen themselves, the must-see moment of "Detective Comics" so far has fallen to Tim Drake. The sidekick turned hero has higher hopes for his future, but chooses the sacrifice play instead. It's an unforgettable climax (and a story still to be told), and an event no Batman fan will want to miss.
The staggering sales figures for the first month of the full "Rebirth" onslaught showed that Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing is still atop many fans' lists. And with "Nightwing: Rebirth," they're right to pay attention. The series picks up plenty of story threads from pre-Rebirth plotlines, but the basics are simple: the Parliament of Owls has pressed him into service by threatening the life of Damian Wayne. Dick foils that plan, letting him go undercover among the Owls to sabotage their grand designs.
Doing that means teaming up with one of the most intriguing new characters in the "Rebirth" so far: the man called Raptor... and his seemingly-magical gauntlet, Suyolak. Claiming himself to be "Better Than Batman" Raptor forces Dick to realize what becoming your own hero really means (and delivering some meta commentary on superhero branding along the way).
"Red Hood (and The Outlaws)"
One of the most surprisingly bright spots of the entire DC Rebirth has to be "Red Hood and the Outlaws," giving Jason Todd a story - and team - of his very own. It's not the usual story, since he's taking a truly heroic mission in coordination with Batman. And it's definitely not the usual team, with these "outlaws" including Artemis, a rogue Amazonian warrior, and a Superman clone. Scott Lobdell (words) and Dextor Soy (art) have crafted an impressive start, and with Jason taking his place at the front of a misfit, unexpected 'Dark Trinity' the future is looking bright for the former Robin. That alone makes this one required reading for diehards.
Batgirl and The Birds of Prey
It wouldn't be the Batman Family without Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl, and along with a solo series (following Babs on a trip around the world) comes the reunion of the Birds of Prey. The fan favorite team of Batgirl, Black Canary and Huntress is back with an attitude thanks to writers Shawna and Julie Benson and artist Claire Roe, seeing former partners Babs and Dinah Lance come out of retirement to take down the criminal using the 'Oracle' brand for nefarious purposes. Huntress interrupts on a mission of her own, and directly out the gate, the three heroines remind readers why they're beloved in the first place (with a shameless devotion to fun, above all).
We hope that gives new readers a good idea of what to expect, and which books may be up their alley. Everyone will pick and choose their favorites, but if the DC Rebirth has proven anything, it's that Batman - and his many partners and titles - is held as close to the publisher's hearts as he is to fans'.