Here’s the Tony Isabella DC Universe Rebirth update. I still don’t understand what the heck is going on in the DCU, but I am enjoying the ride. Most recently, I read a big chunk of Batman comic books: Batman #6-12, the latest Batman Annual, Detective Comics #940-945 and Nightwing 5-10. What follows won’t be a blow-by-blow review of those issues, just some overall comments, likes and dislikes.
Batman, for the most part, is being portrayed as a complex man with personal issues, but who is quite capable of compassion. In other words, he’s not a massive rhymes-with-frick. I like that and I also like that Bruce Wayne is not being treated simply as a disguise for Bats. Bruce is a real person and Batman is a large part of who he is. That works for me.
Batman has been delving into some science fiction storylines, sort of an updated version of the wild adventures he used to have back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The arc with the super-powered Gotham and Gotham Girl felt like a modern version of the Batman’s World’s Finest Comics team-ups with Superman. The story delivered a satisfying conclusion and Batman gained an intriguing supporting cast member who I hope stays around for a while.
The “Night of the Monster Men” arc, which stretched out over all of the above-mentioned titles, was good creepy fun. The monsters were horrific, but no more so than Hugo Strange, who created them. This latest Batman/Strange clash also had a satisfying ending. I really like solid endings because, quite frankly, we don’t see enough of them these days. Too many stories end with the horrendous villain escaping to kill again.
Batman’s new “Bat-Squad” of Batwoman, Clayface and other heroes and would-be heroes is another attraction for me. More than ever, Bats has a family and, like every real family I know, they don’t always do what “dad” wants them to do. And, of course, with Clayface, we are getting a redemption story and veteran readers of my writings know what a sucker I am for them.
In these issues, a seeming tragedy occurs. I liked the way Batman and his team reacted to this. Rage and sorrow were moderated with a restraint not often seen in super-hero comics.
As for what I haven’t liked…let’s start with the architect of the above tragedy being Batwoman’s father. The character comes off as a cliche in these issues and, to be honest, while I can see comics writers using the government as villains over the next few years, I am not on board with the tired trope of the former soldier using his training to change the world as he sees fit. Marvel’s Punisher is enough crazed combat vet for an entire industry.
There also seems to be a darkening of Catwoman. Who, apparently, is responsible, perhaps personally, for over 200 deaths. Sure, Selina lives and operates in an often-bleak, morally ambiguous world, but the whole mass murderer bit doesn’t feel right to me.
Then there’s Nightwing. Dick Grayson hasn’t felt right to me for a long time. Not during his “no costume” spy days and not since he’s suited up again. I want to like the guy. I want to enjoy his comic. I’m not doing either. This is a series that needs a new direction that honors Grayson’s history while giving us something we haven’t seen before.
That said, I’m enjoying the DC Universe Rebirth titles I have read and look forward to reading more of them. When I do, I’ll doubtless write about them here.
I was excited when I read the solicitation for Captain Kid by Mark Waid, Tom Peyer and Wilfredo Torres [Aftershock; $3.99 per issue]. Waid rarely disappoints and the premise was one that resonated with this 65-year-old comics reader and writer:
Chris Vargas is a middle-aged man with a hacking cough, an obsolete job, and a bombastic secret: whenever he likes, he can transform into the teenage superhero Captain Kid!
There are lots of cool things about Chris. He’s a responsible guy trying to take care of his aged, sickly father. He wants to remain connected to his friends. For me, right there, that’s the answer to the question of why he doesn’t stay super and young all the time. Waid and Peyer also ground the super-heroics in reality. A super-hero needs a command of science and, especially, physics, if he is to use his powers effectively…and Chris comes up somewhat short in that area. Makes him more human. Makes him more interesting. So I’m mostly on board with this series.
Where I’m less than enthusiastic is the element of time-travel that permeates the first issue and the indications that there’s a larger story to be told, one involving other super-heroes and world-shattering events. Which is fine and good, I guess, even though you can’t hardly trip in a comic-book store without landing on super-hero comics filled with such things.
The middle-aged guy juggling power and responsibility, the guy who doesn’t want to lose himself in the super-hero suit, that’s a far more interesting theme than the common senses-shattering adventures I can get in dozens of other comic books.
I enjoyed Captain Kid #1 and #2. How much I continue to enjoy the series will probably depend on how well it maintains the elements I most enjoy and minimizes those I don’t.
My pick of this week? That would be Champions [Marvel; first issue #4.99, following issues $3.99 each]. Written by Waid with Humberto Ramos (pencils) and Victor Olazaba (inks) on the art, this new book features young heroes Ms. Marvel, the Miles Morales Spider-Man, the Totally Awesome Hulk ala Amadeus Cho, Nova, Viv Vision (daughter of the Vision) and the Cyclops brought from the past with the other original X-Men in a time travel storyline that makes my brain throb if I think about it too much. But, since I’m not gonna think about it, I can report I love Champions without reservation.
Obviously, as the guy who first conceived and wrote Champions for Marvel back in the 1970s – albeit with a much different and rather bizarre roster – I have a sentimental attachment to the name. I’m also delighted beyond belief that my “Because the World Still Needs Heroes” tag line is being used in this new series. But there’s so much more to my regard for this new team.
Just as he did with his too-short-lived Legion of Super-Heroes book of 2005, Waid has come up with a fresh new concept for a teen hero series. Back then, it was rebellious youth. This time around, it’s young heroes disillusioned with the antics of the older heroes with whom they’ve teamed. They are disillusioned with those heroes and their agendas that get in the way of just helping people. They are disillusioned about the “punch first” philosophy of their mentors. They want to change the world in positive ways.
These young heroes aren’t spending their time fighting old enemies in battles that have nothing to do with non-super people. They are intelligent and dedicated young people who think about the possible consequences of their actions and make good choices as a result of this forethought. Best of all, they are written realistically. As the father of two kids who, with their neighborhood friends, grew to be capable and decent adults, I find Waid’s handling of Kamala Khan and her teammates to ring true. The super-powered Champions of the Marvel Universe, just like the young people of our real world, are the hope of the future.
Champions is a progressive super-hero team book. It’s well-written and well-drawn. I love it a lot and, unless you’re the kind of jerk who thinks “social justice warrior” is an insult, I think you will love it, too.
I’ll be back next week with more reviews.
© 2017 Tony Isabella