I find myself bashing the major-two comic book publishers, Marvel and DC, more than I praise them. That said, I’d like to open this article with a heartfelt thank you to DC Comics. It’s still too early to tell 100%, but all indicators suggest DC is setting their ship right with “Rebirth.” The event seems to reinstate the original core values of their top-tier characters, getting them back on track after the “New 52” debacle. Hats off to them too for doing it inside of continuity too, as it should be done, rather than with the flip of a switch.
Now, with all of the niceties out of the way, I’d like to delve into Batman Rebirth #1. It’s not really a #1, instead being a standalone story, but numbering a one-shot issue with a #1 is a tried-and-true marketing technique that increases sales.
The best part of Batman Rebirth is Duke Thomas. The character doesn’t do anything special besides getting hired on by Batman’s new partner, at lest that’s what appears to be happening. He’s not a Robin, and he doesn’t even have a superhero handle yet, but Batman Rebirth shows that Duke is growing in importance within the Batman family. For those of you unfamiliar with Duke, he was a minor character in the Batman universe until the recently. In We Are Robin, Duke was the focal character, and one who I liked.
The art by Mikel Janin is good, dynamic, and the images tell a story well. The color work by June Chung is also engaging, and doesn’t overpower the eyes, giving it a darker tone that works well with Batman.
The story in Batman Rebirth is straightforward, which is what you need in an isolated issue, something that can be tied up in 22 pages of comic. But the problem I have with Batman Rebirth is the same problem I have with most of Scott Snyder’s Batman work. I can sense the collective gasp from the readers, but hear me out. Yes, I’m one of the few, it seems, who simply doesn’t enjoy Snyder’s writing. Snyder has one big flaw with his writing in my opinion — he’s lazy. The basic plot ideas are sound, but when you get into the details he tends to take the easy way out.
I’m going to break one of my rules of reviewing comics so that I can show you what I mean; I’m going to talk about specifics. In the comic, Calendar Man has a spore bomb that will detonate to disperse poison over Gotham. To further complicate matters, he has machines around the city that are drastically altering the weather into a mini seasonal cycle, one season per day. With the Summer cycle, for example, the temperature got up to 130 degrees. Then it turns into fall, the effects of which we don’t even see in the book, only to bring a bitterly cold winter. OK, nothing wrong with this. It’s a bad guy doing bad stuff, but the problems are in the details.
The finale is set up somewhere underwater in one of the bays close to Gotham. We are told the water is too cold for Batman to use an oxygen tank because the main valve will freeze. OK, so lets look at the problems here: 1) a pollen bomb set underwater will release spores into the water, and spores released into the water can’t spread through the air. If the bomb has a way around this, it’s never mentioned. 2) the water being too cold for the main valve of his O2 tank. Despite all of Wayne’s wonderful toys, his oxygen valves seem to be subpar. Divers go in the Arctic ocean all the time, so we have to assume that this water is colder than that… yet if that’s the case then Batman wouldn’t survive in his suit either. I guess we are left to assume that the Batsuit’s insulation is super duper but the oxygen valves are not. But wait for it, here is the biggest problem — is Batman’s submarine in for repairs? Why doesn’t he simply drive it over to this submerged bomb and take care of it that way?
You see, Batman couldn’t use the submarine because the climax of the finale is that the water is so cold that your heart will give out in about four minutes of swimming in it. So Batman has to swim in the water otherwise there is no drama to the scene. The same effect could have occurred by having Batman take the submarine there, it gets damaged by something, only to force him out into the water. Of course, this does nothing to solve the water valve problem. Needless to say Batman blows up the bomb, getting ejected from the water by the explosion, saving the day.
These are the kind of problems I find with Snyder’s writing all the time. There is nothing wrong with the setup, but the details are lazy and not well thought out. It’s as if he is only half trying to give you a plausible story. If he paints himself into a corner with his premise, there are either conveniently omitted details that change everything, or there just happens to be a conveniently placed get-out-of-jail-free card to save the day.
To be fair, Tom King co-wrote this issue, so I don’t know who is responsible for what. Regardless, such gaping plot flaws should have been addressed and Snyder, as the senior writer, should have never let them stand. Not to mention, where the heck was the editors?
In conclusion, Rebirth as a whole gets a big thumbs up. The Batman Rebirth gets a solid thumbs down.