We here at Retcon Punch are a naturally curious bunch, and there are few things more curious than DC’s Rebirth publishing initiative. In this Round-Up, we’re discussing Batgirl 1, Detective Comics 937, Hal Jordan and the Green Lanterns Corps 1, and Wonder Woman 3. Come back on Wednesday, August 3rd, for our thoughts on Nightwing 1.
Spencer: Despite the last two issues of the Burnside-era Batgirl run and the quick recap in Batgirl 1, I still don’t fully understand why Barbara needed to take a trip around the world — I mean, I can recite the reasons given, I just don’t feel like it was a natural direction to take the character. There’s a deeper thematic through-line to this chapter of Barbara’s journey that hasn’t become clear quite yet.
In every other aspect, though, Batgirl 1 is a fun and successful issue. Hope Larson and Rafael Albuquerque have a firm grasp on Barbara as a character — under their pen she’s funny and youthful, yet experienced, intelligent, and fiercely competent. Kai’s role as the “long lost friend with a sketchy past” is a bit cliche, but between the rather specific and detailed backstory Larson establishes for him, the effortless rapport between Kai and Babs, and Albuquerque’s inviting character design (Kai reminds me of Huck!), he’s still a character I’m interested in learning more about.
Perhaps most interesting, though, are the more subtle design and layout touches. Albuquerque has fun depicting Barbara’s eidetic memory, but truly shines in the action sequences. Take this skirmish between Fruit Bat and the “schoolgirl.”
Having the knife transverse the page’s layout itself is clever enough, but my favorite subtle touch here is the way the knife’s path breaks through the panel borders of the panels it actually interacts with, yet overlaps the panels/borders it’s just “traveling” past. This is subtle, intuitive storytelling, and shows a tremendous attention to detail. This applies to Deron Bennett’s lettering as well: instead of using <> symbols or italics to depict different languages, Larson and Bennett just change the font colors and occasionally throw in a bit of Japanese text to differentiate between languages. Not only is this technique far easier to read than most others, it’s also one that doesn’t even require an editor’s note to explain — it’s immediately clear from context what’s going on.
The strong grasp of storytelling fundamentals, characterization, and detail the creative team displays here bodes well for Batgirl‘s future. I’m positive the plots and themes will come together soon; when the rest of the title is this good, they almost have to.
Detective Comics 937
Patrick: I like how frequently Bat-family comics end up being about the characters’ Bat-fandom. I don’t know if it’s Batman’s longevity or what, but he’s become something of an inspirational figure – and that’s true whether you’re looking for escapism in a comic book or fighting crime in Gotham City. James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez’ Detective Comics 937 casts everyone in the issue as a Batman superfan, while simultaneously giving the reader fresh new reasons to double down on our own fandom.
A large chunk of this issue is a conversation between the hilariously named Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong and the Batman himself. Armstrong is the ultimate Bat-fan, evidenced by his desire to copy all of Batman’s crime fighting tactics, but also in the much more superficially by his simple Batman t-shirt. He’s also got the cover to The Dark Knight Returns pinned up on his cubicle wall. Even the grunts of The Colony get to have giddy little moments with Batman’s gear, as detailed on the first page.
It’s a cool layout, and one that seems like it could be paying homage to Frank Miller’s layouts in The Dark Knight. In fact, later in the issue, Ulysses treats Batman to footage of a Colony takedown that snaps right into the monitors-as-panels format prevalent throughout the Dark Knight series. In our conversations about previous issues, we’ve noted the artists’ aping J. H. Williams’ aesthetic when staging Batwoman heavy sequences, so it’s only appropriate that an issue that features so much Batman solo-badassery would recall one of the classics from Batman’s canon.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps 1
Michael: When I read a book called Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps (or HJ&tGLC), I’m expecting to see…Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, not Hal Jordan looking for the Green Lantern Corps. It’s the first issue – not counting Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Rebirth 1 – so I’ll give Robert Venditti the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t want to wait too long for Hal and the Corps to reunite.
If the concept of Rebirth is to ground things or simplify them, then setting the stage for a battle between the Sinestro Corps and the Green Lantern Corps is about as basic and “classic” as you can get. The Sinestro Corps is the supreme law enforcement of the universe, due to Sinestro’s fierce resolve and the compassion of his daughter Soranik Natu. Like the Wizard of Oz, Sinestro is putting on a front for his followers. For reasons yet to be explained, Sinestro has become an old and withered man who uses the power of Parallax to restore his strength and maintain his façade of control.
Artist Rafa Sandoval expertly draws Sinestro in his old age and in his prime – never betraying the self-determination associated with the character. There’s something not quite right about his Hal Jordan and Soranik Natu – maybe it’s just the inherent “clown design” of the Sinestro Corps uniform. Sandoval also draws the majority of the book with jagged panels that slice through the action of the page; perhaps suggesting the twisted nature of a universe protected by Sinestro.
Wonder Woman 3
Mark: It’s easy to fault Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp’s odd-numbered “present” Wonder Woman for moving too slow. Two issues in, and we’re no where near beginning to explore the truth Diana seeks. Far from it, as the next issue promises to sidetrack us even further from any answers. But Wonder Woman 3 begins to reveal that “The Lies” Rucka is exploring go far beyond simple narrative revelations.
Cheetah is one of Wonder Woman’s greatest villains, but their relationship here is portrayed with unusual complexity. The strongest moment of the issue, and the emotional climax, is Wonder Woman cradling Cheetah on the jungle floor, assuring her that Urzkartaga’s brutal treatment of her is not her fault. Rucka makes his implications very clear, going so far as to indicate part of the reason for Urzkartaga’s rage is that Cheetah was not a virgin when she was sacrificed to him. That shame Cheetah feels is the lie Rucka is exposing in Wonder Woman 3, and Diana Prince as advocate for victims is an unquestionably worthwhile use of the character.
I am not a huge fan of Liam Sharp’s art (and it comes down to my usual complaint: faces), but I am impressed with his reinvention of Cheetah. In the past, Cheetah has been portrayed as your typical sexy catwoman; while she may ostensibly be covered in fur and have claws, her previous design was basically a curvy woman with long hair wearing a skintight cheetah-print onesie. Sharp’s Cheetah is much more animal than woman, and the contrast is stark. Now that it’s here, the design feels like a no-brainer, and the stark ridiculousness of previous character models is in sharp focus.
I’ve been very impressed with the way Rucka has been handling Wonder Woman, both on and off the page. Despite some pacing issues, Wonder Woman remains the most promising title to come out of Rebirth.
The conversation doesn’t stop there, because you certainly read something that we didn’t. What do you wanna talk about from this week?