Let's be honest. The New 52 was a failure. Whether it was creative or editorial is subject to debate, but the Image-y update of the classic characters of the DC Universe didn't work. In the end, the company decided to reboot...again...to return some sense of familiarity to their world.
The result is Rebirth. With the reboot well on its way, the first wave of trade paperbacks are hitting the shelves. I've been lucky enough to read several of them. Here's what I thought.
GREEN ARROW - The Death and Life of Oliver Queen:
I read the first issue of this relaunch when it came out. I thought it leaned way too far into "social justice warrior" territory. Thankfully, with a deeper look, that is just one aspect of the character, not his entire characterization. The best thing about the relaunch of Green Arrow is that it goes a long way toward rebuilding the bond between Black Canary and Green Arrow. The complete dissolution of that longstanding relationship was one of the biggest gaffes of the New 52. Green Arrow is a work in progress, but one worth keeping an eye on.
BATMAN - I Am Gotham:
What would happen if Batman rescued a boy and that boy had the means and motive to remake himself in his hero's image? And what if the procedures he subjected himself to rattled his sanity? You'd get Gotham. A Superman style character who does things that Batman simply can't, Gotham makes the Dark Knight doubt himself and his role in his own city. Ultimately a tragic character, Gotham is a solid first nemesis for Batman in this universe. It was a smart choice to sidestep the classic rogue's gallery. Give Batman a look if you're a fan of the Caped Crusader (and who isn't).
AQUAMAN - The Drowning:
Aquaman is a hard hero to get right. Too much Atlantis and he's the fish guy. Too much angst and he's just miserable. This first Rebirth arc really works because it hits that sweet spot between the two. The Drowning is, at its heart, a political thriller. Aquaman, as King of Atlantis, is trying to reach a detente with the surface world. Black Manta, of course, has other ideas. Mera is strongly characterized. As we prepare for the arrival of Jason Mamoa's Aquaman later this year, its nice to see his DC Universe counterpart getting strong representation.
JUSTICE LEAGUE - The Extinction Machines:
An extra-dimensional menace threatens Earth. The heroes of the DC Universe come together as the Justice League to stop that threat. The threat in this one was, frankly, a bit to generic for me to worry about. I don't care for the new Green Lanterns. It was not an auspicious beginning for the Justice League, but as long the big guns stick together, there's always hope.
FLASH - Lightning Strikes Twice:
The Speed Force has taken on near mythic qualities in the DC Universe. All of the speedsters are connected by and through it. It was only a matter of time until a speedster figured out how to weaponize it. That speedster is Godspeed, the Flash's new rogue and protagonist. Godspeed's origin cleverly ties into the Flash's and makes him an ideal foil for the Scarlet Speedster. Like I mentioned with Batman above, not using a classic villain is a smart move as the company restarts the Flash's run. Good read.
DETECTIVE COMICS - Rise of the Batmen:
This one was the most pleasant surprise of the whole bunch. A team of Batman associated characters - Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, Batwoman and CLAYFACE (?) - are assembled by Batman to fight an army of Batman inspired soldiers. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, including the identity of the person behind the entire enterprise. There is a moving moment at the end of the collection and the beginning of a new mystery. This one gets my highest recommendation of the bunch. Pick it up!
NIGHTWING - Better Than Batman:
Dick Grayson had a rough go in the New 52. He got outed as Nighwing, pretended to be dead and became a spy. As Rebirth begins, he's put all of that behind him and reclaimed his Nightwing identity. His new mission is to take down the Parliment of Owls. To do so, he is partnered with Raptor, a mercenary who may or may not know something about Grayson's past. I'm glad to see to see Nightwing back where he belongs, on the edge, on his own and on the wire.