After last week’s DC Universe-spanning DC: Rebirth Special #1 and the recently concluded 8-part crossover “The Final Days of Superman” (in which, SPOILER ALERT: Superman dies), it’s time for a new status quo (if not an outright reboot) for the DC universe, with Superman at the center of it all in Superman: Rebirth #1, written by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, penciled by Doug Mahnke, inked by Jaime Mendoza, colored by Will Quintana, and lettered by Rob Leigh. Is it good?
Superman: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
I’m not going to bother avoiding spoilers for the Rebirth one-shot (written by Geoff Johns and drawn by a variety of talented artists) here, because besides the fact that it’s somewhat necessary to understanding just what the heck is going on with DC these days (as a fictional universe, that is—I am baffled by what is going on with DC as a company), if you’re here, you probably already read it. Come on, it’s 80 pages for just three bucks! Similarly, I’m not going to bother avoiding spoilers for “The Final Days of Superman” (written by Tomasi with art by a variety of different talented artists), because the spoiler is literally in the title.
If you didn’t read these comics, though, and are here for a new jumping-on point for the Superman comics (which I imagine is likely with a shiny new #1), here’s a quick recap: after a series of adventures that pushed Superman—that is, the New 52 version of Superman that we’ve had since the 2011 reboot—to his absolute limits, his body is breaking down. When it becomes apparent that he’s not long for this world, his plans to make the best of his “final days” are interrupted by a number of superhuman threats, including a maniac named Denny Swan with all of Superman’s powers, violently insisting that he is Clark Kent and the one true Superman. With help from the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and, most importantly, a mysterious, older version of himself, (New 52) Superman defeats the evil imposter, dying in the process.
Oh, about that other, older Superman: he’s been transplanted to the current DC universe from the previous continuity’s universe in which he was able to grow older, marry Lois Lane, and have a son named Jonathan. After the family was transferred to the new world due to shenanigans from the convergence event, they’ve been living simply and in secret, with Clark careful not to reveal himself to the rest of the world.
With Superman: Rebirth #1, through an extended conversation with the current-continuity’s Lana Lang—who, as old Superman explains, he knew had a version of in his own timeline—it becomes clear that older Clark must become this universe’s Superman once again.
It’s…not quite as complicated as it sounds. While I generally am not a fan of the overall direction that DC seems to be heading in with its “Rebirth” initiative, Tomasi and Gleason make it digestible, even if they do accomplish that with heavily expository dialogue.
I don’t know if this will be the case with every “Rebirth” one shot, because I’ve only read this and the “Rebirth Special,” but for better or worse, this issue feels like a #0 issue, and perhaps it should be treated as such. Like other zero issues that I’ve read, not much happens in this issue, both in terms of action and moving the plot forward. It’s mostly just two characters talking, not so much for the sake of drama, but just because there is an apparent need to explain to readers just what the hell is going on.
I don’t mean for that to be the complaint that it sounds like. If DC really wants to bring in new readers for their new publishing initiative—or bring back old ones that have been gone for a while—than they’ve got some ‘splaining to do. Is it a particularly thrilling read? Not really. Is it necessary? It’s too early to say for sure, but my answer for now is “probably.” Hopefully, with all this exposition out of the way, Tomasi and Gleason can jump into the proper Superman #1 with all the excitement that first issue, not to mention the first issue of a Superman comic, should have.
I’ll admit, a large part of the reason why I’m recommending this issue at all is based on the good will that Tomasi and Gleason built up for me with their Batman and Robin run. Gleason is an excellent artist, who will be switching off on art duties with Doug Mahnke throughout the series (that’s the plan, at least), and Tomasi has proven that he knows how to get to a story’s emotional core. I’m hoping that the two of them could cut loose from editorial mandates once Superman picks up steam, especially with Gleason now sharing writing duties with his longtime collaborator.
The dialogue in this issue is handled well, even if a lack of plot prevents it from being particularly gripping. But the real star of the show is Doug Mahnke, who was forced to draw a comic that mostly consists of two people standing around and talking, and still make it look interesting. His figures and faces “act” convincingly, and he makes the few moments of action count in a big way. I look forward to seeing what he can do when he’s given the opportunity to draw more interesting things later in the series.
Is it Good?
Superman: Rebirth #1 doesn’t have much in the way of plot or action, so if you want to jump into an exciting new Superman comic in media res, you may have to wait until Superman #1 in a few weeks. But if you want a transition from the previous series to the current series, or a crash course on what Superman’s been up to, you could do a lot worse.