“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
That’s from Semisonic’s Closing Time — a song about leaving comfort zones and returning to stark realities. When Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo formally announced their departure on the Batman series — a partnership and run with an endgame in mind that was so successful, DC pulled out all the stops to keep it going for as long as possible — fans were crushed. It was time to face the inevitable, the reality of a Batman book written and drawn by a new creative team.
And while Capullo has already moved on, Snyder is still with DC and will continue to work on at least one Bat-title, All-Star Batman. In the meantime, and for one more issue, the soon-to-be-former Bat-scribe Snyder puts his flourishing touches on Batman: Rebirth #1, a one-shot co-written with Tom King, the incoming writer tasked with taking Batman into his next chapter.
That next chapter will likely involve incorporating Wally West returning to continuity along with an imminent showdown with the Watchmen. So far, Rebirth is grounds for both a return to form and a potentially epic storyline that will affect all of DC’s titles, henceforth.
To recap: Along with West, the original Superman and Lois Lane are back. It’s only a matter of time before the JSA return with the rest of the heroes remembering who they once were. The New 52 was described as a reboot at launch, but Rebirth Special #1 flipped it on its head with a ret-con that offsets all of the New 52’s failures with some promising developments.
As it turns out, Barry Allen’s attempt at fixing the timelines in Flashpoint wasn’t so much a failure as it was sabotaged by an unknown force that may or may not be Dr. Manhattan working with Adrian Veidt. A decade was stolen out of the reconstructed universe with memories being erased from the missing time period. When Barry somehow remembers who West is, Rebirth happens — a process by which all of the heroes begin to recall their former lives.
The theme of Batman: Rebirth #1 works parallel to the overall story with an emphasis on evolution and escalation. It was Batman who discovered the blood-stained smiley-face pin in his Batcave back in the Special, and it turns out Calendar Man has gone through some interesting developments of his own, becoming more than just your average psychopath with a penchant for dates. Aging with the seasons, Calendar Man lives, dies, and returns to life, shedding his old skin each year. Batman, cognizant of looming danger, knows he must adapt with the changing times and recruits Thomas Duke as a stop-gap.
The new plot points don’t wait for permission — this is the ongoing status quo, and the issue gives the new creative team time to put its stamp on it. Soon, in Batman #1, King will take over full scripting duties, and I’m confident he will be up to the task. It isn’t clear who is responsible for the parts of the script this issue, but the overall setup is compelling. In Snyder’s run, we saw the rogues gallery get new updates. It’s something that has worked to keep the threats fresh and current, and I think it’s a solid plan as long as it doesn’t become too gimmicky.
And given King’s recent work on Grayson, he certainly has a knack for getting into nitty-gritty detective details while laying down a suspense-packed plot. After incapacitating Calendar Man, Batman uses the electrical charge in his suit to disintegrate the spores. While it’s nice to see that the Electric Batman toy is now part of canon, it’s also great that King doesn’t forego something like Batman covering Calendar Man in his cape to shield him from the shock.
Mikel Janin’s art is excellent, and while David Finch will be the series main artist as it moves forward, I am very excited to see Janin’s work on the series. Since Grayson, he’s become one of my favorites. His layouts are incredible, and he creates a visual tension in his panels that makes his artwork breathe. When Batman continues his dive underwater to take out one of Calendar Man’s weather machines, Janin splits the page into thirds using Batman’s cape and putting the focus on his cowl. The movement in between the three panels may not be there on the page, but they might as well be there given the easy-to-follow sequentials.
And because Janin’s artwork looks more “realistic” compared to Capullo’s style, the rebirth of Calendar Man takes on aspects of a horror movie, which is a great thing.
Along with Janin’s digital art, June Chung adds a noir-ish shade to the panels which are ripe for luminous blues. The colors have a texture that looks like watercolors, and it gives the artwork a nice touch with some added dimensions. If I had one gripe, I wish there was a bit more saturation on the flesh tones in daylight. Elsewhere in the issue, the colors add incredible atmosphere — much of that gets lost in the sunlit panels.
Batman: Rebirth #1 ends with Alfred picking an avocado from a tree. Breaking it open, he discovers something near the pit. The pieces of the avocado drop into a hole in the ground, leading deeper into the Batcave where thousands of bats take flight.
It’s a sign of things to come as Batman brings more into the Bat-family fold to deal with a burgeoning threat. Danger will come hot and heavy, and we’ll see how the Dark Knight handles them. For now, this issue gives us something akin to the passing of the torch, a changing of the guard, or the abdication of the throne. Snyder has left the Batman title.
Long live King — and the rest of the new creative team.
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