Batman Rebirth #1 Review

Posted June 1, 2016 by Jean-Luc Botbyl in Comic Books

Written by: Tom King and Scott Snyder

Art by: Mikel Janin

Publisher: DC Comics

With Rebirth #1 last week, Geoff Johns promised an overhaul of the formula DC has relied on for nearly five years now. It was the antithesis of what superhero comics have become – a full blow rejection of the interpretation popularized by the likes of Alan Moore and Frank Miller. It was brilliantly refreshing.

This week, the follow through to Johns’ vision is being left to the creators responsible for the Rebirth one shots. Of the four teams with books out this week, it is my firm belief that this team had one of the more difficult challenges. In this bold new world proposed by Johns, where do you take Batman? Despite some changes to the lore, Bruce Wayne is a character that has remained largely unchanged. Unlike Superman, Green Arrow, Batgirl, and countless other heroes, Scott Snyder didn’t reimagine the character for The New 52.

In Batman Rebirth #1, Tom King (along with Scott Snyder) seems to be taking the same approach. Perhaps it’s too early to tell, but the pages of this issue don’t do all that much to change the character. There are hints at some change to come, but he’s not reverted back to an old status quo, nor is it revealed that he was actually the Joker this whole time. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it’s written this well. Batman reads and looks like Batman, and that’s perhaps the highest praise I can give to this issue.

In terms of plot, the issue is fairly simple – it’s the start to what could be a cool new take on the Calendar Man. Or King could just leave this behind, and that would be fine too. The driving force is how Bruce interacts with the characters surrounding him – primarily Duke Thomas. Characters like Alfred, Lucius and Gordon are given nods, but they are not the focus of the issue. King and Snyder instead use this issue to establish the relationship between Bruce and Duke. It’s well written, and their dynamic is immediately interesting.

In terms of art, well, Mikel Janin is on art duties for this issue. Over the course of his time on Justice League Dark and Grayson, Janin has made a name for himself as one of the best artists working right now. If this issue is any indication, he’s not likely to give that up any time soon. On a pure aesthetic level, his art looks excellent. More importantly, it contributes important elements to the storytelling. His use of shadows establishes mood, and the way he draws characters tells the readers about as much about them as King and Snyder’s writing does. The colors, courtesy of June Chung, add an additional layer of impact to Janin’s art.

Batman Rebirth #1 isn’t groundbreaking. It’s not a revamp of a character. There are a few hints that change is in Bruce’s future, but for the time being, King seems to be content with just telling good Batman stories. And that’s exactly what this issue is – a good Batman story. Of course, there’s been no shortage of that for some time now, and if the trend of great creative teams crafting great runs with this character continues with Rebirth, then I certainly won’t complain. Based on this issue, that definitely seems to be the direction in which we are heading.

About the Author

Jean-Luc Botbyl

Jean-Luc is a grizzled veteran of We the Nerdy. Most days, he just wonders why he hasn't been formally fired. Follow him on Twitter at @J_LFett to make him feel validated.