The second part of a special three-part look back at the year that was 2016 and my favorite comics moments and memories of the year. For the second part of this recap, the DC Comics Universe changes drastically and a few great new series debut.
Be sure to check out part 1, which covers stuff that happened between January and April. Today’s Part 2 covers May through August.
A DC Comics Rebirth
It really wasn’t a reboot… After about 5 years of the New 52 era, DC Comics admitted they had a problem: their line of comics wasn’t very good. So, in May, the publisher released DC Universe: Rebirth 1, a special giant-sized issue that set the pace for the coming months. It brought back the original Wally West and integrated the characters from Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen into the new DC Universe.
Over the course of the next few months, DC Comics rolled out new number ones for all of their books – except Action Comics and Detective Comics, which were returned to the original numbering lost when the New 52 kicked off. Every book got new creative teams, a new focus and new directions, all the while teasing a big threat and a big event somewhere down the line, when the heroes figure out what’s going on with the changes hinted at in the Rebirth special.
Many of the main books also went to shipping twice a month, which has done a number on my wallet, but it moves stories along much quicker than having to wait four or five weeks for a new issue.
Some highlights, for me, from the new Rebirth books’ first wave:
The Superman Family: The Superman of this Earth died, long live the Pre-Flashpoint Superman, along with his Lois Lane and their son, Jonathan. The change back to the older, more experienced Superman gave the line a shot in the arm and the new additions to the Super-family have been pretty great, too. Superwoman, by Phil Jimenez, follows the New 52 Lana Lang as she gained powers from Superman’s death; New Super-Man is a book about a young man in China who is also granted powers after the death of Kal-El. And DC Comics finally stopped being dumb and gave Supergirl – who has a popular TV show – a new comic. It’s amazing the company spent the show’s whole first season without a Supergirl comic. Idiots. Regardless, I hope we get a major mega-crossover between all the books sometime soon, because that could be a lot of fun.
The Superman books have also hinted towards the Rebirth story, as the mysterious Dr. Oz, who played a part in Rebirth, has been shadowing the pre-Flashpoint Superman, noting that there’s something special about his situation.
The Bat: DC really gave its all to the Big Two. Tom King’s Batman has been sufficiently epic, and we’ll talk about Detective Comics later. But the rest of the Batman line have been amazing, too. Batgirl, by Hope Larson, took Barbara Gordon to Asia as she backpacked around to search for herself and Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, by Julie and Shawna Benson, has been one of the best books of the year so far, I think. We also got Dick Grayson back as Nightwing, which was sorely needed.
The Bat-books also managed to tie in to the larger Rebirth mystery, as the end of the first arc of James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics arc saw Tim Drake, Red Robin, seemingly die as the Bat-team defeated a paramilitary group trying to take them out. It was revealed, though, that whoever is behind the Rebirth mystery had kidnapped Red Robin instead, because he was getting too close to what was really happening. That should be a lot of fun going forward.
The Flash Family: The Rebirth special was all about The Flashes. As Wally West fought to bring himself back to life from the Speed Force, Barry Allen tried to uncover a mystery. Their paths crossed finally and Barry’s love for his nephew helped ground him in the world. The speedsters are probably going to be pretty important to what’s to come, and both The Flash and Titans, which has been a Wally West plus his pals book since Rebirth, have been must-reads.
A New Wonder Woman: I really loved Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s New 52 Wonder Woman book, so I was a little upset that Greg Rucka was coming in and basically wiping it all away to tell his own tale. Rucka started out a little slow, but using the twice-monthly format, he’s been telling two separate stories to bring everyone up to speed – an origin tale in one and a present-day story in another. Despite my reservations, Rucka’s done a great job so far, and I’m looking forward to see where he goes with it all.
The Rebirth line has been a great success for DC Comics, as it helped propel them to some great sales in the first few months of the line’s release.
The New Hanna-Barbera Line
I thought DC Comics was crazy when they announced a modernized reboot of several beloved cartoon characters from Hanna-Barbera, which are owned by Warner Brothers, but most of the books have been amazing.
My favorite of the revamps, Mark Russel’s The Flintstones, is a fantastic satiric take on modern society through the lens of everyone’s favorite prehistoric family. Dealing with issues like religion, consumerism, elections and even the psychological effects of war, I was never expecting such a smart take coming from Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty.
Another highlight has been Scooby: Apocalypse, by Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis, which puts the gang navigating through a post-apocalyptic world and trying to figure out what happened. While the premise, on its surface, seems like a dark, grim-and-gritty revamp, but Giffen and DeMatteis keep the book light and fun, even with monsters surrounding the Scooby gang.
The other two books, Future Quest and Wacky Raceland, brought together lesser-known HB characters, with Future Quest being something of an All-Star team-up between Johnny Quest, Birdman, Space Ghost and more. It’s a fun but somewhat dense sci-fi adventure. Wacky Raceland was a six-issue miniseries that’s already wrapped, bringing the Wacky Racers into a post-Apocalyptic world trying to win a chance at a new life.
The Girls Get a New Look, New Book
As the Archie Comics revamp continues to spread, the publisher expanded with a few new comics in 2016, and probably the most anticipated was Betty & Veronica, written and drawn by Adam Hughes, who possibly draws some of the best-looking women in mainstream comics.
It’s no surprise that the art in the book looks simply gorgeous, and Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge have most likely never looked better. And they looked pretty good in the main Archie book written by Mark Waid. The downside to the book, though, is that Adam Hughes’ work does not come quick. Since the book debuted in July, we’ve only gotten two issues of story, which sees Betty and Veronica pitted against each other when Veronica’s father buy’s Pop’s Dinner and tries to bring in a new coffee shop. Betty, of course, is horrified and tries to gather the troops to raise enough money to save Pop’s. Is she successful? We’ll assume that she will be eventually, but the story is nowhere near done.
We’ll see more of a focus on the ladies of the Archie Comics world in Part 3, as we get some magic and some rock ‘n’ roll.
New Take On Familiar Concepts
Jeff Lemire established himself as one of my favorite writers with his work on the New 52 in DC Comics. His work on Green Arrow, Justice League Dark and Animal Man were some of my favorite books from the lackluster five-year period. His new book from Dark Horse, Black Hammer, was quickly added to my list, because I trusted him to give me a good story.
The man did not disappoint.
Black Hammer tells the story of a group of heroes who were stranded on a mysterious farm after a mission. The heroes have been stuck on the farm for decades, unable to escape the small town where they’ve been relocated. The first few issues of the book have focused on introducing the characters and their back stories, while hinting at the story’s larger secrets. Lemire has created an engaging group, with analogues of Captain America, Adam Strange, Shazam and Martian Manhunter stuck together.
Lemire created a real engaging new comic book world and every new issue is a must-read for me. I have loved the back-stories he created for the characters so far, and I hope they continue as the main story moves forward. With the story ramping up, I definitely recommend picking up the back issues to prepare for what’s to come.
By The Numbers
Keeping track of my purchases month-to-month in 2016, assisted by Comixology. Rebirth quickly upped the number of comics I’m picking up each month:
January – 35 Comics, 1 trade collection
February – 33 Comics, 6 trade collections
March – 38 Comics, 1 trade collection
April – 28 Comics, 3 trade collections
May – 33 Comics, 1 trade collection
June – 41 Comics, 1 trade collection
July – 44 Comics, 2 trade collections
August – 53 Comics, 0 trade collections