Today’s Super Comic — Wonder Woman #2 (2016)

Let’s hope the movie is this great.

When Wonder Woman relaunched for DC Rebirth, writer Greg Rucka utilized the even-numbered issues to retell her early days. The second issue (or part one) introduces us to a young Diana who’s curious about what lies beyond the shores of Themyscira. Scenes of her life in paradise alternate with scenes of Steve Trevor’s life in the United States, and if you know anything about Wonder Woman’s origin story, you can guess where part one ends.

Rucka isn’t reinventing the characters or the story. He’s modernizing them and selecting from the best of what came before. It’s Wonder Woman’s latest draft, and it’s a superb one.

That’s an advantage of the comics medium—when you continue these characters in periodical format decade after decade, you have plenty of opportunities to refine and improve them. And yes, mistakes will be made and things will inevitably go astray here and there, but that’s what reboots are for. When you learn from previous mistakes and successes, you’re much more likely to get an excellent book like this.

This “Year One” arc for Wonder Woman is all about discovery. She’s discovering a new world. A new world is discovering her. And she’s discovering more about herself. The characterization is spot-on—she’s joyful, compassionate, fierce, heroic, and even a little fearful of this new world she’s entered.

Given how recent the book is (the trade just came out), I don’t want to delve into any greater detail, but know this—this is Wonder Woman done right. If you enjoy the movie when it comes out but never read a Wonder Woman comic, then read this one. If you don’t enjoy the movie, read it anyway.

Writer: Greg Rucka

Penciler: Nicola Scott

Cover: Scott & Fajardo Jr.

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Wonder Woman vol. 2: Year One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Green Arrow #11 (2017)

I’m pleased to report that the current Green Arrow series is proving to be consistently fun.

Issue #11 concludes a thriller set on an underwater trans-Pacific railway. Green Arrow, Black Canary, and John Diggle must protect a train full of dignitaries from a mercenary who’s been hired to disrupt upcoming peace talks.

Between Benjamin Percy’s fast-paced script and Juan Ferreyra’s kinetic art, the story is in constant motion. The action is well-staged, the characters are likable, and though the situation is treated as serious, the book never takes itself too seriously—an important balance to strike.

It’s not breaking any molds, but it’s solid, straightforward super-heroics full of great action set pieces.

Writer: Benjamin Percy

Artist: Juan Ferreyra

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Green Arrow vol. 2: Island of Scars (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batgirl #6 (2017)

Batgirl and Poison Ivy vs. a prehistoric plant…on a plane 35,000 feet in the air.

It’s a fun time, for the reader if not the characters. To save a bunch of innocents, two old enemies must reluctantly ally themselves in an environment that’s not even close to ideal…and Poison Ivy hardly merits unconditional trust, especially where plants are involved. An excellent scenario for a single-issue story.

Where the book truly succeeds is with the spot-on characterization of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl. Her most important weapon is her intelligence, which becomes all the more potent when combined with her courage. But courage and fearlessness are not the same thing—she’ll experience fear, then do what needs doing anyway.

So far, the series seems geared toward young adolescents, which is how a Batgirl series should be. She’s a great role model for kids. I don’t feel like I need to read any further in this series, but I’d happily recommend it to younger readers looking for fast-paced action/adventure with a terrific leading character. And I’m glad it exists for them.

I also appreciate the judicious use of the retro thought balloons. Nice touch there.

Writer: Hope Larson

Penciler: Rafael Albuquerque

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Batgirl vol. 1: Beyond Burnside (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Titans #6 (2016)

My DC: The New Frontier reviews will take a quick intermission, because I just picked up the trade paperback for the new Titans series and it was pure fun.

A large part of the appeal, at least in my case, is nostalgia. The first storyline, “The Return of Wally West,” reunites “my” Flash with the original Titans as they tussle with one of the first Flash villains I ever read, Abra Kadabra, a techno-magician from the distant future.

When DC rebooted with the New 52, Wally got lost in the shuffle (as did fellow Titan Donna Troy, the original Wonder Girl, who’s also back here, though her return happened in a previous story I haven’t read). Wally’s back now, and he gets a starring role in the new Titans series (featuring the original Teen Titans, but a bit beyond the “teen” part).

Wally must come to terms with the fact that the world isn’t quite how he remembers it, which is fitting, as it’s not quite the DC Universe I remember either. But some things remain constant, and one of those things is friendship, as Titans #6 makes clear. The bond between these former sidekicks remains as strong as ever, which the issue creatively shows using pre-established Flash lore.

I’m not sure if it would work as well for newer readers, but for older readers who grew up with these characters, it’s almost like checking in with old friends you haven’t seen in ages. Seeing this classic Titans lineup in action together just makes me happy, because I read their classic adventures when I was a young teenager. And I grew up reading about Wally West’s maturation into adulthood, so seeing him in action as a Flash and as the storyline’s leading character—even better.

Writer: Dan Abnett

Penciler: Brett Booth

Inker: Norm Rapmund

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Detective Comics #934-940 (2016)

Hey, look—the original numbering is back. Welcome back, triple-digit numbers.

The numbering is old, but the direction is new. Detective Comics becomes a team book beginning with issue #934, with Batman and Batwoman as co-leads. They gather the next generation of Gotham-based crimefighters, seeking to train them to face an oncoming threat.

The recruits are all familiar faces (though I’m more familiar with their pre–New 52 versions): Tim Drake, here as Red Robin instead of just Robin (not sure what the distinction is, other than the very first Robin of olde-timey continuity grew up into Red Robin, but in-story, the “Red” seems a random addition); Cassandra Cain, Orphan (she was the second Batgirl in previous continuity); Stephanie Brown, Spoiler (the third Batgirl in previous continuity); and, quite randomly, a reformed Clayface (it feels like that old Sesame Street game—one of these things just doesn’t belong here; but I like the idea of Batman wanting to help an old foe turn his life around).

It’s a good team, and they face a compelling antagonist. The U.S. military (or at least one rogue contingent within) has decided to duplicate Batman’s techniques, methods, and equipment to create an army of Batmen. If one Batman can accomplish so much good in Gotham, how much good could many Batmen accomplish in military situations across the globe?

I don’t usually care for casting the military as villains, but this turns out to be an exception. There aren’t any mustache-twirling villains here. They have legitimate concerns about national security, and trying to learn from Batman is certainly not a bad idea, but they go way too far, to the point of endangering the innocents they want to protect. To make things more interesting, the colonel in charge of this operation is Batwoman’s father and Batman’s uncle, adding personal dimensions to the conflict.

The team nature of the book humanizes Batman a bit, giving him more opportunities than usual to display genuine emotion—especially after what happens in #940. I’ll be back for the second volume.

This might be the strongest DC Rebirth trade I’ve read yet, and they’ve all been good (so far, though I probably just jinxed it…sorry about that).

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artists: Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Batman: Detective Comics vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Nightwing #8 (2016)

Bruce Wayne plays the damsel in distress in Nightwing #8, in which we learn some backstory about Dick Grayson’s family as Nightwing confronts his own personal Severus Snape.

It makes perfect sense to mine the Grayson family history for story possibilities. After all, they were nomadic circus performers. There’s bound to be some interesting backstory there. In hindsight, I’m surprised more writers haven’t exploited it.

Raptor, a vigilante who knew Mary Grayson before she was Mary Grayson, captures Bruce and puts him in a death trap for “ruining” Dick with his life of wealth and privilege, and Dick learns new details about his late mother while trying to save his second father. And, without getting into specifics, I appreciate that writer Tim Seeley opts to present Raptor more as a Snape figure than a Darth Vader figure, because the latter would have been far more clichéd and far less compelling at this point.

But as written, Raptor has strong, interesting motivation that makes him a welcome antagonist for Nightwing. He’s the sort of father figure Dick could have had if Batman hadn’t stepped in, and his present intrusion into their lives underscores how Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson have been saving each other’s souls as well as their lives since their partnership began all those years ago.

Another winner for DC Rebirth. It’s been one heck of a second wind for the company.

Writer: Tim Seeley

Artist: Javier Fernandez

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Nightwing vol. 1: Better Than Batman (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Green Lanterns #1-6 (2016)

Another winner for DC Rebirth. This new Green Lantern title truly is new—its Green Lanterns plural, and it stars a pair of rookies, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz, who are forced to work together to protect the Earth while primary GL Hal Jordan is off in deep space.

It’s basically the superhero equivalent of The Odd Couple, and there’s a reason such pairings work so well from the entertainment standpoint. Forget about opposites attracting—what they really do is emphasize each other’s strengths and flaws. As the book explicitly states (unnecessarily), Simon is all impulse and Jessica is all anxiety.

A hotheaded superhero is nothing new, but one who’s fighting to overcome crippling anxiety is a lot less common. It gives her a compelling internal struggle, as she must prove to herself that she’s worthy of being a Green Lantern. It also ties in neatly with the basic premise—Green Lanterns are chosen based on their ability to overcome great fear, and Jessica is actively trying to put her tremendous fear behind her. Both characters are strong protagonists, but she injects a new kind of energy into the GL universe.

I’m glad DC books are becoming enjoyable again. My wallet is less glad.

Writer: Sam Humphries

Artists: Robson Rocha & various

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Green Lanterns vol. 1: Rage Planet (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Flash #1-8 (2016)

DC Rebirth is two for two so far. Green Arrow recently won me over, and now The Flash has, too.

The series is more fun than it’s been in years, and the characterization of Barry Allen is spot-on. He’s a positive superhero who enjoys what he does, and his biggest source of angst is that he can’t be in two places at once, thereby limiting the good he can do. He’s a total good-guy square who prefers justice over vengeance, and that’s exactly right for the character.

He also gets to try out a new role in the series’ opening storyline—teacher. Dozens of Central City residents mysteriously acquire super-speed, and the Flash is best suited to show them the ropes of life in the fast lane.

Of course, one of these new speedsters takes a villainous turn, which initially seems repetitive. Whether the Flash has been Barry Allen or Wally West, the franchise has already had an abundance of super-fast villains. But this new one, Godspeed, distinguishes himself by having a personal connection to Barry and a belief that he’s doing the right thing. While a purely evil, mustache-twirling villain can be bring a campy sort of fun to the proceedings, it’s always the not-evil antagonists who are the most interesting. Good people are capable of doing bad things, too.

The book also gets it right with the supporting cast, namely a new Kid Flash who’s sort of like the old Kid Flash, an Iris West who’s a friend first and romantic interest second, and a new romantic interest who also happens to have super-speed.

I’ve missed enjoying new Flash comics.

Writer: Joshua Williamson

Artists: Carmine Di Giandomenico & various

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Flash vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Green Arrow #1-5 (2016)

The DC Universe Rebirth trade paperbacks are starting to come out, so I’m finally digging into some. I’ve heard good things about the new Green Arrow, so that seemed like a good place to start. And it was.

The first storyline breaks Oliver Queen down by ridding him of the wealth that had defined him, and it builds him back up by replacing that wealth with meaningful relationships.

A particularly welcome addition to the cast is Black Canary. The Green Arrow/Black Canary team has a lot of history, which unfortunately was erased during the New 52 reboot. They’re starting fresh here, and while that removes the weight of history from their interactions, their chemistry remains intact. The pairing seems just as natural as before.

Viewers of the Arrow television series would expect Oliver to have a younger sister, and he does, but it’s not Thea Queen. She’s Emiko, daughter of Robert Queen and Shado. Shado’s in a purely antagonistic role here, testing Emiko’s loyalties. The character definitely has some potential.

John Diggle, a TV show creation (if I recall correctly), has been fully integrated into the comics. (No Felicity, though.)

It’s a solid supporting cast that fills various voids in Green Arrow’s life…but the book makes sure he doesn’t get too comfortable, of course.

I still prefer the old continuity, but for at least this series, the current status quo is acceptable—thanks to the quality of these first five issues.

Writer: Benjamin Percy

Artists: Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Green Arrow vol. 1: The Death & Life of Oliver Queen (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Batman: Rebirth #1 (2016)

Batman RebirthBatman fared better than most of DC’s characters in the New 52, and this “Rebirth” one-shot seems to be continuing that status quo. As someone who stopped reading the New 52 series midway through, I felt a little out of the loop (who’s that young man who already knows Bruce is Batman?).

But I consider the book a success. It had one job to do: get me interested in the relaunched Batman titles. Thanks to Batman acting in character, a potentially interesting new take on old villain Calendar Man, and overall strong execution with the writing and art, I’m wondering if it’s time to get back into Batman’s monthly adventures.

So this “Rebirth” isn’t much of a reboot—but why fix Batman if he isn’t broken? With this issue, I remain optimistic that DC is getting back on track.

Good work, team!

Writer: Scott Snyder and Tom King

Artist: Mikel Janin

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: new issue; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up