DC Comics' latest reboot: The good, the bad and the interesting

Redos and redon'ts

DC Comics is relaunching its universe all over again and the reboot/relaunch/rebirth exhaustion is real, folks. But that's why I, your friendly Polygon comics corespondent, am here to break down what we learned from the hours-long WonderCon panel hosted by DanDidio, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns for you. Sure, we've got a whole list of titles, artists and writers that you can scroll down until your eyes bleed, but this post is about the highlights.

And if you think I've missed anything, well, that's what the comment section is for.

The Good

Greg Rucka on Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman brandishes her sword on the cover of Wonder Woman: The Lies, DC Comics (2016). Image: Liam Sharp/DC Comics

Holy crap, superlative comics writer and Wonder Woman veteran Greg Rucka has returned to DC for an ongoing series. And it's Wonder Woman. And it's publishing twice a month (for six months). And half of its issues are going to be drawn by Nicola Scott, an artist who draws Wonder Woman like she's the last thing you see before you die.

Every other issue of Rucka's run will form an arc called "Lies," set in the modern DC universe, drawn by Liam Sharp. The others will function as (if not explicitly be called) Wonder Woman: Year One, a traditional naming convention/story construction for DC — but the first time it will be applied to this character. Rucka told the audience at WonderCon that this arc, which Scott will be drawing, has been a dream project for the two creators for years. It's not a story that you're going to want to miss.

Big shakeups in the Bat-books

It's musical chairs over in DC's Batman office, with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo bringing their five-year run on Batman to a well-deserved close — and returning Bruce Wayne to the role of the Caped Crusader. And while they're leaving big shoes to fill, the Bat-book announcements might have been the most solidly exciting section of the WonderCon panel.

Co-writers Tom King and Tim Seeley are ending their much-beloved run on Grayson, though Seeley won't be leaving the character entirely. Dick Grayson will return to the role of Nightwing (and the blue and black costume) in an ongoing series of the same name that will undoubtedly pick up where Robin War and Batman & Robin Eternal left off. That is, we should expect the Court of the Owls to be a big part of its first arc. Tom King, meanwhile, is getting the big chair of flagship title Batman.

Detective Comics

James Tynion, mastermind behind Batman & Robin Eternal, will take the reins of Detective Comics, which is being reimagined as a team Bat-family book. Batman and Batwoman will co-star as partners, training younger Gotham vigilantes Red Robin, Spoiler and Cassandra Cain in the never ending battle against crime.

Perhaps the most unexpected new artist announcement of the panel was the superhero comics debut of Hope Larson, an Eisner and Ignatz award-winning writer/illustrator whose career is full of coming-of-age stories written about and for young girls. Larson will be writing Batgirl, in an arc that sees Barbara Gordon leave Gotham for a backpacking trip through Asia.

And finally, although the creative team has not been officially announced (but will likely stay the same, judging by the Twitter accounts of its creators), all-ages title Gotham Academy will continue under the name Gotham Academy: Next Semester.

Scott Snyder's Al-Star Batman

All-Star Batman

Even though Scott Snyder is leaving Batman, he isn't leaving the character entirely. In fact, DC took the time to announce that they've signed the writer — whose work on arcs like "Death of the Family" and "Superheavy" have been some of the best stories in the post-New52 DCU — to an exclusive contract with the company.

The first thing Snyder will be doing on that contract is All-Star Batman, a road trip story featuring Batman dragging Two-Face across the country (the reason why, exactly, has not yet been revealed), with every two issues featuring a different antagonist. Snyder says he'll be using the series as an opportunity to put his own spin on members of Batman's Rogues Gallery, and he's certainly earned the right to play around with them.

But even that concept seems tame in comparison with the lineup of people who'll be providing art for the issues, including John Romita, Jr., Jock, Sean Murphy, Paul Pope and Tula Lotay, with more names promised to be announced in the future.


They're gonna try to tell us who the Joker is

The Killing Joke

It wouldn't be a reboot without a big old "Nothing will ever be the same!" story arc to kick it off. That big arc is Rebirth #1, an 80-page comic sold for only $2.99. DiDio, Lee and Johns naturally wouldn't say much about what would actually be happening in it, but they did say that the book would reveal "the biggest secret in the DC Universe:" the real identity of the Joker.

There are a lot of ways you can feel about that. Personally, I think there are a lot of reasons not to give the Joker a canonical backstory. (Not least that all previous attempts, even in books as otherwise indelible as Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, have failed.) But my favorite is this: Not all villains are supposed to be scary, but the Joker is one of them. And there's no backstory you can give the Joker that could be scarier than not knowing.

Definitively knowing the Joker's backstory can really only do two things to the character. It can humanize him, running counter to the Joker's use as an embodiment of pure evil; or it can explain him, which would run counter to his use as an embodiment of pure chaos. Or it won't add anything at all to him, in which case why are we even doing it in the first place?

It's possible that giving the Joker a known backstory will add something of value to the character. But ultimately it's far more likely that revealing the Joker's real identity as someone recognizable and shocking to Batman (as Johns indicated), won't really work. The good news is that this is comics: If a thing doesn't work, it'll just be retconned, downplayed or ignored by later writers, as so many attempts to explain a big secret of the DC Universe (like "Who killed Bruce Wayne's parents?") have before.

Diversity: it could be better

I'll let expert DC and Marvel number cruncher Tim Hanley's graphs speak for themselves: Creator diversity in Rebirth is far better than at the beginning of the New 52, but a reboot that boasted only two women working on 52 separate books is not a high bar to clear.

Midnighter: Out

Only seven women are working on Rebirth titles, and only one on a book that's published twice-monthly (Nicola Scott will only be drawing half of Wonder Woman's issues). You'd think that those 17 twice-monthly books that require more than one artist would be a grand place to reach out to talent from all walks of life. In a pool of more than six dozen people working on 48 books, seven women is still a vanishingly small number.

Only four Rebirth books exclusively feature people of color as the titular leads, and only two of those will be published twice a month. With the end of Catwoman and the GLAAD-award-nominated Midnighter, DC is losing half its books with queer characters as solo leads. Pulling Batwoman off the bench to co-star alongside Batman is exciting, but not a real replacement. And readers would not be wrong to be worried about Hellblazer's creative switch up — not when John Constantine's canon bisexuality has often been ignored or swept under the rug.

Goodbye to the DCYou

We Are Robin

Last year's DCYou relaunch was explicitly a push to grab new, casual readers, but one that began canceling, downplaying and changing up books before they even reached their first paperback collection: the format in which casual readers are most likely to pick up a new series. Rebirth feels like the relaunch we should have gotten after the New 52 — after the DCYou, it feels a bit like DC is stumbling slightly backwards.

Many DCYou titles, like We are RobinBlack Canary, Hellblazer, Midnighter and Dr. Fate are ending next month. (Hellblazer is being given a renumbering and a different creative team.) So is the incredibly popular Burnside era of Batgirl, which, while it didn't launch with the DCYou, clearly inspired the direction of the relaunch.

Perhaps most annoying is the dearth of returning female writers and artists from the DCYou (and DC's digital first titles) in Rebirth. Tom King's Omega Men (launched with the DCYou) and Grayson are ending, and he moves to Batman. Gene Luen Yang's DCYou Superman run has come to a close, and we'll still see him in The Super-Man. Steve Orlando's Midnighter is wrapping up, but we'll see him on Supergirl.

Where's Genevieve Valentine, Catwoman writer and part of the writer's room on Batman & Robin Eternal? Or Marguerite Bennet, whose digital-first DC Comics Bombshells has been racking up critical and fan adoration? Or Babs Tarr, whose art on Batgirl is beautiful, kinetic, expressive and thoroughly modern? And it's the end of an era for Gail Simone fans, as with the close of the DCYou's Secret Six the formerly-exclusive-to-DC writer will no longer be working on any title in the DC Universe.


$2.99, but twice a month?

DC Rebirth

DC is pushing the idea that they're doing readers a favor by committing to a line-wide price point of $2.99 an issue, regardless of length or how big the creator's name is. But when they're also shifting a majority of their line to twice-a-month sales, it's hard to take that seriously. A single $3.99 issue of Scott Snyder's Batman is still a cheaper monthly habit to maintain than two $2.99 issues of Tom King's.

Then again, you're still getting two entire comics. Time will tell whether this publishing structure entices readers or just causes creative team burnout.

There are plenty of creative teams worth watching

Let's go through these rapid fire:

Batgirl & the Birds of Prey will reunite the dream team of Barbara Gordon, Dinah Lance and Helena Bertinelli, with an all-female creative team. Of course, if you're still feeling the sting from Lexa's death in The 100, you won't like that it's being written by Julie and Shawna Benson, a couple of writers from the show.

Gene Luen Yang is an Eisner Award-winning writer/illustrator famous for coming of age stories about the Asian-American experience (and for writing the Avatar: The Last Airbender tie-in comics). And that's why The Super-Man, a book about an inner-city Shanghai kid suddenly receiving all the powers of Superman, is likely to be worth your time.


Supergirl has her own ongoing series again, something fans have been clamoring for ever since her television show was greenlit. It'll come out nearly a year too late to premiere with the show, but that's better than never. The fantastic writer Steve Orlando is at the reins, and the costume design looks cute as heck.

Phil Jimenez, a writer/artist best known for his work writing and drawing Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, X-Men and other female-superhero-heavy titles is helming Superwoman. Superwoman is a character with a lot of different histories depending on which version of the DC Universe we're talking about: Evil Alternate Wonder Woman, Super-powered Lois Lane, 29th Century Descendant of Jimmy Olsen, Superman From a Universe Where Everyone Is Gender-swapped. Whatever Jimenez is doing with the character, it'll be worth keeping an eye on.

Blue Beetle returns to his own ongoing title, featuring original Beetle Ted Kord as mentor to the younger and much-beloved character Jaime Reyes, with writing from Reyes creator, Keith Giffen. Where Blue Beetle goes, you'll find Booster Gold, more often than not, and so it's possible that this series was what Geoff Johns was talking about when said that DC has big plans for Booster in the near future.

Is there anything in Rebirth that you're particularly excited about? Particularly mad about? Particularly curious about? Let us know in the comments.