Three great special issues were released by Marvel in the past two weeks, unfortunately they shipped (and I subsequently read) in perhaps the exact reverse order they were intended. All three books are written by Brian Bendis, the architect of the upcoming Siege event and writer of the Avengers titles for several years. The books in questions are New Avengers Annual #3, Dark Avengers Annual #1 and Siege: The Cabal. Read them in that order, but don’t read on unless you want to know why (consider that a SPOILER warning).
So this week two high profile comics shipped that were both labeled “Reborn.” The latest installment of DC’s Batman Reborn is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s Batman and Robin #2 and Marvel’s much hyped Captain America Reborn #1 by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Hitch. First off, let me say it’s a ridiculously strange thing for DC to have labeled their Bat-Books as Batman Reborn. The new Marvel Reborn series has been well publicized for months (even if Marvel tried unsuccessfully to keep it’s content quiet). So it was a completely underhanded move on DC’s part to push their new Batman books out under the same label a month before Captain America shipped. (Also, Marvel are complete idiots for making a big deal out of last month’s Cap #600 which was shipped early to retailers at their expense to avoid a planned newspaper article spoiling its contents. Of course, the article ended up managing to not mention Cap #600 at all or spoiling anything in the issue. The article did spoil the ending to this Cap Reborn mini-series which didn’t even begin to ship until weeks after the article was published and will continue to be published for the next five months. Thanks Marvel.)
So I guess the key question is are these books any good?
First off, let me completely admit my bias. I (like most humans) enjoy Batman stories and have always thought Captain America sucks and is totally lame as a character.
With that out of the way, Captain America Reborn #1 isn’t that strong to be honest. I’ve been surprisingly enjoying the Captain America title since Ed Brubaker relaunched it. While I hated that Marvel spoiled Cap’s death in the newspapers, I was amazed that they pulled off the resurrection of Cap’s sidekick so well. (Especially considering DC’s simultaneously launched resurrection of Jason Todd went so poorly.) Bucky becoming the new Captain America after decades as a Soviet assasin was ridiculously compelling. And now that they’re bringing back the original Captain America Steve Rogers… It just doesn’t feel like the right time yet. Couple that with the apparent revelation that Rogers’ resurrection will somehow involve needing Sharon Carter to act as his constant and Rogers being displaced in time though within his body… It just feels like Brubaker is auditioing for a job writing for Lost.
After 50 issues of Captain America basically ignoring what was happening in the rest of the Marvel Universe (with one huuuuuuuge exception), it feels completely wrong to see the Dark Avengers show up in this story. What should be a classic evergreen story for Marvel will now be forever tied down with unneeded late 2000s continuity that there is no way will age well. You might as well have had NFL Superpro guest star. And the art from superstar Bryan Hitch somehow looks exactly like the art Cap has had for the last several years, so I can’t help but wonder why he’s even on the book.
Having said all that, I believe in Ed Brubaker. So we’ll have to see where this all leads.
Batman and Robin on the other hand is fantastic. The action sequences are stunning. Morrison is crafting genuinely interesting relationships between the new Batman and his brat of a Robin as well as the between the duo and the police. Batman’s struggles with his new role are perfect, especially for a character that basically hasn’t been written well in a decade. These two issues have gone a long way towards redeeming Dick Grayson… (Which continues to make me think he’ll be killed of when Bruce Wayne is inevitably brought back.) Mr. Pig is looking like he’ll be a creepy addition to the Bat-rogues Gallery. And Frank Quitely may not have ever drawn superhero comics that looked this good. There’s a double page spread of Batman fighting a group of foes in which the action just leaps off the page. I’ll be sad to see Quitely leave in the very near future.