DC Comics was full of bold movies in 2016.
Not only did they relaunch their entire line with the DC Universe Rebirth one-shot, but they followed it up with 21 additional one-shots to launch the majority of the books in their line – and I’m here to rank them!
(That left out non-Rebirthed books like Action and Detective Comics, plus heroes who jumped off of their appearances in these initial issues straight to their own series, like Superwoman and Harley Quinn.)
The one-shots are a double-edged sword for new readers. They make for easy, low-risk, low-commitment samplers. That means it’s likely that – like me – most fans would read most or all of them out of curiosity.
However, there’s a risk that they’re exactly that – samplers. It’s hard to craft a one-shot so good that it tells its own story plus pulls you in for a subsequent series.
To achieve that goal, I think a solid Rebirth issue needs to do three things:
- Give a sense of the character’s recent and relevant history
- Portray a vital truth and inherent coolness about the title character
- Set up a reason to keep reading the series (i.e., Always leave them wanting more!)
How many of the 21 Rebirth one-shots of 2016 hit the mark? Below, I’ve ranked every issue, rating it and giving the percentage chance that I might keep reading its respective series?
Place your bets now – did I love my long-term favorite Wonder Woman? Did I find a way to get excited about the staid Superman or enjoy the typically impenetrable Green Lantern? And, what about relative B-listers in this muscular line-up like Batman Beyond, Deathstroke, and Blue Beetle?
Find out now, and then head to my DC Rebirth Guide to snag the upcoming collections of the titles that pique your interest.
Rebirth Ranked: The Best!
I know, I know – it’s not a Rebirth one-shot. It should have been. It’s a phenomenal issue full of action, explanation, and heart that will definitely leave you surprised – plus, stunning pencils from writer/artist Phil Jimenez. Read it and keep reading with Superwoman Vol. 1: Who Killed Superwoman?
I hope all future Rebirth one-shot writers took notes, because Tim Seely delivered an absolutely perfect comic book in Nightwing: Rebirth.
It was so good that it makes me not only want to read subsequent issues of Nightwing, but I feel compelled to go back to New 52 to read past issues because this comic made them sound so freaking awesome.
Tons of exposition and backstory? Check. Emotional scenes with a protege that weren’t all they seemed to be on first read? Check. Bisexual flirting? Check. Uncharacteristically light, bouncy figurework from Yanick Paquette? Check.
If you’re looking for lightweight, snappy DC reading in Rebirth that’s Batman adjacent, you’ve found your book.
Chances I keep reading: 200% – that’s 100% for reading forward into Rebirth and another 100% for reading backwards into New 52. I’m hooked. Keep reading with me with Nightwing Vol. 1: Better Than Batman.
The Flash: Rebirth
Let me get my bias out of the way: I am obsessed with writer Joshua Williamson and was probably going to find anything written by him in the DC Universe to be pretty cool. That a guy so good at horror and fantasy was paired with Flash over – say, Constantine – seemed odd to me, but this issue proves it can be a perfect fit.
This issue works like a complementary puzzle piece with DC Universe Rebirth, so if you were intrigued by its mysteries this should absolutely be your next stop. It fills in more of Barry’s scenes with Wally, returned from the speed force. It also gives us an epilogue from the surprising final panels of Batman in Rebirth.
I would have probably been hooked just from those scenes, but this issue also introduces a central murder mystery for Flash – a woman was killed, but it was it by her abusive husband or a literal monster? Flash is convinced it’s the latter, but he may be letting his father’s false accusation cloud his judgement. And, as the final panels remind us, Flash sometimes makes mistakes.
Carmine di Giandomenico’s rectangular faces and straight lines feel like they might fit better on Williamson’s Nailbiter than on a traditional superhero title, but it’s almost a relief to see a less-glossy version of Flash.
Chances I keep reading: 110% – not only would I follow Williamson anywhere for at least one arc, but I’m legitimately interested int his lower-key take on Flash after the bombastic and seemingly undefeatable New 52 version. Keep reading with the hefty nine-issue The Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice.
Now I understand why this has turned out to be one of the buzziest books of Rebirth. I had no idea that Christopher Priest was still able to deliver this caliber of a brain-exploding single issue, let alone on a hero I care nothing about.
The issue skips across two timelines – one in the past, where Slade is a terrible father, and one in the present, as he works multiple sides of a job in Africa to kill The Clock King while under The Red Lion’s protection.
Not only is the story interesting, the art is fantastic – Carlos Pagulayan delivers brawny, superhero action at a gritty ground level.
Chances I keep reading: 90%, as I have no affinity for Deathstroke so it’s all on Priest to keep things snappy. Keep reading with Deathstroke Vol. 1: The Professional.
Rebirth Ranked: Really Awesome Books
Justice League: Rebirth
I am obsessed with this issue, but I’m pretty sure that’s due to my neophyte status when it comes to the Justice League.
Truthfully, I’ve never really read them before, but I have a concept in my head of how a team of godlike heavyweights should interact and I saw it portrayed verbatim on the page in this issue.
I was wary of Bryan Hitch as a writer, but I think he really delivered for this tone-setting one-shot. I loved the grim vibe that pervaded the team’s efforts despite the camaraderie between them, like they might be totally overwhelmed without Superman as their heart. I loved the action intercut with Lois and Clark washing dishes, and the League’s subsequent unease with the alien Superman in their midst.
Hitch also draws the issue, but his typically heavy-lined work is a bit lighter and brighter here than I’m used to – maybe thanks to Daniel Henriques and Scott Hanna on inks? Or, could it be ultra-vibrant colors from Alex Sinclair that never look plastic-y? I’m not sure what it is, but this is my favorite Hitch issue in a while.
Chances I keep reading: 95% because I am totally here for everything about this take on the team but am a little cautious of Hitch being able to keep up this quality. However, I’m absolutely going to go back to review some New 52 Justice League to understand the team’s dynamics. Keep reading with Justice League Vol. 1: The Extinction Machines.
Here’s the thing to know about this issue from Superman writers Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason: it’s not meant to outdo the stunning Superman: Lois & Clark series that preceded it from Dan Jurgens.
First, it would be impossible to cram that much heart into one issue. But, second, this issue wisely chooses to catch readers up on the story so far rather than blaze any new trails. The heavier lifting is from artist Doug Mahnke, who delivers a stunning issues of pencils that makes the talking heads portions seem interesting.
The thing that really sticks out to me about the story is that it is a totally fresh concept. Sure, Marvel has a Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows following a Peter Parker who settled down and had a kid, and Captain America wound up with an adopted son. However, I’ve never seen this book executed – not with a real, existing hero rather than a fabricated stand-in as on Sentry, Invincible, or Incorruptible.
So what’s so unique? This is an older, more-experienced Superman who has been living in the shadows of the corrupted New 52 timeline for nearly a decade with his little family, watching as an entirely different Superman burst onto the scene and took up his old mantle and role. Yet, that Superman is now dead – in an not-entirely explicable fashion – and our classic Clark feels the need to pick up the mantle.
At the same time, super-engineer Lana Lang wants to bury her old friend back at home in Smallville … imagine her surprise when she runs into an identical-but-older version of him at his own tomb!
Chances I keep reading: This is another 200% for me. I’m fascinated by the levels of paradox of seeing our post-Crisis Superman in the New 52/Rebirth world that’s supposedly now the same-ish as the post-Crisis world. As soon as I put down the issue I raced to read the pair of Convergence issues and Superman: Lois & Clark #1-8 (both by Dan Jurgens) to catch up on the story so far. Keep reading with Superman Vol. 1: Son Of Superman by this writing team, Superman – Action Comics Vol. 1: Path Of Doom by Jurgens, and Lana in Superwoman Vol. 1: Who Killed Superwoman?
Green Arrow: Rebirth
Despite the cheesy plot (rich white guy saves ragamuffin’s mom from a life of slavery), everything about this issue from writer Benjamin Percy and artist (including colors!) Otto Schmidt clicked for me.
I put it even with Superman’s Rebirth issue because it’s a story that’s interesting in its own right but also is heavily entrenched in mining the dissonance New 52 created in the story of Green Arrow and Black Canary. I knew going in that not every book was going to be a continuity-nerd’s wet dream of unravelling five years of inconsistencies in the time line (plus a missing decade), but of all of Rebirth I think this issue did the best in mining that material for a great story that never once mentions any dimensional tomfoolery.
Otto Schmidt is a wonder, delivering a book that looks like a Paul Dini animated series brought to life. Figures are grounded and weighty, but faces have a hint of cartoonish comedy to them. Also, the colors are utterly fantastic – a combination of digital crispness and painted watercolor in the backgrounds.
Chances I keep reading: Only 80%, because I’m going to need this Moonlighting vibe to remain the main thrust of the story and I’m afraid Canary will be pulled away for Birds of Prey. However, getting to see more of Schmidt’s artwork is pretty good incentive to stick around! Keep reading with Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Death and Life Of Oliver Queen.
Batman Beyond: Rebirth
I keep looking at those four stars and thinking, “Really?” and then paging through the issue again and saying, “Really.”
On Batman Beyond, Dan Jurgens perfectly encapsulates a slew of pre-existing plot and quickly churns it into interesting conflict that manages to tie in to our present day DC books.
Ryan Sook’s artwork is phenomenal and amongst my favorite of all the debut books. He’s as bold and dynamic as Paquette both with incredibly lightweight linework (maybe because he inks himself?). It’s a pleasing combination on an issue that does double duty on recapping Futures End and setting up a present day conflict centered on the town full of Jokers – one, in particular.
Chances I keep reading: 49%, because despite the awesomeness this is still a single book marooned out in the future – it’s the easiest to drop out of all the line. Keep reading with Batman Beyond Vol. 1: The Return.
Rebirth Ranked: Good Reads
It’s hard not to like a comic book that executes the fundamentals this well.
This issue of kinetic action from penciller Paul Pelletier seemed to be building up to a big twist, but despite a cackling villain on the final page the real reveal was something more subtle and surprisingly human. Cyborg didn’t show too much personality in this issue, but somehow writer John Semper Jr. made him seem most interesting he’s ever been, for me.
Chances I keep reading: I’m low-key fascinated with someone delivering a solid take on Cyborg, so let’s call this 51%. Keep reading with Cyborg Vol. 1: The Imitation Of Life.
Red Hood & The Outlaws: Rebirth
I went into this with a deep apathy thanks to the clumsy, chauvinist Red Hood title I remembered from New 52.
This is not that, despite still being written by Scottt Lobdell.
It’s a book that very quickly dives deeply into Jason Todd’s motivations to play the role of this vigilante when he could easily be a big-name hero. I’m already acquainted with his death since it’s from my original era of reading comics, but this contextualized it in a way that made me finally care about my least favorite Robin.
Also, this is without a doubt the best art I have ever seen from Dexter Soy. He was never my favorite artist to see in the credits at Marvel, and I did a double-take when I realized it was the same artist behind this issue. Just gorgeous throughout, with his usual hints of Jae Lee but now with the restraint of Travel Foreman or Steve Pugh. I think a vibrant touch from colorist Veronica Gandini helps; even in dark scenes she plays up reflective surfaces to give Soy’s artwork some room to breath.
What the issue doesn’t do is offer up as much as an advance glimpse of upcoming story as other titles. Todd is infiltrating the bad guys to get into the cracks where Batman can’t, but we don’t get a single panel of him and his Outlaws so it’s hard to know what to expect.
Chances I keep reading: It’s tempting – I’d say 33% due to my long-running affinity for Lobdell and shock at Soy, but I’m also fine with letting Todd’s adventures occur offscreen for me. Keep reading with Red Hood and the Outlaws Vol. 1: Dark Trinity.
I mean… it’s a Batman story.
What else do you want me to say? It explains nothing. It recaps nothing. It’s just brand new Batman puzzle piece building on the Batman that came before (plus a new Robin from We Are Robin, I think?).
It’s very Batmanish? If you like Batman, you will like it. If you don’t, why are you reading Batman.
Scott Snyder co-writes this with incoming Bat-pilot Tom King, who has driven fans absolutely rabid in 2016 thanks to his runs on Marvel’s Vision and DC’s Omega Men. The bigger draw for me is Mikel Janin on artwork. I loved him on New 52’s Justice League Dark, but I felt like Peter Milligan’s talky scripts left his realistic figures with little to do. Here there’s lots of action, and it’s pretty damn bold and cinematic. Readers are in for a treat!
Chances I keep reading: 25%. I’m sure I’ll read some Batman in Rebirth, but it’s usually his supporting cast I find most interesting. Keep reading with Batman Vol. 1: I Am Gotham, Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 1: Rise of the Batmen, and Synder’s All Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy.
Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps: Rebirth
Marvel keeps saying that Inhumans is supposed to feel like Game of Thrones in Space. It never has, but this issue practically screamed that vibe from beginning to end.
We have Sinestro, seemingly victorious, on a Death Star esque mechanical planet called Warworld where he has the monstrous Parallax imprisoned. Meanwhile, Jordan is on a dead world, forging a new ring with a hammer and anvil made of his own willpower – and every lantern in the universe seems to feel it!
Despite this issue acting as an end cap on a huge amount of plot that’s come before, these old adversaries are clearly going to come to epic blows in the not-distant future. Maybe that’s down to Robert Venditti’s long-term piloting of the title – he ended the New 52 era with more still to come, so this feels like the middle chapter of an epic more than a discrete ending or beginning.
Chances I keep reading: A mere 10%. As much as I dug this issue, me and the Lanterns concept just don’t mesh and I feel like I’ve missed out on too much background at this point. I guess that makes the Lanterns DC’s X-Men? Keep reading with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps Vol. 1: Sinestro’s Law.
Green Lanterns: Rebirth
This issue felt light-weight and, dare I say, more like a recent Marvel issue than the rest of the Rebirth crop.
We’ve got a pair of very human heroes who are both new to the Green Lantern mantle, both with their own personal dramas at play. Of course, they couldn’t be any more different – they can’t stop sniping at each other when they’re both summoned to defeat a common enemy.
DC needs a few books like this in its lineup, and having one of them be Green Lanterns frees fans from needing to know the massive multi-year epic feeding Hal Jordan’s plot, but altogether this was a just alright.
Chances I keep reading: 9%. A buddy cop story about two new characters in my least-favorite DC legacy line isn’t my cup of tea, and writer Sam Humphries was one of my least favorite authors in Marvel Now. This issue was okay, but it seems like an easy book to skip. Keep reading with Green Lanterns Vol. 1: Rage Planet.
Wonder Woman: Rebirth
Of all of Rebirth, Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman is the most fixated on the personal repercussions of altered reality.
He doesn’t really have a choice – New 52 Wonder Woman sported a new and not-universally popular origin plus a heavy romance with a now dead Superman. With her movie fast approaching, Diana is on DC’s center stage. What better time to untangle her origin while keeping her full of action and agency?
Uh, actually, maybe the better time would be a year that didn’t include three other Wonder Woman origin stories. Seriously, she’s my favorite DC character but I might not have the mental fortitude to watch yet another writer get his fingerprints on her beginnings. What is so hard about writing an adventure for Wonder Woman that’s not all about her lineage?
Chances I keep reading: 100% because Greg Rucka is writing Wonder Woman with Nicola Scott on art. Yes, that’s the team from Black Magick. I’m not sure you could Mad Lib together any other writer/artist/character combination that could possibly excite me more across both DC and Marvel because Gillen/McKelvie/YoungAvengers already happened. Keep reading with Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies for present-day story, and Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One for an origin redux.
Rebirth Ranked: Just Okay (if we’re being nice)
Suicide Squad: Rebirth
Suicide Squad couldn’t help but paint by the numbers in their debut with the eyes of movie-goers potentially fixated on the comic. It’s more or less a retread of the film, but in 20 pages and much higher quality (not hard to achieve).
I’d typically expect this to stick with crowd-pleasing popcorn plots, but Rob Williams is one of my favorite writers and he does transgressive characters very well.
Chances I keep reading: I put this at 20% – I’m going to page through anything to see Jim Lee’s art, even when it’s overly busy, but Rob Williams is one of my favorite comic authors right now and I’m likely to tune in to see what he’s up to. Keep reading with Suicide Squad Vol. 1: The Black Vault.
Let’s call a spade a spade – this is pretty much the epilogue to the DC Universe Rebirth Special, and to really be fascinated by it you need to know your Titans history or have read the Titans Hunt mini-series that lead into Rebirth. I did neither, so it was just a really long sequence of flashbacks for me.
I can’t hate on fans who were excited by it, since it was a big payoff to a lot of build-up! Also, Abnett is clearly building up to some longer-term reveals from his preceding run on Titans Hunt. He and Booth are a nice match-up on the creative side and seem ready to nail the post-adolescent energy of the title.
Chances I keep reading: I put this at 10% unless this turns out to be a major lynchpin of the overall Rebirth plot. I don’t have much affinity for DC’s main heroes, so DC legacy teams fall a little flat for me even when they’re well done. Keep reading with Titans Vol. 1: The Return of Wally West
Supergirl’s Rebirth issue is very by-the-book.
It introduces her supporting cast, explains her history and powers, gives her a monster-of-the-week to chase, and introduces a longer-term threat.
I found the execution a bit pedestrian, especially focusing so heavily on a bloodbath on the ground on Earth to get Kara back from space quickly without much consequence for any character.
The issue should have opened with her already bursting out of the sun, not only to speed along the plot and give more room for the personal scenes at the end, but because Emanuela Lupacchino is one of the best pencillers in comics and delivered the best splash of all of Rebirth.
Chances I keep reading: 33% because I hear Orlando is awesome and I adore Lupacchino’s pencils, but this issue didn’t inspire much confidence in the former. Keep reading with Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen.
Batgirl & The Birds of Prey: Rebirth
I thought both Batgirl and Birds of Prey were amongst DC’s best launch books in New 52 – they felt grounded yet still had high stakes.
This effort reads more like a painstaking “getting the band back together” about a band that was never together to begin with. It feels like an #0 issue inserted later in a run to fill in gaps rather than an exciting kickoff.
Also, Black Canary feels like a third wheel in what in most prior iterations was her book to lead. It’s not just Batgirl’s name in the title and dominance of the issue. Here, Canary is outcharmed by Barbara and out-aloofed by a well-written Huntress. That’s even further emphasized by Canary’s stellar turn in Green Arrow’s Rebirth.
Chances I keep reading: 25% because it’s still a female-centric team-up of Batgirl and Black Canary, and that’s hard to turn down, plus it has an all-female primary creative team in Julie and Shawna Benson with Claire Roe on art. Keep reading with Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey Vol. 1: Who Is Oracle?
The Hellblazer: Rebirth
High stakes have never seemed so pedestrian as Hellblazer heads back to London to upend an old curse that kept him in the States, nearly dooming all of London’s residents in the process.
I historically don’t love the talky British sensibility of Hellblazer’s comics. Even if I set that aside for this issue, I never once felt like anything significant was at stake. Plus, it doesn’t really explain anything about Constantine, though it makes room for a useless scene of Wonder Woman brow-beating Shazam and Swamp Thing (probably the only scene in the book I loved).
Chances I keep reading: 5% because I remain interested in the character despite being rebuffed by multiple tries to appreciate him. What I do appreciate is that artist Moriat seems unburdened by the typical DC house style. Still, I doubt this book is for me. Keep reading with The Hellblazer Vol. 1: The Poison Truth.
Teen Titans: Rebirth
Damien Wayne kidnaps Starfire and three other dull characters.
Funny story – I mistakenly read Teen Titans #1 instead of Rebirth and was like, “I love how it just starts with Damien having everyone captive, I totally don’t care how they got there!”
So, of course, this explained how they got there. This issue feels like filler, but at least it doesn’t overexpose Damien in a wacky take on the character, because I have no interest in that whatsoever.
Chances I keep reading: 10% because I do enjoy Damien Wayne and having read ahead to #1 I realize this is going to be his home book for the foreseeable future. I don’t think any of the Teens really add anything to him, but I suppose he can’t glom onto Bruce in every title. Still, I’m wary of anything that makes him too light-hearted, and that seems to be the direction here. Keep reading with Teen Titans Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best.
The problem with Aquaman’s Rebirth one-shot is the continual problem with Aquaman – it was half an voice-over about his perceived lameness and half dull-as-seaweed Atlantean in-fighting. It’s a comic book obsessed with apologizing for being a comic book.
Honestly, I had to triple-check that I wasn’t reading the New 52 introductory issue from five years ago over again!
(Of course, that series wound up being a solid adventure, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing that this is a boring and repetitive issue?)
As a layperson, I feel like Aquaman needs to lean more on the excitement around Jason Momoa’s casting and Game of Thrones pedigree. This book should be epic underwater backstabbing, not recycled Namor plots from the 60s. Also, DC’s already orange-y color palette is turned up to 11 with both Aquaman and his villains dressed in orange. The colors completely overwhelmed Scott Eaton’s typically solid artwork.
Chances I keep reading: 5% if I hear the intra-kingdom intrigue gets kicked up a notch, but I fear Dan Abnett isn’t the right writer for this title. You need someone a little more epic or a little more transgressive – ideally, both. Keep reading with Aquaman Vol. 1: The Drowning.
Blue Beetle: Rebirth
It think this might be an “It’s not the comic, it’s me” situation. It’s the only Rebirth issue I found it a chore to read.
I recall from New 52 that I don’t enjoy Keith Giffen’s scripts and this issue kept up the trend. The domestic scenes added little to my appreciation of this new teenage Beetle – especially with some unfortunately panel layout choices clouding the choreography of the scenes. Old-school Beetle Ted Kord was an insufferable goof.
Chances I keep reading: 1% – I suppose some positive buzz could re-pique my interest, but otherwise I can tell this one isn’t for me. Keep reading with Blue Beetle Vol. 1: The More Things Change.