Friday, June 30, 2017
DC Rebirth: One Year Later
It's been one year since DC Comics relaunched their fictional universe with all-new number one issues in what they called "DC Rebirth." After looking at the Top 300 Comics sales list for May 2017, I thought it might be interesting to see how well the latest DC Universe relaunch is performing in the long term.
As expected, the big winner of the DC Rebirth relaunch is Batman. As one of DC's biweekly titles, Batman had the unenviable task of following an incredible run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo during The New 52 era, but writer Tom King and rotating artists David Finch and Mikel Janin have more than proven themselves. Issues #22 and #23 charted at #3 and #7 respectively in the Top 300, although #22 was part of "The Button" crossover storyline with The Flash that featured an lenticular cover.
And speaking of The Flash, that series is definitely the surprise winner of DC Rebirth. Issues #22 and #23 chart at #4 and #23 respectively, with The Flash #22 featuring "The Button" crossover with Batman and a lenticular cover. The creative team of Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico have been positively killing it, a welcome improvement from The New 52, where the title languished around the Top 50 mark.
All-Star Batman, from Scott Snyder and various artists, has also been strong and charts at #15, an impressive feat considering the book costs $4.99 a month. Unfortunately, the title is ending with issue #14 this September, presumably because Snyder is moving on to New Challengers later this year, which means DC will lose one of its strongest sellers.
Detective Comics also does well, proving fans can't get enough of Batman books as long as they're done decently. Issues #956 and #957 come in at #19 and #20 on the Top 300, showing that the idea to feature Batman and a team of Batman-related heroes was a good one. It's a shame though, that Batwoman does well as a team member here but her solo series only comes in at #81.
After the main Batman titles, Justice League turns up in the #21 and #22 position, apparently showing a little fatigue after spending most of Rebirth's first year around the Top 10 spot. Writer Bryan Hitch has received considerable criticism online from fans tired of the rather dull and lifeless storylines without recognizable villains, so perhaps some of them are finally giving up on the series. #21 and #22 is still nothing to sneeze at though, so I wouldn't expect a creative change any time soon.
Thankfully, Superman is close behind, with issues #22 and #23 charting at #25 and #28 on the Top 300. Writer Peter Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason continue performing as a solid creative team after their terrific work on Batman and Robin as part of The New 52. DC Rebirth has been wonderful to Superman fans, restoring the Pre-Flashpoint Superman with Lois as his wife and the addition of Jon Kent, a.k.a. Superboy. Who knew that making Superman a cool dad was exactly what the character needed?
Another big surprise is Titans, which charts at #31 for issue #11. Dan Abnett seems to be the first writer since Geoff Johns to really "get" the Titans, as he successfully balances the superteam heroics with the awareness that the team's close friendship with one another feels like family. The art by Brett Booth could be better, especially with his rather cartoonish facial depictions, but as with Justice League, DC isn't about to mess with the creative team as long as the sales hold up.
As for the rest, there are only a few standouts of note. Wonder Woman got a creative boost from Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp, but the creators' final issue arrived this week and replacement writer James Robinson won't arrive for another six issues. Dan Jurgens has been telling solid Superman stories once again in Action Comics, while Dan Abnett has been doing some serious worldbuilding in Aquaman although sales haven't been kind. Hopefully, that will change with the stunning work from new artist Stjepan Šejić.
For anyone wondering, here are the DC Rebirth titles I started off with one year ago:
Action Comics Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps
All-Star Batman Harley Quinn
Batgirl Justice League
Batgirl and the Birds of Prey Nightwing
Batman Suicide Squad
Detective Comics Superwoman
The Flash Teen Titans
Green Arrow Titans
Green Lanterns Wonder Woman
And now, here are the DC Rebirth titles I'm currently getting, with new additions in bolded italics:
Action Comics Hellblazer
All-Star Batman Justice League
Aquaman Justice League of America
Batwoman Suicide Squad
Deathstroke Teen Titans
Detective Comics Titans
The Flash Wonder Woman
An overall net loss of four books, but pretty much consistent. The most noticeable losses here are both Green Lantern titles, which continue being unable to meet the high bar set by Geoff Johns before Flashpoint, and both Batgirl titles, which aren't as strong as Gail Simone's or even Cameron Stewart and Brent Fletcher's runs in The New 52. Harley Quinn is exactly the same book I ended up dropping during The New 52 and the lower sales are beginning to reflect that I'm not the only one who wants a change.
The good news about DC Rebirth is that one year later, none of the original books have been cancelled. (Okay, All-Star Batman is ending, but that seems more of a creative decision rather than sales.) However, the bad news is that a number of titles emphasizing diversity have failed to catch on and probably won't make it to 2018, such as Cyborg, Blue Beetle, New Super-Man, and Superwoman. Also, DC still hasn't figured out that the only Hellblazer we want to read involves top-notch British creators telling stories of true horror that aren't watered down with "swearing" using skull symbols. It seems odd though, that DC doesn't have anything lined up to replace these books yet, unless you count their upcoming Dark Matter line with the aforementioned New Challengers and Jim Lee's The Immortal Men.
Oh, and I should mention that the main reason DC Rebirth is performing so well is probably due to the superb initial offering of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, followed by more of DC recapturing what their readers enjoyed prior to The New 52. Unlike Marvel, which remains clueless about what its core readership actually wants, DC learned from the mistakes of The New 52 and addressed those mistakes with an engaging mystery woven throughout the Rebirth era. Even better, there's still more to come, with Geoff Johns wrapping up that mystery in Doomsday Clock, Snyder and Capullo returning for the Metal event, and teasing hints that the Justice Society of America and the Legion of Super-Heroes will finally be back in play relatively soon.
Once again, it's a great time to be a DC Comics fan. On to Year Two!