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Batman Rebirth #1 Review

A week after releasing DC Universe Rebirth #1, the universe-redefining 80-page one-shot that reset numerous elements of their universe, DC Comics began releasing Rebirth specials this week. These one-shots serve as preludes to the company’s upcoming re-numbered line of ongoing series, establishing new status quo’s for their characters. One of the most anticipated of these is Batman Rebirth #1, co-written by outgoing writer Scott Snyder and his replacement Tom King.

The issue begins with Duke Thomas, a cast member from We Are Robin aware of Batman’s identity, arriving at Wayne Manor to take Bruce Wayne up on a mysterious offer. The action then abruptly shifts to the Caped Crusader battling a new version of the classic villain Calendar Man on a day labeled “Monday: Spring.” After a fierce fight sequence, Batman is able to subdue him and destroy the villain’s deadly spores. Next we see “Tuesday: Summer,” as Bruce Wayne regains control of his company and family fortune thanks to Lucius Fox.

The next segment, entitled “Wednesday: Fall” explains the strange the naming conceit as Wayne explains to Thomas that this version of Calendar Man ages, dies and is reborn yearly with each of the seasons, but somehow has sped up the seasons, explaining how Gotham has experienced three seasons over the course of three days. Bruce then reveals Duke’s new yellow bat-suit, explaining that he’s not training him to be a Robin but rather “something different.” The final segment “Thursday: Winter” finds Batman swimming through freezing waters and disabling Calendar Man’s weather-altering machine. The issue ends with Bruce and Duke training for their never-ending war on crime.

While most of DC’s major franchises were radically altered by the 2011 New 52 reboot, Batman was left relatively alone. Outside of some timeline compressing, most of the stories Scott Snyder told over the course of his run could have been told in the classic DCU, so the characters post-Rebirth change is less radical than most. That said, King and Snyder do a really good establishing the characters post-Rebirth status quo here. Over the course of the issue, they organically reveal that Bruce has his fortune and total control of his company back, that Duke has moved into Wayne Manor and that he’s not being trained to be another Robin but rather a new bat-character. However, even with all that exposition, the two are able to tell a really solid story.

The new concept of Calendar Man being in a constant life/death/rebirth cycle with the seasons is a very interesting one that sounds more like something one would expect from The X-Files than an issue of Batman. I look forward to seeing him again. The relationship with Duke and Bruce is also developed a bit in a way that makes me even more interested in reading King’s upcoming take on the characters. The only slight problem I had with the comic is that the writers should have found a way to include a bit about Duke’s origin as casual and lapsed readers (the main audience for these one-shots) are unlikely to be familiar with him.

Interestingly, the art in this issue is handled by Mikel Janin instead of David Finch (who’ll handle the art on King’s Batman) or the team of John Romita Jr. and Declan Shalvey (the team on Snyder’s upcoming All-Star Batman book). Surprisingly, the big names aren’t missed. Janin does a great job here, nailing down several distinct styles. He draws a great fight scene, a great double-page bat-cave spread and, in my personal favorite moment, an incredibly disturbing panel grid of Calendar Man dying, shedding his own skin like a snake and being reborn.

If Batman Rebirth #1 is any indication, the Caped Crusader will be in great hands post-Rebirth. I equally recommend this book to any hardcore fans of Scott Snyder’s run and those who’ve been away from DC for a while.

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