By Tyler Wood
All-New! Earth-Shattering Changes! You Won’t Believe What Happens Next! Blah blah blah… It’s easy to get worn down by the endless barrage of marketing hype and flood of Very Important Issues that come with the annual event cycles that the Big Two have fallen into over the years. And with the constant onslaught of needless changes and events that ultimately don’t amount to much of anything more than setting up future events, it’s easy to feel more than a little cynicism. This year, however, Marvel and DC appear to be making a genuine attempt at winning readers’ trust back and (for me, at least) it’s working.
Civil War II
As someone who was extremely excited to Marvel’s All-New All-Different era, most of their relaunched titles sort of landed with a thud for me. After the massive, (literal) earth-shattering events of last summer’s fantastic Secret Wars, the Marvel Universe had regrouped and changed but something was missing. The entire line still featured a number of extremely well-written and effective books, but overall, there was a sense that it had lost a lot of the urgency and cohesion that it had built up since the beginning of the Marvel Now era back in 2012. Thankfully, Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez look to be fixing that problem with Civil War II.
Unlike it’s predecessor, this event book is extremely focused on the characters of the Marvel Universe. Rather than creating a dramatic situation in which characters are forced into roles they typically wouldn’t occupy, this starts with a simple philosophical exercise and lets the cast react to it in the ways the reader expects them to. The rift that forms feels much more organic and therefore feels important to the overall impact it has on the Marvel U. Add to that tons of high stakes drama, gorgeous artwork (including an awe-inspiring two page spread featuring a Celestial attacking New York City), and an emotional, intense ending and you have a book that feels just as essential as it does satisfying.
Green Arrow: Rebirth #1
Now that’s more like it! After five years of moody bleakness, the Emerald Archer finally feels like himself again. So far, no book displays the fulfilled promise of DC’s Rebirth initiative better that Brad Percy’s Green Arrow. Oliver Queen smiles! He has jokes! He spends the majority of the issue simply helping the homeless in Seattle! While still containing shades of darkness and the hint of a greater threat looming around the corner, the Green Arrow and the Black Canary spend their first outing together in quite some time discussing the virtues of heroism and inspiring hope in others. Everything about this issue just feels right. I am a massive fan of Denny O’Neil’s classic work with the character and consider Kevin Smith and Brad Meltzer’s legendary runs among my favorite comics of all time. If this issue is any indication, Brad Percy’s tenure on Green Arrow will soon be entering that pantheon as well.
Superman: Rebirth #1
Of all the characters who were damaged by the New 52, Superman probably suffered the most from the muddling of his origin and the line-wide darkening of storylines. The grittier, more dour trappings of the New 52 slowly smothered everything that makes the Man of Steel special and interesting until the only thing left was a shallow husk covered in blue spandex. At that point, the most humane thing DC could do was put him down. And that’s where we begin, with the pre-Flashpoint Superman standing at his New 52 counterpart’s grave, waiting to see if he comes back. He doesn’t.
All things considered, it’s a minor miracle that Peter Tomasi is able to wring so much genuine emotion out of the passing of a character nobody ever grew that attached to. Tomasi primarily uses N52 Clark’s passing to highlight what makes the pre-Flashpoint version (as well as all those that preceded him) special. The returning Superman is older, wiser, and more hopeful than any iteration we’ve seen the character be in quite some time. He waits patiently at the grave of a man he only barely knew, confident that the deceased would burst to life triumphantly, just as he himself had done in the past. This is Superman believing in people past the point of reason, doing everything he can do to help them in their time of need. This issue ends with pre-Flashpoint Clark honoring the few good contributions the New 52 made to Superman’s legacy and preparing to don the red and blue once again, ready to be the heart of the DCU Superman was always meant to be