This Batman: Rebirth #1 review contains spoilers.
Scott Snyder, Tom King, and Mikel Janin’s special Batman: Rebirth issue begins with a sense of renewal that permeates throughout the rest of the story. Alfred is picking fruit from the Wayne Manor garden and a revitalized Calendar Man plans to spark a second (albeit deadly) Spring in Gotham. To Snyder and King, the B-lister stands as a symbol for the inevitability of time — things end, and in the process, new things begin. “Like a calendar,” Bruce tells Lucius Fox at one point in the issue, “It always comes around again.” It’s pure poetry, the kind of sophisticated Bat yarn we’ve seen from Snyder and I hope we’ll continue to see from King.
I have to applaud the Calendar Man redesign, which is at once so unexpected but also makes a lot of sense. The villain isn’t exactly a formidable challenge for Batman, who is able to dispatch the baddie quite easily (at least from the sparse confrontations we see on the page), but a harbinger for what Bruce’s return as Batman means. The story takes the idea of a “rebirth” quite literally when it comes to Calendar Man, who seemingly dies and is born again along with the seasons in gruesome fashion. Janin draws some particularly horrifying close-ups that illustrate the process of being reborn. David Cronenberg, and especially horror manga artist Junji Ito, would be proud.
With King and Janin reunited after their run on Grayson, they waste no time in presenting a sexier Bruce. Gone is the beard, but also the shirt. The first scene with the millionaire playboy sans Batsuit has him working out, the sun of a 137-degree Summer day beaming down his sweat-soaked chest, as Janin closes in on our hero’s pecs. It’s sort of an in-joke for King and Janin, who turned Dick Grayson into a comic book sex symbol in last year’s spy adventures. It remains to be seen if they’ll do the same for Bruce or if this is just a wink at the reader, but their Bruce already looks like a more agile, lighter version of the usually stockier hero.
There isn’t too much in terms of actual story in Batman: Rebirth, but I don’t think that’s the issue’s intent anyway. It’s, again, more of a softly spoken poem about how time brings about renewal. Duke Thomas, a character who’s been on the path to great things for a while now, is older and steps into a new, slightly unexpected role. There’s even a direct connection to something that was teased in Snyder’s Batman run that will make readers double take.
Duke, while training with Bruce later in the issue, asks his new mentor how they’re supposed to combat Calendar Man when “he comes back better every time.” Bruce, with the slightest hint of a smile, says, “Easy. We come back better each time, too.” If that isn’t a mission statement for what King, Janin, and David Finch hope to do with their run, I don’t know what is. Batman: Rebirth should get fans very excited for the future, as Gotham is renewed, even better than the last time.