Women of DC Rebirth

DC Comics can be a bit of a clusterfuck, rebooting their own lines every few years, retaining some aspects of the previous comics while throwing others right out the window. But sometimes, a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered, which is what DC decided after the uneven results of their New 52 experiment. With Rebirth, DC renumbered all of their comics back to #1, effectively erasing much of The New 52 Era. DC Rebirth was supposed to be a return to the characters’ roots, without the relentless darkness that at times marred The New 52.

But what I really wanted to know was, what did this mean for the women?

As a fan of female superheroes, I looked forward to see how my favorite fantastic ladies would be handled during the Rebirth Era. Would their titles thrive, or stumble out of the gate? In order to get an idea, I decided to read the first trade paperback for every female-focused DC Rebirth title. This includes several solo titles (Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, and Superwoman), and one all-female team (Batgirl and The Birds of Prey). Eagle-eyed readers may notice that I did not list the Batwoman comic, but as Batwoman launched significantly later then the others on this list, her trade paperback won’t be released until late November. But for now, if you’d like to get an idea of how your favorite female superheroes are doing in DC Rebirth, then take a look at my overview below.

Let’s start off in Gotham.

Batgirl, vol 1: Beyond Burnside
Writer: Hope Larson
Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Color Artist: Dave McCaig

The New 52 Batgirl comics can be divided into two distinct eras, the dark, Gotham-set Gail Simone run (which I enjoyed, but many found to be overly dark), and the lighthearted Burnside-set Cameron Stewart/Brendan Fletcher run (which I did not like, but plenty of people did). Given the success of the Burnside quasi-reboot, I expected Rebirth to continue down the same path, but DC has given us something completely new.

As you might expect from the title, Beyond Burnside looks beyond Babs’s new home territory and recast her as a globetrotting hero, investigating a mystery that brings her to many different Asian countries. There results are not as dark as Simone’s run, nor are they as fluffy as the Stewart/Fletcher comics. And while the storyline itself wasn’t perfect, there’s no denying that of all of the Rebirth titles, this is the one I had the most fun with. Batgirl is only title on this list to use one consistent artist for the entire span which turns out to be a good call. The pencils have an appealing, almost sketchy quality to it, that I found worked really well for me.

While I wouldn’t call Beyond Burnside a “drop everything and read this now!” title, if you are interested in the character of Barbara Gordon, I’d recommend checking it out.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Vol 1: Who is Oracle? 
Writers: Julie Benson, Shawna Benson
Artists: Claire Roe, Roge Antonio
Color Artists: Allen Passalaqua, Hi-Fi

One of the confusing things about rebooting ones continuity over and over again is being able to keep the current timeline straight. For DC Rebirth, that means that Barbara Gordon’s tenure as Oracle did happen, but Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress never joined together to form the classic Birds of Prey team-up.

At least, until now.

While it takes a couple issues to get into, Who is Oracle? is ultimately an entertaining read. I liked seeing the team come together, and the trade is sprinkled with lots of fun dialogue and character interactions. Where it is somewhat lacking is in the art department. I’m not saying it’s bad, but there are some panels in Claire Roe’s work (who does art for the majority of the title) that look weirdly unfinished, and I wasn’t a fan of Roge Antonio’s toothy character designs in the first issue.

But that’s something that can be improved upon in future volumes. If you’re a fan of the characters presented here, I’d recommend giving it a chance.

Harley Quinn, Vol 1: Die Laughing 
Writer: Amanda Connor, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artists: John Tims, Chad Hardin, Bret Beldins, Joseph Michael Linser, Jill Thompson
Color Artists: Alex Sinclair, Hi-Fi, Jill Thompson

When it comes to reviewing comic books or media, it’s important that you realize when a comic is bad because it is lacking in quality, or when it just doesn’t appeal to your personal taste. For me, Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on Harley Quinn falls squarely into the second category. I felt that way when I read their New 52 Hot in the City graphic novel, and as well as while reading Rebirth’s Die Laughing.

Die Laughing is a wacky, humor-focused comic, that’s far more over the top then anything else on this list. But while the laughs don’t always work for me (especially the toilet humor), I can appreciate what it appears Connor and Palmiotti are trying to do here. To portray Harley as a whole woman, a nuanced anti-hero, instead of a two-dimensional simplistic sex symbol or ditz. At the same time, the comic doesn’t shy away from sexier situations, although it manages to do so without venturing into full on mature content territory (there’s even a sequence that takes place in a fetish club that ends up being pretty tame). The title also features a variety of artists instead of one, but everyone does really good job.

Die Laughing may not be for me, but if you’re in the mood for a wacky, violence filled comic that flirts with adult content, then it may be for you.

Supergirl, Vol 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artists: Brian Ching, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy
Color Artists: Michael Atiyeh

As a fan of the Supergirl TV show (and as someone who has criticized how Kara was handled in The New 52 continuity), it seems like the CW-inspired Reign of the Cyborg Supermen was pretty much made for me. And there’s a lot about it that I do like. The tone is lighter, but not overly fluffy, with some genuinely serious moments. Reign of the Cyborg Supermen features Kara embracing her Kara Danvers secret identity, and Cat Grant, a favorite of the Supergirl TV show, plays a starring role here.

But not everything from the TV show translates well to Reign of the Cyborg Supermen. In the show, Kara shares a loving relationship with her foster parents, who raised her from adolescence and into adulthood. In the comic, they try to achieve this level of camaraderie, but given that Kara has only been living with them for a few months, it doesn’t feel earned. When you consider that a big element of the Cyborg Supermen plot is dependent upon this bond, this ends up being a huge problem. And while part of me is happy that they brought the Cyborg Superman character back (especially given the helluva twist behind his character during The New 52), his “bring back Krypton” plan feels done before. So while there are some really nice elements in Reign of the Cyborg Supermen, it just doesn’t land well.

Which is why I feel weird saying that I will probably be continuing this comic. Perhaps I’m just a glutton for punishment when it comes to Kara, but there were a lot of elements here that worked for me. I even enjoyed the artwork, which I know some people found overly cartoony. But unless you’re a big Kara Zor-El fan, then you should probably just skip this one.

Superwoman, Vol 1: Who Killed Superwoman?
Writer: Phil Jiminez
Artists: Phil Jiminez, Emanuela Lupacchino, Jack Herbert, Joe Prado, Matt Santorell, Ray McCarthy
Color Artists: Jeremy Cox, Hi-Fi, Tony Avina

A lot of the titles on this list are true number ones. This means that that they can be enjoyed without having picked up any of the previous titles (you could say this about Batgirl, Supergirl, and Batgirl and The Birds of Prey). Other ones, like Superwoman, are clearly building on existing storylines, which means that they need to fill you in on a lot of backstory.

And Superwoman does that in the clunkiest way possible.

Listen, I’ve powered through a lot of subpar comics, but boy was it hard for me to push through the first issue of Superwoman. Who Killed Superwoman? is ridiculously overstuffed from the get-go, with its overcrowded panels, way too many characters, and plotlines upon plotlines. To be honest, at times it felt like Superwoman was actually two different comics: a Lana Lang comic and a Lex Luther comic that just got smooshed together. As a result, none of the elements really shine as they should. Which is a pity, because there’s potential for greatness here. And to top it off, it’s also clear Superwoman ends up crossing over with another title in this collection. Want to know how I can tell that? Because there are missing issues here. And in classic DC fashion, they don’t include the other issues of the crossover, nor do they even explain what happened in them.

It’s safe to say that I will not be reading any more of this comic.

Wonder Woman, Vol 1: The Lies 
Wonder Woman, Vol 2: Year One
Wonder Woman, Vol 3: The Truth
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artists: Liam Sharp (vol 1, vol 3), Nicola Scott (vol 2), Renato Guedes (vol 3), and Bilquis Evely (vol 3)
Color Artists: Laura Martin (vol 1, vol 3), Jeremy Colwell (vol 1), Romula Fajardo Jr. (vol 2, vol 3),  and Hi-Fi (vol 3)

Most people seem to agree, Wonder Woman is one of the stand out comics of DC Rebirth. Which is why I feel kind of strange for not completely falling in love it with. On paper, it’s definitely my jam. We have the return of Greg Rucka (one of my favorite Wonder Woman writers), some really strong artwork (especially by Nicola Scott), and the meta-commentary on Diana’s constantly shifting origin story is well done. Unfortunately, I bounced off this one to start with, and I think the reason why has a lot to do with my decision to read the comic in trade paperback format.

DC Rebirth’s Wonder Woman is divided into two storylines. One takes place in the past, and one takes place in the present. In single issue format, Wonder Woman was published every other week, as opposed to once a month, with the two storylines alternating (it’s also why Wonder Woman has three trades out, while the others have only one). When it came time to collect these two storylines DC made the seemingly logical choice of collecting all of the present story in volume one and three, and all of the past story in two and four. Unfortunately, while the past storylines really shine in this format, the present stories feel… weirdly muddled. Like you’re seeing the end of a television show without much of the necessary emotional build up.

Still, Wonder Woman has a lot going for it. It manages to successfully mirror a lot what worked well about the Wonder Woman movie, it features a really satisfying retelling of Diana’s origin story (Year One), and fans of Rucka’s original run will be happy to see the return of a few familiar faces. I just hope that one day DC decides to collect Rucka’s entire second run in a nice big hardback collection, with the issues in the correct reading order, so I can one day experience it how it was meant to.

When it comes to female-fronted titles in the DC Rebirth Era of comics, I find myself feeling almost lukewarm. Which is a shame as there’s some really good stuff here. You have two Batgirl comics that should work well with Batgirl fans, Harley Quinn comics that should appeal to Harley Quinn fans, Wonder Woman comics that will do well with Wonder Woman fans, and a couple of duds. But what I really wanted was a new DC title that I could fall in love with, and unfortunately, when it comes to these first few volumes, none of these titles really delivered that.

But who knows? When it comes to my favorite DC superheroines, with the exception of Wonder Woman, their Rebirth journeys have really just begun. Maybe once I read a little further, I’ll find myself pleasantly surprised.


  • Shara White September 28, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    Great reviews! But gah, I’m not sure I can make myself commit to a DC title again… I get so burned out on their crossovers, and I hate artist changeovers with a passion. Artist changeover is the reason I dropped the New 52 Birds of Prey like a hot potato, even though I really liked the title.

    • Nancy O'Toole Meservier September 28, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      I think we all know how much I loathe crossover events!

      Artist changeovers bother me less. While I appreciate a comic with a consistent artist from issue to issue, I can see how having a guest artist is a nice way for someone to build up their resume.

      And it’s safe to assume that if you read a DC title, you’re gonna have to deal with both eventually!

      • Shara White September 28, 2017 at 9:13 pm

        I don’t mind a single guest artist here and there. I just hate total changeovers. With the staple series I guess I can understand how it’s hard to avoid, but I remember that was on the one thing that REALLY bugged me about Sandman, because some of the artists who did a run I really didn’t like.

  • Ronya FM October 1, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    This is a fantastic rundown. I know I’m not the only person to give up on DC because of their constant re-something. I gravitated to DC from Marvel, so except for the TV shows, and Wonder Woman (totally agree about Rucka!), I’m a little lost. But I want to give a couple of titles a try. It also gives me some input on developing gender balance in the library’s graphic novel collection.

    • Nancy O'Toole Meservier October 2, 2017 at 9:24 am

      I kinda feel like it’s a real challenge to have any kind of gender balance when it comes to superhero titles. Fortunately, there are a some really strong comics right now with female leads worth investing in (Ms. Marvel! Squirrel Girl!), but after things being so male-centric for decades, your core collection is going to skew pretty masculine when it comes to the big two. Maybe the indies can help?

      And thank you!

  • Carrie Gessner October 13, 2017 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks for this! I read Vol 1 of the Wonder Woman Rebirth and just couldn’t get into it. This has convinced me to try out Vol 2 and check out the past story line. I’m also more excited to read Beyond Burnside now. 🙂

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