“I love this world. But there’s something missing.” By now, the current crop of DC Comics fans should be well acquainted with these words. They’re the words of a hero whose return to the DC Universe has brought back life, optimism, and legacy to it. His name is Wally West, and he is the fastest man alive… … …aaannd he’s wearing some pretty awesome new threads. ^_^
With the end of The New 52 this past June (happy birthday to me, btw, lol), a new era has begun in DC Comics. While it continues telling the story of the universe established at the end of Flashpoint, it’s nonetheless balanced things out to be more similar to how it was prior to the reboot, as well as set up the groundwork for some big stories in the future. It’s also helped to establish exactly how and why the characters and their stories are different from how they once were. This is DC Rebirth.
DC Rebirth officially started with DC Universe Rebirth #1. However, the seeds of what would become Rebirth were planted almost exactly one year beforehand during DC Convergence. In that story, several pre-Flashpoint worlds were reintroduced, and the events that led to the collapse of the original Multiverse were undone, causing it to become infinite in size once again (though with the currently established Multiverse at the center). In the year that followed, several stories followed up on those events. In particular, we learned that the pre-Flashpoint Clark Kent, his wife Lois, and their new son Jon had all someone been transported to the current Earth 0, AKA Prime Earth. Furthermore, as a result of events in Justice League and his main books, the New 52 Superman found himself dying and, before the end came, asked his pre-Flashpoint counterpart to continue protecting the Earth in his stead. This brings us to today, where Clark is Superman once again, and his son Jon is the new Superboy…and there’s another Clark Kent who has no powers who may or may not be the New 52 Superman, I’m honestly not sure what that’s all about. We’re supposed to get an explanation in March, though.
Another thing that happened in the year between Convergence and Rebirth was the return of the Titans. Basically, it was retconned that the original Titans team really DID exist (although how is anyone’s guess when one considers the backstory of the New 52 Donna Troy, and that’s ALL I’m going to say about that, lol), but that they all lost their memories of ever having been a team. After a while, they finally all came back together, minus one individual who they knew was missing but couldn’t pin a face or a name to. Luckily, as it turned out, they wouldn’t have to wait long.
Anyway, those were all big parts of the Rebirth, but the official era didn’t actually kick off until DC Universe Rebirth #1. In it, we see the pre-Flashpoint Wally West has apparently been trapped in the Speed Force, is regressed in age by a few years, and is back in his Kid Flash costume. Also, it turns out that he and the New 52 Wally West are cousins. Might seem like a bit of a stretch, but I have both a brother and a half brother named Randy, so I can tell you from past experience, it ain’t impossible…though it IS confusing. But more of a big deal is the fact that nobody remembers him. He keeps trying to remove himself from the Speed Force by making contact with people he knew, but without that connection, he keeps falling back. Even Linda Park doesn’t remember him. Finally, he appears to Barry Allen, ready to disappear, but at the last possible moment, Barry remembers him and pulls him back into the world. After five years, Wally West has returned.
Wally gives some exposition, and between it and stuff we can make guess work at, we learn that someone has literally taken away 10 years of history. At this exact moment, we don’t know how, why, or which 10 years exactly were the ones taken. We don’t even know if they were 10 full years or just bits of time here and there that added up to 10 years. But here’s what we do know: The New 52 DC Universe is essentially the same universe that existed prior to Flashpoint, just with those 10 years taken away. That’s the biggest contributing factor as to why this universe is so different. Because, without certain key moments that occurred during those 10 years, relationships were either changed or outright erased, characters were de-aged, and several other contributing factors occurred to completely mess with peoples’ lives, who they were, and what they meant to the universe at large.
Now, with that said, you might ask “But Jyger, wasn’t the reason the DC Universe was changed was because of Barry’s traveling through time and Pandora’s merging elements of the Wildstorm and Vertigo universes with it?”, to which I reply “Yes, that WAS the reason given”… … …Ugh, okay, let’s TRY and unravel this, shall we? So, first off, let’s assume for the moment that this isn’t just a blatant retcon (although, let’s be honest, it probably is). If I had to make a guess at what happened, it’s that someone took advantage of Barry’s breaking the time barrier and used that opportunity, when history itself was vulnerable, to remove 10 years. Pandora, seeing what had happened, decided to strengthen the now weakened universe by fusing it with the Wildstorm and Vertigo universes. That, I THINK, is what has happened here: That, while having some cosmetic differences and whatnot, the New 52 Universe wouldn’t have been AS different as it has been without the loss of that decade worth of history. Oh, and speaking of Pandora, during the events of DC Universe Rebirth #1, she was apparently fried…in a very familiar fashion, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Also, because of certain other events going on in some of the newer stories, I have my doubts that she’s really gone.
Anyway, other stuff happened in DC Universe Rebirth #1 that has started to balance things out to be more like the previous continuity. For starters, Aquaman proposed to Mera, so we can finally put it to rest as to the nature of their relationship. Green Arrow and Black Canary met up during an investigation into New 52 Supes’ death and were left with a feeling like something was missing from their lives, which is being explored in the current Green Arrow book where the two are finally tag-teaming against criminals and dating again, except without the baggage of some of the shittier things Ollie did while they were involved in the previous continuity. And characters like Ryan Choi, Jackson Hyde, Ted Kord, Johnny Thunder, and Saturn Girl were given their appropriate reintroduction to the universe (okay, technically, we’d seen Ted beforehand, but now he’s working with Jaime as he should be).
In the midst of all of that, though, we found ourselves with hints of what was to come. Batman was seen investigating the revelation that there are apparently three Jokers…and yeah, not sure what to make of that, other than the fact that, with the Silver Age Joker supposedly coming back as his own character, we’ll at least have a Joker who is FUN again. Superman was visited by a figure known as Mr. Oz, who we’ve actually seen in the Superman books of the New 52 before, and who gave some rather cryptic remarks regarding the nature of both Supermen’s existence. Like the new Clark, we’re supposed to get some more info on Oz in March, and we’ve even seen him in the newer Detective Comics issues as well. Damian Wayne, the current Robin, turned 13, hinting toward his future alignment with the Teen Titans. Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson) let Ted Kord know that the Scarab is actually magic…because, for some reason, we’ve now gone backwards through retcons. Seriously, I don’t get why they switched BACK to the Scarab being magical in nature, other than as a means to involve Doctor Fate, and with the Justice Society apparently coming back soon, it’s not really necessary. We learned for absolute certain that New 52 Wally West is a speedster, and pre-Flashpoint Wally gave his blessing for him to be the new Kid Flash, which I’m actually fine with. Now that we’ve established the two as completely separate characters, New Wally is free to be his own character. And we found out that Jessica Cruz, the newest Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814 will be having to work directly with Simon Baz, AKA the one Green Lantern who carries a gun.
However, all of that paled in comparison to the big reveal. After being brought back from the Speed Force by Barry, Wally told him everything he knew about the current situation and how he felt this wasn’t completely Barry’s fault. In the end, though, he couldn’t place a face or a name to whoever was responsible for taking away time. However, it seems he may have left a clue nonetheless, as Batman investigated where Wally had originally appeared in the Batcave, and found something embedded in the stone wall: A single smiley face button with a drop of blood smeared across it. And so, the story ended with the image of a watch on Mars, along with the following familiar dialogue…
“I did the right thing, didn’t I? It all worked out in the end.”
“In the end? Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.”
…Yup, turns out the culprit is none other than Doctor Manhattan. How and why is still unknown. Hell, for all we know, Jon didn’t even do so intentionally. However, considering the all-too-familiar method by which Pandora was killed (as well as Owlman and Metron at the end of Darkseid War, and yes I AM still planning to do a full review of that someday), chances are he’s very much doing this blatantly. But regardless, we do have a reason for Doctor Manhattan’s inclusion from a meta standpoint: Simply put, there are a LOT of writers out there who look at a book like Watchmen and think that the reason it was great was because it was dark and dire, so they try to copy that approach, not understanding that dark stories don’t automatically equal something good. As far as I can tell, between what’s being presented and what Geoff Johns has said in interviews since the release of the comic, Doctor Manhattan is basically being cast as just that: Someone who doesn’t understand that the way his dark story is being written doesn’t work. Of course, no one bothers to mention that Geoff Johns himself has done this in the past, whether he realizes it or not, but he still has a good enough idea as to how things are supposed to work and how characters are supposed to behave that I trust him with this. How exactly that gels with what happened at the end of Watchmen is yet to be seen, but between his involvement and the dialogue at the end of the book, I think we might just know who exactly “Mr. Oz” really is, who has since abducted both Doomsday and Tim Drake for reasons that are currently a mystery. Personally, I’m kind of expecting to see this resolve in some big DC Rebirth vs Watchmen event. How that’ll play out, and just to what degree will its existence piss off Alan Moore, is still a mystery, but it’s still likely to happen nonetheless. Hopefully, they take their time building to it.
So, at this point, you’re probably thinking “Well, that all sounds well and good, but if that’s the case, then why in the hell has it taken you this long to discuss Rebirth?”. And…yeah, I fully admit that I kind of procrastinated at that. However, in the end, I’m kinda glad I did. Why? Because it gave me something POSITIVE to talk about at the end of the year, and as I alluded to the other day, there hasn’t really been a lot positive to discuss regarding 2016. And while Rebirth hasn’t been perfect, and there are still some issues from the previous era left to iron out, it’s most definitely been an improvement, and I’d likely consider it the best thing to happen in comics this entire year. I’ll probably go more into detail as to some of the ups and downs of Rebirth once it’s a year old…at which point, I’ll be 32 years old…God, I’m ancient. But, for now, stuff like seeing the Titans and the Birds of Prey back together, the pre-Flashpoint Superman training his son, Dick Grayson being Nightwing again, Barry teaming with the new Kid Flash, and Wonder Woman being written by Greg Rucka again (who is fixing EVERYTHING that went wrong with her in the New 52, btw) are all major pluses. Oh yeah, and they’re also hinting at the return of the Blue Lanterns, THANK GOD. You have NO idea how hard it’s been to keep optimistic about a comic book universe that seems to actively hate hope, and to see it on its way back is such a relief.
But for me, the biggest point about why Rebirth works and The New 52 didn’t is because the characters FEEL like themselves again. It’s not just the situations and circumstances, it’s WHO THEY ARE. How they act, how they respond to different situations, and so on. Everything just kind of fits again, but without excluding any of the things about The New 52 that worked. Because this isn’t about pretending The New 52 never happened. This is about putting the DC Universe back on the right path, one that isn’t devoid of hope and fun, nor forgets the lessons learned from the mistakes of yesterday. Really, the only thing about the previous era that’s been undone is the vast majority of what happened to Wonder Woman. And even then, it’s not like those events never happened, it’s more damage control for her origins and the Amazons, and it all unfolds in a way that makes sense and helps make things feel like they’re supposed to be. It’s not just that Lois and Clark are back together. It’s that Lois and Clark FEEL like Lois Lane and Clark Kent. And I hope that, in continuing with DC Rebirth, the writers and higher-ups of DC Comics remember that point and continue to learn from their past mistakes.
But hey, that’s all just my opinion. What do you think of DC Rebirth? What have some of your favourite or least favourite titles been? Lemme know in the comments, as well as how you hope to see things unfold from here, and we’ll check back in June with how Rebirth has been upon turning one year old. Ja né, and Happy New Year!