This is it folks. Quite possibly the biggest and most anticipated release of the year. Forget any of the new comics from Image or that new event Marvel is putting out, this is the one: the comic that is supposed to reshape the DC Universe and move it into a new era. Let’s give it a shot and find out exactly what is in store. Is it good?
WARNING: There will be spoilers.
DC Universe: Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
Trapped outside of time and within the Speed Force, Wally West of pre-New 52 tries making contact with the outside world. Flashpoint happened and someone used it to mess with the universe, reshaping it into what it is now. Only a few people know things changed (Wally himself, Pandora, etc.), but what caused it remains a mystery. All Wally cares about at the moment though is escaping his confines and being reunited with his loved ones.
The Initial Impression
Let’s get this out of the way: This is not a reboot. No, this is more of a new directional and hopefully tonal shift for DC’s comic universe. It’s emphasizing hope and optimism, bringing back old characters and ideas while combining them with the new universe, and setting the stage for a new beginning by teasing a whole lot of things to come. Also, possibly making Alan Moore’s head explode, but that may be a bonus. It’s enjoyable and uplifting, but also head-scratching as well.
As a story, it’s honestly kind of weak. It’s just Wally West hopping around the current universe trying to see if people can remember him and tie him back down to Earth, while we get random scenes of other characters and what they’re up to. While very strong on an emotional level, seeing how desperate and depressed Wally becomes as he fails over and over again to make people remember (that bit with Linda was really heartbreaking), it’s not very strong narratively. On the other hand, as a teaser for this new direction DC is going in and trying to appeal to fans by bringing in old characters, old concepts they’ve loved (Mera & Arthur getting married? Yay!), and trying to emphasize that there will be hope and happiness instead of just being overly bleak… the comic works. It’s an attempt to bring back the old fans that wandered away due to the grittiness of the past few years, but also keep the new fans and the ones that remained by not throwing out the New 52/DCYou either (which would have annoyed me honestly if they did). The issue works as a good prologue and teaser for the new universe.
I’m here to tell you to knock it off with staring creepily at that child.
Let’s talk about some of the new changes and surprises that lay in store, since there’s a lot and we should probably hit the most important of them. Pandora is briefly seen for a page before hinting at some dangerous force and being obliterated. It’s the most dour thing about the issue and is almost symbolic as the end to the New 52. I’m personally a little disappointed, especially having read her series and others she starred in and seeing her develop. On the other hand, I’m happy Geoff Johns at least addressed her connection with Flashpoint.
Wally West is officially back in the universe thanks to Barry Allen remembering, and seems to be slowly acclimating the new world. Not sure what is going to happen with him now, but some fans should enjoy his return and seeing him back in action (potentially regressing him in this return, maybe not so much). As brought up in Justice League #50 and addressed here, there are also at least three Jokers around now and each seem to be representing different eras of the character (Gold and silver, bronze and dark, and a modern age version). I really don’t know what to think of this and feels rather confusing for the character. It’s an odd decision and while I can see how people may like this (the version of the Joker they like may be the true one), I think we’ll need to see more of this play out before we can determine if it is a good idea or not. Same thing goes with Wonder Woman apparently having a brother now.
And of course, there is the big change. Watchmen is officially connected to the DC Universe. Dr. Manhattan is hinted at as the person who messed with the timeline and killed Pandora (she got destroyed the same way Rorschach did), the Comedian’s button pops up in the Batcave, and the ending even references the ending to Watchmen. This… is controversial to say the least. I’ll admit, I’m not that big into Watchmen nor have I studied the themes and concepts of the comic as others have, but this doesn’t seem like a good idea. Watchmen isn’t tonally fitting with this new optimistic direction in the slightest and pinning the blame on it for causing this dark change in the DC Universe is just bizarre. Sure, I get that it and The Dark Knight Returns sort of kicked off the Dark Age of comics, so it is sort of meta, but it seems disrespectful to the comic. Even beyond that, the references that we get to Watchmen are not particularly good. The button makes absolutely no sense on how it got there and I have no clue why Dr. Manhattan would want to mess with the DC Universe. I will really need to see how this plays out in the future certainly, but it doesn’t seem like it works from what has been shown.
…it means you’re in my lab. Get out of there you little twerp!
The artwork for the comic is handled by Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez and they all did a fantastic job here. Even though they all have their own unique art style, it never felt distracting at any time. None of their work overlaps one another’s in the different scenes in the book, so there was never an abrupt shift in appearance during a sequence. The characters are all drawn very well, easily distinguishable from one another and very expressive in their mannerisms and faces. The layouts were well done and flow perfectly from panel to panel, especially in the big climax with the Flashes. There’s a lot of good detail put into each page that helps make everything look beautiful and more stunning, like the scene where Wally appears before Linda in the rain. It’s all house-style artwork as people would call it, but it is good looking house-style artwork and you couldn’t ask for a better art team on this book.
Is It Good?
DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is teaser for things to come. It brings back many fan favorites and ideas from the past, while still shaping the new universe. It is also backed up by beautiful looking artwork that makes this a visual treat from start to finish. However, it’s not particularly strong in the story department and some of the new changes are controversial to say the very least. Regardless, I’m excited to see what will happen now and how the DC universe will change.