Thursday, May 26, 2016

DC REBIRTH: First Thoughts

WARNING. THIS IS NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW. ENTER FREELY AND OF YOUR OWN WILL.

A few months back, when I was lamenting the whole Grim & Gritty tone of the current DC Comics universe, someone asked me what I would do to fix the problem. Since I felt that DC had lost its way five years ago with the reboot of their universe known as the NEW 52, and since that continuity was set in motion by a mini-series called FLASHPOINT, I said that I would write a mini series called FLASHBACK which would undo what the NEW 52 had done.
This week, DC Comics is pretty much doing what I suggested. The continuity altering mini-series is called REBIRTH, but it seems to be treading just the path I outlined, and in a weird metafictional twist, they’re actually acknowledging that their comics have become too grim and that there’s an internal reason for that. Someone with an incredible amount of power was actually influencing, corrupting, and changing the DCU. And that someone appears to be Dr. Manhattan from Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN.
Those of us who have been reading comics for the last five decades can remember the seismic shift in comic books that occurred in 1985 because of two comic mini-series, Moore’s WATCHMEN and Frank Miller’s DARK KNIGHT. Both painted grim, street level views of the super hero world. They were amazing and ground breaking series. Problem was, other creators, with far less talent than Moore and Miller latched on to the basic concept of a more ‘realistic’ take on super types, which ushered in the grim & gritty age.
So for DC to take WATCHMEN and integrate it into their current continuity as the villain of the piece, almost seems like a slap in the face to Moore. On the other hand, it’s a very clever and knowing thing to do.
The 80 page REBIRTH special, which kicks off the reboot, is written by Geoff Johns, and so of course it begins with The Flash. Johns is well known for writing some of the most popular adventures of the Scarlet Speedster, and Flash is a particular favorite of the writer. It’s tradition too, as some version of the Flash always seems to serve as a catalyst for change in the DCU. The Barry Allen version of The Flash was the first of DC’s ‘new’ heroes who ushered in the Silver Age of comics in 1956. He discovered the heroes of EARTH 2, introducing the concept of the DC Multiverse. He gave his life to save what was left of that Multiverse in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. He set the events of FLASHPOINT in motion.
This time, The Flash is Wally West, who began his career as Kid Flash, but took over as The Flash after the death of Barry Allen in the Crisis. Wally’s continuity was more or less wiped out after FLASHPOINT, and he shows up in REBIRTH as a sort of phantom from another reality, trying to break through and show the DC heroes that their world was fundamentally and INTENTIONALLY changed without their knowing it.
As Wally shifts in and out, trying to contact old friends and comrades, only to find that none of them remember him, we get to see the various DC heroes, many of who sense that on some level, they have lost something. In many cases what they have lost is love or friendship. Green Arrow and Black Canary miss one another without knowing that they were once a couple in another reality. Aquaman and Mera manage to reconnect. In the end it is friendship that brings Wally West back into the here and now.
What Johns seems to be saying is, “We know you missed these characters and these relationships. We screwed up. Let’s see if we can fix it.”
I also liked Johns’ take on Batman, reminding us that far from being a psychotic vigilante, Batman is still ‘the world’s greatest detective’ and if anyone can figure out what’s going on in a shifting reality, it’s the Dark Knight.
And Superman? My favorite DC hero? See my next post for Superman news.
Anyway, some of my more cynical friends don’t want to cut DC any slack or let them mend any bridges. They say that REBIRTH is just another reboot and they don’t think the company can change. Me, I’ve loved DC Comics since I was ten years old. If they want to try to get back the magic, then I’m sure as heck going to give them a chance. I’ll be blogging more about REBIRTH over the next few weeks. Let’s see where it goes.

6 comments:

Keith West said...

I skipped most of the review after the first few sentences since I won't be able to pick these up before next week. I am glad, however, that things are reverting to the pre-New 52 universe. I'm looking forward to seeing what they're going to do.

Tim Knight said...

I agree with you 100 per cent on your observations. Except for your supposition that Dr M is now the Big Bad of the DCU.

There's a great article here - http://www.geekfeed.com/dc-rebirth-johns-redacted-not-a-villain/ - where Geoff Johns explains that while that character is the antagonist, he's not a supervillain.

I'm an old school Marvel zombie and haven't really followed DC for years (post-Flashpoint, I think) but Rebirth made me fall in love with the DCU again.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Keith I think you'll dig it.

Tim, yeah my thoughts were based totally on reading the comic, with no interviews or other outside input. Thanks for the link. I did note that the article said "However, according to Johns, that does not 'necessarily' mean he’s the villain."
I think the use of the word necessarily is somewhat telling.

Tim Knight said...

Yes, slightly worryingly, I've also read that Johns is stepping away from comics to focus on the DC filmverse, so there's no guarantee that his blueprint will be followed to the letter.

I came to Rebirth totally spoiler-free - with no clue at all of the Watchmen angle - and by the time I got to Batman digging the badge out of the Batcave wall, I was muttering "no, no, no" to myself excitedly - with a broad fanboy grin on my face.

I really hope the DC can keep maintain this new standard now.

Chuck Huber said...

Charles: I afree with your take, but noted that auto-correct seems to have sabotaged you. You have "Jones" in several places where you meant "Johns".

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Tim, yes guess we'll have to wait and see. I have faith in Dan Jurgens as far as the Superman titles go.

Chuck, fixed. Thanks!