Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DC Rebirth #1

Wally West is doing things a Flash has done before.

Like Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths, he appears to Batman to deliver a warning that is also a cry for help that Batman is unable to satisfy.

Like Barry Allen in Flashpoint, he comes to Batman to deliver a message about reality having changed. The status as a messenger is, in turn, a reference to the Roman god Mercury, who also inspired the first Flash, Jay Garrick.

Like Barry Allen in 2008's Final Crisis one-shot lead-in DC Universe #0, he is the narrator, initially unidentified, with yellow-and-red narration boxes as a clue to his identity before it is revealed.

Like Barry Allen in Flash Rebirth, he is lost in the Speed Force, seeking an anchor to pull him back to reality.

Like Barry Allen in Final Crisis, he gets back to reality, and then participates in an emotional reunion with his former partner.

Like himself – Wally West – in a JLA-JSA crossover called "The Lightning Saga" he returns to continuity after a prolonged duration in which his absence was a creative decision by DC that was eventually reversed.


But he is also playing the roles of two non-Flashes: Like Doctor Manhattan (on two occasions) in Watchmen, he is nearly blown apart by cosmic forces, but survives to return to reality. As with several of the correspondences mentioned above, the artwork is intentionally composed to remind us of the connection, but in the case of Watchmen, it is a clue (of several) pointing to a further reveal that Watchmen's universe is connected to the DC Universe.

Like Johnny Thunder, he is a bearer of lightning. Johnny's appearance as an old man is used early in Rebirth to let us know that the Justice Society was always part of the post-Flashpoint history, but it was hidden and forgotten.

And, like Geoff Johns, the writer of Rebirth, Wally West is telling us how he feels about the DC Universe: "I look down at it and know without question: I love this world."  Johns certainly does love the DC Universe, and Rebirth is a love letter to many things that it has been, and, as Rebirth tells us, manifesto-style, will soon be again. This applies to all of the scenes I've so far mentioned and many more, including the conversation between Superman and Destiny and the mysterious appearance of a Legionnaire, probably Saturn Girl (Legionnaires fulfilling a mysterious mission in the present was also part of the aforementioned "Lightning Saga").

Geoff Johns, presenting DC, is bringing things back, and he's excited about them. There's a lot to love. I'm excited about some of it, and other readers will be excited by a lot of it, too.

Where my enthusiasm grows dim, and where many of the aforementioned references to previous changes in continuity fail, is that what DC's creators brought back now are things that they themselves discarded in the very recent past. This is not a twenty-year rebirth, reversing the decisions of departed former bosses. Jenette Kahn, the longtime DC publisher whose tenure killed off Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and the Multiverse, left DC in 2002; Johns and his new bosses began reversing those creative changes almost at once. But this time around isn't a revolution (or counter-revolution) under new bosses. This time, the Powers-That-Be are the same Powers-That-Were when all of the changes that are being reversed were made in the first place. Johns, et al made the creative decision to pare down DC Continuity in 2011 believing that those changes were good. Now, they undo those decisions, believing that it is good to undo them.

I was greatly enthusiastic about many of the changes made in 2011, and greatly disappointed in the lack of inspiration shown by many of the writers who wrote 2011's new titles. Some of 2016's changes, I regret. Others, I look forward to. But the key, as now, is not those changes, but whether or not DC has a stable of writers ready to write great stories. Revisiting the past can be a wonderful thing, and it can be done wonderfully. But if DC will be revisiting not only the facts and style points of the past, but also the same general plots and same general kinds of stories that we've already seen, my enthusiasm – and that of other readers – will dim in 2017 just as it did in 2012. I believe that any writer who can't make the New 52 exciting can't make the Rebirth era exciting, either. The creative direction changes nothing in that regard, and so the burden is on DC to show that change is good change, and not simply recycling.


"Nothing ever ends," quoted from Watchmen, is the last line of Rebirth. How DC approaches the new beginning will determine if we should interpret that line as a promise or a threat.

9 comments:

  1. I am impressed how quickly you were able to get this one up Rikdad. I am glad I didn't see the spoilers until I read the issue because I was completely blown away by the ending, not expecting that AT ALL! The fan in me was very satisfied with the Wally West story in this comic because, incidentally, it is the exact scenario I proposed DC should do if they ever decided to bring back the pre-Flashpoint DCU.
    I think this direction will help bring lapsed fans, who stopped reading DC with the New52, back into the fold. Anecdotally speaking, I have some friends who that is definitely true for.
    I agree with your skepticism regarding the same creators, but I am so far optimistic with a feeling I am getting back more of the DC I love but lost with the New52. It remains to be seen how it will all play out though.

    Storyline wise:
    Do you think the "Earth-2" books will play into this saga at all? I am curious where the rest of the New52 Multiverse fits in with Rebirth. It would be nice of Geoff Johns to throw a nod to Captain Carrot and Grant Morrison's Multiversity storyline in someway. Brainiac was existing "outside of time" as well as the Watchmen characters wasn't he?

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  2. I guess I will always have to wonder how I would have worked out the mystery if it hadn't been spoiled for me, but I did catch the spoilers in advance, without trying to avoid them. There was a dazzling blue light in JL #50 as the first clue, then the watch at the beginning, and Wally in the Doctor Manhattan pose…

    The Earth Two I would love to have seen would have been the one seen only briefly between "52" and Flashpoint. That looked like another take on the Silver Age version of Earth Two. I was deeply disappointed by the entire Earth 2 approach in the New 52 – I loved putting them on their own world, but the utter despair and destruction lost me as a source of entertainment. I liked the depiction of a powerful, confident Alan Scott in his prime, but not much else.

    Johns will do almost no writing in the near future, although I'm sure he will be consulting.

    When you ask about Brainiac, I assume you mean in Convergence? That had an outside-of-time quality. Perhaps Morrison's map of the Multiverse will be used as a basis for the new era, with the Watchmen universe placed in one of the blank spots… or perhaps they will ignore Morrison's take on things in part or whole?

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    1. Yeah, I'm wondering how or if Multiversity will tie into this, given DC's record of ignoring a lot of his stuff. Then again, if you are going to end up with an event in a year or two with a Moore stand-in as the big bad (and Johns busy doing movie stuff), how can you NOT have Morrison write it?

      I never thought of one of the empty spaces on the map. Maybe 14, the one right near Earth 0? Or Earth 49 the 'most mysterious'?

      Or it could reside in another multiverse, now that we know those exist.

      And at least the Wally West thing makes sense with the map. The Speed Force wall separates the planets from places such as Heavan and Apokolips, so a God dying on Earth could conceivably breach the wall and let Wally in.

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    2. Without wishing to drag down the conversation to a level normally found elsewhere. I have to ask, who is more powerful? Dr. Manhattan or The Empty Hand?

      Somewhere out there is a parallel world where DC's big piece of housekeeping was essentially The Multiversity, with a dash of Convergence Brainiac and the best bits of Rebirth mixed in, but with a benevolent Captain Atom rather than a malevolent Dr. Manhattan.

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    3. Not that we can really compare power levels, given that we know so little, I would say Empty Hand is more powerful in a destructive sense (can destroy a whole multiverse) and a little weaker in a manipulation sense (taking ten years > Gentry manipulation). To note, both needed the 'door to be opened' in order to do there work though, so they are similar in that respect.

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    4. *nods*

      Manhattan seems to just be tinkering with the universe next door so to speak where as The Empty Hand and Gentry were waging a full on multiversal assault.

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    5. Though this 'letting in' or 'door' theme seems to be recurring. Not just with Wally and Dr. Manhattan, but with w/e Mr. Whisper was trying to summon in Titan's Hunt (a lot letting in references there), which was said to be from a another world that it devoured. I wonder if this will be important? Especially as it seems to tie into Wally's disappearance, something we know precious little about.

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    6. Maybe it's just because I'm having some down days which means rereading Watchmen isn't that fun, but part of me feels like Grant knew about Rebirth and uses Ultra Comics as it's analogue.

      *laughs*

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  3. My money is on the Watchmen earth being the question mark between earth's 4 (Pax) and 35(Supreme/Awesome Comics). Note also the link Earth 31, the earth that was originally going to be Miller's but was changed for a Pirate universe.

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