Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Rebirth: Rejoice or Reject?

A few weeks ago, I pondered a bit on the subject of DC Comics' Rebirth and whether or not I cared about it? After all, I'm getting older and the comics industry or at least DC and Marvel with their super hero universes were moving on without me. DC's Rebirth initiative seemed to be a chance to welcome me back to the fold but it also seemed like one Hail Mary pass too many. 

Last week DC Universe Rebirth#1 went on sale and struck the comic buying public like a thunderbolt. When writer Geoff Johns was doing a guest appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers, you know you're not dealing with a small thing. Even before the issue was officially put out for sale at midnight last Tuesday, the internet was riddled with spoilers and speculations about the implications of Rebirth.  

Before I get to the issue at hand, let me touch base with a couple of other books that page 1 of Rebirth#1 suggested should be read first, Superman#52 (which I did not buy) and Justice League#50 (which I did).   

Superman#52 saw the conclusion of the Final Days of Superman which marked the end of the New 52 version of the Man of Steel. Of all of DC's characters, Superman was not well served by the New 52 reboot. Nobody other than Grant Morrison seemed to know what to do this new template to write the adventures of this new version of Superman. The fact that this Superman ends not with a bang but a whimper is an apt fate for a Superman that fans had a hard to time learning to embrace or care about. I was for many, many years a dedicated Superman devotee and followed him through many revisions but I didn't bother to pick up a copy of Superman#52 to say good-bye to this Superman.  

Justice League#50, on the other hand, I did purchase. I've had Justice League back on my pull list since the advent of Darkseid War back in issue #41. It was a sweeping epic of heroes vs. gods with significant moments of character development. Geoff Johns and artist Jason Fabok were at the top of their game with this storyline and hopefully will be regarded as a truly classic series for some time to come. 

The end of JL#50 sets up some major status quo changes for our characters which leads us into Rebirth#1. The through line for this oversized issue is a person trying to get through dimensional barriers back to the main Earth of the DC Universe. That person is...

Kid Flash?! 

Yes, the original Kid Flash, the red headed Wally West of Blue Valley, former Teen Titan and later a member of the Justice League when he assumed the legacy of the Flash after the death of Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths. For 20+ years, Wally West was THE Flash, THE Fastest Man Alive. During my time as a reader of DC Comics, Wally West was the Flash longer than Barry Allen. 

Wally is aware of the changes caused by the Flashpoint event back in 2011. He's not just aware that things have been changed but the world is weaker for it. Time building relationships and growing in experience was lost, leaving the heroes of Earth less ready to defend the Earth and the universe. And Wally knows there's a deliberate force behind these detrimental changes to the universe.  

Wally's makes repeated efforts to break back through to our world but all his efforts fail. When Linda Park, his wife and mother of his children from the pre-Flashpoint Earth, does not recognize him, Wally's spirit is almost completely broken. But a last encounter with Barry Allen manages to be different. At the last possible moment before Wally can be lost forever, Barry remembers. He remembers this Wally West. 

Oh, the feels. 

Geoff Johns knows how to work with characters and make them appeal to the reader on a strong emotional level. And Rebirth#1 is full of such moments as Wally moves about the DC Universe and we feel hope, longing, loss, love and despair. 

And Geoff knows a good "What the hell was that?" moment too. Near the end of the issue, Batman finds buried in a Batcave wall... a yellow smiley face button with a red smear on it? Oh hell no, it couldn't be! 

But the final pages includes text from a certain critically acclaimed comic from the 1980's. Whatever is going on with the changes from Flashpoint and the changes going forward from Rebirth, somehow, someway...

The Watchmen are involved. 

OK, that's weird. 

But if Geoff Johns is a master at character development and surprising plot twists, he does have a rather obsessive link to the classic days of the DC Universe. At that can lead to some uncomfortable conclusions. 

For example, in the New 52 version of the Flash, a new Wally West has been introduced, an African American teenager. With the Rebirth, we have white Wally West back with the unfortunate implication that we now have "the real not black Wally West Kid Flash" once more. 

And why was Wally in his Kid Flash costume anyway? Considering he grew up to be the Flash, get married and have kids, it seems having Wally appear as Kid Flash was rather regressive. 

There is also the side effect of the major thrust of the story in Rebirth#1. Basically, Wally West knows things were changed and not for the better, that this version of the world is wrong. Well, if you were not a fan of the New 52, this repudiation is probably a good old "I told ya so". But if you had bought into the New 52 and actually enjoyed some of the titles coming out of this initiative, Rebirth amounts to a big old "screw you".

The involvement of the Watchmen characters is a bit cool in that it's unexpected but a bit troubling as these characters may find themselves shoehorned into a narrative they weren't designed for. At least, it seems that DC has come to terms with the fact that Alan Moore is now and forevermore going to be pissed off at DC and there's nothing that can be done about it.   

So that's my take on Rebirth. A fairly solid and entertaining read but the implications for the future of DC Comics may be more troublesome than originally anticipated. 

That's that for today. Another new post will be up tomorrow. The Pixar Project continues as we look back at Toy Story 2. Until then, remember to be good to one another.   

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You  

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