Rebirth is not a reboot.
Over and over, DC staff sounded like a broken record repeating the words in case you didn’t hear or didn’t want to believe: Rebirth is not a reboot. It’s not. It never was or was intended to be.
Even in his release night appearance on Late Night with Seth Myers, Geoff Johns made it every clear Rebirth was a relaunch and not a reboot.
Nope. Not a reboot. Not at all. A reboot it isn’t.
And once you’ve finished reading Rebirth, you’re inclined to agree because it’s very obvious, and in the best way.
Rebirth is not a reboot. It’s an apology.
After DC tossed away 90% of its continuity for the ill-fated New 52 reboot — Batman and Green Lantern held onto their continuities, though they were weirdly compressed — the publisher brings everything back on track and explains away the inconsistencies of having Batman go through three Robins in the span of five years by putting the blame on — well, someone. I’m not going to go there yet, and if you haven’t read Rebirth, please do yourself a favor and open up the issue because I am going to spoil this story as I am wont to do.
(This is HyperGeeky after all, in case you weren’t paying attention.)
For those who have read it, didn’t understand or wanted to get my opinion of it because they’re looking for a fight or sounding board — please, read on.
Rebirth #1 begins with Wally West — he who had been wiped away from the DC Universe continuity when Barry Allen’s Flashpoint gave way to a new universe. Wally survived being completely wiped out of existence by becoming stuck in the Time Force, and it turns out that an outside force unbound by time is the true cause behind the creation of the New 52 universe.
Wally spends the entirety of the Rebirth Special trying to find someone who can pull him out, and he contacts Batman, Johnny Thunderbolt, and Linda Park. No one manages to recognize him, and while he continues to try and make meaningful contact, Wally watches as key events unfold — Aquaman gets engaged, superheroes mourn the passing of Superman, and cousin Wally saves a girl from being hit with a car.
Wally eventually reaches Barry Allen, who suddenly remembers his old friend and pulls him free from the Speed Force. Wally brings Barry up to speed — hyuk, hyuk — telling him that an outside force has been working behind the scenes to affect the universe, twisting time and erasing relationships.
Wally isn’t exactly sure who’s responsible, but Batman finds some evidence of the culprits as he pulls a smiley-face pin from the cave wall. The books ends as Wally’s lost watch is picked up by a mysterious force on Mars. A voice speaks to someone named Adrian who asserts everything worked out in the end.
In case you were wondering, Adrian is Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias. The other voice belongs to Dr. Manhattan who has been working from the shadows in Justice League #50 and in the Rebirth Special, killing off Metron, Owlman, and Pandora. For those in the know, early signs point to the Watchmen being responsible for the New 52 universe. And if Veidt is the mastermind behind it all, everything is working according to plan.
Bringing the heralded Watchmen into the DC Universe might be troubling for some. The graphic novel, the only one included in Time Magazine’s All-TIME 100 Novels list, is one of comic’s most treasured stories, and it took place in its own time and universe as a standalone tale. Bringing the characters to DC’s current continuity might sound like a great idea at first, but time will tell whether DC will come to regret the decision if stories don’t measure up to the high bar set into place by legends Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
But one thing a majority of fans will agree with and applaud is DC’s decision to bring back its original continuity to mix, adding parts of the New 52 that worked. It largely benefits everyone — Batman and Green Lantern won’t have to deal with the strange time-compression problems that readers found hard to accept, and Superman returns to a more familiar form. Fans of the Justice Society will be delighted to see the team return to the fold, and new fans will get the best of both worlds — a new jumping on point that offers the best of what DC currently has to offer.
The theme of connection that runs through the special echoes that reality — it really gets to the heart of what finally took the New 52 universe down. Without the universe’s long and cherished history, the new comics left fans with an empty chasm. In the end, readers were unable to link up with all of the new characters that tried — and failed — to fill the void.
To see that acknowledged makes me a bit more excited for what’s in store for fans. I missed the old universe and had issues with many of the changes. DC’s new Superman never really caught on, and the company’s decision to erase decades of history only managed to push away droves of longtime fans. It didn’t help when new fans stopped purchasing books even as the company tried a DC You initiative that doubled-down with more expansive changes that took away Superman’s powers, switched Bruce Wayne for Jim Gordon, and played up new costume looks to please the teen and hipster crowds.
With Rebirth, old fans get their history, and new fans get their new looks. I don’t believe everyone will be pleased, but I think DC is finally on the right path after laying down new tracks for the past six years. Architect Geoff Johns was the right man for the job, and his ability to tap into the greatness of DC’s history while creating and expanding the legacies creates an 80-page special that’s both a tribute and a letter to fans. Johns’ ability to explain things in an accessible and coherent way establishes a firm foundation for what’s to come.
The artwork, done by a committee made up of stalwarts Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez, is something to behold. I was worried about DC’s plan to put out a good chunk of its titles on a bi-monthly basis, but seeing the level of detail present in these panels makes me think the publisher can deliver a quality product even at a high-paced rate. Let’s just hope the standards don’t begin to take a dive a few months after relaunch.
Along with the pencils, the inks and colors are also top-notch. Inkers Joe Prado, Ivan Reis, Matt Santorelli, and Gary Frank put solid finishing touches on their respective panels, and the level of polish shows off some of DC’s best offerings. The colors by Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Hi-Fi, and Gabe Eltaeb (is his real last name Beatle?), are luminous in the highlights and bold in the shadows.
If this is a sign of what DC’s offering in the next year, count me in. I hope every subsequent issue is just as good, if not better, than what’s being delivered now. And for what it’s worth, fans should rejoice — loudly. I find it interesting that Marvel went ahead with a reboot after years of mocking DC’s New 52 move, and I wonder if Rebirth will influence the rival into bringing back the original universe for another Secret Wars go. Who knows — and who really cares at this point? We readers finally get our cake and eat it too.
As the DC Universe goes back to its roots, it feels great to see the familiar faces that have been left behind to languish in trade paperbacks and back issues. Rebirth #1 expresses a bit of regret with a promise to be better, and you can’t fault the publisher for trying to make amends. Everyone who complained about what they lost better pull out their wallets because poor sales pushed the publisher to create the New 52.
Congrats, fans, you got what you wanted. Now, go out and get it.