We were on the receiving end of a preview copy of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the 80-page kickoff to the next iteration of the DC universe. Yes, it’s already reboot time again. We’ll keep this review spoiler-lite; of course, there are dicks across the Internet who’ve done all the spoiling you could desire if you want to seek those out. The long and short: DC has made one major change that guarantees we’ll be shelling out more dollars, as will others of our ilk, nerds of a certain age, who perhaps love the 15 years that followed the original Crisis on Infinite Earths best of all. And there’s another major change incorporating a DC property that was not part of the DC Universe proper into that universe — this is the change we’re significantly less excited about.
But onto the good stuff: we made some jokes the other day at Geoff Johns’ expense (we tease ‘cuz we love, of course), but what we didn’t delve into is Johns’ role as a steward and ambassador of DC’s legacy characters. His stellar run on Justice Society back in the day, with a focus on the WWII-era characters and their successors, along with his establishment of Captain Marvel as a character that works really well in DC proper, are a testament to that. It was surprising to us that under his direction as chief creative boss that some of that legacy has become muddled in the past few line-wide soft reboots: the mess with all the Robins, the banishment of certain speedy sidekicks, the flushing away of decades of confusing-yet-beloved continuity. DC Universe: Rebirth #1 directly does away with some of these issues and hints at largely resolving them. Ten years of continuity, in a meta-retcon, was “stolen,” we’re told by the issue’s narrator, which has caused all sorts of issues.
The narrator is a long-missing character whom fans of a certain age should recognize merely from the color of the captions. He visits several DC characters, hoping to grab their attention and help him right these continuity wrongs, only to hit roadblock after roadblock. He nearly gives up altogether. The tension is palpable and the turnaround heroic and heartwarming. Classic Johns.
We should mention that the art team — a combo of Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Matt Santorelli, Joe Prado, Brad Anderson, Gabe Eltaeb, and Hi-Fi — is stunning on the whole and remarkably consistent in look and tone for so many collaborators. And for a mere 3 bucks, this is a solid value in today’s terms.
The final pages, which introduce that former DC offshoot we mentioned above into the regular continuity, is meant to be an “oh shit” moment, but really strikes a kind of tired note, and brings up issues of creator rights, creators done wrong, perhaps — things that have long been resolved but this property, necessarily, carries a certain baggage. But with the promise of the rest of the issue, we’re interested in seeing how it plays out and won’t write if off.
We love that DC is making the continuity issues a part of the story. That’s classic Crisis. Here’s the thing that worries us. Yes, the return of the narrator and a promise to re-establish and further the stories of DC’s legacy characters, perhaps reinstating some of the best continuity for the likes of Atom, Batman, Flash, Superman, and more, is very, very appealing to us. Nerds of a certain age. But will the younger fans — who, for example, didn’t thrill to Perez and Wolfman’s Titans, Grant Morrison’s JLA, or even a character as recent as the Ryan Choi version of the Atom — give a hoot? Will this resonate?
Not our problem, we suppose. Our only problem will be shelling out some ducats for titles we thought we wouldn’t bother with again. At least for a while. Check out Rebirth if delving into DC history is at all in your wheelhouse; this much we can recommend without reservation.
Images: DC Comics