REVIEW: DC REBIRTH #1
AUTHOR: Robert Reineke
DATE: June 1, 2016
SYNOPSIS: It all begins here. Do not skip to the last page. Do not let a friend or message board ruin this comic for you. The future (and past) of the DC Universe starts here. Donít say we didnít warn you!
There are two avenues of review for DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1, as a story and as a metatextual commentary and event. Iím going to bifurcate my review of those aspects individually.
DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1: The Story
One of the refreshing things DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 is that it manages to tell a complete story amidst its tour of the current DC universe and its teasing of upcoming storylines. Itís not a particularly complicated story, but itís the story of Wally West, in classic Kid Flash costume, trying to escape the Speed Force by visiting various people who might remember him. Between Geoff Johnsís handling of a character which made his reputation and an all-star roster of artists, itís a nice little story with actual stakes for a character that could slip back into limbo. Granted, Geoff Johns relies on narration to do a lot of heavy lifting of the themes and ideas heís trying to present, especially in regards to ďhope and redemptionĒ and the importance of ďlegacy,Ē so the end result is more than a bit inelegant. Still, the overall result is effective enough and creates a call to action for moving forward.
The various interludes dipping in on the state of the current DC universe and teasing various storylines is less effective though. You can figure out the big beats from context, and some of the storylines look fun, but itís asking for a preexisting familiarity with many characters to make sense of it and it absolutely expects that you have read WATCHMEN. I donít think itís much of a jumping on point if you donít have some working knowledge of DC to begin with. Comics have become increasingly insular over the years and this isnít going to change matters.
Still, considering the price, thereís enough here to make it a must pick up if you have any interest in the DC universe to begin with. I donít expect this to be a standalone classic that will stand the test of time, but as a snapshot in time and in pointing in a new direction it does the job.
DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1: The Meta Commentary DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 has more on its plate than simply telling a story, it intends to change the direction of DCís publishing line and lure in lapsed and new readers. It publicly acknowledges problems with the New 52 as it lays out a path to address them.
It does this by pointing the finger at WATCHMEN and implying that Doctor Manhattan is meddling with the time line and has removed hope and optimism, replacing those concepts with cynicism and despair. Itís both a ballsy and perhaps disingenuous move on Geoff Johnsís part. I believe heís utterly correct at pointing to darkness and cynicism as a problem for DCís superheroes. And by creating an in-story villain that has created that darkness and cynicism, heís forcing the various editors, writers, and artists to overtly deal with those issues which serves the overall creative direction at DC.
That said, itís 2016 and WATCHMEN is 30 years old and hard to blame for decisions made in recent years. Thereís perhaps some need for personal reflection here. Alan Moore didnít write the stories of the last few years, throw out the history of many characters, or insist that everyone wear edgy, armor plated costumes with high collars which looked like they were designed in the 1990s. Yes, Alan Moore created a masterpiece that was dark and cynical, and undoubtedly influential, but numerous comics have grappled with those implications over the last few decades without needing to use those characters who were never meant to crossover.
Some of DCís biggest successes have come in KINGDOM COME, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER, and ALL STAR SUPERMAN which pointed in other directions. Heck, Alan Moore would never advise that DC take a cue from THE SIMPSONS and say the way forward was to inorganically ďPoochifyĒ the line where a bunch of middle aged guys tried to make the whole company hip and cool to younger readers in one go.
The problem with DC in recent years falls squarely on Geoff Johns, Dan Didio, Jim Lee, and the various editors, writers, and artists working for DC. You can point at WATCHMEN, but it would be more accurate to point at the mirror, especially, as this is the management that wrangled an all-star crew, not to create new properties but to produce BEFORE WATCHMEN. This is the management thatís currently publishing the second sequel to THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS which holds at least as much influence as WATCHMEN. WATCHMEN isnít to blame as much as a bunch of writers and artists aiming to be hip and edgy and making a mess of things.
That said, people do grow and learn from their mistakes. DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 does appear to be a good first step at diagnosing and addressing problems with the overall line. First steps are important. But, they need to be followed up on even when the going gets tough.
The Who once sang ďMeet the new boss / Same as the old boss.Ē The bosses at DC havenít changed, so they really have something to prove. If theyíre really committed to this new direction, they have to show it through vigilance, commitment, and hard work. I do wish them the best as I agree with their general sentiment. But, right now, itís only a good start. - Robert Reineke