DC Universe: Rebirth #1 review

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Do you hear that?  That is the sound of readers, the world over, crying out in unison: Thank You Geoff Johns!

Let me paint a picture for you.  (figuratively of course.  Not a Sistine Chapel rendering)

Last night I went to bed, but after three short hours, I awoke and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Why?  I simply couldn’t get Rebirth out of my mind.  What was going to happen?  What surprises was I in store for?  Who was coming back to the DC Universe?  Who might die?  What twists would blindside me?  The suspense was killing me.  (Perhaps literally…lack of sleep has been known to shorten one’s lifespan)  A colleague of mine referred to May 25th as Christmas Day.  And I have to agree.  I really did feel like a kid waiting to open my presents.  And boy was it worth it!  As I write this review, I am being powered by the sheer adrenaline that I acquired from reading this comic.  (How’s that for a recommendation?)  Forget coffee or energy drinks.  Just read Rebirth and you’ll be good to go!  I feel invigorated and not at all sleep deprived.  I’ll probably crash as soon as I’m done with this article, but for now, I’m flying high as a kite.

Don’t call it a reboot.

Because it’s not.  It’s really just a tour of the current DC Universe through the eyes of an outsider, who also serves as narrator.  Seeing as how we are outsiders to the world of DC as well, he is an immediate identifier for us.  He serves as our guide into this world.  Many times, I actually found it quite eerie how his dialogue mirrored my own internal sentiments.  I should probably take a moment here to comment on the fact that if you are an absolute unyielding lover of everything New52, and can’t recognize it for both the good and bad elements it presented, you might not have the greatest time reading this book.  This story basically ascertains that their is something wrong with the DC Universe in its current state, and the narrator is not shy in pointing this out.

By now, we have most likely all seen Geoff John’s Rebirth announcement and his statement that, “I love this world, but there’s something missing”.  It’s basically the tag line that represents the idea behind Rebirth and is actually one of the narrator’s opening lines.  It’s lines like this that had me going, “mhmm mhmm mhmm.”  But it didn’t stop there.  The book is full of them.  Page after page after page, the narrator basically calls out many of the things that fans have been objecting to for the last 5 years.  In this sense, Rebirth is very much an acknowledgment of past “mistakes” and a genuine desire to make things right.

The story doesn’t actually change anything though.  We aren’t magically transported back to 2011 and pre-Flashpoint.  It’s still the New52 world, but they now know that something is wrong.  So once again, it’s not a reboot.  But things are changing.  The world knows something is amiss and wants things to be put back in order.  It’s like fate is aligning itself to make sure certain events happen no matter what.  Maybe a different set of circumstances will lead us to an end point of symmetry, but it is an end that is destined to be, regardless of how we get there.  An end that strengthens the overall world.

Honoring a Legacy

One of DC’s greatest strengths, is its pantheon of characters.  But somewhere along the line, DC lost its way, and those characters.  And I’m not just talking about the ones who weren’t in the comics anymore after the creation of the New52.  I’m also talking about the ones who remained but were, nonetheless, no longer themselves.  I’m sure that many will agree that the New52 changed quintessential elements of the DC characters.  When you change who a character is, then they become nothing more than a name and a brand image.  It’s more than just a mask and fancy code-name that makes these characters who they are.  The reason they are so loved, is because of who they are at a deeper level.  It is this level that Rebirth is trying to bring back.

Through the course of the story, we are introduced to many old characters.  But it’s done in such a way that new readers are brought up to speed while the older readers are left to reminisce.  Everything is fused together to create something new that everyone can appreciate.  Usually I would spend a large amount of time on a review like this explaining who everyone was, but since Johns did such an excellent job, I don’t really feel the need.


Now, it’s time for me to stop being vague and break this thing down!

spoiler_alert

In case that wasn’t clear, prepare for spoilers.  Since this comic is so incredibly long, I’m not going to spend as much time on each moment as I might usually do.  Instead, I’m going with a kind of bullet-point approach with more minor commentary.

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Wally West in the house!  The opening chapter is called “Lost”, and focuses on Wally trying to escape the SpeedForce in order to warn the universe of an impending peril.  In order to do this, he needs to make contact with someone who remembers him.  His first stop.  Batman!  Why?  In Wally’s own words, Bruce has solved every mystery the universe has ever faced.  Can’t argue with that logic.  If Batman can’t save us, no one can.

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When Wally shows up, Batman is pondering what the Mobius Chair told him in the latest issue of Justice League: there are 3 Jokers.  I didn’t actually find this at all shocking.  It’s not really even new.  In fact, it’s kind of common knowledge.  In reality, there are like dozens of Jokers, not just 3, along with dozens of versions of every other character in the DC Universe.  I guess the big deal is that they are somehow all in this universe simultaneously, instead of in their own.  I don’t really have a problem with this.  I guess if they were trying to say that from here on out there will always be 3 Jokers, well that might be a little strange.  Or if they are trying to say that there have always been three within one continuity, I’d also need a little more convincing.  But I can see some interesting developments coming from this while it lasts.  I’m picturing their first conversation together…wow!

They also bring up the letter that Bruce received from his father at the end of Flashpoint.  I’m glad they brought this up.  Bruce has always been the kind of guy to dig and dig until he unveils the truth.  While Bruce might not have realized what was different about the New52 Universe he was living in, he had physical evidence to remind him of the fact that the world he was in might not have been the correct one.  While I am not sure how he would have gone about figuring it out, Bruce has never been one to let something drop till he discovered the truth of it.  I’m looking forward to see where this goes since I’ve been wondering about it for the last 5 years.

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Once we leave the Batcave, the remainder of the “Lost” chapter is spent giving us a fairly detailed history of Wally West.  We also learn that when Barry Allen tried to fix the timeline after Flashpoint, it was actually working.  But then some other outside force interceded, which actually caused the New52.

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The next chapter is called “Legacy”.  This whole section is much more about introducing lost characters and preparing readers for the new books that will soon be featuring them.  Wally tries to make contact with Johnny Thunder, a Golden Age character with ties to the Justice Society of America.  When this fails, he is sent reeling through the SpeedForce.  Along the way, he has glimpses of a bunch of other characters.  We meet one of the legionaries from Superboy and The Legion of Super-Heroes, The Atom (Ray Palmer) and his replacement Ryan Choi, Ted Kord (the old blue beetle) and Jaime Reyes (the new one), and Doctor Fate (original).  All the scenes are very entertaining, but as I said, this section really is just meant as a tease to get you excited about a bunch of things you don’t know you should be excited for.

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  • Since this is a Batman site.  Here’s a Batman joke from this section.

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  • There is also this creepy two panel scene with Damian that I had to think about for awhile before I realized what purpose it served.  He is the new leader of the Teen Titans.  So yeah.  He had to turn 13 so he would be a teenager.  har har.

Chapter 3 is called “Love”.  It shares a lot of similarities with chapter two.  But instead of getting us excited about a bunch of characters we don’t know, it’s all about hyping up the future stories of characters we do know.  We see a discussion about Wonder Woman and her twin brother Jason (I swear, the only thing I keep thinking of is “Jason and the Argonauts”),  the fate of new Superman and the return of the old one, the unexplainable bond between Green Arrow and Black Canary, and the love between Aquaman and Mera.  The chapter closes out with a heart wrenching encounter.

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I don’t care if you don’t remember him, just take the man’s hand already!

After seeing all the love between these characters, Wally realizes that he needs to seek out the love of his life, Linda Park.  The scene goes on just long enough to make you think it’s going to work…but she doesn’t remember him.  It’s pretty sad, but hardly the most tear inducing thing in the book.  And whatever happened to love breaching all boundaries, including time and space?  If they get back together, Linda is going to have some serious explaining to do.  I mean, Green Arrow and Black Canary have a bond that transcends reality.  Linda obviously isn’t really Wally’s soul mate.

The last chapter is called “Life”.  Get ready to cry.

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It starts off with a bunch of quick snippets of other things going on in the DC Universe so you know what other comics you might be interested in picking up.  We get quick shots of Gotham&Gotham Girl, SwampThing with Constantine, and Dick Grayson.  We also get an explanation on who the New52 Wally West is.  But then we finally come to Barry Allen.  And it’s one of the most emotional moments in comics I’ve had in years.  I won’t say I was streaming tears or anything, but I definitely had some of those pre-cry breaths going on.  If this doesn’t move you on some kind of level, then your heart is dead.

The last 9 pages I’m not going to go into.  I soooo want to tell you how this ends, but I’m not going to.  Sure, you could easily look it up online, but don’t spoil this for yourself.  And don’t just flip to the last page when you buy it or sneak a peak at the comic shop.  You deserve to read this comic.  Treat yourself to something magnificent.  And you know what…buy it because DC deserves it too.  They did good today.  Support them.  Now I’m going to go mix myself a Manhattan and toast to Geoff Johns.  Happy Rebirth Day!

SHOW SPOILER ▼

Interesting Facts:

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  • Leading up to the release of this book, I couldn’t believe I didn’t see anybody bring up the fact that this is essentially an “80-Page Giant”.  Back in 1964, DC started offering compilation books that were reprints of Golden Age stories.  They called the series of books, “80-Page Giants”.  And guess what?  They had 80 pages.  While Rebirth definitely isn’t reprinted stories, it seems too coincidental to me that they went with 80 pages without this factoring in somehow.  Since Rebirth is the first step to honoring the past, making it 80 pages seemed to me like a nice subtle way to honor this part of DC’s history.  If this wasn’t intentional, that’s some serious dumb luck on their part.  (Just so we are clear.  The comic might be 80 pages long, but only 66 of those are actually dedicated to the story.  But at $2.99, that is still 3 comics for the price of one.)

Recommended if…

  • You have 3 dollars.  And then, even if you don’t.  Do whatever you have to do to get this book.  Lie, cheat, steal.  No…don’t steal.  DC earned that 3 dollars this time.  This story is phenomenal.
  • You like stories with real emotional depth.
  • A return to classic character portrayals is what you’ve been yearning for.
  • You want a sampling of what DC has in store for us.

Overall:

If I had to use 3 words to describe this issue, they would be: Hope, Love, and Legacy.  While more than half of the story is an advertisement for upcoming DC books, it’s the best advertisement I’ve ever read.  Some people will probably be upset that it doesn’t answer any of the questions it puts forth, but that’s because it’s basically a Rebirth trailer.  You have to read the upcoming books to get the answers.  I’d say it did an excellent job of telling a truly moving story while simultaneously generating hype for the books to come.  And this is coming from someone who isn’t even emotionally invested in the main character.  But it is so much more than just a good story.  It’s an acknowledgement of failure and a commitment from DC to do right by the fans in the future.  And not just a fan of one continuity or another.  Johns puts forth a story that will delight fans of all ages.  Mixing old with new to create something everyone can appreciate.  It’s also not just about seeing old faces again, but an affirmation to bring back the true essence of the characters.  With this story, Johns has laid a rock solid foundation for DC to build their future stories upon.  If everything to come can live up to this, I’ll be happy beyond compare.

SCORE: 9.5 / 10

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