First of all– WARNING: Spoilers ahead.
When I first grabbed the book, I got a whopping 1 page in before DC is already making me do homework. “This tale takes place after Justice League #50 (also reviewed separately in this week’s “Fistful of Comics”) and Superman #52, so read those first!” I audibly groaned at the editorial note, but complied. Now I haven’t been keeping up with Justice League, and I’ve never had any real interest in what the Blue Boy Scout is doing, but damn, if nothing else, reading JL #50 just made me realized how seriously fucked up DC is right now. A few pages into that, and I was lost; halfway through, and a literal infant child was transformed into DC’s most powerful villain, then apparently the Crime Syndicate from Earth 3 was there, and apparently Cyborg and Jessica Cruz were trapped together in “The Green Realm of the Power Ring. . . ”
I know, I know. This isn’t a JL #50 review — I’ll leave that up to “Cardinal” Gary.. good luck! — but DC Universe Rebirth #1 literally told me to read that hodgepodge of a story before I dared delve into this supposed “masterpiece.” I’m kinda sorry I listened.
So after that, I cracked open this 80-page ordeal and felt like I really earned that page 2. So we start the story, and here’s the status quo: Supes is dead, Wonder Woman has a twin brother somewhere out there, and Bats is dealing with the bizarre news that apparently there’s THREE different Jokers. Now, I can get over the first two. I mean, this year it seems like Superman just won’t stop dying, and WW’s family tree is already a complete clusterfuck; but three Jokers? I’m not on board with that quite yet. I seriously need DC to convince me.
Now at this point, Bats is scratching his head, and is probably just as upset as the rest of us about the news, when Wally West (a.k.a. Kid Flash) appears in the Batcave, and reveals himself to the reader as our guide for this particular tale. Like any given DC speedster, he’s at the mercy of the speedforce, and he doesn’t have enough time to fully explain himself before zapping back into non-existence. However, he does mention a key item: Thomas Wayne’s letter to Bruce. This is the letter Flashpoint-Bats–AKA Pissed-Off-Papa-Bats–from the messed-up timeline wrote to OUR timeline’s Batman. Wally basically tells the reader “WHY HASN’T ANYONE QUESTIONED THIS?” And you know what? He’s right. All of our heroes sorta just accepted the fact that this alternate universe exists, but since that’s not OUR universe, everything MUST be okay, and no one should really look any further into that.
Wally tells a quick abridged version of his poorly-planned 1960’s origin, and if you’ve only jumped on to DC when the New 52 became a thing, you’ll realize this story doesn’t sound familiar AT ALL. Wally wasn’t a part of this “New 52” nonsense. So what the hell is he doing here? His answer: he’s not really supposed to be here. And just like everything else that happened in DC’s long pre-new-52 history of stories, no one remembers he ever was.
So the entire next chapter (yup, this thing is broken into chapters) is just a bunch of set-ups for story lines that aren’t quite important yet, but probably will be. We see an old Justice Society of America member (remember them?); we see a chick from the Legion of Superheroes (what about them?); we see the OG Blue Beetle, AKA Ted Kord (with brains still safely inside his skull); and a seriously pissed off Pandora— Oh wait! Anyone remember her? Purple-hood-girl from the “Trinity War” arc! The one “mysterious figure” that makes in appearance in all 52 #1’s of the New 52? Well apparently, she laments to our new mysterious antagonist, upset that she was made to look the fool in all of this, and right when she calls the actual mastermind behind all this a “lonely, cruel mon–” …she gets blown to oblivion. Thus starts chapter 3.
Wally does a huge compare and contrast for the readers on what’s happened in the pages of the New 52 that fans have grown to hate over the years, and how the good old days were. There are quite a few examples, but the one that stuck out to me is the relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary. They never really even interacted in this New 52, but before that they were one of the most popular, successful relationships in all of comics. There was even a huge wedding special one-shot between them. Fans waited for their paths to eventually cross, and for Ollie to make that move, but really, nothing ever happened. There’s an awesome page that highlights the two characters *lack* of relationship, and how they knew something in their lives was missing… but didn’t quite know what. . .
I’m gonna park here for a second.
That page sticks out to me. That’s when it hit me what this book is: an 80-page apology letter to fans. DC made a mistake a few years ago. They got the one aspect they knew made them different, and cooler than Marvel, and became all about it. They were dark and edgy. It’s the same problem Man of Steel had, the same problem Bats v Supes had, and clearly, it’s this same problem that DC foolishly thinks is a strength: there’s no fucking hope anywhere. You can probably count on your two hands how many times your favorite DC hero was actually happy over the course of the New 52; and that’s a problem.
This is DC finally fucking getting it; yes, of course it’s awesome to see your heroes being torn down, stabbed, having their loved ones stuffed into refrigerators, and their families terrorized to death. But after all that, we also want to see them have fun, get married, smile once in a while. That’s the thesis of this whole book, and that’s what everyone’s smiling about. “DC FINALLY GETS IT!” the little boy at the comic shop shouted “DC IS GIVING HOPE A CHANCE!!” my 13-year old niece exclaimed. And everything felt right in the DC Universe again.
More Flash-centric stuff happens that really drives the point home. Wally West speeds through the New 52U like a giant editorial eraser, and finally meets up with OUR Flash, Barry Allen, and tells him the news. The ex-Blue Lantern takes the news pretty well, and the two bro-hug it out.
Of course, we still need an antagonist, however. Who’s fault is this “New 52” nonsense!? Who can we possibly blame for almost 5 straight years of bleak-as-fuck stories, movies, and literally deleting some of fans’ favorite characters? None other than Dan DiD– *cough* –ahem, whoops. Sorry… None other than Doctor Manhattan!! Yup! The classic omnipotent blue dude from Alan Moore’s The Watchmen series now holds 5 years of editorial fuck ups on his naked blue shoulders.
Leave it to DC to make a fictional character their scapegoat.
Joking aside, this book blew me away. (Or “blue” me away? hahAAHA!) Along with Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Gary Frank‘s phenomenal art, Demi-God Geoff Johns really delivered. Basically, DC Universe: Rebirth #1 whispers to the reader: “The New 52 was an inside job.” Then, like an adult at an after-recess kindergarten story-time, it theatrically announces “It wasn’t the men and women at the DC Comics Studios! It was the almighty, powerful Doctor Manhattan that screwed up all your favorite characters!” like it’s trying to distract a child that’s about to cry. Weirdly enough, it’s not patronizing either. On the cover, it treats us like the adults it knows we are. It acknowledges that we’re in on the ruse, winking at us with one of those two white circles, “$2.99” scrawled across it’s playful eyelid.
DC Comics is sorry. DC Comics is so fucking sorry for hurting us, and taking away our hope. And to make it up to us, here’s a shit-ton of work, with top-notch art, told by our best writer, infused with more lighthearted hope than anything they’ve printed over the past 5 years …and it’s all $2.99.
Welcome back, DC.