Let’s start this thing off with a little personal history:
I was starting to get off the DC Comics train even before the “New 52” launched. They weren’t publishing anything I was seriously interested in picking up, and I used the 2011 reboot as an excuse to drop the line. I’ve come back here and there, but not in any sort of big way.
Now here, in May of this benighted year of our Lord 2016, I find that the powers that have decided to yet again breathe new life into the old whale we call the DC universe. This has caused no small amount of annoyance among the comic reading public, leading to, (and this is a story I heard from a comic book store owner and not something I heard anyone say myself) of men saying they were dropping DC and heading towards Valiant.
Me? I’m gonna try and come back to that wonderful/terrible beast. From what I’ve read, at the very least some interesting things are gonna go on. Plus, the line-wide price drop to $2.99 per issue is something that’s appealing to my cash-strapped self.
But here I go, stalling. Let’s talk about DC Universe Rebirth #1 and see what Geoff Johns has either given us a treat or a sixty-plus page threat?
In all honesty, it’s fine. It’s not the greatest thing ever or even the greatest thing this week (that would be, for me at least, Ms. Marvel #7) but it’s a damn fine book that does its job of introducing readers to the current status quo of the DC universe.
The plot, for those of you who haven’t been spoiled already, goes a little somethin’ like this:
Wally West (the pre-Flashpoint version, not the one stomping around the current continuity) is trapped in the Speed Force and has been both de-aged and put back in his old Kid Flash duds because reasons and is now trying to get into contact with anyone to warn them of a vague impending threat. Problem is, it’s the New52 universe and no one remembers this version of Wally. After failing to get into contact with Batman, a geriatric Johnny Thunder, and even his wife Linda (plus touring the rest of the Earth-bound DCU to see what shake ups and new stories we’ve got coming for the foreseeable future) he goes to Barry Allen, the current Flash, to say goodbye and thank him for all the wonderful things that had come from becoming a superhero. Barry then remembers his old sidekick and nephew and becomes Wally’s new lightning rod. Ant then….
…we cut back to the Batcave where Bruce investigates a strange gleam discovering the Comedian’s smiley face badge, implying the Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen has been secretly manipulating the DC universe for some time.
That last part is really the only part of the comic I wasn’t able to get behind and filled me with a combination of anger and quiet dread when I first read it. I mean, I actually like Geoff Johns and all, but invoking Watchmen?! You might as well walk naked down the street wearing a sign that says “I’m not as good a writer as Alan Moore”. But, as time passed, the anger subsided and the dread…well, the dread’s still there, but that’s because I really, really like Watchmen.
As for everything else set up here? I’m basically interested in how it’s all gonna play out. Ryan Choi and Ted Kord are back in the land of the living and looking like they’re going to be active heroes alongside their mentor and successor respectively, so that’s cool. Also excited to see what goes on with Superman Now that the New52 version is presumed dead and the pre-2011 Supes is going to be handling things along with his kid. And the possible reemergence of the classic Justice Society is something I’m behind one hundred percent.
As for the story itself, it’s fine. I do really like Geoff Johns, but even I’ll admit the man has his faults. The story starts with Wally trying to get into contact with Batman first which just raises the question of why he would go to him first and not, you know, the other Speed Force user who could help get the word out that something is wrong with the universe? The dialogue also can come off as cheesy in some respects (Ray Palmer saying he’s in “big, big trouble” via prerecorded message being the king of ‘em all). I dare say he’s been hanging around the CW writers too much, with Wally’s narration seeming to be that level of corny (He even says “My name is Wally West. I am the fastest man alive.”, like the opening narration of every episode of The Flash*). And he leans on exposition a little too much, especially in explaining Wally’s back story early in the book. But it works more often than it doesn’t, especially in Wally’s meeting with Barry.
Do I even need to say that the art is good in this? No, no I do not. Suffice it to say, when Gary Frank can be said to be the weakest of the artists involved, you’re working with some top tier talent.
Going back to the large blue elephant in the room, while I’m still feeling The Fear that bringing the Watchmen universe into this isn’t going to work, I am fairly interested in the meta-narrative of “Ever since Watchmen, DC has been getting darker and darker”, but I remember Johns trying something similar to that with Kingdom Come during his second run on Justice Society of America. Can anyone tell me of it had any sort of impact or if it went anywhere?
To wrap this up, I’m going to say this: back in 2005 or 2006, I pick up the trade collection of Green Lantern: Rebirth. It made me a Green Lantern fan and got me interested in the history and legacy of the character. I can say that Geoff, while not delivering something as good as that, has gotten me interested (and slightly fearful) of where the DC universe is headed. In that, the books don it’s job.
I give DC Universe Rebirth #1 a 7 out of a possible 10.
* P.S. I’ve been informed by a guy called chris-lang on Manic Expression that Mark Waid originated the “I’m (insert current Flash here), and I’m the fastest man alive” during his run on Flash in the 90s, so Johns is most likely cribbing that line from there.