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DC’s ‘Rebirth’, a hopeful sign of good things to come

With the 80-page one-shot, DC promises to return their famous heroes to their roots, but whether it’s a true return to form or just another flaccid attempt is yet to be completely seen

June 15, 2016

“I look down at it and know without question: I love this world.  But there’s something missing.”

Those are among the first words in the opening narration of the “DC Universe: Rebirth #1” one-shot issue, which sets the tone for the shared universe going forward.  

The theme, as said by the one-shot’s writer as well as the new “Rebirth” initiative’s overseer of sorts, Geoff Johns, is bringing back the characters back to their roots of hope and optimism he felt DC had been missing in previous years.  And it could be seen as a strong gesture, since a lack of levity in both the company’s comics line and the films produced with their famous characters has been a common criticism for some years.

The story within the one-shot itself not so subtly works the angle, with the common criticisms from fans (the lack of hope, optimism, and legacy) being a literal plot point: some god-like being has stolen time and altered the DC universe itself with the intention to do just that: weaken its heroes by removing their experience and connections.  

At times, the narration (told from the perspective of Wally West, protege and eventual successor to Barry Allen, the Flash, and one of the “lost” legacies), feels very on the nose regarding the issue’s themes.  It’s easy to see that Johns is speaking directly to the reader through the voice of Wally West, and at times it feels that he is trying too hard to pander to the audience.  It feels as if the story is itself an apology letter, in an overly clingy, “baby come back” way.

However, in a story that juggles lots of plot points and teases for what’s to come, as well as being overly sentimental at points, it is still tightly plotted and well told.  Though Johns’ earnestness may come on strong, it feels genuine, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement about what’s happening with him.

This is a bit of a double-edged sword, though, as some may feel that the one-shot story is merely a series of short teasers for other upcoming comics, rather than telling its own story.  

Even so, it does that teasing well: the short pieces we see of classic heroes returning to the roots they’re well known for is enticing, and there are individual moments that tug strongly on the heartstrings, particularly one near the end when Wally’s salvation finally arrives after all hope for his return seemed lost.

Outside of some more minute references to stories past, new readers won’t have much trouble when reading this issue either, despite all its setup.  What’s going on and who’s who is explained succinctly and sufficiently, in a way that doesn’t break the flow of the plot, making it an enjoyable reading experience for both new and old fans.

What’s sure to be the more divisive part, though, is the ending twist: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic “Watchmen” is now, in some way, apart of the main DC universe itself.

It’s easy to see how this plot will be controversial, and not sit well with many.  “Watchmen” is well-regarded as one of the best works in the medium, and attempts at adding to it with a film adaptation and the “Before Watchmen” prequels have largely fallen flat.  

The mere idea of grafting on the story to DC’s main canon may be sacrilege for many, and perhaps understandably.  Unfortunately, even looking past the baggage the story and characters of “Watchmen” carry, it’s hard to say whether or not this plot is good or bad.  The issue ends on a very blatantly dangling hook for readers.  Little is explained, leaving only mysteries.  

It’s clear DC wants its readers to stick around and watch closely when the events unfold, but that leaves a conundrum.  It’s hard to know what to think about the reveal right now because so little is revealed, leaving only a feeling of “wait and see” and “boy, would it be bad if they screw this up.”

But the bottom line is this: Is “DC Universe: Rebirth #1” worth the money?  Even if one finds themselves not enjoying the story, it’s still 80 pages of very well executed artwork by some of DC’s top talent: Gary Frank, Ethan van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez, their outstanding pencils enhanced by the colors and inks of Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, HI-FI, and others.  

And for the price of $2.99 (the price DC plans to stick to for almost all their single issues going forward,) that’s a steal.

So picking it up is recommended.  Maybe those once-loved heroes really are coming back, in full force.

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