Review: DC Universe: Rebirth

Quick Summary

Pros: The story present throughout this issue is personal and touching in a way that few comic book stories are. In addition, the theme of this work is perfect and matches the current state of comics very well. Plus, this issue has tons of small details in it to get readers excited for future comic series.

Cons: Readers looking for this book to majorly alter the DC universe as a whole will be underwhelmed.

Overall: This is a comic book that changes the DC universe in ways that transcend the physical aspects of the story. Though the return of one legacy character is moving and wonderful, it isn’t even the best part of the book. The best part of this book is the metaphorical change in tone that it promises. Bringing legacy and love back to comic books is a worthwhile goal and is something to look forward to from DC.

Story

The history of the DC Universe is filled with huge, world-shattering events that affect the lives of every character involved. However, every now and then, an event comes along that does not need to do this. Instead it sets out to do one thing and to do that one thing right. This event is DC Rebirth. It is not an event that tries to change history or reboot the universe. It is an event that brings back one classic character and acknowledges a tone change for future DC comic books to follow.

Plus it also sets up some amazing plot points for future stories.

(spoilers start here)

Starting with Chapter Two of Rebirth, this story, titled “Legacy”, involves the spirt of Wally West visiting the lives of various legacy DC characters who have yet to make substantial appearances in the new continuity. This includes fan favorites like Johnny Thunder, Saturn Girl, Blue Beetle, and Dr. Fate. After showing these legacy characters, a newer character, Pandora, is killed by a mysterious being. This chapter seems to serve as a starting point for these legacy characters to reenter the comic book landscape in a way that both old and new fans can appreciate.

Chapter Three, titled “Love”, does the same thing as Chapter Two in that it shows a part of the DC universe that was lost due to Flashpoint (Review). Green Arrow and Black Canary, Lois and Clark, Aquaman and Mera, and Wally and Iris all had deep and fulfilling relationships with each other in the past continuity. While some of these relationships were only downgraded, others were wiped out completely. Like last chapter, this chapter seems to indicate that there is hope for these characters yet, as they will be appearing in more comic books very soon.

When these two chapters are combined and examined, the underlying theme of the book is revealed. Pandora symbolically represents the New 52, as she played a large part of its early stories and was one of few characters there at its inception. Her death then indicates the symbolic death of the New 52 as a whole (in a thematic way, as the universe is still intact). By pairing the “death of the New 52” with the “rebirth” of old characters and relationships, the message becomes clear: DC has listened to fans and is bringing the most beloved aspects of the old universe into this one.

Continuing with this theme, the first and last chapters of this event form a story that details one event, the return of Wally West. After Flashpoint (Review), Wally West was written out of continuity and replaced with a completely different character bearing the same name. It was one of many things about the New 52 that people hated: DC Comics had taken the heroes they knew and love and either replaced or discarded them. In bringing Wally back, DC again acknowledges the mistakes that the New 52 made. They are not completely bringing back the pre-Flashpoint universe, however they are bringing back characters and stories that are presently non-existent.

Wally’s return is not just there for what it contributes to the theme though, it also offers a heartwarming story about him reuniting with Barry Allen. It is an incredibly emotional couple of pages that tug at the heartstrings in the best way possible. This also provides some “meat” for this story as it is one of the only things that really “happens” within it.

Overall, what makes DC Universe: Rebirth so great is how well it combines nostalgia with the future, while also telling an interesting little story. This entire comic is filled to the brim with references to the history of the DC universe and yet, at the same time, it is also filled with teasers for what is coming next. The past and present become one in this comic filled with bright optimism for a new generation of books. It is a shift in tone that new and old fans can both appreciate. All in all, Geoff Johns’ message is clear and welcome, Rebirth is bringing hope, love, and good stories to comic books.

Alongside all of this though, the biggest thing that this book does is connecting the Watchmen universe to the main DC universe. Though little is shown about it, this seems like an incredibly interesting, yet controversial, idea. It also perfectly fits to the them of comic books becoming too dark and grim, as Watchmen was one of the comics that helped to kick off that trend. It will be interesting to watch this story play out, but I definitely have my hopes up for it.

(spoilers end here)

Art

The combined team of Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez team up in order to present the art for this issue. The outcome of this is fantastic. These are some of the better artists, in terms of consistent quality, working for DC Comics today, so the work is guaranteed to look great. Characters and locations are realistic looking and gorgeously detailed in a way that makes them look as if they could jump off the page in certain places. Overall this is one good looking comic book.

The art doesn’t just look great though, it also helps make the book better by enhancing the themes present in the book as well. For example, on pages with Watchmen references, the comic turns into a nine panel grid. Then, on pages where the past is shown, the art style changes to accommodate the art style of the time. These things are just subtle details which, when viewed together, help make this a better comic book.

Continuity

This comic stands on its own without being directly related to any other work. It officially marks the end of the New 52 era of DC Comics and begins the Rebirth era. Because of this, the optimal location for this issue in the universal reading order would be directly after every New 52 comic and directly before every Rebirth comic. Obviously it does not reference every comic so a list of comics it does reference is detailed below.

The story in this comic is directly continued in “The Button” event. Reviews of this event can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

In addition, please note that although this comic marks the separation between two separate eras, it does not mark a significant change in continuity. The Rebirth universe is still the same universe as the New 52 universe. The only difference between the two is that a few elements of the pre-Flashpoint universe have made their way into this universe. The extent to which pre and post-Flashpoint universes have blended is currently unknown but appears to still be extremely limited.

  • This comic begins and ends with a reference to Watchmen.
  • A few references are made to the events of Darkseid War
    • Batman talks about the “three Jokers” that he learned about in Justice League Vol. 7- Darkseid War Part 1.
    • The outcome of the fight flickering reality is also mentioned. This happens at the fights conclusion in Justice League Vol. 8- Darkseid War Part 2.
    • The green lantern talking to Hal Jordan is Jessica Cruz, who joined the Corps in Justice League Vol. 8- Darkseid War Part 2.
  • Barry saving the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths is mentioned.
  • Barry altering the timeline of the universe, in Flashpoint (Review), plays a big part in this story.
  • Ted Kord mentions inheriting Kord Industries from his father. This happens in Forever Evil.
  • Jackson Hyde makes his first appearance since his introduction in Brightest Day Vol. 1.
  • The mysterious Pandora appears here and seems to be referencing Flashpoint (Review)
  • Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance’s past relationship is referenced here. They dated and were married throughout the pre-New 52 universe but have yet to meet in the New 52 universe.
  • Superman’s death is referenced a few times. This happens in Superman Vol. 2: Return to Glory.
  • This comic also features the pre-Flashpoint Superman living in this post-Flashpoint world. The reason behind this can be found in Convergence and their adventures in this world can be found in Superman: Lois and Clark (Review).
  • Mr. Oz makes an appearance in this comic. Not much is known about him at this point, however he can first be seen in Superman: The Men of Tomorrow.
  • The story about Mera trying to kill Aquaman is a reference to her new origin, first detailed in Brightest Day Vol. 1.
  • The relationship between Wally West and Linda Park is referenced. These two dated and were married throughout the pre-New 52 universe but have yet to meet in the New 52 universe.
  • At one point John Constantine talks to Swamp Thing about the loss of his girlfriend to magical elements. This happened in Swamp Thing Vol. 3: Rotworld: The Green Kingdom.
  • The new Wally West, shown in this comic, made his first appearance in The Flash Vol. 6: Out of Time

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