Okay, so Rebirth #1 is out, I’ve read it, and it wasn’t a bad comic. In fact, it was kinda good. It reminded me of when Geoff Johns was still writing good comics, like his Green Lantern and Flash books.
But it was also kinda … Confusing. Not confusing like most DC events, where I have no idea what’s going on, but confusing as in, “What does DC really want to do?”
I read a very interesting, unusually self-aware comment by Geoff Johns that when DC created the New 52, they unintentionally made long-standing DC fans “not care” about the new versions of the old favorites, because everything they’d lived and breathed—often for decades—turned out not to matter. Rebirth is clearly a way to address that, and to try to get those fans back (if it’s not too late), but DC is also creating so many versions of their characters that it seems hard to imagine how we’ll care about any one of them. If there are so many Supermen, why does one Superman matter? If there are three Jokers (and there are!), it takes some of the menace away from the one. It makes Joker matter less. It makes Superman matter less.
And that’s kind of what Rebirth does. If every 5 years, DC can say “Just kidding!” and start all over again, then where’s the legacy? Geoff Johns has been saying that Rebirth is an attempt to recapture legacy by reintroducing pre-New 52 (and even pre-Crisis) characters, but it’s kind of too late. Plus, it’s a little too complicated. On page one, we’re told to read “old universe” comics
(Superman and Justice League #52) before we read Rebirth #0. If I have to read something that came before, is this really an issue #0? For that matter, is it really a new jumping-on point?
(But look at the irony: The comic is basically Wally West running through all the decades of DC Comics—it’s tailor-made for nostalgia—and yet the point of the whole thing is to get the reader to forget half a decade’s worth of DC Comics.)
So they think we forgot things. And in the process of reminding us of all the good stuff in the DCU, which Geoff Johns does very, very well in this book—which is a retrospective of the best chacters in the DCU, I can’t help thinking: The only reason this stuff is gone is because Dan Didio rejected it! It wasn’t my fault!
I’ve had a hard enough time figuring out what really happened in all those great Grant Morrison Batman comics when they did the Flashpoint thing, now I’m scratching my head even more. If the New 52 was just a bad dream—and God I hope it was—then why do I need to read a couple New 52 comics before getting on the Rebirth train?
There’s a telling line in the comic, where the “big reveal” that someone stole 10 years of time from the DCU happens, where the narrator says “legacies were destroyed.” Yes, that’s right. Destroyed. That means, broken beyond repair.
If Rebirth is an attempt to respect the legacy nature of corporate superhero comics and to bring that back to DC, I’m all for it. But you’re not going to recapture what you destroyed over the past decade of multiple reboots. Don’t even try. My hope is that DC does what it SAID it was going to do with the New 52: Start fresh, don’t look back, and create good stories with new creators and new perspectives. All the New 52 really did was re-tell a bunch of stories we’d already read. So where is it that DC thinks it went wrong?
I’m not sure. But merging the DCU with Watchmen? That will be a point that it all went South. Big mistake. They’re starting their new interpretation of their universe with a big, massive mistake. Plus, it doesn’t fit with DC’s overall thesis. If the idea is that the New 52 screwed up by making all of its heroes too dark and too “adult,” and now we want to get back to the original cores of these characters and bring a little light back (and that’s why Rebirth #0 focuses on Wally West, DC’s most beloved, happiest character), then why are we going all the way back to Watchmen as the “mistake that started it all?”
I get that lots of people blame Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen as the moment in time when comics stopped being for kids and started being violent and menacing, and I’m sure Johns is consciously making that kind of a statement when Batman picks up The Comedian’s trademarked happy face button and stares at it, eye to eye. But that was thirty years ago. Was the DCU broken back then, or just when Dan Didio decided he could sell more comics by rebooting everything and slapping new #1s on everything? I really can’t tell—but it is an interesting way to make the point.
And let me circle back to the My Three Jokers point: When Batman is looking at the three Jokers, he’s looking at the original one from the 1950s all the way through the 1990s; the one who shot Barbara Gordon in Killing Joke (also Alan Moore); and the one from the New 52 with the shaved head. Here, the New 52 not only matters—it is hailed as one of the three most important chapters in DC history. Hm. Another mixed message.
So I’m kind of left wondering whether Geoff Johns even knows what his central thesis is. I get that Rebirth #0 is just that—a Rebirth. A place where seeds are planted, and now the garden will be tended by many other creators. But it’s also a launch towards a new true North, and it really should have been more obvious to the reader what that true North is—where we are supposed to be headed.
So, will this be worth ending the gems that rose out of the troughs of shit we got after the New 52? Books like Dr. Fate, that created a new character and then quickly ended him so DC could reboot again?
We’ll see. I’m doubtful, but I really, really want to be wrong.