‘The New 52’ has been one of the most polarising, divisive eras in DC history and with good reason. For every good move that was made, such as in the beloved ‘Batman’ comics from the mind of Scott Snyder, there were also a deluge of terrible ones that turned fans off in their droves. At long last DC have seen fit to attempt to fix what ails them with the much hyped ‘Rebirth’, are they off to a good start?
If you were to ask a long time DC fan about their main gripe with the New 52 the answer would probably come back as a complaint about the handling of iconic characters. There is an expectation of respect from writers towards their, and others, creations but all too often that seemed to be absent in the last half a decade of comics. Some big names were written out of history, cast aside as though they never mattered, others saw their roles reduced to that of a sideshow who didn’t matter to the overall story. In many cases relationships that fans had grown to love were done away with and in that move a lot of heroes lost their motivation and a good portion of their goodwill along with it. Due to all of this it was clear that something drastic needed to be done.
Enter Rebirth. Now, of course, it is early days what with this being the first glimpse at the revamped DC Universe but it is safe to say that it looks promising so far. This 66 page epic made great strides towards fixing the problems of the past and, as though to compound that feeling of moving forwards by looking backwards, the whole thing was narrated and underpinned by the long lost Wally West.
Wally is a character who many have missed throughout his prolonged absence and one whom a lot of people were calling for to return when this whole initiative was first unveiled to the world. How fitting it is then for him to be the one to guide the audience into this new era, and to do so by looking at it in essentially the same light as each and every one of them too.
He is a man on the outside of the current universe trying to break his way back in. That’s a feeling that a great number of readers have had of late as they yearn for more poignant storylines and a return of the grandiose nature of the characters. Wally is attempting to fix a gap in time in order to return the inhabitants of DC’s world to their former glory and, again, that is something that has lit up message boards ever since the toned down, underpowered versions of these icons were first wheeled out. This meta commentary is peppered throughout every page as Wally recalls a time when Green Arrow and Black Canary were an item, and when he and Linda were a married couple. With regards to the first of those pairings, fans will be happy to hear that movements were made in this issue to reunite the two lovebirds with one another.
To carry off such an ambitious issue, Geoff Johns had to have a great story to go right alongside all of the fan service. Thankfully, there was no let down in that department either as the narrative presented gives more than enough in the way of intrigue and excitement to keep the vast majority of fans satiated. Naturally a large amount of that is all in order to hype the upcoming relaunch titles but then the idea that all of this is playing into a larger story is no bad thing. The fact that the story isn’t entirely overt and won’t require the purchasing of every single title is another big plus as very few people have enough disposable income to justify such a reckless spending pattern.
The key idea to explain the return of Wally and the gradual shift back to an older continuity is that an extremely powerful being has literally plucked a whole decade of history out of the timeline and left the heroes and villains of the piece unable to recall their past selves. Watching those memories return and old events be rediscovered should be highly entertaining and it is something which will hook people onto these new books.
Due to the fact that this event did not see the immediate rewriting of history and scrapping of the current continuity it also means that all of the good work that has been done over the last five years, and there is enough of it, will not be lost forever. It will all stay as canon which allows for the best of the past and present to blend together, making for a much richer history for each character than they previously had. Some may complain about this as it could seem like a half-in approach but really it is far more logical than the alternative and it means you get to sit back and watch something important unfold as Rebirth continues to ripple through each book for the foreseeable future.
This comic was written in chapters and as such it had a very large artistic team with different people taking responsibility for each chapter. Those people were Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli, Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Hi-Fi, and Gabe Eltaeb. What is remarkable to note is that the sense of continuity throughout the book is unbelievable. Such a diverse range of talents shouldn’t be able to pull off a single issue that retains one set style for its entirety but somehow these brilliant individuals managed it here. In every chapter there is a human quality to the character’s faces and it helps to create this wonderfully resonant tale of loss and, to steal the title again, rebirth. Just one gaze upon Wally’s journey between sadness, hope, despair, and eventual relief is a whole story in and of itself.
There will always be naysayers who refuse to forgive DC for past failings and who just want to rubbish this new effort from the company. There are valid criticisms to be made by those people but ultimately this was a tremendous showing and one that should gave gotten you suitably hyped for the what is to come. Rebirth can certainly be called a success thus far.
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