Comic Review – DC Universe Rebirth (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

DC Rebirth has finally started. After months of vagueness, speculation and secrecy, spoilers for the one shot DC Universe Rebirth went online this week before the issue hit the stands. Regardless, I somehow managed to avoid these spoilers despite existing on the internet (no mean feat these days), and as someone whose pull list of DC Comics has whittled down to two books as of late, I was eager to see what was in store for this relaunch/reboot/totallynotareboot/shot in the arm from DC. I’m going to give it a quick review, trying to avoid spoilers where I can while still commenting on the reveals contained in the issue.

Rebirth was written by Geoff Johns, the long time Justice League writer responsible for ‘rebirthing’ both The Flash and Green Lantern in the past, to great success.  Joining him on the book are several artists: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli, Hi-Fi and Gabe Eltaeb, with letters from Nick J Napolitano.

Rebirth cover

Cover by Gary Frank & Brad Anderson

Five years ago, following what transpired in the Flashpoint event when Barry Allen attempted to save his mother’s life and had to deal with the consequences of meddling with the time line, the DC Universe was changed. This resulted in a modern DC Universe referred to as ‘The New 52’ until recently, despite the number of books no longer being the 52 that launched when this reboot first happened. The time frame of the superhero universe as we knew it had been shrunk to 5 years, legacies were lost, relationships and friendships were weakened and characters were forgotten. This isn’t a unique criticism from me, rather it forms the backbone of Rebirth, and the resurgence of all of this seems to be what will occupy the DC Universe for the foreseeable future.

The damage done to the timeline wasn’t caused by the Flash’s jaunt into the past to save his mother it seems. Instead it was a mysterious figure from outside of time that interfered when everything was being put back together. A long lost character, aware of the damage done, struggles to return to the world and to contact those he once knew, who have all since forgotten him. If he can’t make it though, he’ll at least try to get a message through that the world is wrong and in danger, even if it kills him. Meanwhile, throughout the issue the identity of the culprit who put the universe back together wrong is slowly teased, until it is made clear by the end. More on that in a bit.

Throughout Rebirth there is a definite feel of making amends and of course-correcting. Adventure, fun and romance are all injected into the universe, along with touching base with characters and concepts that have been missing over the past 5 years. But rather than totally erasing the New 52 universe and acting like the old reality never left, DC is trying to have its cake and eat it too by melding the two together. There is a risk of trying to serve too many masters here, and they could wind up not satisfying anyone, but DC clearly feels like the risk is worth it.

As for the gamble? We’ll see if it pays off. Rebirth is at its heart, a very enjoyable and lengthy comic. There are emotional beats that absolutely land. Of the two big reveals? The first absolutely worked for me and paid off in a big way later. As for the big twist at the end? Not so much. Trying my best to avoid spoilers in case you too have managed to dodge them up until now. The person behind the curtain as it were (or people in a way) involves melding another comics property into continuity that as yet is unconnected with the DC Universe. And honestly? I don’t think works. I don’t think every story needs to be a part of the universe (or multiverse) and while it serves here as a convenient explanation for the world we now have, in my opinion it severely undercuts the impact of that other story and world from which these characters have been taken. Ultimately though, if the stories to come are interesting it doesn’t really matter.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the art. In the past, especially when dealing with events, DC has drawn in multiple artists into a single book in a manner that feels jarring. From page to page, the flow of art has suffered from inconsistent and often nonsensical changes between pencils and sometimes colours too. Rebirth avoids this by having discrete chapters completely drawn by a single art team, allowing for a compartmentalised yet complete flow. There is a kinetic and vibrant feel throughout the book that benefits from being framed around the particular narrator of Rebirth. This vibrancy is key to the overall tonal shift of bringing a sense of wonder and adventure back into the book, where big and fun superhero art is pushed to the forefront. And the colour palette across the chapters is consistently bright, adding to the sense of optimism as things move forward.

Rebirth splash

Art from Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Hi-Fi

As a single issue, I really enjoyed DC Universe Rebirth. It looked great, and it seems to be forcing, however haphazardly, legacy and fun back into the DC Comics universe. I may not be hugely keen on the mechanisms they are using, but I am fascinated to see the effect that Rebirth will have on the line. As such, I’m not going to give the issue a score as in this situation I don’t think it would be conducive to the overall discussion about the comic and Rebirth at large. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the issue and what you hope will come out of Rebirth, so please comment on the article or get in touch via twitter @lost_lighthouse or @spacecowboyface to let us know what you thought. Kit and I plan on checking out the majority of the new series in the wake of Rebirth, so watch this space for what we think of a lot of the new #1s over the coming months.

Adam

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