Last week, DC Comics released their hotly anticipated DC Universe Rebirth #1. The 80-page one-shot established a new status quo for the company’s filmic book universe before all the Rebirth branded books start rolling out on June 1. We reviewed the issue in detail last week, but before the rest of the line launches let’s take a look at the greater plot and thematic effects it has already on the DCU.
MAJOR Spoilers for DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1 follow.
- The Legacy Returns:
Legacy has played a major role in DC’s fictional universe since Barry Allen was inspired to take the name of the Flash from old Jay Garrick comics (later retconned to be alive on Earth-2) during his very first appearance in 1956. In the following 55 years, numerous DC characters developed families of supporting heroes, with several of those supporting heroes eventually taking over for the original. There was original Kid Flash, Wally West graduating to the role of full-time Scarlet Speedster, Dick Grayson aka the original Robin becoming Nightwing while several other characters spent time in the Boy Wonder’s classic ensemble and Jack Knight’s critically acclaimed run as Starman in the 1990s series by writer James Robinson just to name a few. The company pulled this off so well because their character’s fictional history ran uninterrupted (and vaguely in real time for some characters) from the 1930s all the way to the 21st Century. However, the 2011 New 52 reboot started the company’s continuity anew, eliminating a great deal of the legacy characters in favor of younger versions of the “classic” heroes. DC Universe Rebirth #1 undid that however, reintroducing Wally West, the Justice Society of America and other related characters into the DCU and reinforcing the legacy concept. Just how did DC bring these characters back into the fold? Well…
- The Classic DCU and New 52 Are One Universe:
Since the reboot, DC had claimed that the New 52 Universe was a separate alternate universe (as is common in DC’s publishing) from those that had come before it. DC Universe Rebirth #1 took a complete about-face on this, with writer and DC COO Geoff Johns revealing that the New 52 was, in fact, the same as the classic DCU with a full decade of time somehow erased from existence, explaining how certain characters were de-aged, others disappeared and relationships were altered. This narrative flourish allowed the company to reintroduce popular concepts from the pre-New 52 continuity, while at the same time maintaining story elements of the reboot that proved successful. Within the narrative itself, Johns came up with an intriguing yet controversial way to explain this…
- The Watchmen Cometh:
In the mid-1980s, writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons produced the seminal mini-series Watchmen for DC. The story was centered around a group of newly created, realistic and seriously flawed heroes that spanned from pre-WWII through the entirety of the Cold War, to the then present day. The book was a huge success, has been in continuous print ever since and became a feature film in 2008. During that period, the characters were kept separate from the mainstream DCU. That changed in DC Universe Rebirth #1, when it was revealed that the missing years that were removed were eliminated by Watchmen’s uber-powerful demagogue character, Doctor Manhattan. In addition, numerous hints point to the mysterious Oz figure whose been part of the Superman book being Watchmen character Ozymandias. While it’s not clear at the end of the comic if Manhattan is going to be a full villain or more of a neutral God, certainly dialogue points to a confrontation in the near future…
- Love and Despair
One of the major plot-threads running through DC Universe Rebirth #1 finds the original Wally West trapped in the speed force, desperately trying to make contact with those he loves before he dies. As he goes, Wally espouses the value of love and optimism, eventually making contact with and being brought back to existence by his uncle Barry Allen who finally remembers him. As the two speak, Wally says that war between “love and despair” is coming, lines that in-story foreshadow a conflict between the heroes and the notoriously emotion-less Doctor Manhattan. The message goes beyond the in-story meaning however, and could be looked at as a mission statement for Rebirth in general. The story is presented in a bright, positive, and life affirming way that’s in direct contrast to the “grimdark” portrayal of DC since 2011. Even the issue’s climax, where Wally triumphantly returns to life.due to the love of another character, seems to fly in the face of most comic book events that generally feature a major death.
DC Universe Rebirth #1 changes the DC Universe at it’s very core, both in-story as well as how the company treats its characters in an outside-the-narrative meta sense. While it remains to be seen how effectively DC will use these changes going forward, the issue’s immediate impact has been huge.