DC Universe Rebirth #1 review

My name is Martin Gray. I’m the fastest blogger alive. Well, usually. An 80-page giant containing 62 pages of story takes a little longer to review than you average 32pp book. And DC Rebirth has so much story, so much to chew over.
The headline, of course, is that this comic by writer Geoff Johns and a handpicked team artistic partners brings back some things that were lost with 2011’s New 52 continuity reset – the original Wally West, and the importance of legacy. Publicity tells us that upcoming is the return of the classic Justice Society of America, while a short sequence announces that the Legion of Super-Heroes isn’t far away.
And I could not be happier. I’m happy to give the New 52 Wally a chance, but couldn’t stop missing the Silver Age kid who not only took on his mentor’s role, but surpassed him in many ways. As of this issue, the red-headed Wally looks to be back for good, but a brilliantly simple bit of real-world thinking ensures there’s room for the new kid too.
It seems African-American Wally was around all along, it’s just that we’d never met him – and older Wally gives his cousin his blessing, which may persuade a few holdouts to relax. Heck, once upon a time DC had two Hal Jordans, so why not a couple of Wallace Wests?
It’s pretty apparent who our unseen narrator is a nine-panel page or so into this utterly absorbing love letter to DC’s superheroes, and we soon see it’s Wally, trapped by the Speed Force and ‘Flashpointed’ into a younger body and the second Kid Flash costume.
Even more than the visual, the narration announces the comeback of one of DC’s greatest heroes – that ‘My name is Wally West…’ bit began every story for years, and its return sent chills down my spine. And that’s why the start of this review echoes it in such a self-aggrandising way… I’m excited, is all.
The story set-up is hugely intriguing – Wally has been lost to the Speed Force since Barry broke and remade the world during the Flashpoint event. The recent Darkseid war has given him a chance to make fleeting visits to the new, darker Earth, to try to convince someone, anyone, that Tim has been been stolen from them. Along the way, we get not only the state of the universe, but glimpses of changes and revelations.
Other things that excite me in what is the best Johns script in years include:
A reference to the Joker – or rather, a Joker – operating in Civic City, once home to the JSA.
Mera and Aquaman getting engaged, announcing the end of DC’s ban on married superheroes.
The implication that the insane five-year timeline is going to be stretched to ten, or perhaps even 15 years… now Batman can fit all those Robins in nicely.
The setting-up of the new Blue Beetle book and restoration of Ryan Choi to an Atom role – I wonder if he’ll return to Hong Kong and meet the new Chinese Superman.
Post-Crisis Lois and Clark’s belief that the New 52 Superman will likely return, a nod to the pre-Crisis notion that events repeated on parallel worlds.
Johns’ use of previously seeded, apparently forgotten plot points, such as the Thomas Wayne note from Flashpoint, which seems to have been a trapdoor to escape the New 52 all along; and from his Superman run, Mr Oz, so annoyingly enigmatic he makes the Phantom Stranger seem like Wikipedia.
The notion of Wonder Woman having a male twin brother – a Wonder Twin! Give it five years and we’ll hear about Nubia. 
Ted Kord’s joie de vivre.
The Hand That Stole Time – a classic DC Crisis trope from Krona onwards.
The mystery of who else is lost in time – Wally certainly feels someone, but can’t connect with them.
Poor old Flashpoint patsy Pandora getting a moment to shine. And splatter.
Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen feeling a connection as they meet for the first time at the site of Superman’s death – the erasure of their wonderfully complex relationship was one of the big minus points of the last continuity. 
The visual callbacks to Barry Allen’s fate in Crisis on Infinite Earths as a weaker and weaker Wally appears before his old friends, teasing us that he’s come back only to die.
How Wally escapes the Speed Force.
Wally’s notion that some cosmic force stole years from the heroes, making relationships impossible, to weaken them… for what?
There’s so much to intrigue and excite in DC Rebirth. The massive story point I’ve not yet addressed – that the DC Universe may have been created by Dr Manhattan of Watchmen – could prove a negative for me. Leave it as a possibility and move on, and I’m good with that; I can immediately delete it from my head canon because I don’t much like the idea of one superhero universe outranking another. I hated the ending of St Elsewhere and I don’t want the DCU – whatever that means in a given week – to go down the same snowglobe road. All I wanted this special to do was rebalance characters and relationships, re-emphasise the value of legacy… and move on. I don’t want loads of links to Watchmen – I read that series as it came out, appreciated its craft more than I enjoyed it, and never read it again. Leave Watchmen as its own thing.
Given that the epilogue is firmly set in the world of Watchmen, I must commend illustrators Gary Frank, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado, and colourists Hi-Fi and Brad Anderson for getting the page layouts, art style and colouring right. Heck, even the lettering morphs to the style of the seminal series, thanks to Nick Napolitano. It’s clever stuff, done well, but I hope this is it. Let the reader choose to believe Dr Manhattan and Adrian Veidt are discussing the story we’ve just read, or let them decide they’re considering a soap opera about tedious pirates, or whatever, and just happen to be hanging around outside a DCU tale.
We should be so lucky.
Still, this issue does so much good work that I’m optimistic there are fun times to come. And it’s beautiful, courtesy of the aforementioned artists along with co-illustrators Ethan Van Sciver and Phil Jimenez, inker Matt Santorelli and colourists Jason Wright and Gabe Eltaeb. My favourite moments includ that very nicely coiffed and bespectacled Ted Kord, the tragedy of old man Johnny and the emotion of Wally and Barry’s reunion.
There are two covers to this issue, the washed-out main piece by Frank and Anderson, and a brighter illustration from Reis, Prado and Sinclair. It seems the message is, as of DC Rebirth, the futures bright.

35 thoughts on “DC Universe Rebirth #1 review

  1. This read like a lovely apology letter from DC to their long time readers for the things the publishers were saying in the run up to Flashpoint. They explicitly mentioned terms like legacy and love which were sidelined post reboot.

    I am wondering what the deal with Superman is? Mr Oz tells Clark he and his family aren't what they think they are, nor was the “fallen” Superman.

    I'm so so happy to see that Legion ring.

    I'm not thrilled with the framework around the story. (Dr. Manhattan and Adrian) and I am worried about how this will play out because I can't imagine they will drop this.

    However I had a huge smile on my face in so many moments. One of my favorites? The nursing home! 😀

    I don't like Wonder Woman having a twin brother but I guess we'll see what happens.

    I think they've set their stage well and now I really hope the publishers let their creative teams tell stories without interference.

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  2. Nice recap!

    This special definitely brought me back to the DCU in a big way. How far back and for how long remains to be seen, but I have hope that I haven't had in a long, long time.

    I'm happy with what I see and cannot wait to see more.

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  3. Is it strange that Pandora's death angered me more than anything else? There was a lot of potential there, all she really needed was one good writer.

    As for the rest of it, I don't know. It feels like a start, but I'm not sure any change will matter so long as DC is run by schmucks.

    (I am excited by the Wonder Woman twin though. Your “Wonder Twin” pun was superb.)

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  4. It was okay but out of the full page ads for upcoming books I'm only interested in two. I'll check out more from the checklist but nothing is going on my pull list until I read an issue. Writers who follow Johns using a Johns idea are notoriously awful about turning in a good product…

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  5. I had the same reaction to Wally's “My name is Wally West.” Just a wonderful moment. His narration calls back to the DC Universe #0 that heralded Final Crisis, as well, and Barry's narration. The only thing that irks me is looking at all of the Rebirth specials listed in the back, it looks solely like male creators, except for the Birds of Prey special. Hopefully that'll be addressed once the ongoings start. But, optimistic, yes.

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  6. We pretty much agree on everything, Maya. And while I reckon the only sibling Diana should have is Nubia, at least 'a brother' is an improvement on the gaggle of siblings Brian Azzarello gave her.

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  7. I did laugh at Pandora's puffing but she didn't deserve to die so horribly, as you say, she had potential. I'd love to have seen her released from the curse she never deserved.

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  8. There is Nicola Scott on Wonder Woman for at least a year, but where are Gail Simone and Marguerite Bennett, for starters? Oh, and isn't Emmanuels Lupacchino back on Supergirl? But yeah, Tom, we do need more female creators.

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  9. I think I may have interpreted what happenned in Rebirth differently with regards to the Watchmen connection. I didn't think Dr. Manhattan made the DCU but rather messed with it as it was being reformed by the Flashpoint. He was the one that took love, hope, etc as well as the missing 10 years.

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  10. Just a wonderful book, with homages, references, and (of course) the Watchmen stuff.

    I'd prefer Watchmen not cross over into the DCU proper. But if that brings back 'my' DCU, the ends justify the means.

    Love the Crisis imagery most of all.

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  11. The metatextual/Freudian implications of Dr Manhattan ejaculating into the primordial soup of the DCU are fascinating, as now the entire Nu52 has been confirmed as a failure to move past what Alan Moore was writing thirty years ago – and that's not my opinion, that is actual DC canon now.

    I thought it was hilarious that DC had to keep NuWally, though. I mean, I didn't read all the stories he appeared in, but they clearly must have been great if the DC can't do without him. He must have had a lot of impact on the DCU and be very popular with creators and readers alike okay I'll stop now.

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  12. I'm nervously anticipating Greg Rucka's return to Wonder Woman, and “helplessly hoping” that he can restore her. But it won't be overnight.

    Other than that, this book was such a joy! I was positively giddy.

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  13. The Watchmen Universe crossing over would be strange, essentially a handful of heroes that Batman alone could handle, and one that's more powerful than the Spectre (I guess). What are they supposed to do with the hundreds of 'metahumans' in the usual DC universe?

    But restoring a lot of the pre-NU 52 should be a plus.

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  14. I know it seems the common idea that Dr Manhattan created the DC Universe, but I don't see that. Yes, Dr Manhattan says at the end of Watchmen that maybe he will go off and create some life of his own, but often comics fans are a bit too literal. I think he may well have found a planet to do that one, and maybe in doing so discovered the multiverse and decided to interfere with the post crisis DC universe.

    Maybe, having lived in the very dark Watchmen Universe, Dr M simply saw the more joyous DC world as wrong, or maybe he has been driven insane.

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  15. Oh, tell me about it. When I was speculating a few months back, due to Titans Hunt, that proper Wally was coming back, a comics commentator got in a proper strop on Twitter. If that happened he could not get behind Rebirth, black kids would be weeping because they'd their hero would be sidelined or lost, and I was basically a racist for even wanting it… it happened, and he's all fine. I dunno…

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  16. oops my mistake sorry guys still it's so sad how far johnny fell his own family want's nothing to do with him

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  17. Glad that DC is finally addressing all of the things that were left unexplained post Flashpoint and prior to. Its just good seeing the JSA, Wally and the classic pre flashpoint/new 52 characters again. I hope DC has a clear road map in terms of direction and the kind of fun stories to tell that remind readers, long time and new, what a fun/ interesting/ adventurous sort of storytelling that superhero comics have to offer. i'm sorta surprised that Grant Morrison wasn' involved in this in a way haha

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