Thursday, June 16, 2016

Comic Blog Rebirth: DC Rebirth #1

Those who know me know that this blog has fallen into a state of inconsistency since I started training to become a teacher. Well, my first year is over and I have summer now to get myself back into a groove!

It's actually great timing that this last week of summer tutoring has happened because I am still in a position to tackle DC Comics' biggest alteration since the 2011 Flashpoint book - DC Rebirth.

If you followed my early blogs on here, you would know that I began reviewing comics (and returning to the medium as a whole) because of the DC universe-wide reboot that Flashpoint caused. The "New 52," as it was called, has been in effect for the entire four (almost five) years that I've been following DC's books, and while I absolutely loved the books I purchased over the years, there is no question that returning to comics and exploring that which came before has affected my view of the New 52.

Reading the Ted Kord era of the Blue Beetle solo series made me lament the fact that a character so focused on his legacy and using his power to help those less fortunate was not around for me to enjoy new stories of him. The New Teen Titans books of the 1980s, easily my favorite running series that has been retired, have left me unable to enjoy the melodrama that the modern incarnations of the Titans have attempted to pass of as nuanced character arcs.

And while I may have been an infrequent comic reader as a kid, whenever I think of the Flash in print or broadcast media, I think of the personality reflected in the Wally West Flash, the only Flash I knew until I started looking at the New 52. The fact that he was gone threw me for a loop, and his initial return as a moody whiner left me unable to get into Flash comics when he returned.

So I've stuck with books where I could trust the creative teams - Greg Pak's Action Comics, the Lemire-Sorrentino run on Green Arrow, Scott Snyder's Batman, and so forth. I became less willing to branch out because I knew a creative change could kill the momentum of a book dead in its tracks.

DC Rebirth, though not a proper reboot, is a chance to give the books a fresh start creatively and tie back to the main narrative when unsure where to go next. Think how Infinite Crisis didn't reboot Crisis on Infinite Earths; it just added stuff back in that had been lost.

I am getting all the "Rebirth" books to get a feel for how each hero/heroine/team will be handled, and I will be auditioning new books to follow now that Rebirth is running. And I can already see a major problem - everyone is on their A-game.

I can't buy all these books consistently, so I feel like I'll be cutting muscle when I narrow my purchases down. Fact is, though, that DC is now doing a lot of books with twice-monthly schedules. Even with the uniform cut down to $3 a book (which I LOVE. PLEASE KEEP THIS, DC!), that's two books per title in some cases, which will eat up two slots I can afford.

Anyway, enjoy over the next few weeks my binge-reading of many books at once. Admittedly, my summer reviews will be like rapid-fire thoughts until I narrow my field of titles (and summarize my thoughts on the final New 52 books I bought and have yet to read), but I think it will be a fun journey.

My first rapid-fire will end this blog, and it will be on the DC Universe Rebirth one-shot that started this whole thing.

This book was, in all likelihood, the final Geoff Johns-penned title for quite some time. Johns, who has been a major force in DC creative for some time, is now being asked to oversee creative for both the TV and film universes, which means his time writing books will be very limited in the coming years. My guess is that his main writings from here on in will be his Batman: Earth One graphic novels. (Don't give those up, Geoff!)

Anyway, this story is told from the perspective of Wally West. Not New 52 Wally, mind you, but the original, humorous, optimism-in-the-face-of-the-darkness Wally West. This story reminded me on a few occasions of Terminal Velocity, which is my favorite Flash story, and that's absolutely not a bad thing.

What tied it to Terminal Velocity was Wally's conflict of trying to stay around despite the speed force seemingly seeking his doom. Wally is fighting through three-quarters of this book trying to find someone who remembers him so he can anchor himself back into the world. His relentless attitude to keep pushing in the face of an increasingly hopeless situation is admirable and certainly one that many Flash fans will recognize as being so distinctly Wally.

His attempts to reach Batman first lead to a unique encounter where Bruce does not recognize Wally but can tell the speedster is aware of something worth noting. There was a weird Batman v. Superman vibe to this sequence, as it reminded me way too much of the Barry Allen dream sequence in Bruce's mind, but it was handled much better here because there was an actual reason for the scene to exist and pre-existing characterization that made the motivations work.

What was less brilliant was the idea that three Jokers are around and have just never run into each other. This has to have been a recent development following the events of Multiversity or something. (As I said, I can't read every book and I do tend to avoid books that feel like event comics.) One cool thing to note, though, is that the story seemed to reference all three Joker incarnations (pre-Crisis, post-Crisis, post-Flashpoint), which is cool.

I also liked the check-ins with the Justice Society and the post-Crisis Superman, who it seems will be taking over as the main DC Earth's Superman. The scene-stealing section, though, was the third part, where Aquaman finally proposes to Mera (in defiance of DC's 'no happy couples' edict) and it inspires Wally to talk to Linda Park who... does not remember him.

I will admit - that was a good spirit-breaker for the story. It also led to a great sequence where Wally oversees his Earth one more time. He explains how two Wally Wests can exist, which is great for those who have grown to care for the new Wally.

His final conversation is a heart-to-heart with Barry Allen, which I thought was handled beautifully. Of course, this review is weeks old so you know all the big moves that happened.


Barry finally remembers and anchors Wally, so now Wally is back in the DCU. He says someone has affected the memories of the Earth and that the heroes need to be ready to take the force on, and it's revealed that Batman discovered the bloody smiley face from Watchmen in his cave, which makes no sense why it's there, but it does reveal Dr. Manhattan to be the antagonistic force behind the New 52.

Honestly, I'm taking a wait and see approach with the Dr. Manhattan thing. It's a great idea from a meta-standpoint. Watchmen did help take superhero comics in a grittier, more 'realistic' direction, and DC Comics at its best has always embraced the over-the-top and crazy as much as it has the dark and grim.

On the other hand, it's disrespectful to Alan Moore to keep milking a franchise that has effectively been held hostage by the company, and this crossover could easily go catastrophically wrong. I'll withhold my judgment for now.

As for Wally being back and the older continuity elements being worked back in... I am all in favor of it. While I've enjoyed the New 52 book I follow, there are plenty of elements that have left me ambivalent. Giving the legacies back to the books puts some new emotional spectra at play, and with any luck this will give the creative teams plenty with which to work.

Overall, I gave this story a 9/10. Good start to the new era.

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