DC Universe Rebirth #1 Review
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez
Colors by Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Hi-Fi, Gabe Eltaeb
Letters by Nick J. Napolitano
Review by John Dubrawa
DC certainly grabbed the attention of a lot of comic readers when the company announced that not only would they be relaunching their entire line (again) but that all of their books would now all be shipping for the more consumer-friendly price of $2.99. Ignoring the fact that most of these books will also be shipping twice monthly, it’s not a bad incentive to get either back on board with DC after their New 52 agenda perhaps turned some longtime readers away, or for readers to pick up books they wouldn’t otherwise give a chance to at a higher price point. To that end, DC has put out Rebirth #1, an absolutely essential read to anyone that falls in the former camp of disenchanted former DC readers looking for a glimpse into what used to be their DCU. New readers with only knowledge of the New 52 version of the DCU will find this to be a more challenging but mostly fulfilling read. Yet in either situation, the outcome remains the same: DC Universe Rebirth #1 will make you want to read more DC Comics.
(At this point, it’s impossible to get into the specifics of DC Universe Rebirth #1 without at least touching on the plot, and given the thoughts I have on the big reveal at the end, that will be discussed briefly as well. My suggestion to those trying to avoid any and all spoilers is to skip down to the VERDICT section, but hey, thanks for stopping by!)
Geoff Johns pens the entirety of this 80-page opus that operates as a meta commentary on anything and everything that was lost within the world of DC Comics when the company decided to reboot its brand back in 2011. Using perhaps the most significant character lost to the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe, Wally West, Johns weaves what is on the surface just a fascinating tale of someone lost in time trying to reclaim what he once had. Of course, as Wally–and essentially Johns–comments on characters, relationships, and the overall JOY missing from this current version of the DCU, it’s hard not to see this entire issue as a sort of apology for what’s gone wrong in the company since that maligned erasing of the company’s history. In fact, it’s as if there’s an ever-present checklist being ticked off as the issue weaves at a blinding pace through a multitude of characters and timelines, with Johns eager to appease. Reference to the JSA? Check. Characters that were once married proposing to one another? Check. Superheroes smiling and laughing? Check and check.
Where this issue has the most trouble, though, is its insistence on quelling the complaints of the past while all but ignoring those that are New 52 loyalists, or worse, entirely new readers. Rebirth #1 is not new reader friendly in the least. It references many events from its past and even has a disclaimer at the bottom of the first page telling the reader he/she ought to read the latest issues of Justice League and Superman before venturing forth. That’s not to say Rebirth #1 is impossible to follow without the inside baseball knowledge that this is all one big band-aid covering the New 52; I simply suspect any new reader trying to make sense of the rhyme and reason behind the stops that Wally makes in his journey throughout this issue will be left scratching their head. To his credit, Johns writes one hell of an interesting script even if it’s over the head of the out-of-the-loopers, and both new and old readers of the DCU can appreciate the final sequence involving Barry and Wally.
That scene is an emotionally powerful one, made all the more expressive thanks to the wonderful artwork of not only the sequence itself but all those that come before. Johns splits the book into four separate chapters and calls in a different artist on each one from a stable that includes powerhouses like Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Ethan Van Sciver and Phil Jimenez. Each artist brings his own unique style to the chapter but on the whole, DC Universe Rebirth #1 maintains a level of excelled consistency throughout. Frank, Reis, Van Sciver, and Jimenez all handle Wally’s journey at some point and there’s never a panel in which the emotion and urgency of what the character needs to do is lost on the reader. The color contributions from Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Hi-Fi, and Gabe Eltaeb play an important role as well in filling this book with lots of bright, vibrant images, perfect for a book all about returning some of the fun back into the DC Universe.
Now let’s talk about the actual final sequence in this issue, shall we? What we’re left with when DC Universe Rebirth #1 is all said and done is the idea that Dr. Manhattan (yes, of Watchmen fame) is the manipulating force behind the DC New 52, and the reason that so much was “lost” after the precursor Flashpoint event. This is a wickedly genius plot twist, though the pessimist in me has to wonder if this is not DC passing the buck of their mistake in creating the New 52 over to a character that while is theirs to play with, is certainly more associated with Watchmen creator and grumpy beard-haver Allan Moore. Moore has distanced himself so much from all of his prior work that there’s no chance of his input on this ordeal, so it feels almost like DC is making a new villain for its universe out of a character that can’t truly speak for himself.
BUY. At the price of $2.99 for like a bajillion pages of comic* it’s hard not to just recommend everyone give Rebirth a shot. Be warned, however, that while this does bare the mark of a #1 issue and is technically the beginning of an all-new landscape, Rebirth #1 is absolutely a plea bargain with DC readers of old. It’s an issue written for the ultimate superfan by the ultimate superfan. It’s not entirely an impenetrable issue, but one where the true significance of the events will be lost on those without prior knowledge of the whole DCU. Nevertheless, the excitement of what’s to come is to great for me to not tell everyone to go out and grab a copy, now.
*probably not an accurate page count