So it's been out long enough for interested readers to read and digest it: DC's Rebirth #1. And I'm deeply ambivalent about it. Not because it's not a good piece of comics writing, because it is (accepting the unresolved nature of an event book like this). Not because of "event fatigue" (truth be told, it's the first new comic I've read in almost a year). But rather because it's a case of DC Comics talking out both sides of its mouth again.

Geoff Johns is, I freely admit, a writer with a split personality. On the one hand, he's done some fine, hopeful character work with Superboy (in Adventure Comics), Booster Gold and Aquaman. On the other, he's known as the guy who likes to have heroes graphically dismembered. So when he writes a metatextual piece about how it's all Alan Moore's Watchmen's fault (with an assist from The Dark Knight Returns) that DC Comics have taken such a dark turn (and in movies too, Zack Snyder came to the DCU via a Watchmen film), well I have to wonder if he remembers he was the architect of the dark and violent Infinite Crisis, Blackest Night, Flashpoint, and New52!

That DC realizes the New52 was a mistake (except in the short-term rewards game), good on them. That they want a do-over, okay sure, I think the fans are clamoring for it. (And quite rightly, it goes through the Flash line as all Crises must, with Wally West as the emblem of what we lost in the New52.) But it's major piece of SPIN to say that the guys who screwed it all up in the first place are the lost continuity's saviors! So yes, okay, bring back the JSA and the Legion and marriages and Ted Kord's Blue Beetle and whatever else is suggested in this issue, but don't try to tell me you wrote the last 10 years of material against you better angels. Come on, now. Perhaps I should be reading it NOT as Geoff Johns' opinion, but as Wally's. And Wally in this story is just as much a surrogate for the typical reader as Superboy-Prime, the "evil fan", was in Infinite Crisis.

Question remains: With the same folks at the helm, can we REALLY expect the DCU to "lighten up"? (Or the movies, given that Johns is setting up shop there and could use the lighter TV shows' success to undermine Snyder's grimy franchise?) After all, it's one thing to say you're bringing back lighter characters from the dead, love and hope and all that, but when you do it by injecting the bloody WATCHMEN into the core universe, I don't know what you think you're doing exactly. Contrast?!

And here's the clincher for me: The book ends on a number of ads for Rebirthed books, and most of them seem to follow the dark direction DC's been spiraling in for the last 5 years. Is it the case or did the marketing guys not get the memo? Here they all are:
Wally's back and bam, looks like he's a villain trying to destroy his friends. Well, of course.
More Death Flash nonsense?
Batman, hunted by Gotham. Because heroes must be mistrusted at all costs.
Let's make sure we show killer blades on the cover of the younger Titans book. Just to prepare the readers for some savage deaths.
Flipping back to before the Flushpoint, this issue showcases the problematic Green Lantern who had dark skin, so obviously wore a ski mask and used a gun.
Green Arrow and Black Canary together again! This is one of the less egregious posters, though I'm not sure about that copy.
Let's rob Wonder Woman of everything! Again! (And yet, the image was hopeful! And Greg Rucka!)
Suicide Squad is no surprise given the upcoming movie, but it's still notable that villains have their own book when discussing this topic. Speaking of which...
DC still trying to sell Lex Luthor as some kind of anti-hero.
The real Superman is back in his own book, sans subtitle (unless the sub is "Rebirth"?). I take no exception with this one.
And finally, here's the checklist for ALL the Rebirth specials, only some of which are "dark". Titans #1 has very different copy, for example, avoiding the "he's gone bad" suggestion. Of course, we still have a stupid Deathstroke book, and Scott Lobdell on Red Hood, but it basically reads like your standard superhero fare, neither dark nor light. And in case you couldn't tell, I was largely being facetious above when criticizing the various ads. Most of these are just that - standard superhero fare - but taken together, and against an event that reads like one of Grant Morrison's bold comic book mission statements (that then go ignored by DC, keep that in mind), they become highly suspect.

New era for DC Comics? A return to form? Or just the same old hype? Do I even want to reinvest in their company so long as it's rife with mismanagement and essentially sanctioned sexual harassment? Those are the real questions Rebirth asks.


snell said…
The oddest thing to me was the decision to bring in Watchmen. After all, they already have the Charlton characters available (even though they go mostly ignored), and the nu52 already had Captain Atom set up as a Dr. Manhattan-style figure who could fill the role here. Other than poking a stick at Moore and his acolytes (admittedly a favorite activity of this leadership trio), I'm not sure what you really gain. (Other than, as you note, a sub rosa attempt to blame a 30 year old comic for all the excesses they themselves authored).

At least now we can look forward to a Watchmen/Ambush Bug crossover...
American Hawkman said…
I in no way read the Titans bit as Wally being villainous, but rather figuring out what's been screwing with the Titans for a while. I suspect it's telling that anyone smiling on a cover at today's DC is probably the villain. :)

And yeah, considering how much of Johns' GL run originated from Alan Moore stories, you'd think he wouldn't be as down on him in concept.
I do like the notion of recognizing that cultural/fan obsession with those darker entries (see 'Superman, Batman v') has led things to where they are now; I hadn't caught that little bit of metatextuality (because I'm dense, apparently).

I do like this overall- because it feels like the anti-One More Day, the recognition that comics fans care about relationships and storylines and history and want to see them paid off, not wiped away. You make a VERY good point about whether they'll actually be able to pull that off (DC is a mess these days, after all, with movies going in the opposite direction of hope and optimism and even their hopeful, optimistic shows trending darker this last season (except for Supergirl, which is why it was such a breath of fresh air!)).
Can I rant about something only tangentially related? I am really frustrated by people's tone-deaf reaction to Wally West's return.

See, I have seen a lot of people- in relation to the show, the movies, and the New 52 with the basic opinion of "Bleah- Barry Allen. He should just stay dead. I grew up with Wally West as my Flash!"

And now, I am seeing a lot of those people- including self-proclaimed Wally West fans- saying "Bleah! Not wally West! There is a black Wally West now and we don't want that white guy back!" They're making statements like 'by hope and optimism, DC means 'nostalgia'- and nostalgia means a bunch of white guys.' I hear similar criticisms about Spider-man again being Peter Parker in the movies, and not Miles Morales. Everything is being made about racial or gender politics and representation in comics these days (at least, on the few sites that I go to), and they act as if these choices are really just a bunch of racists pushing a white supremacy angle to decrease diversity in comics properties.

(Incidentally, btw, I have no problem with an african-american Wally West; on the TV show, he has joined Joe West and Cisco Ramone as one of the best characters on the show, even if they're dragging out giving him speed powers AGONIZINGLY long...)

The thing that I feel like people aren't getting is that this isn't about skin color (except to them). I can't speak to Wally West fans, but I rather assume it's the same phenomenon with Spider-man. I don't give a rip about Miles Morales right now because honestly, he's not my Spider-man. I don't have anything against the guy... but I've spent literal decades of my life reading about Peter Parker, learning his personality, becoming invested in his struggles and relationships. For the same reason, as cool as Falcon is (a great character, especially in the MCU), I really want to read about Steve Rogers as Captain America. And I suspect it's the same thing with 'original' Wally West.

People don't want them back/center stage because they're only interested in seeing white guys on screen, or on the page. They want them back because they're attached to the CHARACTERS. They want the Wally West that has experienced the things they read him experiencing, formed the bonds they've watched him fond, has the personality they grew attached to. The face doesn't matter- if Wally (or Peter, or Steve) stepped into that machine from 1970s Lois Lane comics and came out a different skin color, I don't think most people would care (besides rolling their eyes at the ridiculous plot device)- as long as it's the same person. *That's* the issue; that new Wally West (who is still around in the comics) is not the same guy that they became fans of. He has the same name, but not the same personality, or memories, or experiences, or relationships. And that's what they want- the characters they grew to know and love. So while fandoms for the new character-versions or replacement heroes certainly do occur, for all those that want 'their' superhero character back, it has nothing to do with their outward appearance; it has everything to do with the core of the character. But, those detractors who don't have an attachment to the old one, or are especially social-commentary focused in comics, are miscasting it as a race issue because all they can see is the skin color of the returning character, rather than any of their other qualities. (Ironic, for crusaders *against* judging people on their skin color). And it's really an unstudied, unfair, and obnoxious trend in commentaries that needs to stop; attacking what it doesn't even try to understand. It also does a disservice to a bunch of folks that just want to read about the guy they put their time and money into following the story of before, and making them out as racists just because they got attached to a character in the 90s whose ethnicity isn't politically correct today.

...Okay, soapbox down.
LiamKav said…
I get your point (although I probably wouldn't have said that being white is "not politically correct" these days, as I done agree with that at all).


Whilst your basic point of "people are attached to the characters" is true, it's also true that most of the long term characters tend to be white males (because they were created in the 30s or 60s or whenever.) You can't separate the two issues. We're, what, 12 films in to the MCU at this point, and they've all had a white male lead.

Bringing back Wally isn't the issue. It was doing it after they'd made a black Wally as a statement of intent, and now they're having to do an awkward dance to make them both legitimate.
Anonymous said…
"People don't want them back/center stage because they're only interested in seeing white guys on screen, or on the page. They want them back because they're attached to the CHARACTERS."

This, exactly. I'm pretty sure I've griped about Sam Wilson as Captain America, not because he's not a good man and a respectable hero, but because Captain America isn't just a role, it's STEVE ROGERS. And as we've seen before, Steve's shoes are damn difficult to fill. Putting Sam Wilson in the costume makes about as much sense as putting Hawkeye in the costume: there's no compelling reason to think it's a fit.

If you want to give the shield to someone else, fair enough, it's been done before, but don't pretend that it's going to be exactly the same. That said, there are some good candidates out there who would do the shield proud, and two of them happen to be black men: Patriot (Elijah Bradley) and Battlestar (Lemar Hoskins). They both have ties to the super-soldier program that make them more legitimately next in line. So giving the shield to Sam Wilson makes even less sense.

Thor's another one: it used to be that the ability to even lift Mjölnir was so rare that maybe four beings could do it: Thor, Odin, Beta Ray Bill, and, um, Steve Rogers. Storm was eventually added to the list, and that makes sense. But these days, pretty much anyone can pick up Mjölnir, on the flimsiest grounds: "he or she overcame their fear of public speaking, that's brave".

(Side note, there's a fanfiction rolling around my head about John Henry, and how Odin once offered him the hammer during a period when Midgard was short of heroes. John Henry refused, because what he does he needs to do as a man, and of course he went on to work himself to death to save his family and fellow railroad workers. I like to think Odin uses the tale of John Henry to explain Midgard courage to Asgardian warriors: no, Midgardians don't typically get into sword fights, but they can and do fight ferociously to protect their own.)
Anonymous said…
"Bringing back Wally isn't the issue. It was doing it after they'd made a black Wally as a statement of intent, and now they're having to do an awkward dance to make them both legitimate."

Yes. Just flipping Wally from white to black would not have been a big problem; we got over Klingons sprouting bumps as of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", a black Wally West isn't a problem in and of itself.

Does two Wally Wests in the family mean there are two Aunt Irises in the family too? And is Barry going to be a-courtin' both Irises? Ye gods, this is getting to be a mess.
Anonymous said…
Siskoid - your comments are 100% dead-on regarding "Rebirth". I think Johns is the guy you want when you need to repair a broken character, but when it comes to a broken universe, Johns tries way too hard to incorporate all the broken retcons. It doesn't make things better, and it sure as hell doesn't make it better to add the new twist that Watchmen are in on it.

A better fix ... ? Darkseid has been retroactively injecting despair into the DC Universe, somehow, to make it a place more to his liking and eventually willing to embrace him. (See that other comment I made today about Darkseid vs. Thanos and how Darkseid is used uncreatively.) The heroes go back in time, stop the plan, and suddenly the present is more the way it "should" be, with the JSA, legacy heroes, and so forth. Wally can be black, that's fine. And there's room for two Atoms, two Blue Beetles, and so forth. Don't even worry about the continuity that brought them to the current state of affairs, just position the characters in a good place to tell stories about them.

For giggles, have Wally wonder why there's red hair stuck in his comb.
Brendoon said…
"Ye gods, this is getting to be a mess."

Thank goodness the multiverse is on its way back (so folks tell me) to encourage diversity of reality...

Back before Crisis I recall they were saying "Ye gods, this is getting to be a mess" about the multiverse itself.
Personally I loved the multiverse which allowed writers to take as many liberties as they wanted. Bring on lawlessness! Anarchy in DC for me.

I remember when the 'verse shrunk back to a single continuity Supergirl had to die so they could keep Powergirl, Both being Kara Jor-El.
Man, that left me catatonic for years. My world had always HAD TWO super cousins, two Kal El's and Nightwing and flamebird lived in a bottle.

The problem is, I guess, writers and fans thinking their story arc actually matters in the long run, the hope is to enjoy it while it lasts.
Brendoon said…
I suspect the stories which work the best and have the most happy fans are the ones which still work for eight to ten year olds.
LiamKav said…
"Thank goodness the multiverse is on its way back"

I know you've not kept up (since, er, possibly 1986), but the Multiverse has been "back" for a decade by this point. And, frankly, with Hypertime and all that you could make an argument that it never really went away.

One other point on Rebirth... It's all very well for fans of the Post-Crisis/Pre-Flashpoint DC universe to say "things are going back to how they should be", but what about people who liked the New-52, DCNow!, and all that stuff? They're being told that their universe was, essentially, stupid and wrong. Which is exactly what happened at the end of Flashpoint when we were told the DC Universe was broken and needed fixing. It's notable (I think) that during Crisis On Infinite Earths no-one was talking about "fixing" the universe. In that case EVERYTHING was in danger, and the merging of the Earths was the only way to save anything. It was a very different approach.
Siskoid said…
Sorry I let this go on so long without commenting back! (I had a day.)

Snell: Are you telling me Ambush Bug never made a Watchmen joke? Now I have to dig through my complete AB collection to verify it!

On the topic of Wally and whitewashing: To be fair, Johns does actually quite well with this in Rebirth. He makes sure Wally has kind comments for the other Wally, and incorporates BOTH into the proposed template for the next DCU. He brings back Ryan Choi, whose death was seen as one of the first of a new wave of nostalgia-fueled whitewashing. He brings back the new, black Aqualad (his creation from Brightest Day), and makes him gay to boot. Yes he brings back Ted Kord, but Jaime's story is intertwined with his. So one of the things Rebirth definitely heralds is a commitment to diversity (the New52 also did that, but turned out to be a little disingenuous as one diversity-driven book after another was cancelled early).
LiamKav said…
Isn't that a bit similar to Green Lantern: Rebirth, where Johns says he went to great pains to make sure that Kyle wasn't seen as less important than Hal, before we spent the next 15 years being told how awesome Hal Jordan is?