Thursday, 26 May 2016

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review (Geoff Johns, Gary Frank)

The New 52 exploded like a giant stink-bomb in September 2011, a line-wide reboot tying their DC, Wildstorm and Vertigo characters together into one overloaded, incoherent universe, and, spitting in the face of 70+ years of continuity, reset their numbering back to #1. The desperate move put DC ahead of Marvel briefly before readers realised from the shoddy quality of too many of the comics that DC didn’t know what they were doing and then sales tapered off; the New 52 died quietly in the summer of 2015 amidst indifferent yawns. 

After the godawful Convergence last year, DC attempted a soft relaunch called DC You which aimed to address the lack of diversity in its catalogue and appealed to a wider demographic, particularly the growing number of women comics readers. Sales didn’t improve and so now we have yet another reconfiguration of the DC line with Rebirth which aims to reinstate pre-New 52 continuity and characters, appealing this time to the hardcore DC faithful (ie. middle-aged white men). 

I’ll say SPOILSIES at this point even though this issue is basically one long spoiler and is meant to be a sizzle reel for what’s to come in the next few months from DC. The short version of my review is that this comic is not very good and what’s coming looks boring for the most part. 

How you feel about this issue will largely depend on your familiarity with DC lore. If you’re a more casual reader like me who pretty much only likes the Trinity – Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman – you’re not going to be terribly impressed with what DC have to offer here. 

Continuing Gene Luen Yang’s Superman storyline, the Man of Steel is still “dead” and has a beard; Batman is still in Metron’s chair, discovers Joker is really three people (that alone made me cancel my preorder for the series), and a mysterious letter from his dad becomes super-important; and Wonder Woman finds out she has a brother. Nothing but meh here though it shows that this isn’t a reboot as these characters’ current storylines are ongoing. 

Like waving a bag of dogshit in front of you before you sit down for a meal, it doesn’t help that the comic kicks off with a similar scene from Batman v Superman where Wally West Flash appears to Batman in a brief confusing scene before disappearing again. That’s who our narrator is for this comic - Wally West – and it’s supposed to be a big deal because the white guy version of Wally West was erased from the New 52 timeline. I honestly didn’t notice but my knowledge of the Flash saga is extremely limited because I’ve never liked the character(s) much. 

Wally the Flash is doing what every Flash does in a Crisis-storyline (which this is in all but name): running right quick and using the Speedforce to change timelines or something. There’s a brief bio of Wally’s dull and derivative life and a recap of the Flashpoint storyline, because this is a sort of sequel to that, before something new – what a novelty! – is mentioned: “someone” stole ten years from the heroes and wiped out their memories! Interesting that the DC chuckleheads who dreamt up the New 52 are being framed as villains by their own characters – or are they... (steeples fingers)? 

So Wally’s running to let everyone know it’s not over (“it” is classic continuity) – and then what, Wally? You enigmatically tell people “Hey, it’s not over!” and then you disappear? I don’t understand what he’s doing in this comic. 

The rest of the issue is a slideshow of pure fan service. Ray Palmer/The Atom is back. Ted Kord/The Blue Beetle is teaming up with a kid for some reason – and Doctor Fate! Aquaman proposes to Mera – weren’t they already married?! Romance is hinted at between Green Arrow and Black Canary so that relationship is being re-done. Aqualad is black AND gay so DC are can pat themselves on the back for doing their part for diverse representation in comics. Barry Allen Flash and Wally reuniting is the “emotional” crux of the issue but, like I said, whether that means anything to you – like everything else listed above – depends on your familiarity with the characters. If you know little to nothing about them, like me, you’re not gonna care about any of that. Two Flashes hugging - fart. I’m definitely not tempted to pick up any of these titles to read what happens next! 

Fuming DC Fanboy: Did you like anything about the comic, YOU MISERABLE MARVEL-TARD FUCK!? 

(Brushes foam off face) I’m not a Marvel zombie (go Drawn + Quarterly!) and yes – the Watchmen reveal at the end was interesting. I mentioned earlier that “someone” had stolen ten years from the heroes and wiped their memories and it turns out it wasn’t the DC Editors (even though it was) but it was the Watchmen who’re now part of the DCU. I think I liked it because I’m not much of a Watchmen fan – it’s definitely the most overrated comic ever – and it’ll be amusing seeing the reactions of the hardcore Watchmen fans who’re probably gonna be mad as hell to see DC fucking with their beloved characters again (remember Before Watchmen a few years ago?). You know DC’s L’il Gotham series? We’re so close to having the Simpsons joke, Watchmen Babies, come true! I wonder if a Watchmen/DC event comic - it’ll have some dumb name like Watchmen War or DC Universe Vs Watchmen - is the secret title Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are working on? 

I also liked the death of Pandora, a character who appeared in every first issue of the New 52 and came to symbolically represent the New 52 as a whole (that is, garbage). Killing her off is DC definitively putting a lid on the whole New 52 crapfest. The art team for this issue was very strong too: Gary Frank, Ethan van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez are all first class artists. And you can’t knock the value of the comic - $2.99 (or $1.99 digital) for a 60+ page issue (the remaining 20ish pages are covers/ads) is very decent. 

Because of DC’s regular universe rejigging (three reboots/relaunches in five years!) I’ve not come to expect much from them and Rebirth pretty much lived up to that. This issue tells us that they’re not trying anything new and heading back to the same old stuff. It’s disappointing for me because I want to see DC take some chances (mixing in the Watchmen kinda counts - we’ll have to see what they do with them). 

The best, most memorable (and, inevitably, some of the worst) storylines come from taking risks with your characters - I can’t think of any that emerged from playing it safe. That said, I was willing to give Tom King’s Batman series a shot but after finding out here where that title is headed, it’s turned me completely off buying it. I’ll still read it (and Superman and Wonder Woman) but it’ll be in collected edition – from the library. So actually this bumper issue launching Rebirth not only failed to excite me but also had a detrimental effect on what forthcoming titles I’ll be picking up. 

If you’re an old school DC fan you’ll probably get a lot from this issue and fill your Batman drawers in anticipation of what’s ahead. A lot of casual, newer readers though are gonna be baffled with a number of scenes crammed into this issue and might think twice about delving into these new Rebirth titles. 

Whatever your reaction, know that we’re never far away from DC’s next universe changing relaunch so don’t worry, they’ll give you something you like eventually before yanking it away just as quickly! I just have one suggestion: when Rebirth fails in a year or two, DC have to call their next reconfiguration Afterbirth!

DC Universe Rebirth #1

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