Sunday, March 5, 2017

DC Universe Rebirth #1 (2016)


DC Universe Rebirth #1 (July, 2016)
"The Clock is Ticking Across the DC Universe"
"Chapter 1 - Lost, Chapter 2 - Legacy, Chapter 3 - Love, Chapter 4 - Life, Epilogue"
Writer - Geoff Johns
Pencillers - Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis & Phil Jimenez
Inkers - Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Joe Prado & Matt Santorelli
Colorists - Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb
Letterer - Nick J. Napolitano
Assistant Editor - Andrew Merino
Group Editor - Eddie Berganza
Special Thanks - Mike Cotton, Brian Cunningham & Amedeo Turturro
Cover Price: $2.99

Hey gang... welcome to our 400th Daily Discussion!

I wanted to pick a special issue for this quad-centennial (?) piece, and for whatever reason last year's DC Universe Rebirth popped right into my head.  It is a very special issue, one that evokes so many emotions in me... even if I'm reading it for the second or third time.

I'm going to try and keep my more indulgent chatter to a minimum... Lord knows I can go on during these milestone-missives.  Suffice it to say, I want to thank everyone who has stopped by over this past year-and-change of daily entries.  It's been a great time sharing some great (and not-so-great) stories with some new pals.  THANK YOU ALL!

One last thing before we head into the spoilery-synopsis... and, yeah... it's mighty spoiley, but I gotta imagine anybody who is reading this knows the ending to the Rebirth Special, right (especially with all the "Button" stuff going on currently)... I am thinking about making one entry per week a reader's choice.  Not sure if anyone would be interested, buuuut, if anyone reading has a particular issue they're dying to have me ruin discuss, please let me know.  If I have the physical copy (or can easily find it) I'd be down to give it a go.  Hit me up on Twitter @acecomics... I'm thinking if people dig it, maybe doing it most-every Friday.

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We open with a narrated piece over the deconstruction of a watch.  Our host discusses the lost of time... he and everyone... all lost time.  He continues by talking about the world... it's a world that he loves without question, however... something's missing.  His life and legacy has been torn away, and he is now searching through time for his "lightning rod" to "ground" him.  His first stop will be the Batcave...


... which is where our scene shifts.  Batman is discussing some of his new Mobius Chair knowledge with his butler.  Alfred refers to him as "Master Wayne", which strikes me as odd... I dunno.  Anyhoo, during the Darkseid War event when in possession of the Mobius Chair, he asked who the Joker was... only to learn that there are three such characters running about!


His brain-strain is soon interrupted by a flash of lightning... it's here we meet our host, Wally West.  The real Wally West... and it's here that I know we're in for one hell of a story.


Batman mistakes him for Barry Allen... which is sort of understandable, I guess.  Wally's connection to Bruce isn't strong enough to keep him tethered to existence... and so, he fades.  Before he does, however, he reminds Bruce about the letter Thomas Wayne wrote him during Flashpoint... I'm surprised that's even being referenced... but it will become rather important.


From here we get a bit of Wally West 101.  We go from his (super-convenient) origin story, through his time with the Teen Titans, the Crisis on Infinite Earths... his relationship with Linda Park, the return of Barry Allen, really everything except (thankfully) the kids, and then... nothing.  Barry went back in time... Flashpoint... yadda yadda yadda.  Wally posits that ten-years have been stolen from them... people lost their experience, and relationships were weakened... but when, and by who?


We shift to the Good Life Home for the Elderly where an aged man runs away from a pair of orderlies.  He locks himself in the kitchen... where he is visited by Wally!  This fella also has ties to the lightning, and Wally urges him to "use the genie" and find the Justice Society.  It isn't long before he is pulled back into the Speed Force.  The scene ends with the man... Johnny Thunder trying to summon Thunderbolt by using his summon phrase "Cei-U".  He is dragged back to his room by the orderlies.


A quick scene change to a young woman being interrogated at the Metropolis Police Precinct.  A woman, who might be Lee Lambert from the tail-end of the New-52! Action Comics (Was she a police officer or a firefighter?  I don't recall.) is questioning the young lady because she claims to be from the future.  If you're wondering, she stole a sandwich... because in the future, food is free!  She asks to speak with Superman, to which Lee(?) informs her that he is missing and feared dead.  The young lady is okay though... she knows everything will be okay, she is from the future, after all.  Among her effects is a very familiar ring.


Next up, Ivy University.  Student Ryan Choi is listening to Dean Plumm talking a bunch of spoo about his Professor, Ray Palmer.  After a tacky threat to have the young man deported, he runs off to Palmer's lab.  Once there a monitor comes on... on it is Ray Palmer... the Atom!  It is a prerecorded message for Ryan... and if he's seeing it, it's already too late!  Ray tries to pass along a warning... however, he must have exceeded the bandwidth or something, it cuts off before he gets to the juicy bits.


Another stop... this time with the Blue Beetles, Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes.  They chat for a bit before Jaime "beetles" up and heads off to school.  Just as he leaves, Dr. Fate arrives to warn Ted that his upcoming comic book series is going to be terrible.  Okay, not really... he just tells Ted that the Beetle Scarab is not technology, but magic.


Briefer vignettes follow.  We see Damien Wayne celebrating his Titanic thirteenth birthday, new Green Lantern Jessica Cruz getting some Sinestro 101 from Hal Jordan, and the all-new Aqualad... who if it's the same fella, we met (briefly) during Brightest Day seven years ago.  Seven years?  Are you kidding me?  Oof.


We wrap up this chapter with the lady who caused this whole mess... Pandora!  She is being chased by someone... something... and is killed (vaporized even!) in a very familiar way... hmm...


Chapter Three opens with Darkseid's daughter, Grail cradling... I wanna say Superwoman (from the Crime Syndicate)'s baby.  She mentioned that Wonder Woman has a twin brother named Jason.  We shift to the location where Superman (New-52!) perished.  Many of the heavy-hitters of the DC Universe are present.


Of the group are Green Arrow and Black Canary... who kind of steal a glance at one another.  They suddenly realize that something is missing... something that probably rhymes with Gike Mrell.


Over at the Siegel Motel, Clark Kent (the real one) is with his wife and son.  They discuss the apparent death of "this" Superman, and wonder if he'll make a comeback like Clark had after his battle with Doomsday.  Clark leaves to fetch some lunch for the fam, and along the way runs into the cloaked enigma Mr. Oz!  He informs our man that things might not be as they seem.


Next up, another vignette.  Aquaman proposes to Mera.


Back at the Superman-site, reporter for "Super News" Linda Park is trying to get the scoop.  She is shewed away because, really now... how silly is "Super News"?  Anyhoo, she walks off... and meets Wally West!  Hey, she was always his lightning rod back in the "real" DC Universe... why not now?  Well, probably because she doesn't know him anymore.  As the chapter closes, Wally sadly vanishes.


Chapter Four opens with Wally taking an electrified tour of the DC Universe.  We see bits from the Gotham tandem from Batman, and a bit from John Constantine and Swamp Thing.  Wally tries to make contact with anyone who might remember him, including Captain Boomerang, Dick Grayson, and Cyborg.  None of this is successful.


Along the way he runs into... Wally West.  The new one.  Here is where this book begins to "get" me.  Wally waxes on about how it looks like his days are over... and new-Wally's have just begun.  This really feels like a passing of the torch, and the first time I read this I had a strange sad lump in my throat competing with an angry fire in my belly.


Last stop for Wally is... well, Barry Allen of course!  After Barry saves a bunch of folks from a burning building, delivers pizzas, and renovates a restaurant... Wally presents himself.  He's not there for the potential "tether" though, he's there... to say goodbye.


He continues... telling Barry he needs to make sure Batman investigates the letter.  As he dissipates further he thanks his Uncle for an amazing life.  When he is barely particles, Barry's eyes widen... he mutters "Wally?" and reaches out...


If I were a betting man, I'd have put it all on Barry's hand going right through the mess of particles... maybe have a brief flashback... but then forget all over again.  I really thought the previous scene was setting us up to say goodbye to "our" Wally.  I haven't been this glad to be wrong in awhile.


Then we get the worst damn page ever to grace a comic book (and I mean that in the best way possible).  The two damn speedsters hug... and I'm a stupid, blubbering mess.


After which Wally fills Barry in on everything that's gone down.  Barry comes to the stark realization that everything is his fault.  Not so fast Allen... It wasn't you pal... it was someone else.


Speaking of which... we now head back to the Batcave where Batman is checking out the letter from his Flashpointy father.  While he reads he notices a glimmer coming from a corner of the cave... which he decides to investigate.


We wrap up the special with an epilogue that takes us off planet.  The watch from the opening pages is reassembled and our narration boxes change from a gold to a... baby blue.  The watch also undergoes a... telling metamorphosis.


And we are out.


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Well... this one sort of had it all, didn't it?

Before I start unpacking, I just want to preface with the fact that this is one issue that I have actively avoided reading reviews of... or listening to any podcasts that discussed it.  As strange as this is going to sound... and, it's pretty strange... this story felt very personal to me.  I know... weird/silly thing to say about one of the top-selling books of the year, but it's just how I feel.  Still sorta do, in fact.  I don't want to say this felt like an "apology", because it wasn't... it was more like visiting with an old friend I'd lost touch with.  I doubt I'm alone in feeling that way.

Also, this was the first time I actually (knowingly) double-dipped on a book.  Folks who know me know that I have been a DCBS customer since the launch of the New-52!  In the half-decade that followed, there hasn't been a single book released that I felt I needed to read on the day of release.  Generally, I'm cool with waiting the three-to-six days it takes to receive my books in the mail... DC Universe Rebirth is the exception.  I actually bought this at the shop, even though I had a copy in the mail.  While we're at it, this was probably the only time I'd ever (knowingly/purposefully) bought a variant cover (seen below)...

Let's start unpacking this with the scene that "got" me.  I'll come out and say it... I'm kind of a softy, not in that sarcastic "man tears" kind of way... I'm just sort of easily "moved".  There are plenty of comics that have "gotten" me, even a few that we've discussed here.  Ones that come to mind are The Death of Superman, Lois reuniting with the Kents following the death, and that JSA Christmas issue with Ma Hunkel.  They're all like a punch to the gut.  The scene here with Wally and Barry reuniting... is more like taking a cannonball to the gut.  Even rereading it for this discussion... it got me.  Dammit.

The entire lead up to that page... masterfully done.  It really felt like this was DC/Johns' way of "passing the torch" from one Wally to another.  This felt like a goodbye... so when Barry finally reaches out, I was sure his hand was going to phase right through Wally's.  But it didn't... and we had that sort of awkward page where they're both kind of just looking at one another... I actually felt like I was right there with them.  I was just trying to take it all in and make sense of it.  Then... that hug.  That damn hug... oof.  Not sure I'll ever be able to read that and not be affected.

Sticking with Wally for a bit longer... the handful of pages that comprised the opening chapter pretty much telegraphed that our narrator was him.  I was pretty psyched, Wally was (and is) my Flash, the guy I followed for two decades... but when I finally saw him, damn, that was so powerful... and completely sucked me in.  I mean being a post-Crisis kinda guy, I saw The New-52! as far-lesser in comparison.  If you were to say, like Wally does "I love this world. But there's something missing", I swear I could've listed a hundred things I felt were missing.  Then... we see Wally... and it just perfectly illustrates, without a word, what we had lost over the Summer of 2011... legacy, friends, family... and at the risk of sounding a bit precious, it wasn't just the heroes of the DC Universe that lost chunks of their lives, we sorta did too.

Luckily for those New-52! fans, they didn't lose much.  I've mentioned this a time or two, but please indulge me... when The New-52! was announced, folks were almost giddy that so many of us "seasoned" fans were losing everything.  It was strange... it was as though folks were dancing on the grave of our/my DC Universe.  I'm glad whatever new fans came after didn't have to have that happen to them.  This is probably as close to "the best of both/all worlds" as we're going to get for now... without, ya know... going all tabula rasa, or doing a Superman waking up from a "crazy dream he just had" kind of cop out path.

Would I have preferred just a reset to August of 2011?  Well, I'm a pretty big lore guy, so no.  I want everything to be part of something bigger... and the way this story was crafted allowed that to happen in a (mostly) organic sort of way.  The way this was written makes it so everything has happened.  We heard during the Spring/Summer of Convergence that "everything was on the table", but that didn't really live up to its promise.  With this issue, everything that occurred since Flashpoint is now part of the greater DC timeline.  We can forget about all that "Five Year Timeline" garbage... it's just there... after (or alongside) the post-Crises (plural) era.  I'm okay with that.  It's confusing, sure... but far less cruel and dismissive of the fans that stuck with this company through the thick and the thin... and lemme tell ya, we had some lean times as DC Comics fans.  We no longer need to hear the dismissive "Well, the story is right there on your shelf." remarks.  We know it's there... we just want it to matter... and now, it does... again.

Then there's that ending.  Now, I'm not the most Watchmanny guy out there.  I enjoyed it, thought it was fantastic, even... I just don't have as strong connection a to it that many seem to.  Even with that said, I was so taken by surprise here... so thrown for a loop.  I couldn't help but just sit there and stare for a bit.  So many possibilities... and perhaps the truest sign that absolutely EVERYTHING is on the table.  I anxiously await the upcoming "The Button" storyline to see what our next breadcrumbs might be.  Those might be issues I'll have to "double dip" on.

I know I'm gushing... and I apologize.  I honestly feel like this is probably a "best case" scenario with everything DC had added to the mix over the past decade.  This issue works hard to please everyone... and oddly enough, I really feel as though there is something for just about everybody to dig here.  Old jerks like me have a bit of vindication, and newcomers still have everything that they know to be true.  It's probably as close to a win-win as we're going to get... very well done all-around.

Overall... if you're reading DC Comics review blogs... you've already read this.  On the off chance you haven't, do yourself a favor and do so.  This is (duh) available digitally, even in a deluxe version (I don't know what makes the digital-version "deluxe" though).

And that's that!  Four-Hundred daily discussions in the can.  Will we make it to 500?  Maybe... not sure.  If my maths are right, I'll be getting my Psychology Degree right around the time #500 hits.  I guess we will see!  Before we go, I would like to thank everyone for reading, sharing, and reaching out!  It really means a lot to me in this lonely blogging world!  THANKS!

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Wrap-Around & Variant Cover:


The cover I ordered from DCBS
The cover I picked up from the LCS

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1 comment:

  1. A great review. Thorough, personal and very enjoyable. I dropped comics at probably the wrong time for this Rebirth to have the same emotional impact it had on you (2000-2012), but I can understand why the New 52 rubbed so many people up the wrong way. Despite what I’ve read elsewhere, I agree with you when you say that this issue was not an apology. It isn’t. Not really. It is, however, an acknowledgement that the New 52 was too brutal, too comprehensive, a reboot. It is an acknowledgement that the messiness and sheer weight of DC continuity is actually not a bug but a feature of the DC Universe.

    Onto the issue itself. Yes, the Wally-Barry reunion is the highlight of the issue. It brings, as my kids would say, all the feels. Like you, I was expecting this to be a bitter-sweet farewell to a fan favourite character (and each successive encounter only reinforced that sense of inevitability), but, dammit, Johns was better than that and thank goodness he was. The hug is one of the most powerful comic book moments I’ve ever read. Beautifully scripted and drawn, it’s a bold statement of intent from Johns and the creatives at DC. As is the button.

    This, though, brings us to the big problem with this issue. And it’s not actually with the contents of the issue at all, but rather what the issue represents and promises. Does it make sense not to have Batman pursuing the issue of the button straight away and finding at least some sort of answer or clue that will help unravel the greater mystery of just how the Watchmen might tie in with the wider DC Universe? Does it make sense to make us wait six or seven months before we get an issue focusing on the Atom? Many of the characters and moments highlighted or foreshadowed are simply issues of tone changing, or relationships developing, but some of the vignettes have a greater urgency to them and I can’t help feeling that a stronger development or exploration of some of these threads would have been a better strategy. I don’t read all of the Rebirth titles, but my understanding from listening to Jim, Eric and Reggie on the Weird Science DC Comics Podcast and from reading reviews from all around the net is that many of the Rebirth titles feel or have felt like they’re treading water, presumably because there are some aspects to those books’ characters and plotlines that will be resolved at a later date, because they tie in to the overall Rebirth ‘story’ – a story that has a strong start here, but has since seen much of the momentum it generated dissipate over the following months.

    All of which is metatextual, I suppose, but you can’t get away from the implications of this issue when discussing its impact. As an issue in its own right, Rebirth is lovely – beautifully and powerfully written; exceptionally well-drawn. Looking back on it now, though, it’s also disappointing, simply because so much of its promise remains, as yet, unfulfilled.

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