I’m not the biggest fan of DC in the world. Heck, I’m not even sure I’d call myself a big comics fan. Sure, I do love many comic books, but as far as comic “universes” go? I don’t really care. I read runs people recommend me, I pick out specific graphic novels — I love the stories for what they are. DC: Universe Rebirth is the initial issue of DC’s new big crossover event, though it may not be the New 52 style run-wide soft “reboot” it sounds like.
“Rebirth” could mean simply something beginning again, something born anew. But in this case it means a “rebirth” more along the lines of things coming back. The New 52? Apparently some people didn’t like that (I’m mainly familiar with Snyder’s great Batman run, though) — so they’ve decided to go back and bring back some of the stuff that they shelved back then. It’s a weird thing to write out, but essentially things they did away with are now back again. If anything it’s a reboot reversal — a reneg. But, conceptually, if the things people liked about the New 52 remain, and the things people liked and lost of pre-New 52 come back, everyone’s a winner right?
The issue follows Wally West, who apparently died in Flashpoint or something (which is apparently the in-universe thing that “birthed” the New 52 (or at least it was until this issue (just go with it))), as he tries to reconnect to the real world. He’s lost in the speed force, and has been ever since his supposed death, and the only way he can return is if someone remembers him — which will then act as an anchor to the real world — before his essence is fully absorbed into it. This is quite a nice framing device. Not only because Wally is quite likeable and a fan favourite, but because this gives the book many opportunities to scoot all over the DC Universe, stopping in on different characters. These encounters are split up into chapters within the book, and at a hefty 70ish pages, it has a lot of room to visit a lot of different places.
The book begins with Wally attempting to make a connection with Batman, who is still coming to terms with the Joker actually being three people which just sounds pretty dumb to me. It then moves through a whole bunch of characters quite quickly. Wally doesn’t meet up with all of them, he just kind of sees them or thinks about them. Through these vague panels and narration we’re introduced to potentially more new status quos — but that’s not really obvious unless you already know what there was before. It doesn’t make a big deal about a lot of this. It’s just kind of seeding what you need to know going forward in an unobtrusive way. Aqualad is gay, I don’t think that was thing before? But it’s stated in a fine and natural way here. But people just standing around a crater looking sad? Fairly meaningless if you don’t know what’s up. It turns out the Blue Beetle Scarab is actually magic and not alien tech? Okay, I guess… Is that a reveal? Sure. Some of these bits are very hit and miss with how vague they are. It’s nice to see it catering for fans, but big events like this often bring in a lot of new readers.
It’s the sections where Wally is most directly interacting with the narrative and the characters that the story shines, but they can be a little few and far between. Even for me, who doesn’t know very much about Wally West as The Flash at all, there is emotion in his fleeting meetings with characters who cannot remember him. Not so much when he’s just thinking about or observing The Atom being involved in some kind of predicament, or just thinking about all of The Flash team and how many damn speedsters there are. I mean, there are so many, do we really need Wally back, actually?
Of course, the ending does confirm that not only have elements of the old DC Universe (such as Wally) been brought back, but also that some other previously not-connected DC works have been brought into the main DC Universe. Yep, it’s not really even spoilers at this point, but the Watchmen are apparently responsible for the New 52 and the “stealing” of 10 years from everyone. The ending where Batman finds The Comedian’s spoiled pin-badge is so on the nose that it is just iconically awful. It’s laugable honestly. Though the whole thing about how it’s silly to bring the Watchmen — a work that is basically a commentary on the sort of superhero comics that populate the DC Universe’s range — into the main universe is a whole other blog post.
So is DC: Universe Rebirth a good comic? Yeah, it’s all right. It sets up the new status quo pretty easily, and is a good size for the reduced price of this one. They were even giving away copies at one point. The stuff that’s focused on Wally surpasses the rest of it, and there’s a lot of quite vague stuff. And, I don’t like the ending. But for what it is, it’s worth a read for sure.