DC's Rebirth is finally here, and what was originally touted as being a tweaking of the company's status quo actually turned out to be a complete paradigm shift.
Not only is the entire New 52 getting thrown out, the company seems to be going back to the Pre-New 52 DC Universe in many ways, complete with the returns of longtime staples like the Justice Society, Green Arrow & Black Canary and The Teen Titans.
Oh, and behind the whole debacle of The New 52? Doctor Manhattan, who, along with the rest of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen characters, has never before stepped foot into DC's proper continuity.
DC Universe Rebirth #1 is a heady, trippy voyage through multiple universes, a fractured time stream and the very nature of the comic book industry itself. It's both a critique of what DC got wrong with The New 52 and perhaps a shot across the bow of the post-Watchmen comic book landscape.
There's a lot going on under the hood of Rebirth — way more than the company let on when it was first announced — but here are the major changes to the DC status quo moving forward:
The Original Wally West Is Back
Wally West was one of the earliest casualties of The New 52. For whatever reason, DC editorial decided to blink West out of existence when the reboot started, leaving Barry Allen as the one true Flash yet again.
The main goal of the New 52 was to simplify continuity and make comics that were easier to understand for new readers. Obviously having multiple Flashes running around might be a bit hard to grasp for some, so bye bye, Wally. However, this decision epitomized the fan animosity with the reboot, with many pointing out that the absence of Wally cheapened the Flash's legacy.
Oh Wally eventually returned during the New 52, but DC tweaked the character, now making him nearly unrecognizable from the original. Realistically, this wasn't an updated Wally for a new diverse landscape; the two characters shared nothing in common, so it was basically Wally in name only.
Well, the original Wally finally returned today, and he occupies the same universe as the New 52 Wally that was introduced a few years back.
Rebirth basically centers around the original Wally trying to find his way back to the DC Universe, having remembered the company's original status quo and all of the events before Flashpoint. By making contact with Barry Allen, Wally is brought back into continuity, and Barry, in turn, remembers the older DC world instantly.
Confusing, right? Here's a summary: the original Wally West is back, and because of him, the old DC is beginning to make a comeback.
The Justice Society Returns
Another heartbreaker brought upon by the New 52 was the end of the Justice Society of America. Before the 2011 reboot, the JSA was a group of WWII-era heroes that predated the Justice League. But in the New 52, they never existed; instead, Superman was the first hero the Earth ever witnessed, and he only became public knowledge during the 2000s. Sure there was a New 52 book called Earth 2 with a pseudo-JSA, but it wasn't the real deal.
In Rebirth, though, Wally remembers the real that JSA used to exist, and he even goes to visit one of the team's members, Johnny Thunder, in a nursing home. Though he's thought to be just be another old loon by the staff, Wally knows there's more to him — that he used to be part of the foundation of the DC Universe.
It was already announced that the JSA would be returning in some form, but we just don't know how or when. Will it be a period comic? Will the original Jay Garrick and Alan Scott return? Will the DC Rebirth bring back the Superman of Earth-2? There are a lot of questions we need answered, but, man, it just feels good to know the JSA is coming back.
Old Relationships Are Rekindled
The goal of the New 52 was to start everything fresh — no legacy teams, no overstuffed continuity and no relationships carried over to this new universe. That meant that plenty of marriages were wiped from existence, including some iconic ones like Lois Lane and Clark Kent and Green Arrow and Black Canary's.
The status of all of these relationships is still up in the air, but it is hinted that Green Arrow and Black Canary know something is missing from their lives as Wally travels through the universe. They're aware something was taken away from them, but they can't figure it out. And every time they see each other, that feeling only grows.
In the new Green Arrow series launching after Rebirth, DC teases "Together again for the first time, the Emerald Archer meets Black Canary." It's probably too much to hope that their marriage and relationship instantly get put back into place, but it's obvious the wheels are in motion. The same might be in the future for countless DC heroes as their former lives begin to make a return.
Who Watches The DC Universe?
Well it's been talked about for around a week already, but it needs to be repeated: The Watchmen universe is now officially part of the DC continuity. Not only that, but it appears as if the New 52 was the creation of Doctor Manhattan, who has spoken about giving a shot at creating life before.
For 30 years, the world of Watchmen and the DC superhero universe were kept separate. They were both published by the same company, but there was no real relationship between these two worlds. This is something of an iron curtain being breached, as DC editorial is now opening the floodgates between the two universes for the first time ever.
How all of this plays out is anyone's guess, but the big takeaway is that the Watchmen characters probably don't have the best of intentions for the DC Universe. As Wally points out, "Whoever they are, they did this for a reason. I think they took years from us to weaken us." Then he cryptically ends his speech to Barry Allen with, "Even now, Barry, we're being watched," just as Batman finds the Comedian's blood-stained smiley face pin gleaming in the Batcave.
What does Doctor Manhattan get out of creating the New 52? Was that reboot's grim, gritty, violent tone just an extension of what Manhattan thought of humanity? Was it a critique? There are countless ways to go here, and I have a feeling this is only the beginning.
DC Universe Rebirth #1 is on sale now.