Born again

SFX - - Reviews - Ge­off Johns com­pares Re­birth to The Force Awak­ens: “It goes back to the clas­sic tropes, but in­tro­duces new char­ac­ters.”

Back in 2011, DC Comics re­launched its en­tire line. La­belling the event The New 52, DC de-aged its most iconic char­ac­ters, erased con­ti­nu­ity the com­pany had spent decades ac­cu­mu­lat­ing, and started afresh from #1. The aim was to bring back read­ers alien­ated by com­plex plots and crossovers re­quir­ing an en­cy­clopae­dia to un­der­stand. Ul­ti­mately, the ex­per­i­ment failed, with the comics side of the DC en­ter­prise suf­fer­ing its worst sales in decades. Sure, their TV shows are pop­u­lar, and their MCU-style movie uni­verse launched re­cently with Batman V Su­per­man: Dawn Of Jus­tice, but with­out the comics to in­spire the fran­chises, DC would be stuck in ever de­creas­ing cir­cles.

So, when the com­pany an­nounced an­other brand-ad­just­ment, named Re­birth, fans were un­der­stand­ably wor­ried – could DC sur­vive an­other failed re­boot so soon after the last one? Thank­fully, those wor­ries have been as­suaged by this gi­ant-sized one-shot, our first glimpse at the Re­birth project – and not just be­cause it’s ex­cel­lent (and it re­ally is).

The book does con­tain a con­tro­ver­sial twist (which we won’t spoil here), that caused fan fo­rums to light up the mo­ment the is­sue hit shelves, but the big­gest twist of Re­birth is that it’s not a re­boot at all. It’s ac­tu­ally one of the most as­ton­ish­ing arte­facts in comic his­tory: it’s a com­pany pub­licly ad­mit­ting its mis­takes, apol­o­gis­ing, and promis­ing to do bet­ter, in the form of a mov­ing and thrilling story.

We fol­low the Flash’s Wally West in­car­na­tion – erased by The New 52 con­ti­nu­ity – as he trav­els through DC’s iconic mul­ti­verse, try­ing to bring him­self back to re­al­ity by ask­ing char­ac­ters to re­mem­ber who he is.

It’s a beau­ti­ful, goose­bumpsin­duc­ing con­cept (with lovely, var­ied art), made even more ad­mirable by writer (and DC ex­ec­u­tive) Ge­off Johns’s abil­ity to ap­praise what went wrong with in­di­vid­ual New 52 char­ac­ters, and the DC line as a whole, with West’s ob­ser­va­tions match­ing most fans’ neg­a­tive opin­ions. By mak­ing char­ac­ters younger, DC lost its most valu­able as­set, its his­tory. And, more im­por­tantly, by go­ing dark tonally, it lost its sense of op­ti­mism. “See­ing ev­ery­thing, I re­alise it wasn’t 10 years that was stolen from us,” Wally ob­serves at one point. “It was love.”

Re­birth is the re­turn of DC’s lost magic, the pin­na­cle of what we adored about the comics they put out: smart char­ac­ters cross­ing mul­ti­ple uni­verses in the search for kind­ness, and hope. It’s a brave book, it’s a heroic book, and it might just save DC from it­self. Sam Ashurst

It’s DC ad­mit­ting its mis­takes and promis­ing to do bet­ter

A mo­ment later the gi­ant coin fell on the di­nosaur and all hell broke loose.

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