DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH
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.