Posted in Comics n Stuff

Rebirths, Reboots and Retcons. May 2016

Last week, I posted something about my giving DC comics another try. I added at the end, I may review them. You know what, I think I will.

Since I don’t review or discuss comics under three months old, I feel that this time, I must caution anyone who cares, there will be spoilers, but to be honest, it’d be surprising if anyone interested has either not read the comics in question, or not had it spoilt somewhere else, but heigh-ho.

SPOILER WARNING

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Is that a big enough gap?

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DC Universe Rebirth was written by Geoff Johns and was pencilled by a rotating roster of Gary Frank, Phil Jiminez.

Synopsis: The story opens with narration from the story’s lead, who after we see Bruce (Batman) Wayne trying to understand some conflicting information about the Joker, is revealed to be Wally West, former Kid Flash, former Flash and high profile casualty of the post ‘Flashpoint’ Nu52 continuity. Wally is trapped in the Speed Force, source of this reality’s speedster characters. He’s tried to get back to the life he knew, which thanks to issues both in-story and not, that life no longer exists. Wally tries to get Bruce to believe/remember, but this failure pulls him back into the Speed Force, but he is able to point him in the direction of the truth, by mentioning the letter from Bruce’s father.

 

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Wally then thinks about his history and the events leading upto ‘Flashpoint’ and the Nu52. His time as Kid Flash, Barry’s ‘death’, Wally’s time as the Flash and Barry’s return. There’s then another attempt to reconnect, this time with Justice Society of America member Johnny Thunder, who can’t call his Thunderbolt/Genie. This is the first mention of the Justice Society as it was for a good 5 years now.

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There’s some cutaway scenes now. There are secrets about Wonder Woman’s history, a woman claiming to know the future being interrogated by police, who have confiscated a Legion of Super Heroes flight ring. In Ivytown, Ray (the Atom) Palmer has vanished, leaving a message to recruit his assistance Ryan Choi, there’s a warning, but Choi never gets it. Ted Kord is trying to get Jamie Reyes to use the scarab of the Blue Beetle for heroic purposes, when Jamie leaves, Ted is met by Dr Fate, who informs him, the scarab isn’t alien technology, it is magic. There’s the sudden death of the mysterious Pandora, who dies in a very distinctive manner. Arthur (Aquaman) Curry proposes to his long time girlfriendf Mera. Also a brief look at legendary couple Green Arrow and Black Canary, who in this world and time, have nothing to do with one another.

 

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The world reels from the death of Superman, but the pre-Flashpoint Superman is hiding with his wife and son, He’s met by Mr Oz, who puts the idea out, that his memories are wrong, he is not who he thinks he is, nor was the Superman who died.

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Wally tries to connect with others from his past, Digger (Captain Boomering) Harkness, Victor (Cyborg) Stone, Dick (Nightwing) Grayson and the love of his life Linda Park. None of them know him and he feels he is fading from a reality that has no place for him. There’s even another Wally West, his cousin, soon to be the new Kid Flash. Wally begins to lose hope, ready to say goodbye, he finds his best friend, his childhood idol and his mentor Barry (The Flash) Allen.

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Wally Appears before him and as he tries to say goodbye, in a fairly moving scene, Barry does something no one expects, and no one else did, he remembers Wally. This connects Wally to the world again, he is made whole and hugs his uncle. He confirms with Barry that this darker timeline and the changed relationships aren’t the after effects of Barry’s Flashpoint, but something else is going on.

In the Batcave, Batman find a smiley face button, with a familiar bloodspurt on it. The epilogue on Mars shows a clock 15 minutes to midnight and dialogue from the comic series Watchman ends this issue as the image of a watch started it. Ozymandius and Doctor Manhatten are here.

The Clock is ticking.

Notes: It would be very easy to consider this some kind of cheap cash grab and publicity stunt, but from what I could see, there’s not much else DC Comics could really do here. While there were some successes from the Nu52, it was becoming something of an unworkable mess. The good things were good, there was a slew of new series with decent ideas and a sense of jump on this new thing that DC hadn’t had since 1994 and their post Zero Hour issues. This gave the idea that continuity wasn’t an issue, no more Hawkman/Donna Troy sort of things. (Look up the comics history of Hawkman, I dare you.) The problem was more with the execution, many interesting series were quickly cancelled, or retooled to be unrecognisable. Characterisation was dumped in favour of edgy and dark new directions. Continuity was just as much a mess, Tim Drake was Robin, no, wait, Tim Drake was never Robin. There was an original Teen Titans, no there wasn’t, was there? There was editorial control the likes not seen since Jim Shooter’s time at Marvel Comics and an exodus of talent. While some good stories came out of it, by and large the Nu52 was not the resounding success in terms of story, or indeed of sales. One of their event series called Convergence had the side effect of several two part mini-series which showcased lost timelines and alternate stories, which had the effect of reminding the audience of what DC used to be like. After Convergence, there was more of an attempt to shake things up and try new things, but I don’t think that this had the effect that was wanted. So to be honest DC needed to do some fan pleasing, to bump up their bottom line and smooth over some occasionally bad PR. So by the time I picked this book up, I was already seeing this a cynical move by a company with a history of not great decisions in an industry that slowly eating itself to death. My hopes were not up, when I pressed the button on comixology. But I did have some hope left.

Hope is what has been missing from the DC Comics universe (or DCU) for a while, that absence of hope drove me away. This had the beginnings of that hope. Wally West was one of the great casualties of the Nu52. He started as Kid Flash and had a very clear arc of change. From Sidekick, to teen hero. From teen hero to replacement Flash. From replacement Flash to his own man. From there he became as great a hero as Barry Allen, if not better and certainly the best written Flash. When Barry was brought back, it was clear that Wally was not going to be around much longer. I miss him as a character and to have him back is great, especially since it doesn’t interfere with DCs plans for the other Wally West. The writing is solid, if at times a little perfunctory and Johns’ history with the characters have everyone sounding as you would expect.  Outside of the Wally West visits people story, we get a lot of small one to two page vignettes showing the current status of some characters and changes in the lives of others. All of which seem at least interesting. We see Wonder Woman’s history questioned, the Nu52 Superman being dead and the pre-Flashpoint Superman being pulled more into the centre of the DCU.

Barry and Wally’s reunion was genuinely touching. They were like father and son, mentor and pupil, but above all they were friends, they clearly love each-other and their reunion is a moment of hopeful joy. There has been a darker era and maybe this right here, is the beginning of something brighter. Since we can’t blame focus groups and editorial decisions on an in-story basis, we need a villain. So what we get is Watchman. My first reponce was REALLY? We doing this now? But it makes a degree of sense, no current villain either has the power or the status to do this and no one expected them to back to the Watchmen well. It creates controversy and online headlines and this can translate to sales. It did in my case at least.

This was a promising start to another desperate initiative from DC Comics to claw back lost fans and acquire the elusive new readers. Will it work any better than the realaunch in 2011, or the recent DCYou relaunches? I don’t know, but this was a decent comic written by someone who likes these characters and for the first time in a while, I got to read characters I recognised without either nostalgia or that “Well this won’t last feeling.”

Next Time: Aquaman Rebirth

 

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Author:

Liverpool based family man and unrepentant geek, trying to understand what's going on in my own head, which is not always being a good place to be. Remember always, we live in a world of wonders.

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