ALERT! The following contains lots and lots of SPOILERS!
“Whoah…” is perhaps the most quintessential response you’ll get from anyone who has read the overarching, titular DC Universe Rebirth one-shot. There’s probably a little glimmer in fans’ eyes as their mouths sit open.
But whose wouldn’t be?
As Batman scours the Batcave following an early-story visit from Wally West as the Flash, we’re craftily guided by the narration of West and Barry Allen, the original Flash, to one of the biggest crossover reveals in DC Comics history.
Batman picks from a tattered, crumbled wall a shining object seemingly left over from Allen’s appearance in Wayne Manor’s greatest-kept secret. In the final, full-page panel, Allen says, “We’re being watched,” as Batman pulls the iconic, smiley-face badge of the Comedian from the 1986-87 series “Watchmen” from the wall.
The History Lesson
But in a concerted effort to NOT regurgitate DC Comics’s 80-page one-shot, let’s review the highlights and explore further some of the less clear concepts. First, though, I think it’s essential to understand what exactly DC Comics is doing with respect to its elaborate history.
A question a lot of people are probably asking is, “What is the DC Universe Rebirth?” I think the better question might actually be, “What ISN’T the DC Universe Rebirth?” Well, for starters, it is not—I repeat, not—a reboot. To understand what that exactly means, let’s go back to the very beginning.
When Superman appeared in 1938, he was well received by an American population also concerned with the thought of war. His popularity gave way to new super characters like Batman and Wonder Woman. Though, when World War II ended, the comic-book genre dissipated, and science fiction took over.
So in 1956, DC Comics’s Julius “Julie” Schwartz implemented a quasi-reboot in an effort to reinvigorate the comic-book genre. With all characters receiving new origin stories but as the same characters, two anomalies struck fans as odd: The Flash and Green Lantern were reintroduced as Allen and Hal Jordan, respectively, instead of as their previous characters, Jay Garrick and Alan Scott, respectively.
Schwartz’s definitive response established the creation of the multiverse, as he said Allen and Jordan existed on Earth-1 while Garrick and Scott existed on Earth-2.
Though, as the multiverse continued to expand extensively with literally hundreds of issues, it made it difficult for new readers to enter the DC Comics realm of imagination. Comic-book writer Marv Wolfman enters the scene and spearheads the first official reboot of DC Comics with “Crisis on Infinite Earths” in 1985.
In “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” characters from all realities existed on one planet, in one reality. That was dubbed New Earth. Wolfman and company brought together all of the popular heroes, gave them new origin stories and disposed of the unpopular characters.
Over the next two decades, there were two more crises: “Infinite Crisis,” which brought back the multiverse after “Crisis on Infinite Earths” discarded the idea, and “Final Crisis,” which had the characters be made aware that the multiverse existed.
Ultimately, in 2011, DC Comics started a second reboot, this time resulting in “The New 52” era. As the new series was not well received, DC Comics chief creative officer Geoff Johns salvaged what worked from the relatively unpopular series and combined that with what worked before it.
The result is the DC Universe Rebirth.
Whew… That took longer than expected. Obviously there’re a lot of details I didn’t go over, specifically regarding the three different crises I mentioned. While not completely necessary to review, I suggest reading over at least a synopsis of what occurred to get a more-complete understanding.
Anyway, let’s move onto the noteworthy bits in the issue at hand.
No. 1: The Speed Force has Wally West
For 90 percent of the setup one-shot, West as the Flash is trapped in what is called the Speed Force, an extra-dimensional energy that powers the speedsters of DC Comics. Throughout the issue, West is trying to find an emotional connection with people he once knew so that he can return to reality. What makes this difficult is that when his Uncle Allen, traveled back in time to prevent his mother’s death at the hands of the Reverse-Flash, the flashpoint was created.
During Allen’s time in that alternate reality, West says that some force outside of time managed to remove 10 years from the original timeline. In doing so, a new reality had unfolded; a reality in which West didn’t exist.
After several unsuccessful visits to superheroes—including Batman, Cyborg, Nightwing and even Johnny Thunder—and even to his former wife, Linda Park, West eventually returns to reality after Allen manages to recognize his all-grown-up nephew.
Throughout his travels through the Speed Force, West introduces the audience to characters new and old. In addition to the aforementioned heroes, here’s a list characters that are briefly seen:
- The Atom
- Baby Darkseid
- The Black Canary
- The Blue Beetle
- Captain Boomerang
- Damian Wayne
- Grail (Darkseid’s daughter)
- Green Arrow
- Jessica Cruz (who appears to have recently joined the Green Lantern Corps)
- John Constantine
- Pandora (but she gets obliterated)
- Swamp Thing
- Wally West’s cousin Wally West
No. 2: Three is better than one
In “Justice League” issue No. 50 of “The New 52” era, Batman discovered through the use of the Mobius Chair that there are three Jokers from three different timelines. Bruce Wayne acknowledges their existence with all three Jokers dominating screens in the Batcave. He says he needs to find out what it really means that there are three Jokers shortly before West pays Batman an unexpected visit.
No. 3: Saturn Girl and the Legion of Super-Heroes
As West is aimlessly tumbling through the Speed Force, he says he senses someone else outside of time; someone who’s lost like him. Next, we see a blonde female in a red top in an interrogation room. Though we never see her face, the interaction is telling of the possibility that this is Saturn Girl of the Legion of Super-Heroes.
The Legion of Super-Heroes was initially formed as a Superman fan club by 30th- and 31st-century teenagers Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy and Lightning Lad. They have the ability to time travel and even did so in early publications to recruit the Man of Steel.
Who we presume to be Saturn Girl says she knows everything’s going to be alright because she’s seen the future. As more proof that this is the founding female member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Legion Flight Ring was confiscated from her.
No. 4: Dr. Fate and Mr. Oz
Apart from your regular host of DC Comics superheroes littered throughout the issue, we get visits from two mysteriously powerful figures: Doctor Fate and Mr. Oz.
Doctor Fate appears before Ted Kord of Kord Industries after a conversation between the latter and Jaime Reyes. Reyes, who is the Blue Beetle, pleads with Kord to help him get the beetle off of him shortly before Doctor Fate appears. Instead, Kord encourages Reyes to keep his powers as he introduces Reyes to a flying headquarters that he’s dubbed “the Bug.”
Anyway, Doctor Fate tells Kord that he mistakes the artifact on Reyes to be an alien technology shortly after Reyes flies off to school; instead, the artifact is an item of magic. Kord is seemingly titillated by this idea.
Mr. Oz is a little less straightforward. He visits Clark Kent, the Superman from another universe, at a motel where he, Lois Lane and their son Jonathan are staying. In previous encounters with Kent, Mr. Oz always speaks to him on a personal level. In previous interactions, he claimed to have taught Superman two things: 1) to always get up when knocked down, and 2) that Superman must always be alone.
In their brief but meaningful encounter, Mr. Oz says to Kent, “You and your family are not what you believe you are. And neither was the fallen Superman.”
No. 5: “We’re being watched”
Mainstream DC Comics characters meet the Watchmen in our latest bout. The two universes have previously never met, and it will be interesting to see how the two sets of heroes with vastly different tones in storytelling interact.
From Rorschach’s crazed detective mind combating the greatest detective in the world, to the most epic showdown between Superman and Dr. Manhattan, there are so many potentially great storylines.
In the epilogue, we’re transported to Mars, where the watch West said he lost is seen being disassembled and reassembled by presumably Dr. Manhattan. We’re then treated to an homage to the original “Watchmen” series, as the nine-panel format seen primarily used in the series guides us through the watch scene. It closes with a word-for-word dialogue between Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias.
I’m beyond thrilled to see the interaction between the two universes. Both the storytelling tones and the stories themselves are different. With the Watchmen, there’s always a sense of realism, as the only character with superpowers is Dr. Manhattan. Furthermore, their world is simply a slightly altered history than our own, with similar events like the Vietnam War and the Cold War being integral parts of the “Watchmen” universe. In the mainstream DC Comics Universe, we have almost literally the exact opposite situation, as Batman is one of only a few superheroes without superpowers. We’ll see how the two sides combat each other.
Speaking of Batman, we’re going to be focusing on his individual story arc next. I’m excited to see how the three Jokers story unfolds, as well as how Batman first deals with the Watchmen situation, as he is the first one to discover their existence (apart from West’s speculation, of course).