SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't read DC Universe: Rebirth #1, you'll want to do that before reading on. Besides, it's a great book. You'll thank me later!
The day comic fans have been looking forward to is finally here. DC Comics is saying goodbye to the New 52 and launching DC Universe: Rebirth. Not a full-on reboot (which Geoff Johns really, really wants you to know), but more of a soft refresh of the DC continuity and a return to focusing on what makes their characters who they are. Johns explained the reasoning eloquently in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter:
Wow. Even the CCO of DC admitted that their books were lacking hope and optimism after five years of the New 52. That speaks volumes. I have to completely agree with him. There was a definite disconnect between traditional DC and the New 52 DC.
Since the New 52 launched in 2011, I struggled to keep up with DC continuity, even with the Superman titles which had always been my favorites. Their attempts to deconstruct the characters fell short for me. It seemed as though DC's leadership suddenly felt their characters weren't good enough and needed to be radically different, not only in their costumes but in their demeanors as well. DC heroes are often criticized for being a group of bland, goody-two-shoes guys in spandex — plus Wonder Woman. In my opinion, they went a little too far in the other direction with the New 52. The intentions were noble, but I think in trying to make their characters more badass, they lost sight of the hope and optimism that makes the DCU so special to its fans.
I should mention there were a number of New 52 stories that I did genuinely enjoy. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang's run on Wonder Woman had brilliant writing and absolutely gorgeous art. Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr.'s all-too-brief collaboration on Superman brought my geek heart some much-needed joy. Certain storylines in Green Lantern and Superman/Wonder Woman were also really fun. But overall, the last five years felt like an alternate reality where the DC heroes weren't quite themselves. And Geoff Johns seems to agree. Here's his take on the New 52 interpretation of Conner Kent a.k.a. Superboy:
And that brings us to today. Today, DC published Justice League #50, Superman #52, and DC Universe: Rebirth #1. Effectively tying up the major New 52 storylines and introducing the new continuity. And it was everything I could have hoped for.
I haven't been nearly this excited to read a comic in years — maybe even since 2009's Blackest Night. For someone who was obsessively reading and collecting comics for several years, that is a long time to muddle through hoping for something to make you care again. I'm hoping that I can officially close the book on that time now. I absolutely can't wait to buy new comics again next Wednesday.
Rebirth is exactly what it should have been. It puts a bow on the current New 52 stories, but it doesn't set them aside completely, either. It manages to keep the events of the New 52 intact while re-folding the pre-New 52 events back into continuity. We learn that the reason for the disconnect of the last five years was that some unknown force outside of time had been disassembling pieces of our heroes' lives. And now, Wally West has tapped into the Speed Force and is trying to alert everyone to what's happened and remind them of their lost memories. In classic Geoff Johns fashion, the old and the new are married in a way that is greater than the sum of the parts. No need to put one down to raise up the other; old and new enhance one another.
Then comes the big reveal. Fans of Watchmen will recognize the dialogue as it is revealed that Dr. Manhattan is that unknown force behind the trouble in the DCU. This scene beautifully interprets Dr. Manhattan's last lines in Watchmen and explains exactly where he went: to create the universe of the New 52. It's a mind-blowing moment that makes me smile and gives me hope for the direction in which this universe is headed.
It's been a long time coming, but I think I am finally ready to embrace the DC Universe again. If DC can harness this positivity and inject it into their films too, I'll be the biggest DC fanboy once again. I look forward to Wednesdays as eagerly as I did years ago. I find genuine joy in the books I'm reading because they have hope. They have optimism. They have heart. And I couldn't be any happier about it.