**This article contains Spoilers for DC Universe: Rebirth #1**
Last week, the television version of The Flash (spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the season two finale) left viewers with a final shot of what many believe to be the start of a Flashpoint storyline for the CW’s “Arrowverse”. I don’t know if it was planned this way, if it was a coincidence, or if the Speed Force itself was guiding us to this moment, but it’s almost prophetic that DC’s Rebirth series would launch the day after The Flash season finale inspired by an event that’s one of the catalysts for this soft DC Universe reboot. I say it’s a soft reboot because Rebirth doesn’t really act like a typical reboot. In fact, Geoff Johns, Chief Creative Officer at DC Comics, has stated these stories are a continuation not a reboot. Well whatever they decide to call it, Rebirth is definitely a game-changer for DC’s continuity. After reading it, I’d call it a meta-commentary or even self-criticism of the DC universe after the New 52 launch. You at least need passing familiarity with the New 52 to follow most of what’s going on. The comic at the beginning even recommends you read Justice League #50 and Superman #52 before you read this. The one-shot is told mostly from the point of view of a character left out the New 52 canon…Wally West. The original Wally West.
Yes, there are now two Wally Wests. One that was lost in the Speed Force after the events of Flashpoint and the New 52 biracial Wally West. This isn’t the last shocker we see. I, like many others, really missed the old Wally West. I watched the old Justice League cartoon show even to this day on Netflix. In fact, I’m watching it as I’m writing this. Then there’s the Wally West from Young Justice that’s fantastic. For me, my definitive version of the Flash has always been Wally West. The CW’s Barry Allen has started to change that somewhat, but I was still very happy to see that huge close up shot of the yellow and red-suited Kid Flash Wally West burst through the Speed Force like a hero to the rescue. In many ways, he acts like it in a meta-reflection of the DC universe.
Throughout the issue, the original Wally West, decked out in his traditional Kid Flash yellow and red suit, is struggling to escape the Speed Force. He tries reaching out to various people he once knew in his old life with mixed results. The first person he tries to reach is Bruce Wayne in the Batcave. In an illustration that looks remarkably similar to a scene in Batman v Superman, Wally breaks out of the Speed Force, temporarily, to try to alert Batman. Bruce thinks the Speedster is Barry. He seems to have no memory of who Wally is. Wally emphatically implores Bruce to remember the letter Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, sent him before Wally is ripped back into the Speed Force. The letter Wally referring to is presumably the one Thomas Wayne wrote to Bruce during the events of Flashpoint, where Thomas Wayne, as that timeline’sBatman, gives Barry Allen a letter for Bruce to read when Barry makes it back to his own timeline. Wally says that letter is how it all started. The letter is the key.
We also learn from this sequence another big reveal about the Joker. It’s a continuation of the events from Justice League #50 after Batman sat on the Mobius Chair, giving him access to all the knowledge in the universe. He asked the Mobius Chair about the identity of the Joker, and the answer seemed impossible to Batman. Well, we find out the Mobius Chair told him that there are three Jokers. The three Jokers are stylized after the different versions of previous Jokers: one from the Golden Age, one from the Silver Age, and one from the New 52. It’s a pretty cool twist on the mythology of the Joker. It’s certainly a lot better than the idea that the Joker is immortal hinted at in the New 52. I’m very interested to see how this storyline plays out.
Wally continues on with his inner monologue briefly describing his life becoming Kid Flash and then as the Flash himself before disappearing after the events of Flashpoint, According to Wally, ten years were “stolen” when the timelines reconstituted after Flashpoint. Wally becomes convinced that the Flashpoint incident wasn’t Barry’s work but that of an outside unknown entity. Wally doesn’t think he’ll survive, but he keeps pushing himself to reach out to more people to make sure that history isn’t lost. He reaches out to an elderly Johnny Thunder aka Thunderbolt, who is committed to a nursing home because the world thinks he’s crazy. Wally reassures Johnny he’s not crazy, asks him to, “use the genie,” and to find the Justice Society before getting pulled back into the Speed Force, but not before Johnny makes a tearful apology to Wally for, “throwing him away.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it again seems like a meta commentary on DC for “throwing away” this version of Wally West when the New 52 launched. I imagine we’ll eventually find out what Johnny Thunder meant by that soon.
As Wally is hurtling through the Speed Force, there’s then a brief montage of various different DC characters that serve to establish each person’s starting point before their own issue series is launched in the coming months. One of the overarching themes in this montage Wally talks about is legacy:
- There’s an interrogation of who I presume to be Saturn Girl, in which Saturn Girl asks to see Superman because she can see the future and needs to speak to him. Her interrogator has possession of Saturn Girl’s Legion of Superheroes flight ring. Also Superman is apparently missing.
- A college-aged Ryan Choi rushing to get Ray Palmer, who leaves a cryptic message for Ryan along with one of Palmer’s Atom belts. Palmer discovered something potentially universe shattering in the sub-atomic microverse, and he needs Ryan to take over as the Atom for a while. Someone is messing with the timeline, and Ryan is going to meet someone, whose identity is left a mystery as Ray Palmer’s message is cut off before he can say who.
- Ted Kord is making a large mobile bug command center while Jaime Reyes begs Ted to get the Blue Beetle scarab off his, Jaime’s, back. Ted gives Jaime a talk about destiny before Jaime has to take off for school. When he leaves, Doctor Fate, another character missing in the New 52, appears to Ted to tell him that the scarab is not extra-terrestrial but rather magic.
- Damian Wayne blowing out the candles on his cake for his 13th birthday with a smile.
- The two new Green Lanterns in charge of protecting Earth, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, talk about Sinestro.
- Jackson Hyde talks to his mom about his boyfriend. A very quick, non-ceremonial way to reveal the new Aqualad is gay.
The sequence ends with Trinity of Sin member, Pandora, the being responsible for helping Barry Allen merge the timelines during the Flashpoint event, getting vaporized by the unknown entity Wally keeps alluding to. Pandora gives a quick last word that the heroes of this universe, with their love, devotion, and hope, will defeat the entity. Another big secret is revealed that Wonder Woman has twin brother named Jason that she doesn’t know about. Also, Darkseid is back, so yay for that, too! I think that set a record for shortest comic book death and revival. These events go by with lightning speed, pun intended. All of these are big teasers, but they serve their purpose.
Rebirth #1 is divided into four chapters each with its own theme. The first chapter is about Wally being lost. The second is all about legacy, as seen with the montage of the next generation of superheroes. The third is about love, more specifically lost love. Still from Wally’s vantage point in the Speed Force, we see Green Arrow and Black Canary aren’t in love, but they feel a spark when they see each other. Something’s missing. Something’s been taken from them. Something’s been taken from Wally. That someone is Linda. He tries to reach out to his lost love through the Speed Force, but, like Bruce Wayne before her, she has no memory of Wally. He tries to get her to take his hand, which will pull him out of the Speed Force, but she’s scared and refuses. It’s pretty tragic to see Wally, heartbroken, get ripped back into the Speed Force again.
Wally sees more former friends and foes as he’s pulled through the Speed Force. He sees Captain Boomerang in the Suicide Squad, a few unidentified members of the Bat family, Cyborg, Nightwing, and even Constantine with Swamp Thing in his swamp. He then glimpses the New 52 version of Wally, who is revealed to be his cousin named after their mutual great-grandfather, Wallace West. A nice little retcon. Wally is accepting the fact he’s not going to make it, and he is happy the mantle of Kid Flash is in good hands.
Then he comes to Barry. His mentor. His friend. Before he dies, Wally wants to say goodbye to Barry. He musters all of his strength to push himself out of the Speed Force to appear to Barry. Like the others, Barry doesn’t know who this Wally West is. Wally tells him that this is both a hello and goodbye. It’s a testimony to how much I love the pre-52 Wally West and the beauty of the artwork that I was tearing up as Wally was saying farewell. He tells Barry to go to Batman about the letter mentioned earlier and that history has been infected. The goodbye is drawn out over several panels and pages in short brief snippets that serve as very good emotional drama and turmoil. The reader is prepared to say goodbye to OG Wally West forever.
Then fate has another idea. Through some miracle, just before Wally disappears forever into the Speed Force, Barry remembers Wally. Wally’s heartfelt goodbye breaks through the timeline change. Barry grabs Wally and pulls him from the Speed Force, rescuing him. I wish I had a camera on me when I was reading that part because I was grinning ear to ear. They share a touching reunion as Barry explains he remembers it all. Well he remembers a version of it. Wally explains to Barry how Flashpoint has changed history. All this time, Barry has been blaming himself for the way things changed, but Wally tells him that it was, “someone else.”
Before I get to the someone else, I skipped over the part about Superman’s death. It’s probably the most confusing element of the comic. The New 52 Superman is missing after a battle and presumed dead after the events of Superman #52. The pre-New 52 Superman is revealed to be alive and from another world. He’s hiding out as Clark Kent with his wife, Lois, and their young son, Jon. This version of Superman is the one that was killed by Doomsday before being revived. Clark thinks the new Superman will be revived as well. As I said though, the New 52 Superman is only missing. We have two Wallys, three Jokers, and now two Supermans. That’s on top of all the second, third, and fourth generation versions of each hero already mentioned. This is going to be fun to keep straight.
Clark is about to head out when he’s visited by the mysterious Mr. Oz. We don’t know who this guy is. He makes a few scattered appearances as a figure watching Superman in the Geoff Johns run of the Superman series. Based on who the, “someone else,” is we can probably guess. He is most likely Ozymandias.
Yes, the Ozymandias from Watchmen. While reading the letter from his father in the Batcave, Bruce notices something glimmering in the distance. He digs out of the wall a smiley-face button with a drop of blood on it. The Comedian’s smiley-face button. The someone else is revealed in the epilogue to be none other than Dr. Manhattan watching Earth from Mars. Manhattan is responsible for Flashpoint. He is responsible for creating the New 52. He is responsible for taking ten years from Wally West. Him and Ozymandias. Wally’s watch from the beginning of the comic reappears on Mars, and it symbolizes a ticking clock for the DC universe.
This reveal is particularly shocking because the Watchmen universe, while still part of DC Comics, has always been separate from the DC universe as a whole. It’s also pretty shocking because the Watchmen, as I’ve been saying throughout, are essentially acting as stand-ins for DC Comics execs responsible for the creation of the New 52. Manhattan chose Flashpoint as the time to attack, and they are on the verge of striking again. Wally describes the upcoming attack as a war between hope & despair, love & apathy, faith & disbelief. In other words, the light and greatness of the pre-52 and the dark and weakness of the New 52.
I think this is a wonderful develop for DC Comics. I also appreciate the idea DC is willing to take a shot at itself for the generally not well-received New 52 line. This will give them the perfect chance to correct any mistakes or unpopular elements of the New 52 while still holding onto some of their more popular elements. I’m really excited to see what DC has in store for us with all the new Rebirth issues. Most of all though, I’m really happy Wally West, the real Wally West, is back. In fact, I found this entire issue so thrilling I subscribed to several of the various DC character issue series just to make sure I don’t miss anything. I never got into the New 52 all that much, but I’m completely sold on Rebirth.Recap and Review: DC Universe: Rebirth #1Pros
- OG Wally West is back along with the incorporation of the Watchmen as part of the DC Universe
- Three Jokers reveal and Fun new mysteries with Atom, Blue Beetle, and Wonder Woman
- Positive meta-commentary and course correction for DC universe
- Superman mystery/identity a little confusing
- Many questions still need answering