DC Comics and Rebirths Old and New

This June, DC is again shaking up their superhero universe with Rebirth, a “not a reboot” patch job designed to fix their listing ship. DC is stuck in kind of a strange position. Critics hated the New 52, for good reason. But it sold, at least for a while. The DC Universe, without a doubt, lost more than it gained in that “not quite a reboot” but it had just enough life to draw in some new customers. Last year, DC rolled out their DC You line, a critically well received group of comics that has collectively sold like dog crap. I’ve loved them, and I would argue that the sales problems with DC You have as much to do with the comics industry’s ridiculous business model, but that doesn’t change the fact that the sales are what they are. So now DC is going with this new Rebirth initiative.

The complaint about Rebirth has largely been that DC is that it is completely backward looking, that they are appealing entirely to nostalgia instead of forging something new. That same complaint has been levied at the DC previous two comics to bear the Rebirth title, Green Lantern Rebirth and Flash Rebirth, and it has always been missing the point. There is an element of appealing to nostalgia, since both titles did reintroduce Silver Age stalwarts to the DC Universe, but that is not all that those were about. Before Green Lantern Rebirth, GL had been fine, with more than a decade of comics starring Kyle Rayner, the only GL in the universe. But that status quo was limiting. He was the only one. Rebirth, aside from bringing back Hal Jordan, took a step back to look at what Green Lantern was about and refocus on that. It didn’t just bring back Jordan, it brought back the whole Green Lantern Corps. And it did it without losing anything. Hall Jordan was back, but Kyle was there, still starring in his own book. Flash Rebirth was similar. Before it, the Flash book had been in dire straits. DC editorial had consistently screwed the book over, forcing changes that made no sense. By the time Barry Allen was brought back they had fully run the book into the ground. Flash Rebirth, aside from reintroducing Barry Allen to the wider DC Universe, put the focus on the whole Flash family. It made sure to take time to show every character and where they stood, repositioning them for stories going forward.

Out of Green Lantern Rebirth, Green Lantern exploded from one title to a line of titles. Each Earth based GL had a chance to shine. The outcome wasn’t as positive for Flash Rebirth, where the planned Flash family titles never materialized, what with delays and the coming of the New 52. Still, the work was done to set up those characters for further adventures. That seems like what DC Universe Rebirth is going for, refocusing on what makes their characters work to try to set thing up going forward. It does have the unfortunate effect of reducing the line to only the biggest name titles, all the little books are going away. They are not, obviously, going away forever. Yes, Black Canary, Midnighter and Starfire are not going to have solo books going forward, but they are still going to be appearing in titles.

So what does DC have on the slate for Rebirth? I am not going to go over everything, there are tons of places to get that information, but I will point out a few titles that look especially interesting to me. The books getting the biggest, most needed shot in the arm are the Superman books. While Dan Jurgens is far from an exciting pick for Action Comics, he’s done good work on Superman Lois & Clark and is generally fine. The writer of Superman, Peter Tomasi, is very underrated. His runs on Green Lantern Corps and Batman & Robin were both very good. His Superman should be great. Supergirl, New Superman and Super Sons all sound great as well.

The Batman books don’t look bad either. I almost wish Tom King was writing something else, but after Omega Men and Vision I’ll read whatever he writes. Also, Greg Rucka is back on Wonder Woman, which is cause for excitement. And finally there is Blue Beetle, with both Jaime Reyes and Ted Kord.

There are certainly things to be wary about with DC Rebirth. Their titles will mostly star the biggest of DC characters, but there even in that tight focus there seems a lot of space for smaller characters. Like the good sized cast of Batman supporting characters in Detective Comics. There is enough new and different around the edges to be excited about. And I can’t blame DC for being a little gun shy after the failure of DCYou.

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