DC Comics new initiative “Rebirth” is now underway, with the oversized special issue DC Universe Rebirth #1 hitting comic shops at midnight last night. DC titles will begin to relaunch starting in June, allegedly bringing a new tone to the DC universe that will focus on hope and inspiration rather than the darkness and cynicism that characterized the bulk of DC’s New 52 run over the past five years. It’s a big change for the publisher, and hopefully one that will lead to some better comic books as these new titles unfold.
So what does DC Universe Rebirth #1 hold for Wonder Woman? Not a lot. She gets one page. Or rather, her potential future story gets one page that she’s not even on and then she appears in a group shot on a different page, and that’s about it. The special reveals that Diana has a twin brother named Jason who is out in the world somewhere, and that he has powers. A twin means that DC is probably sticking with the new Wonder Woman origin story in which she’s the daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta and not crafted from clay by her mother. This is a bummer, because that’s a dumb origin and parthenogenesis is so much more fun.
I’m curious to see if the existence of Diana’s mysterious twin is part of the “Lies” that make up the present day story arc of Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp’s upcoming run on Wonder Woman. A secret twin would certainly be quite a lie that would shake things up for Wonder Woman. If I’m being honest, this reveal strikes me as sort of dumb; we’ve seen secret siblings for Wonder Woman a bunch of times already, and it never turns out particularly interesting.
Even more dumb is the way in which it’s revealed in DC Universe Rebirth #1: Grail tells it to baby Darkseid. “Who is Grail and why is Darkseid a baby?” you might ask. Excellent questions. Grail is the daughter of Darkseid and an Amazon who’s been appearing in the recent “Darkseid War” story in Justice League, and Darkseid is a baby because he was destroyed in said war but has now been reborn; I think he was Superwoman’s kid? I haven’t been paying super close attention. The larger point here is that to understand this scene, and the special in general, you have to be very up-to-date on what’s been going on in DC’s comics as of late. It’s really not a book for casual or new readers.
This is exemplified by the core story of the book, the return of Wally West. “There’s already a Wally West in the current DC Universe!” you might say. Excellent point. He’s been in a bunch of comics, is a black kid like he is on The Flash television show, and he’s got super speed like his uncle Barry. But as it turns out, THAT Wally is a totally different dude and not an updated version of the character, the son of a different brother of Iris who happens to also be named Wally. The REAL Wally West is the newly returned Wally, a white guy who was a speedster from the 1950s on until he got erased and replaced (momentarily) by the new Wally when DC rebooted their line in 2011. Are you confused yet? The old Wally has come back to reveal the malevolent force behind the 2011 reboot and restore his rightful place in continuity because lord knows we can’t ever replace a white character with a black one without the white guy having to come back sooner than later.
The malevolent force is Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, who apparently has been phunking with the DC Universe. “Isn’t Watchmen set in a completely different universe, and a classic that DC should stop screwing around with after the mess that was Before Watchmen?” you might ask. Excellent observations. But they’re doing it. And presumably it’s all going to lead up to DC heroes vs. Watchmen characters and I have no idea how that’s not going to suck.
So, to have a half decent understanding of DC Comics Rebirth #1 you have to a) be up to date on DC’s recent comics, b) have a solid understanding of DC’s continuity, particularly the history of Wally West, c) also have a solid understanding of DC’s publishing history and it’s various reboots and relaunches, and d) have read Watchmen because the ending will make literally zero sense if you haven’t. It’s a super inaccessible book. If you’re not steeped in DC comic books on multiple fronts, you’re going to miss out on a lot. And that’s a dumb way to make a comic book that’s supposed to introduce a fresh, NEW relaunch.
I should also add that the special is edited by known sexual harasser Eddie Berganza, a man who remained at the publisher after the slightest of slaps on the wrist following his misconduct a few years back and remains a key architect of the DC Universe as a whole. The guy is in charge of the Superman books specifically, which is ironic and gross. Just as the special’s focus on past continuity celebrates the “good old days” of comics, so too does Berganza’s involvement reflect the insular “good old boys” network of comic book editors and creators who turn a blind eye to sexual harassment and couldn’t care less about women in general. Incidentally, there’s not a single woman in the credits page; fifteen different people worked on the book, all of them men. So yeah, Berganza’s continued role at DC Comics may be enough to put you off of “Rebirth” and the publisher as a whole, a very understandable stance that seems like the best option more and more.
Anyway, we were talking about Wonder Woman. She’s got a brother. It sounds kind of dumb, but Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, and Nicola Scott are all ridiculously good at comics and I trust them to do an excellent job with Diana. I’m excited for the new Wonder Woman, intrigued by the two new Batgirl titles and a superpowered Lois Lane in Superwoman, and I might try Detective Comics for Batwoman and Cassandra Cain. Other than that, not much is grabbing me. The lack of new reader friendliness in DC Universe Rebirth #1 hasn’t sold me on this new direction well at all. Hopefully some fun things come of it, but this first big outing felt like a misstep to me. The only thing I really liked was this ad at the end, which looks amazing: