Wally West who has been absent from the DC universe since the New 52 reboot following Flashpoint is visiting many of his former friends trying to return home. But none of them remembers him and the more he exerts himself to escape the speed force, the more he risks being submerged by it. Wally West, the former Flash and Kid Flash wants to know who robbed ten years from the DC Comics universe and made everybody forget their past. But he may die trying to escape.
It’s rare that the guy who broke the company is allowed to fix the wreck he created and then given a promotion and more responsibilities. Usually they are fired. If your name is Geoff Johns, then Rebirth #1 is the proof that your bosses still trust your instinct after you propelled DC Comics into a five year escapade called the New 52 where many readers just abandoned the publisher’s reboot.
Like many comic book fans, I abandoned DC Comics after the New 52. While the artwork and the experiments in many of the comics were impressive there was no sense of history in the comics and I just wasn’t interested in reading more, given how I had to tighten my own expenses while starting my doctoral studies in another city. I was also trying to avoid amassing a huge pile of comics while living in Toronto that I would have to haul back to Calgary one day. I’m sure you all had your reasons for dropping DC Comics. They made it easy to stop caring about their comics.
With the New 52, I was surprised that Geoff Johns the chief continuity geek at DC Comics was allowing himself to wade through new territory and craft new stories for characters that were not somehow attached to some obscure comic from the Silver Age or the Bronze Age. Geoff Johns was writing for a new audience without any of the anchors of the past and the rich history of DC Comics.
He impressed then but most of his peers at DC Comics delivered crap. Series were quickly cancelled and nothing mattered anymore. DC Comics lost market share to Marvel and Image Comics and suddenly, being a continuity geek was something to be ashamed of.
In Rebirth, DC Comics is disavowing its experiment and proving to itself that the tacky continuity does matter. Wally West which was the epitome of the Bronze Age, my generation’s Flash, finally returned in this issue.
Johns’ formula is classic. He creates a threat and suddenly what was once forgotten is allowed to exist again. Everything is recycled. In this universe as in ours, nothing is destroyed, nothing is created. Everything exists at once. This is where Johns becomes the most meta that he’s ever been. Meta was once an expression used to denote characters with powers in the DC Universe. It was the answer to Marvel’s mutants.
But Johns here is meta in another way. He comments on the wreck he created five years ago while attempting to salvage the Flashpoint mini-series he crafted. Flashpoint changed everything. But here, Johns says that the blame was not Flashpoint. The blame was elsewhere in the DC Comics offices. He will craft a new villain that will take responsibility for all the mess DC Comics has been through recently, while all the current leaders at the publisher keep their jobs after almost destroying an iconic house of ideas (pun intended).
The artwork in Flashpoint does not matter. DC Comics pulled all its top talent to tell this story. It didn’t matter that it was Gary Frank or Phil Jimenez. And that’s the problem. Where is the place of the artist in this new DC Comics reboot? When George Pérez partnered with Marv Wolfman to create Crisis, the first of many times DC Comics felt the urge to scratch an imaginary itch, it mattered.
Using many artists to tell such a signature story leaves one underwhelmed. It all looks good, but there is no personality or quirkiness in this comic. There are no idiosyncrasies. It’s a made for order visual text that is nothing more than a junior companion to the prose.
Comics are visual. The artwork, I continue to say was good and flawless. But I don’t want to read good, clean and flawless. I want to see the soul of the artists who work on this comic. I don’t want to be served a clean regurgitated comic that is meant to please and not provoke while the grand master is at play.
One artist would have been enough to tell this story. Not trusting any of its great cartoonists means that DC Comics is still playing it safe. I don’t want to read a safe comic meant to comfort me in the familiar. I want to be impressed and shown what the future holds for DC Comics. I don’t quite feel it yet with Rebirth #1.