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Wednesday, June 01, 2016 

It's ill-advised to think Rebirth will fix the most serious harm to the DCU

Arcamax published a fluff column about DC's Rebirth, which Geoff Johns supposedly wrote as an apology to all who thought Flashpoint was a bad direction. But there's plenty of signs it still solves little or nothing, and if they stick by what Zero Hour and Identity Crisis established, then they're not solving anything. The article first state that:
The brain trust at DC Comics thinks some things are missing from their superhero comics. With "DC Universe: Rebirth" ($2.99, out May 25), they have gone metatextual to bring them back.
See, this is but one of the problems. They won't admit outright they can make mistakes, and that's what everybody finds wrong with them, right down to their continued failure to address the Eddie Berganza sexual harassment scandal.
Various problems in continuity (the in-story histories of the characters) forced a fix called "Zero Hour" in 1994. That minor reboot was followed by "Infinite Crisis" in 2004-05, which re-introduced the concept of multiple, parallel Earths, which "Crisis on Infinite Earths" had removed in 1987. (As you can see, this reboot business can get kinda tricky.) The latest reboot was "Flashpoint" in 2011, which once again de-aged most of DC's characters and started them over again.
This fails to address why a crossover is needed to fix anything. If Marvel could once do it title-by-title, character-by-character, then why can't DC do the same? They certainly did with Swamp Thing, when the origin was altered to establish he was never Alex Holland, but rather, a creature formed from plant fibre possessing his memories. They make it sound like there was no other choice but to go with a crossover, which is throughly idiotic. And they don't mention one of the worst plotlines running through ZH, the use of Hal Jordan as a villain. Worse, it was made to sound like he wanted to fix everything, and the heroes were deliberately trying to stop that? The illogic they went by was jaw-droppingly stupid. If Emerald Twilight is kept in continuity, then they're not fixing something that should be left in the past.
Now we have "Rebirth," which seems intent on fixing character problems and story dead ends created by "Flashpoint." The 80-page "DC Comics: Rebirth" one-shot that arrived May 25 will be followed by 18 more one-shots intended to define and update DC's major characters, from Aquaman to Wonder Woman. Simultaneously, and continuing for the next several months, DC will reboot most of its titles with first issues -- with many of them, amazingly, now scheduled to ship twice monthly.

Some of the band-aids the Rebirth project will apply are desperately needed. For example, DC hasn't had an ongoing "Supergirl" title for a couple of years, despite the semi-successful TV show. But "Rebirth" will give us a new "Supergirl" #1 Sept. 7, a series closely mirroring its TV counterpart. Another example: Rebirth will help explain how Batman, who after "Flashpoint" has only been operating for five years, still has four Robins. Also, "Rebirth" will explain how the Teen Titans got started, when one of its founding members, the Flash's sidekick Wally West, had been erased from history. And so forth.
If four Robins are going to remain, then all they're doing is perpetuating a joke. While I don't think any of these Robins should be killed off physically, it would be far better to just quietly drop them from the proceedings.

Like I noted before, if any plotlines established by Identity Crisis remain intact - including the death of Jack Drake - then nothing is solved.
But Rebirth is aiming higher than that. It wants to fix bigger problems -- some that, while exacerbated by Flashpoint, go back all the way to 1986. No, not to the aforementioned "Crisis." Instead, it addresses a trend that arguably arose from two other books published in 1986, two books that had a long-term impact on all comics, not just those published by DC.

Those two books are Frank Miller's shockingly bleak Batman story, "Dark Knight Returns" and Alan Moore's dystopic superhero opus "Watchmen."

Neither were in continuity. "DKR" featured a paranoid, sixtysomething Batman, a Dark Knight who may or may not ever happen, while "Watchmen" was set outside the DC Universe entirely. But both were incredibly successful -- they are still in print today -- and therefore influential.

Unfortunately, that success impacted everything that followed, including books that were in continuity, at DC and elsewhere. I say unfortunately, because what publishers took from that success was that the public wanted superheroes who were more "realistic," violent and dark. Some movie directors reached the same conclusion; Zach Snyder's "Batman v Superman" lifted not only content and themes from "Dark Knight Returns," but also its bitter nihilism.

Whatever their other merits, "Watchmen" and "DKR" essentially launched the "grim-n-gritty" era of comics. An era which, in a roundabout way, is what Rebirth is rebelling against.
Completely missing how Geoff Johns, the main writer of this new "event" is no less a contributor to the grim-and-gritty effect than Miller, Moore, or even Ron Marz and Mark Waid, recalling he was the one who killed off Blue Devil's ladyfriend in 1996's Underworld Unleashed, and wrote the hero selling his soul to become a real devil, as if they couldn't get more unintentionally comedic. If Johns really understood why this was repellent, he wouldn't have gone out of his way to make his stories in Flash so unpleasant, nor would he have killed off Hector and Lyta Hall so soon after she'd emerged from the sorcery coma seen in JSA back in the mid-2000s. His reliance on so much alleged nostalgia in his tales didn't help much either, yet was nowhere near as bad as the shock tactics.

On the surface, the article supposedly admits all the darkness did a terrible disfavor to superhero comics, DC in particular. But writers like these went right along with it sans any genuine complaints, and if they still continue even after Johns leaves, you can be sure there'll be no serious complaints even then, about how a whole universe is being mandated into darkness only for the sake of it. Sure, maybe some of the worst ideas will be abandoned, but bad writing is still bound to taint the edge of anything that follows.

Some of the commentors on The Beat's fawning review page give additional hints this is not the sigh-of-relief we'd be hoping for, and besides, if they really did want to apologize for all the trouble they'd caused, they say so publicly, in their own words. Even Johns would've admitted he was wrong to resort to so much sensationalized violence - even in Green Lantern - and wouldn't have tied GL: Rebirth to Identity Crisis, as he apparently did back in 2004.

In the end, his departure from DC is certainly something he should've done long ago. But anybody who thinks DC will change and tone down all the excess is overlooking Dan DiDio's continued presence, as he perpetuated a lot of this garbage too, and he's still overseeing everything. So long as he's there, DC's not bound to heal, and poor writing efforts are another reason why they're tanking.

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  • I'm Avi Green
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