Rebirth #1, which sets up the outlines the DC universe V 5.0 (I think — has anyone really counted) debuts tomorrow at midnight, but over the weekend, the most notable plot points got revealed in a now-deleted Reddit post by a now-deleted user. A photo of the issue in question (Above) was included to prove access to the story.
In the interests of science, the integrity of the news and, surely, the children, Bleeding Cool dutifully ran the information. It seems a handful of top comics sites had been given early access to the issue and either these sites are not as secure as we’d like to think, or some smooth criminal stole a peek at the copy and posted it on Reddit. Or, since advance copies reach the office a week ahead of shipping to shops, perhaps someone at DC spitefully leaked it. OR maybe it was deliberate to stir up talk. (I’ll get to the actual spoilers below.)
Since the cat was out of the bag and playing with a hair tie, other sites jumped on board with their own spoilers over the weekend, including IGN’s Joshua Yehl who just straight up tells everything that happens. Newsarama participated in a spoiler filled review. These spoilers were sanctioned by DC, as by now they were enjoying watching the kitty play with the rubber band, and buzz is buzz.
And today, USA Today has gone whole hog with the big reveal. Which NOW IT CAN BE REVEALED
Includes the return of Wally West (always inevitable) but more surprisingly Doctor Manhattan appearing in the “mainstream” DCU of the Rebirth universe and as perhaps even its creator.
The culprit: Doctor Manhattan, the atomically powered, almost god-like figure in Watchmen who’s more an antagonist than villain in Rebirth, Johns says. “If you’re going to have a conflict between optimism and pessimism, you need to have someone who represents a cynical view of life and also has the ability to affect this. I know it’s crazy but he felt like the right character to use.”
How Watchmen is involved in the DC Universe is a mystery that will unfold in the background over the course of a couple years, but Rebirth in the meantime will focus on various players in its series.
Wally will be at the forefront as a cornerstone of a new Titans series, as will his mentor Barry Allen, the Flash, with his own relaunched book. A particularly poignant moment comes for these friends in the Rebirth special that was emotional for Johns to write. “Honestly, when I one day go from this plane to the next,” he says, “I hope I face it like Wally West faced his death.”
I confess, I learned of the plot twist over dinner and it caused me to put down my fork. If not a holy shit moment it was at least a fork dropper. While including the characters from the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons/John Higgins classic is ethically bankrupt, let’s be honest….that particular Black Freighter has sailed.
While we can imagine some form of Pirate Jenny sent by Alan Moore to pile up the bodies and say “That’ll larn ya!”, the best way to fight back against this is not to buy DC comics, a tactic which an increasing number of comics readers are using, hence the need to juice things up with a shocking plot twist. As for Moore, he really won’t give a shit until some interviewer asks him what he thinks, and then a storm will blow in.
This somewhat dispiriting development aside, the actual goal of Rebirth is sound and necessary, as outlined by writer Geoff Johns, who calls for a return to a more character driven storyline.
“It felt like there were things that had gone missing — not the characters but an overall feeling of hope and optimism,” says Johns, the newly minted co-lead of DC Films and a producer on the upcoming Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman movies. “There’s a sense of warmth and emotion to this universe beyond the big epic threats and continuity stuff.”
In case you’ve missed the behind the scenes on this, to sum it up, since the New 52 debuted, Johns and co-publisher Dan DiDio have disagreed about how to reboot things, with Johns favoring a “shore up the base” return to characters basics (which is why the Flash and Green Lantern didn’t reboot after New 52) while DiDio has more of a “shock and awe and dismemberment” approach. For Rebirth, Johns is the primary aarchitect, working with the staff to plan things out a little more than the seat-of-the-pants New 52 universe. This is why you hear Dan DiDio talking about a two-year plan in his interviews. However, due to leopards not being able to change their spots on a dime (to coin a wonderful metaphor), arguments over spontaneous vs planned story beats have continued, with, I’m told by multiple sources, Johns expressly overruling DiDio mandated story changes.
However, due to Johns spending his time on his new and doubtless time-consuming job as co-head of DC Films, Rebirth #1 will be the only comic he actually writes. Will it set enough of a tone to keep the Rebirth Universe spinning in a more optimistic direction? And will audiences even like this direction? I’m told that while Johns will not be hands on writing any more books for the DCU for a while, he will continue to have input with the editorial staff on a regular basis. Will this be enough for the Johnsian philosophy to prevail ? Whose cuisine will reign supreme?
I can’t answer that but here are some pictures of Wally West, alive once more and the preview pages of Rebirth that have been revealed.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.