So, DC has finally revealed what their big whole “Rebirth” thing is, and it turns out that it’s a relaunch with classic characters back in the universe after an extended absence. There are some pros and cons to this, along with some sorta odd choices. Let’s break them down.
Good: In With the Old…
A common complaint with the New 52 was that its aims of simplifying DC’s complicated history was a spectacular misfire. While its intentions were pure, the execution just didn’t work. Everything was shortened to take place over the course of five years, which was good in some spots, but made others really confusing. The hypercondensed timeline raised more than a few questions, such as “How the hell does Batman go through four Robins over half a decade?”
More than anything, the big offender in that regards was how certain characters and events either didn’t line up with each other or straight up didn’t exist in this new timeline. Fan favorites like Wally West, Cassandra Cain, Connor Hawke, or Stephanie Brown just appeared to up and vanish. While most of these characters are currently kicking around in the New 52 in some aspect (Connor is currently the only one of these four unaccounted for), longtime fans feel like the “true” versions of these characters aren’t actually back and that their positions have been filled by other characters.
With Rebirth, the stated goal is to bring back those longtime fans. The teaser image shows (presumably) two Flashes, an Arrow, a Green Lantern, and two Supers. The Supers are easy to suss out–Supergirl and Superboy, who looks like he’ll have a wardrobe similar to his 90s version–but the others have fans buzzing with possibilities. Jade back as Green Lantern? Jay Garrick and Wally West returning? Connor’s back?! Even going further than the image, the long-running characters are being put back into their “proper” (for lack of a better term) spots. Superman’s got his powers back and has, presumably, broken up with Wonder Woman, Dick Grayson is back as Nightwing, and Bruce Wayne’s memory has returned.
Bad: Out With the New (Maybe)
While old fans may be able to rejoice, newer fans don’t exactly get that luxury. Even though the New 52 wasn’t exactly popping out constant hits, last year’s DC You initiative did show that the company wasn’t afraid of taking risks and trying new things. Jim Gordon became Batman, Black Canary traveled the country as a rock star, Superman lost his powers, Dick Grayson was a spy, and that sort of thing. Not everything was a hit or connected with all kinds of fans–see Batgirl of Burnside, for instance, easily the most divisive title in the whole lineup–but the effort was well appreciated and helped diversify their titles from being more than just “grim white dudes sulking in the rain”.
Once Rebirth was announced, it was a given that some of the DC You titles would have to fold. That’s business, that’s how it works, but it doesn’t make things any less disappointing. Gotham Academy is currently the only one that’s actually definitively sticking around, while other characters are being folded into other books–Batgirl of Burnside is becoming Batgirl & the Birds of Prey, for instance–or their titles are just straight up gone and currently unaccounted for. Midnighter, easily DC’s biggest LGBT icon currently, has gotten his book axed and is currently nowhere to be seen in Rebirth. Ditto the kids of We Are Robin, wherein middle and lower class teenagers in Gotham City take up the name of the Boy Wonder.
Again, while it was a given that some of these titles would receive the chopping block from pretty much the moment they hinted at this, it’s still disappointing. Perhaps more problematically, DC’s insistence on “putting the highest priority on the direct market” has people worried that such diverse characters like Midnighter and the Robins will ever get a starring book of their own again, much less show up. While that could change, it says something about the state of representation in comics when folks are legitimately worried that Wally could come back as a white guy.
Good: The Price is Right
Comics can be an expensive venture. While there are some that are priced at $1, those are usually digital. The majority range between $3-4, which can quickly pile up, depending on what takes up your pull list. By far, the biggest offender of this is All-New, All-Different Marvel, where every first issue was priced at either $5 or $6. To say that people weren’t happy would be… an understatement, and it’s understandable that many would opt to just wait for the trades or skip to issue 2.
With Rebirth, DC is making all of the books $3. Detective Comics, The Super-Man, Trinity, every single one. That’s a genius move, and if they advertise that properly, will be a huge win in their favor, especially compared to Marvel’s prices fluctuating from title to title. I can’t imagine anyone turning down a collection of books at only $3 apiece, and doubly so if all of them are quality titles. Now if only they included digital codes with the physical copies…
Bad: Two-in-One, Not Always Fun
While the Rebirth books are all going to be $3, they’ll also be published twice a month. On one hand, I can definitely see the appeal in this. The wait for a new issue of a comic you really like can feel like the worst kind of torture, or you just wind up forgetting over the span of a month because a lot happens in your life. Having a more consistent stream of your favorite book is ideal, and you can always just grab the two issues at the end of the month for $6 if you don’t want to make the trip twice.
On the other hand, there’s the quality to worry about. It’s very possible, and more than likely, that the two issues a month will have one that’s really great and one that doesn’t quite hit the same bar as the other one. The two issues a month could have writers and artists burn out incredibly fast, and for the art side in particular, the quality may drop for those with a consistent team. For quite a few people, I imagine that those teams are going to make or break the decision to pick these books up bi-monthly. Writers like Greg Pak, Tom King, and Genevieve Valentine have written themselves a golden ticket and fans will follow them anywhere. But others? Well….we’ll have to see.
WTF: Deathstroke? Really?
Okay look, Deathstroke is cool in doses; I enjoyed him in Arrow and fighting him in Arkham Origins was pretty great. But…are we serious? He still gets a solo book? Over Batwoman? Over Midnighter? SERIOUSLY?!
WTF: What’s in a Name? It’s a Mystery
Titles in comics aren’t always as big of a deal as they are in say, a game or TV show. While there’s some importance to them, folks could overlook that if the cover catches their eye or if the book itself is compelling and fun enough. That said, the titles here in some of the Rebirth books are just…weird, and kinda confusing.
What exactly is supposed to be the difference between Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and Green Lanterns? Shouldn’t they overlap on some level? Ditto Titans and Teen Titans, because the two have never been separate from one another, and in fact Titans is just the alternate name they’ve gone by. Are the Teen Titans supposed to be the teen heroes from the New 52 while the “old blood” from the pre-New 52 just go by the Titans? Who even qualifies for the “old Titans” anymore? Those two and the Green Lantern books are probably going to get mixed up in people’s heads leading up to release. So there’s that.
On a related note, several of these team and solo books have their members up in the air. Some of these are safe guesses–Trinity is a “no duh”, and same to Suicide Squad–but exactly which Blue Beetle is going to be getting his solo series? The dead one, the other dead one, or the one who kinda just sorta disappeared from the New 52? Who the heck is joining Red Hood and his Outlaws group? Is it just gonna be him, Roy Harper and another girl written as an airhead and drawn like a Sports Illustrated model? But the biggest one has to be Super Sons, which sounds like a progressive rock band themed around defending Man of Steel. (If they aren’t, this book has no reason to exist.)
Sure, all will be revealed in a little over a month at Wondercon, so hopefully there’ll be teaser images before then that will help us figure out just what’s going on in these books. But after the initial excitement has worn off, it’s clear that has a bit more bad news to go with its good and probably should’ve provided some more information to fans. If DC doesn’t completely axe the good stuff from DC You in the favor of appealing to the “direct market”, it’ll hopefully win over skeptics and make everyone happy.