DC UNIVERSE REBIRTH #1
CONTEXT-FREE REVIEW: DC’s latest reboot leads with DC Universe Rebirth #1, a big ol’ bunch of housekeeping that is one part mea culpa and one part blueprint for doing better, served with a side of finger-wagging at past editorial decisions that have painted DC into a grim and gritty storytelling corner. It’s also an entertaining story, mostly. The writer is DC’s silver bullet, Geoff Johns, who along with a half-dozen artists serves up a literal lightning storm of present-tense DC vignettes, with a time-lost Wally West bursting in and out of reality, looking in on old friends who do not remember him (or their pasts). The script is wordy with a couple awkward exposition dumps but does the job, assisted by art that values clarity over style (and where each artist seems to be trying to make this book look the product of a single hand). The Big Idea, here, is that the DC Universe has lost its way, manipulated by an outsider Big Bad (and I won’t spoil his identity, but details are here). The Big Bad, you see, is the reason why DC has failed — why it over-applied the lessons of Watchmen and Dark Knight in creating a dark and unsmiling comic universe where no one is having any fun … not the characters, not the creators, and not the fans. “A darkness from somewhere has infected us,” Wally says, “It has for a long time now.” The premise of Rebirth, it seems, will be heroes struggling against this darkness.
OK. Here is where you get on, or you get off. Here is where you embrace the meta or you choke on DC’s naked admission that all those books they’ve been marketing to you for decades were dirty, nasty things that we should regard with shame and revulsion. For my part, I got on board. I liked the stories Johns set up here, including the schmaltzy ones, and I even felt a bit of emotion — like a tingling sense of wonder when the Atom’s recorded message served as a call to adventure in the microverse, and I teared up (just a little bit) when Wally witnessed a marriage proposal, and again later when he was reunited with his old mentor. Rebirth #1 is not perfect, but it will do — and it had better, as there is a sense that if DC can’t get it right this time, then we may not have DC (as we know it) to kick around any more. In the end, Johns goes right at it, inviting us to cleanse ourselves of the sins of the past through the transformative power of love. And, yeah, I don’t feel like those sins were mine, especially, but I’ll give the guy the benefit of the doubt. I’ll read more of this reboot …
… but you will have to wait until July for my capsule review series to continue, because I’m going on vacation, and Longbox Graveyard is going on hiatus!
THE PART WITH THE CONTEXT: It’s kind of silly that I even have to add this paragraph, but DC Comics has become such a lightning rod for fannish discontent that some kind of public service announcement is required, if only for self-defense. There’s been plenty of coverage about how DC has walked back their this-is-the-new-reality New 52 launch with Rebirth; how Rebirth smells of desperation after DCYou cratered last year; the editorial turmoil around DC’s Vertigo line; and the serious-on-entirely-different-level charges of sexual harassment inside the DC offices … it’s a big ball of awful, to be sure. This is apart from the more mundane fan outrage DC has provoked with how they’ve handled some of their characters these past several years; or the collateral news of Warners reshuffling their movie division after Batman v Superman seemed to get it so wrong; or even the echoes of discontent over new projects spinning out of beloved DC classics like Dark Knight and Watchmen (with the later now hotting up again). It seems like everyone has a beef with DC Comics! I’m not here to dismiss anyone’s issues with DC — and I even share a few of them — but I do want to state that I’ve gone into this review series laser focused only on the comics in front of me, without really trying to fit things into the larger context of DC’s business operations, talent relations, or the way they have treated their fans and their brand/continuity. I’m just reviewing the comics, man! In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a couple friends and DC, and I would like to see them succeed in their jobs … and if that makes me some kind of apologist, well, OK, I guess. But I’m here to tell you that I don’t have a dog in this fight — aside from wanting to like these comics, and wanting superhero comics in general to enjoy success — and if DC can give me that, then I’m happy. I have scant investment in DC’s characters or history and thus will have little sensitivity to the character and continuity changes that may drive more dedicated fans mad. So you can blast off at me in the comments section if you like (and I hope you will!), but please do so with the understanding that I am an outsider when it comes to most things DC, for better or worse … at least as much of an outsider as a guy who has been writing a comics review blog for five years can be!
Approachability For New Readers
This book is aimed squarely at the core, and new readers be damned. It is readable and entertaining but good luck if you don’t already know most of DC’s characters and history. There’s an awful lot of handwringing here about continuity and characters and times gone by, but I was intrigued more than I was confused. Hopefully the stories to come will focus more on the present than the past.
Well, there isn’t a second issue of DC Universe Rebirth on the schedule (yet), but I will definitely be reading the next issues in this relaunch.
Read capsule reviews of a competing relaunch — The All-New All-Different Marvel Now!
These titles and the word “collection” are rarely found in the same sentence.
These aren’t comics you collect. These are comics you accumulate.
I’m hip-deep in these kinds of books.
A collection — as far as I’m concerned — must be organized, and it must contain things you actually want. If you don’t know what you have, and you can’t find a specific book quickly, then what you have is not a collection. It is an accumulation.
You can guess what I have.
I never threw away a comic book, never sold one. Even the first books I bought in 1974 I took some care to preserve … when I wasn’t cutting them up for Marvel Value Stamps (and a moment of silence, please, as I confess to cutting the stamp from my copy of Incredible Hulk #181). In the 1980s I adopted bags and comic boxes to store my books. I haven’t treated my comics perfectly but neither have I abused them.
What I never really managed to do was index my comic books. I had only a vague idea of what I owned, and trying to find any particular book depended on selecting a random box and getting lucky.
This has led to buying things twice because I can’t find them. Despite owning a full run of the first printing of Watchmen, when I wanted to re-read the series after watching that crappy movie, I bought the collected graphic novel rather than trying to track down my copies of the original books. Likewise when I wanted to re-read my Alan Moore Swamp Things. Knew I had them, didn’t know where — so I bought the trade paperback.
Trades themselves are not such a bad choice in the scheme of things. When digital comics finally come of age I think we’ll look at trades the same way as we do at 8-Track tapes, but there’s nothing wrong with them right now. Trade paperbacks aren’t terribly expensive, and their format might be superior to the original books. This is particularly true for older titles, where condition, print quality, and expense of the originals make tracking down the real deal problematic. For example, I decided to collect the better-looking Dark Horse Chronicles of Conan recolored reprints rather than trying to fill gaps in the run I own.
But for recent books, that were printed on decent paper, and that I damn well know I own … buying trades rather than finding the originals was waving a white flag. And it bothered me.
It also bothered me because I feel possessed by my possessions.
For nearly forty years, I’ve hauled this Longbox Graveyard with me between ten different houses in two countries. The last carry nearly killed me. And it’s not just comics — I’ve also accumulated a huge pile of games, miniature figures, books, and other incomprehensible bullshit.
The problem is this accumulation gives me little joy. Often it’s the opposite — having all these things is oppressive. It reminds me how rooted I am. I want to be a free spirit, walkin’ the earth and sticking it to The Man like Rick Jones!
Instead I look at all the stuff I have but don’t use and feel weighed down by it. I regret money spent on anchors.
I’ve purged books, and games, but never my comics. Partly because I haven’t had ready people or places to take them off my hands, but mostly because my comics are different. A lot of my childhood is wrapped up in those books. I bought each and every one of them with some degree of deliberation. Yes, even Devil Dinosaur (I love King Kirby!)
I’d regret dumping them. But I also regret dragging them around like the hump I must bear.
It’s not as simple as just getting rid of things. My desire to be rid of things is just another desire. I could easily rid myself of everything and find I still feel that I have too much. Recklessly purging my comics before I’ve come to terms with what they mean might be worse than just letting them weigh me down.
The Accumulation represents unfinished business, both personal and professional. “Personal” because I’ve never sorted and counted and categorized and graded my comics, which is something I’ve long wanted to do. “Professional” because my feelings about comics are still wrapped up in unresolved issues about my unsuccessful comics career (with which I will begin coming to grips in next week’s blog).
It’s like all those comics boxes are little tombstones. Not for nothing is this blog called the Longbox Graveyard!
And so I have committed at last to turning the Accumulation into a Collection. A large part of this blog will be about how I sort and rediscover my comics — the books I save, the books I give away, and the books I (hopefully) sell. More to come!
In other news, I was all set to plug my Amazon Longbox Graveyard Store, but since I live in the rogue state of California, I am under some kind of Amazon fatwa at the moment. Regardless of my inability to make pennies on the dollar for the mighty Amazon, I invite you to mouse on over there, where you can purchase copies of some of the things I talk about here on the blog, like those groovy Conan trades I mentioned above.
NEXT WEEK: #4 Null And Void