It’s been more than a year since DC relaunched its entire line of comics with Rebirth. Unlike six years ago with the New 52, DC comics did not want Rebirth to be a complete reboot. Instead, they branded it as a retooling of the universe. DC’s chief creative officer, Geoff Johns, said he wanted Rebirth to restore legacy to the DC universe.

Legacy
The New 52. Image Courtesy of DC Comics

Legacy in this context refers to any truth that is essential to the telling of a character because the readers are so sure that it is the reality. Many comic fans thought that the New 52 relaunch disregarded legacy by erasing and often changing decades of integral history of their characters. One plan of Rebirth was to bring back some of this history; however, DC also wanted to continue storylines from the New 52. In this way, Rebirth did not start with a clean slate the way that the New 52 did. DC just used Rebirth as a course correction for their line of comics. Rebirth would attempt to incorporate both Pre-52 and New 52 storylines into its continuity. Now that most of Rebirth’s comic launches have reached their 25th issue milestone, let’s gauge how much the relaunch succeeded in reviving the legacy of the DC universe.

Rebirth: Restoring the Timeline

Rebirth sought to reconcile its Pre-52 comics with its New 52 ones. But how would they do this? Many of the stories in New 52 directly contradicted storylines from beforehand. The easiest way to return Pre-52 storylines would have been to reboot the universe once again completely, but fans were sick of total reboots of the universe they had grown attached to. Additionally, while many people complained about the New 52’s flaws, it still had numerous redeemable qualities that fans didn’t want to lose (notably Scott Snyder’s BATMAN and Geoff John’s JUSTICE LEAGUE). DC creators had to find a way in the story to make it so that the Pre-52 and New 52 realities coexist. They decided the answers lay in the New 52 timeline.

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DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH reveals that a force removed ten years from the DC timeline. In these ten years, all of the events in the Pre-52 DC universe could have taken place. This doesn’t mean that the events of the Pre-52 didn’t happen, it just means that all the characters forgot them. So Rebirth continues the timeline from the New 52 but over time characters are recovering their memories and discovering the hidden history from before the timeline reset. “Rebirth” refers to the forgotten history of the Pre-52 returning in the minds of DC’s characters (and its readers). These key decisions helped appease fans of both the New 52 and comic readers who did not like the changes the reboot made.

Relationships

By rebooting the universe, the New 52 wiped away a lot of the relationships between characters. Superman and Lois Lane were no longer an item. Instead, Superman dated Wonder Woman. The Robins’ roles were much smaller, serving under Batman for one year rather than as longtime wards. Characters like Nightwing, Arsenal, and Aqualad were never part of the Teen Titans.

Possibly the most glaring change was that Green Arrow and Black Canary, who were husband and wife for a long time in the Pre-52 era, never had a relationship. In fact, Black Canary did not even meet the Green Arrow in the New 52. To remedy this, Benjamin Percy’s GREEN ARROW in DC Rebirth has the relationship between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance as one of the central points in the series.

Rebirth
Green Arrow and Black Canary reunite in GREEN ARROW: REBIRTH #1. Image courtesy of DC Comics.

Furthermore, in Rebirth Wally West meets up with his old friends Dick Grayson, Donna Troy, Roy Harper, Lilith Clay, and Garth to form the Titans. Meanwhile, Damian Wayne formulates his own version of the Titans with classic members of the team Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, and the other Kid Flash. Finally, Superman is in a marriage with Lois Lane once again, and they live together in SUPERMAN. DC’s attention to pre-existing relationships shows a desire to renew the links and friendships that made these characters so popular. These relationships directly connect the characters with their pasts that were already familiar to fans, cementing legacy back in the DC Universe.

Characters

DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH saw the return of many classic DC characters from old continuities. Most prevalent was the return of Wally West, the original Kid Flash. The comic reveals that Wally was trapped in the Speed Force for the duration of the New 52 timeline. The return of Wally as a character who remembers the Pre-52 continuity represents the Rebirth writers’ desire to bring back themes from before the New 52. Additionally, because he’s such an important and beloved character, Wally’s re-introduction connects Rebirth to Pre-52’s legacy.

READ: Want a review of DC Rebirth? Look no further than here for our review of DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH!

Then there was the problem of Superman. Fans criticized the New 52 for depicting Superman as moody and with a lack of hopefulness. So, Rebirth revealed that the creation of the New 52 separated Superman into two Supermen. One was the dark, younger Kal-El who was prominent in the New 52. The other was a slightly older, optimistic Superman who lived with Lois Lane and their son, Jon. This Superman was the same one that existed before the New 52 reboot; for the ten years of the New 52, this Superman lived in secrecy to raise his son. In the crossover known as “Superman Reborn,” these two Supermen merge into a complete version of the Man of Steel. This merger gives them shared memories completely reconciling The New and Pre-52. Superman now has the experiences of both the New 52 Superman as well as the memories of what happened before. This restores the colossal legacy of DC’s poster child.

Rebirth
Rebirth and New 52’s Supermen merge to form a new Superman in “Superman Reborn.” Image Courtesy of DC Comics

Superman wasn’t the only character that underwent major changes. Characters like Flash and Green Arrow became much more optimistic once again. The Joker was revealed to be actually three separate people (one from New 52, one from Pre-52, and one from THE KILLING JOKE). DC writers made these changes to make them feel familiar to their readers and by doing so, restore their history.

New Legacy

Earlier in this article, I identified ways Rebirth was reconnecting the DC universe with its past. But there are also ways that DC is making a distinct future. The new legacy of Rebirth is most apparent in the young heroes, Damian Wayne and Jon Kent. As the sons of Batman and Superman respectively, the two indicate a movement for writers to creatively take their universe out of the status quo. For seventy years, Batman and Superman were always the last living members of their immediate family. Through their sons, they are now literally ushering in a new generation of superheroes.

Legacy
Superman and Batman and their Super Sons. Image Courtesy of DC Comics.

Rebirth is also changing the DC universe in other ways. DC UNIVERSE: REBIRTH revealed that Doctor Manhattan from Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN was the mastermind behind the New 52. He was the being who adjusted DC’s timeline and altered the relationships of many characters by removing “hope” from the universe. Wally West’s return helped restore hope to the world, and now characters like Batman and the Flash are quickly discovering Manhattan’s involvement in their reality. The mixing of the Watchmen with the standard DC universe marks a radical change for the comic company that could affect the storyline in a variety of ways. Hopefully, Geoff Johns will reveal a lot in his DOOMSDAY CLOCK crossover which comes out this November.

Final Thoughts

DC took a huge gamble with another relaunch of their comic book line with Rebirth. This gamble does not guarantee the company long term success. Nonetheless, it seems that it has succeeded in the short term. Almost every comic book in Rebirth has direct allusions to the universe’s past relationships and history. In many ways, Geoff Johns has fulfilled his promise of restoring legacy. The books do a fantastic job of tying together the storylines of the New 52 with what happened before that time. Meanwhile, Rebirth hints at enough great content which will make any DC fan enthusiastic for upcoming comics and stories. DC’s future truly looks bright.

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