I’ll be honest with you, when I first heard about DC Universe: Rebirth, I didn’t think much of it. I’m 39 and I’ve read DC comics since about the age of 3. I’ve always loved my Super Friends, but yet another “event” failed to engage my interest this time around.
That is, until DC executed a masterful stroke of marketing – they spoiled the book’s biggest revelation. Believe it or not, that spoiler is what drew me into the comic book shop today for the first time in over a year.
From this moment on, I will discuss the book as though you’ve read it. If you’ve (somehow) managed to avoid spoilers and have yet to pick up your copy, turn back now!
Okay, you’re still here.
Or, as I like to call him, The Flash.
Allow me a brief aside. As a 7 year old, I felt sure Barry Allen was THE Flash. When Kid Flash took over the the mantle, I felt cheated. Yes, even then, my comic book rage was fully developed. They portrayed Wally as a selfish, immature, horn dog. But then a funny thing happened. Wally and I started growing up together. When I reached high school, Wally realized his full potential under the guidance of Mark Waid. I watched Wally accept his legacy and role as Barry Allen’s successor. As I sought to discover my own identity, I cheered as Wally overcame his own doubts and achieved both the respect and friendship of the entire DC Universe. He became the heart and soul of the JLA, the moral compass of the super hero community, and the guy everyone came to for advice. I marveled at how a fictional character could go through such growing pains even as I endured similar dilemmas. He inspired me to make peace with myself, to accept myself, and to realize that I have to believe in myself before I can expect anyone else to do so.
I walked away from comic books in my early 20s, but, of course, Wally reached across the multiverse and invited me back in after only a few years’ hiatus. This time he had to learn not just how to love himself but how to love someone else. I don’t mean just love, I mean truly LOVE. Geoff Johns gave us a Wally West who gave himself, all of himself, to Linda Park. Interestingly enough, this story line occurred as I myself got engaged and married. Just as Wally discovered true love and devotion, real loyalty and humility, I also underwent such change. Both of us became better men as a result.
My God … I never realized until now just how much I identify with Wally West. I mean, I knew I did, just not to this extent. Wow.
Time progressed, and Wally took the final step – fatherhood. Guess what? Yep, I’m a dad, too.
Things happened, Bart Allen (aka Impulse/Kid Flash) took over the mantel, Wally returned with Linda and the kids – I loved it. Here’s my favorite super hero and he’s also a husband and dad! I literally grew up with this character and enjoyed the same milestones!
When I heard they were bringing Barry back, I felt nervous. I understood why, I just hoped Wally wouldn’t be tossed aside. Of course, Geoff Johns did the honors in The Flash: Rebirth, and he gave me exactly what I wanted. There is a fantastic spread of Wally running alongside Barry, both in a Flash costume, along with the entire Flash Family. Even Wally’s kids had costumes and were sprinting by their side! It seemed a new age arrived, one that would be better than ever! Love, family, legacy – it was all there.
But then Flashpoint arrived. Long story short, Barry ran back in time, saved his mom, and when he returned to the present, things had changed. Lois and Clark were no longer married, nor were Barry Allen and Iris West, Green Arrow and Black Canary didn’t even know each other, Wonder Woman was the daughter of Zeus, and Cyborg was a full member of the JLA and had never been in the Teen Titans. In fact, the classic Titans seemed to have not existed at all. And, there was no trace of Wally West. No one even mentioned him. A Wally West eventually appeared in The Flash comic, but this was a young African-American man who, while interesting and full of potential, was not the Wally West I’d grown up with.
Of course, this new direction had its ups and downs. But as years went by, Wally stayed away, and no one really understood why.
Jeeze. This has been the longest build up ever. If you’re still reading … thanks for sticking with me.
So the spoiler I mentioned, the one that brought me back into the comic book shop? My Wally West hugging Barry Allen with Barry saying, “How could I ever forget you?” Geesh. I’m tearing up just writing it. I’m such a sap.
You got me DC; I had to know. I had to know where Wally had been and what his return had in store for the DC Universe.
This book initiated a change in direction I didn’t even know I wanted, and it’s all thanks to the heart and soul of the DCU – Wally West.
Wally narrates the book. He’s stuck in the Speed Force. (This is not the first time he’s been in such a predicament. I think it’s not even the tenth! Surely it won’t be the last.) He’s being held back against his will, but he doesn’t know why or by whom.
Wally needs a tether. He needs someone to connect with and pull him out of the Speed Force. He visits several people, all who fail to help him, but those visits set up fascinating plot devices for the future. He even visits Linda Park, thinking that, like so many times before, she would be his anchor. It’s a heartbreaking moment, yet not one without hope for days to come.
It’s only fitting that it’s Barry, Wally’s hero, who finally saves him. Wally appears before Barry, says he’s made peace with dying, tells Barry he loves him, says his goodbyes, and then begins to disintegrate. Barry, not fully understanding, takes a leap of faith, believes in hope, and reaches for Wally’s hand. Wally is saved. And then they remember everything.
Geoff Johns wrote this book, and you can rest assured that his one moment is the mission statement of Rebirth. It’s incredibly symbolic, perhaps even a metaphor, and it completely won me over.
In the middle of the 1980s, a few books came out that changed the industry. Interestingly enough, several of them were released by DC Comics. The Dark Knight Returns was one such book. The other was Watchmen. Neither were considered part of “continuity,” but the gritty, adult, psychological approach won fans over and ushered in what some call The Dark Age of comics. Of course, it devolved over the years into sheer violence without the benefit of intelligent storytelling, then moved into crazy “extreme” versions of characters. Hal Jordan went nuts and killed the Green Lantern Corps. Superman suffered death by Doomsday. Bane broke Batman’s back. It eventually ran it’s course, and some of these stories were well executed and have withstood the test of time, but several characters were never fully restored to the core of what made them heroes to begin with.
In 2010, after Flashpoint, the DCU wasn’t quite as dark or extreme as it had been, but it seemed to be missing something. Wally pointed this something out rather poignantly. What was this “something?” Love. Real love. Family love. Friend love. The kind of love that grows over time and bonds people from one generation to the next. With the New 52, DC abandoned the very thing that made it unique – love, and the legacy that consequently results from it.
In this book we see the pre-New 52 Lois with Clark with their son – love. We see Ryan Choi working with Ray Palmer – legacy. We see a meaningful glance between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance – love. We see Jaime Reyes side by side with Ted Kord – legacy. We see Arthur Curry proposing to Mera – love. We see the other Wally West living up to the name “Kid Flash” – legacy. We see classic versions of Dr. Fate and Johnny Thunder – legacy. We see the classic Legion flight ring – legacy.
And just in case Johns hasn’t made it apparent, he kills off Pandora, the driving character of the New 52. And who kills her? All indications point to Dr. Manhattan of Watchmen fame.
Never in a million years did I think DC would go there.
Oh, they went there.
Imagine. The heart and soul of the DCU has been held prisoner by the harbinger of the Dark Age. From a story telling perspective, it makes perfect sense. The DCU is a multiverse, we all understood Watchmen existed in that multiverse somewhere, but I personally never dreamed they would finally integrate members of Watchmen into the mainstream DCU.
Can this renewed direction of love, legacy, and hope start off any better than by having the heroes battle the one character who most perfectly encapsulates the antithesis of those things? This is a bold step by both Johns and DCU, and I applaud them for taking a pretty big chance. Watchmen is a seminal work and the author, Alan Moore, has made it explicitly clear he does NOT want his creations mucked with. Oftentimes publishers purport that a story will “change everything!” In this case, it’s true. This has literally never been done.
How fitting that Wally West is leading this charge into a new era.