Review by Frank Plowright
During the 21st century DC’s marketing strategy for their standard superhero titles has become increasingly puzzling. It’s difficult to understand how highly paid people can take a financial overview and repeatedly come to the wrong conclusions. Baby and bathwater were discarded in 2011’s rebranding as ‘The New 52’, which generated a short term sales spike for re-booted characters that then became much as they were, but with their rich legacy absent. Meanwhile TV shows based largely on what DC’s characters once were proved resoundingly successful. Cue 2016’s rebranding, DC Universe Rebirth, launched with a $2.99 comic, very reasonable for eighty pages. Six months after DC spilled the content into yet another range of titles starting again, those eighty pages were reprinted as this hardback. Fans wondered why, but marketing intelligence presumably determined enough people wanted the book. That multiple copies can be found online at under half the cover price less than three months after publication belies this.
The big tease for this re-boot hinted at the incorporation of the Watchmen into the more or less familiar world of DC characters, although this hadn’t occurred in any substantive fashion nine months later. What we’re left with is a selection of teaser sequences designed to entice us into DC’s new vision.
Wally West is the key character. Once Flash, before that Kid Flash, he was expunged from continuity in 2012 as others adopted those names. His was the power of super speed, connected to a primal force, and maintaining an awareness while discorporated within that force. He’s able to manifest as almost human to others with that connection, and comes with a warning that something has gone wrong, that the superheroes we know have had ten years robbed from them. Others appear to have reached that conclusion independently.
Geoff Johns has constructed a story designed to intrigue by skimming across some familiar faces like a stone over water. It touches base with DC’s major figures, if only in passing, but there are few concessions to the novice reader. If you’ve no clue why Superman is pretending to be dead while in fact hiding in a motel with Lois Lane, you’re not going to find out here. Nor will you learn the identity of the woman who’s seemingly killed, or the one in the police station if you don’t recognise her ring. Teasers, however, are the purpose. More frustratingly, there’s no indication as to where the individuals spotlighted are followed up. In the case of Aquaman or Blue Beetle it’s obvious enough as they have relaunched titles, but if Johnny Thunder’s predicament is the one that really grabs you, or Ray Palmer’s there’s no indication as to where their stories continue.
Much of the book is drawn very nicely indeed by Gary Frank, while Phil Jiminez, Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver fill in equally well here and there. It indicates that this new reboot for DC’s superheroes will have a reassuringly safe and competent feel about it, and fulfils the brief by providing a competent tease. You would, though, have to be some Gary Frank fan to want this on your shelf in hardcover. The next time you look at it will be when deciding whether or not to list on Ebay.