Saturday, June 11

The REBIRTH of My Love for DC Comics?

Often my blog posts these days don’t really begin as such. Sometimes a note in my journal about something I’ve just seen or read grows to the point that I decide to share it with the world (or my two or three readers) here; The same sometimes happens with an email – which is what happened here.

A couple of months ago, an email from one of my Facebook friends (literally – we’ve never met in person, and only spoken on the ‘phone once – but have gone from a Facebook acquaintance to periodic, sometimes lengthy and deep email exchanges on a variety of subjects) elicited from me a pretty strong condemnation of DC Comics and dismissal of their upcoming Rebirth event … which I just more or less ended up retracting.

Here is an adapted version of that exchange, which began:

From my friend: “I just got an email ‘flyer’ from my local comics store, asking, ‘Are you ready for the Rebirth of the DC Universe?’ Is this yet another ret-con, or what?  You keep your eyes a lot closer to the industry than I do.

To which I replied:

First I should explain that I'm not nearly so attentive to the industry as I was. I finally got so disgusted with the poor quality of storytelling in most of what I was buying that I dumped all but a few titles, mostly when DC gave me a "jumping-off point" called Convergence (ANOTHER mega-cross-over) last year ... then I realized that the few titles I was still getting didn't really make any economic sense to continue getting month-to-month, so I stopped the monthlies altogether and have been getting just collected editions -- and not many of those, to tell you the truth. What I've mainly been getting has been reprints of older material, e.g., the recent one-volume compendium of ALL of Neal Adams' Batman work (it's about 3 1/2" thick, but is a thing of beauty), a soon to be published Supergirl Omnibus (silver age), etc. Hardly anything new, except Justice League, as well as a title you might actually like, Superman: Lois and Clark. Explaining that is actually hard; it grows out of that Convergence event where it was revealed that all of the old Universes replaced by the (d****d) New 52 had been harvested for refugees before they were destroyed, among them the pre-New 52 married Superman and Lois, who ended up at the end of that story living in secret on the current New 52 Earth, raising a son. Written by Dan Jurgens, it's been consistently good….

There's a point to all that ... Although I've not been nearly as closely tuned into the comics industry, I'm not completely out of it either. I usually skim the solicits when looking to see what collections are being announced, and from that I can say this: Rebirth is very likely to largely be another in a series of DC cluster-fornications; as best I can figure they are throwing continuity and consistency to the four winds and basically just going to be publishing whatever the h*** their current whim of the moment is. E.g., apparently there are going to be several different Supermans going at the same time -- including a Chinese Super-Man and a Lois Lane Superwoman title (I'm not making this up. I don't understand it, but I'm not making it up). One ray of light, apparently the main Superman title is going to be a continuation of the aforementioned Superman: Lois and Clark title, although now written by Peter Tomasi (I think) (who actually, for a while, had one of the best New 52 titles going in Batman and Robin). But in sum, I can't tell if it's meant to be a reboot or what; most likely it's a desperate throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks play hoping for the best. There may be a few good titles to come out of it, but they'll probably be the first to be cancelled.

And still no revival of Legion of Super-Heroes, probably the only title that could bring me back into the monthly floppies habit. Honestly, lately I've been scratching my heroic-serialized-fiction itch by means of Gotham on Fox, Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow on CW and Supergirl on CBS [this was before the move to CW was announced]. The latter has been surprisingly enjoyable, largely on the strength of the actress, who in my opinion has the character down pat. The changes to canon that they made have been a bit irritating, but I've just sat back and gone with it; a bit more maddening has been the constant teasing of Superman -- including the season finale where he was "in a coma" and only visible lying on a hospital bed as a couple of red boots sticking into the frame! And in that same episode, Kara is told that "outside the Earth's atmosphere you won't be able to breath or generate thrust"--??!! Say what? ... just have to go with it.... It was nice to have the omegahedron back, however....

… Which was pretty much the extent of our conversation on the subject of Rebirth back in April. … Then, a little while ago today, I felt compelled to dredge up that two months’ old rant mainly because I needed something to eat, namely my words rashly dismissing Rebirth as just another in a series of DC misfires. 

How wrong I seem to have been – and how delighted I am to admit it! Based on the first three weeks, I'm thinking DC may have finally gotten something right.

To be honest, I wasn't actually much inclined to check Rebirth out at all. As I think is clear in what I quoted above, I’m pretty bitter about how badly DC Comics took characters I have loved all my life and basically trashed them. A couple of weeks ago, however, the various comics-related sites that still feed into my Facebook feed started raving about how good the DC Universe: Rebirth special one-shot was, how it looked to be setting everything that has been wrong with DC and the "New 52" right again. Among those lauding it was a Scottish blogger, Martin Gray, whose blog I have historically gone to for excellent assessments of current stories: Too Dangerous For a Girl! [LINK]. I decided to check it out digitally via Comixology, and was thoroughly – surprisingly – pleased. I don't want to give away too many spoilers lest the reader decide to check it out for themselves, but I will say that the gist of the plot is the return of the pre-Flashpoint Wally West from being lost in the Speed Force, bearing the news that the current, New 52, DC Universe is a construct of a certain god-like being who stripped out much that was good in the heroes, including many of their relationships and much of their morality, along with five years of their lives. It ends up being extremely metatextual as an indictment not just of the last five years of DC Comics history but of the general darkening of the last thirty years of comic-book publication. :)  I came away from Rebirth having enjoyed it more than just about any comic book I've read in the last five years (2011 was when the New 52 was born) and suddenly looking forward to what would come next.

So, the next Wednesday I purchased the Superman Rebirth special, which basically completes the transition from the New 52 Superman -- now dead -- to his replacement, the pre-Flashpoint Superman who had been married to Lois Lane and, as the Superman: Lois and Clark series revealed, had been living in secret on the New 52 Earth all along with his wife and their young son. Having really enjoyed that latter series, I'm perfectly happy with that development and eager to see how they make it work. I also picked up Batman Rebirth, which didn't really grab me like Superman Rebirth did, but my interest remained piqued enough that this past Wednesday I grabbed a whopping five titles -- Aquaman Rebirth, The Flash Rebirth, Wonder Woman Rebirth, and Action Comics #957 as well as Detective Comics #934 -- the latter two, of course, symbolically reverting to the issue numbering they would have borne had the New 52 not rolled back the odometers to #1. I have at this point read all but Detective*, and have enjoyed them all to varying degrees, especially The Flash Rebirth, which follows most directly from the foundational Rebirth special of two weeks prior but also manages to bring something of the spirit of the Flash TV show into the series. I'm a fan of that series so I have no real problem with that.

For right now at least, my enthusiasm for and anticipation of DC Comics and what comes next is at a higher level than it's been in a long time. Having said all that, however, after three weeks of reading them digitally I'm thinking that's the way I'm going to proceed going forward, for new material at least. There are several factors in that decision: 1) of course, I have no local comic shop within about sixty miles, so it's either a long drive or, as I've done for about ten years, buy through an online service getting my books a month at a time, therefore up to several weeks after they've gone on sale, as well as having to order them two months in advance; 2) adaptability -- I can pick up and drop titles with no regard for that two-month lead time, not having to predict what I might want to get in a couple of months or be stuck receiving two or three issues of a title I decide to drop (but have already pre-ordered); 3) storage space (or the lack thereof) – I already have boxes upon boxes of comics I’m pretty sure I’ll never ever go back and read again. Reading comics digitally on a tablet is not that bad, really. It is convenient, and anything I have is there for me digitally anywhere I have a wifi or data connection. I may choose to get a few select things in print collections when those come out, but I'm not inclined to double-dip like that except for something like Legion of Super-Heroes, which I understand is going to be coming back in the future (pardon the pun).

As a side-note, that is another thing DC seems to be doing this time in contrast to 2011's New 52  they are rolling out Rebirth fairly slowly, a few issues a week  rather than the massive dump of a radical discontinuity that happened in September 2011  52 new titles within a month, thirteen or fourteen comics a week. It was pretty overwhelming

And I don't plan on diving back down the obsessive rabbit-hole of trying to blog about everything I read. Been there, done that, burned me out. Rebirth is, I believe, momentous enough to merit this post, however.

Could it all implode next month? Of course it could. DC Comics is like the Republican Party in this respect – I have learned never to underestimate their ability to disappoint me. Juggling what they are once more claiming is not a reboot removing the last five years' continuity but rather is a reclamation of the preceding thirty to eighty years' – including the glorious sense of legacy that has been most sorely missed – and making that work story-wise seems like a monumental task to me, but so far what I have seen gives me hope. Different titles are, to be sure, handling that task differently depending on their respective circumstances (for instance, compare 1) the Superman titles' literally killing off the most recent, younger, brasher Superman and replacing him with the previous, older, wiser, character with 2) Wonder Woman's treating that character as one suddenly assaulted by memories of multiple timelines at once), and it remains to be seen what the result will be. Given DC's track record in such matters, the solution could well end up being more confusing and worse than the mess they are trying to fix! I hope that's not what happens, because at my age and how badly the New 52 ultimately left me jaded, this probably is DC's last chance to recapture me as a monthly reader.

We will just have to watch….

And see....

Cheers! and Thanks for reading!

* EDIT: Having now read Detective Comics, it hooked me in a way that the straight Batman Rebirth did not. My wallet says "Ouch!"

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