DC Universe Rebirth #1 Review: Alan Moore’s Not Even My REAL Dad, Man
I read a lot of comics. I don’t know why I do; they’re expensive and often times not very good. I suppose it’s an addiction like drinking or heroin, only in this case it costs more and the high is a lot less satisfying. One of the reasons it’s not satisfying is that for the past, I dunno, 15 years, one of the pillars of the comics industry has deteriorated into a pathetic, dysfunctional, Larry Sanders Show-esque parody of what a comic book company ought to be. When DC isn’t harboring sex criminals, they’re alienating freelancers; when they’re not offending women with some tasteless parade of sexual violence or T&A they didn’t give a second thought to before approving, they’re having one of their All Ages characters fight a demon composed of stillborn fetuses. When not displacing popular characters in favor of ones who peaked before the RFK assassination, DC’s telling creators lesbians can’t be married because that’s not tragic enough. I could go on and on; the point is, Time Warner’s IP farm for long underwear beaters of the mentally ill has been mismanaged for so long it’s difficult to imagine what a competent DC Comics looks like. Their line has been in large part grim, po faced, self-serious, graphically violent and impenetrable to any poor sucker who night get interested in comics through some of WB’s shitty superhero shows. Well, the $3, 80 page one-shot DC Universe: Rebirth #1 by Geoff Johns and DC’s most talented artists who had time in their schedules presents a much needed course correction to the fictional universe most notably thrown into disarray in 2011 with the cancellation and relaunch of the entire line (aka The New 52, aka some exec really has a hard on for the number ’52’). The bad things are gone, the good things are back, and the blame is placed where it should be: on the shoulders of Alan Moore, whose last work for the company proper came out when I was less than a month old. FUCKING ALAN MOORE, man. First he doesn’t approve of those awesome adaptations of his comics and now he’s been masterminding DC’s downfall since Reagan’s last term.
“I didn’t go to medical school so I could be called MR. Batman.”
Before we get to that, let’s dissect the piece of gumph at hand. Yellow narration boxes drone on about a watch the narrator received from his uncle. You know what else had watch imagery in it? That’s right: V for Vendetta. Those “in the know” will recognize the narration as coming from Wally West, the third Flash and a particular favorite character of Geoff Johns’ who was washed away with the New 52 reboot. Note this is the original, racially pure Wally West, not the biracial teen who appears in recent comics nor the black supporting character in the CW series. Wally’s outside of time and space, a spectre that is incapable of connecting to the present universe because he lacks his lightning rod, aka his wife. So he bounces around, going to various DC locales, hoping someone will remember him. Batman doesn’t, though the World’s Greatest Detective realizes there are THREE Jokers operating simultaneously, because a magic chair told him so and one Joker committed crimes while another was locked up. More than one person can have bleached skin and green hair, imagine that. Wally materializes long enough to remind Batman of the time his alternate timeline Batman father wrote a letter to him which the Flash delivered to this Batman even though neither of them remembered that alternate timeline and the letter would be nothing more than inexplicable gibberish.
Of course bats can see better if they have shit blown up onto a huge computer monitor.
There’s a lot of recapping of everything from Wally’s origin to his time with the Teen Titans to Crisis on Infinite Earths to him becoming the Flash and let me tell you, Johns does a way of summarizing it that unless you’ve actually read all this shit you’d have no idea what the fuck was going on. No one needs to see noted McCarthy apologist Ethan Van Sciver drawing the 60s Teen Titans. While recapping Flashpoint, Wally finally gets to the meat and potatoes of Rebirth: “a decade was removed like a jenga piece”. Geoff Johns doesn’t seem to know that jenga towers can have pieces removed while still being structurally sound but removing a decade of time will create all sorts of discrepancies. It’s those time skips in Futurama all over again. A big hand removed experience, relationships and legacies from the DC Universe. First Master Hand makes all the Nintendo characters fight each other and now he’s set his sights on the Superfriends. THAT BASTARD.
This panel more than anything shows that everyone’s giving their 100%. “What do we put on this medical folder?” “Uh, ‘HEALTH REPORT'”
Divided into chapters because I guess someone told him chapters = literature = better, the second is really just a series of teases for comic books that one can assume will be released in the coming months. An old man at the Good Life Home for the Elderly (get it?!) babbles on about McCarthy and the Justice Society, the cops have a Legion of Super-Heroes girl in custody (she stole a sandwich, saying that in her time food is free…yeah sure, go light up a fattie and vote for Bernie Sanders you fucking hippie), and a nerdy as fuck Ryan Choi is threatened with deportation back to Hong Kong even though I’m pretty sure he’s Korean. He was the third Atom and becomes him once more, though his predecessor (who is supposed to LIKE the guy) notes with no subtlety that this four eyed little Asian fellow hates sports, the outdoors, is afraid of heights, has asthma and allergies. Milhouse Van Houten is less of a feckless dork than this guy. Aqualad fares worse; he’s in two panels, and one of those is his mother expressing her disgust for how unnatural he is. Oh, she’s not referring to his superpowers, she doesn’t give a fuck about those. His homosexuality, however… Given that the character is black and Geoff Johns doesn’t do “subtle” I’m surprised he didn’t use the phrase “the down low”. A Doctor Fate who isn’t the Doctor Fate from DC’s current running series Doctor Fate appears out of nowhere to tell the shot-in-the-head-10-years-ago-but-feelin’-fine-now Blue Beetle II that his Blue Beetle III protege is wearing a magic scarab, not one made of alien technology. Gary Frank does this section of the art and the rictus grin he gives Blue Beetle is nothing short of horrifying.
“Geoff, we’re not letting you have a character call the Atom a slanty eyed goo–” “IT’S NATURAL STORYTELLING”
The pace quickens as the vignettes become more and more perplexing, like Robin celebrating his 13th birthday, alone, in the dark, smiling a serial killer smile at his cake. There’s a new Green Lantern, a Hispanic woman, who has a Green Lantern symbol tattoo over her right eye. Remember how in the 90s X-Men comics Bishop had that huge ‘M’ tat over his eye? Yeah, it looked stupid there too. Although this whole comic could be described as a nadir, I found the two panel reintroduction of black Aqualad to be uniquely galling. In what amounts to about 30% of a single page, Johns and Frank establish two things: black Aqualad’s mother is okay with his superpowers (swimming really well) but not his homosexuality. (Yes, I know “gay Aqualad” is oxymoronic on its face…) I think in a world of gilled fish people who can live underwater in Game of Thrones for Scanner Babies, gay acceptance would be much less of a pressing issue. There has to be a less clanging manner of establishing Aqualad is an Aqualad and loves the cock than mom calling her son “unnatural” while his face is framed through a fish tank. I dunno, have him looking for profiles on Grindr that are within 5 miles of Atlantis. Post a water sports-centric ad on Craigslist. To more firmly establish the Rebirthed DC Universe as a place of hope and optimism and love a woman is atomized onto a brick wall for yelling at a man. With Gary Frank doing his best to produce I Can Believe It’s Not Watchmen Because Late 80s Dave Gibbons Artwork Looked Better.
New hero = Damian Wayne, created 10 years ago. New idea = what if a dark haired boy was Robin.
Chapter 3: Love, begins as expected, with a naked woman named after an object (Grail), covered in blood tattoos, talking to a baby version of her father Darkseid about Wonder Woman’s twin brother also known as Jason of Jason and the Argonauts. Why not Visitor Q it up and have her breastfeed her own father. It’d be stupid and disgusting so it wouldn’t fit this comic how? Meanwhile, Superman is dead. The New 52 Superman, not the Superman introduced in 1986, he’s got a beard and a marriage to Lois Lane and a shitty precocious son. The art suggests New Superman exploded into a fine red mist, as though Chris Monsanto just Death Punched him. I haven’t been following this Death of Superman storyline because I don’t care, but this comic doesn’t care either. Superman’s death is more an opportunity for Ivan Reis to draw a splash page of all the memorable superheroes as well as Firestorm standing/floating around an empty field. Some mysterious figure (this comic is 17% mysterious figures) barges in on Old Superman and family at the Siegel Hotel, whose rates are lower than the $130 check DC gave him and Shuster all those years ago, and says a bunch of gobbledygook about how no Superman is what they seem, from Old Superman to Kid Superman to Dead Superman. Just once could some dickhead wearing a robe, holding a staff, say to a superhero “you know what you think you are? Well, it’s on the money. 100%”. At least the sight of a Death Punched Superman invites some longing glances between Green Arrow and Black Canary, which will ultimately result in late night separate but complementary masturbation sessions. I find the emphasis on their romance after five years of no interaction amusing because on Arrow, Beth Auron’s favorite show, Black Canary just died and in her dying breath told Green Arrow he should go fuck somebody else. Aquaman proposes to Mera. Is there an open bar at a fish people wedding?
Pizza makes the orphan blues go away
Finally Wally pinballs to his wife, who doesn’t recognize him. What I find funny about all this is the character goes on and on about how his wife grounds him, she’s the love of his life, not once does he mention the fact that he has two children, despite one of them appearing in flashback art. Like, I get it, those kids were pretty fucking annoying, but that’s still pretty cold on West’s part. “Sales were in decline when they showed up, fuck ‘em.” The problem – well, one of them – with this comic is it’s as much continuity janitorial work as it is a story about characters with emotions and motivations. To wit: we check in the other Wally West, introduced in an effort to mirror the CW series in broad strokes (in the show he’s not biracial and is Iris’ long lost brother). There are pages devoted to why there are two dudes with superspeed named Wally West whose uncle is Barry Allen. Wally explains his father had an estranged brother named Daniel, who had a son also named Wally. In New 52 Daniel is also the Reverse-Flash, so I guess now the new Kid Flash is the son of the Reverse-Flash? If it doesn’t make sense, then I’m succeeding in my effort to write like a DC comic. By this point, with Wally rocketing past familiar characters such as Captain Boomerang (who says “Oi!”, in case you forgot he’s Australian; he’s also roasting a wallaby while practicing on a didgeridoo), Cyborg and Nightwing (shouting “Vic! D-dick!” in short succession isn’t dramatic, it’s funny), he is resigned to his fate as dissipating into energy or something. Has he been rushing around, trying to get people to remember him, for five years? Fortunately, DC proves that there’s no love quite like between an adult male and an underage male (I think that’s on their company crest, right under “Fuck Siegel and Shuster”) as Uncle Barry recognizes his nephew wearing that stupid Kid Flash costume that hearkens back to when they had a lot of “Silver Age adventures”.
ELLO ELLO IT’S ME DANIEL CRAIG
I know this is taking a while, but there’s a reason to cover the moments, to reveal the bigger picture. This is one of those tiny glass bottle boats if every piece was made of shit. Wally brings Barry up to speed (get it?) on everything and emphatically denies it’s Barry’s fault for reality changing, despite those Flashpoint comics I read where that woman who got atomized blamed all the timeline changes on Barry fucking with time in an effort to prevent his mom’s murder. IT IS NEVER THE STRAIGHT WHITE MAN’S FAULT. Instead the culprit is someone so powerful they can create or recreate a universe, someone readying for a hope vs. despair, love vs. apathy and faith vs. disbelief war. Creating the New 52 had something to do with that. Anyone wanting real answers can either eat shit or wait two years. If the men focusing on watches didn’t clue you in already, Batman randomly finds a smiley face button with blood on it somewhere in the Batcave. He’s like a glasses-less Costanza spotting dimes from across the room. So ends Chapter 4, and the epilogue is repurposed Watchmen dialogue with Gary Frank and Phil Jiminez ably proving they can copy Dave Gibbons art from 30 years ago. “Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends” says Doctor Manhattan, and now we have a classic line of dialogue repurposed for a fucking comic book company event series cliffhanger. You know what, why not. Why not take a complex, ambivalent character from a seminal work and cast them as the bête noire of sunshine, puppies and fireworks? The only reason Raskolnikov isn’t a fucking henchman is his powers aren’t easily determined.
Next: DC published some Harvey Pekar comics once, so he becomes the new Ravager WHY NOT!
I’m not staking out unique territory in thinking Alan Moore is a genius and DC’s creators are lucky not to be setting pins at a bowling alley. But even if I was a devious, degenerate motherfucker who thought “HE SIGNED A CONTRACT” was an excuse to disgrace a classic with a fucking Rorschach toaster I’d consider Johns’ employment of Watchmen a rough proposition. By positioning Doctor Manhattan as a character of cynicism, who thinks the worst of humanity, Johns indicates he’s never actually read Watchmen and at best woke up halfway through FX showing the movie on a Sunday afternoon. Manhattan wasn’t “well, humanity’s shit”, he was so disconnected from humanity he couldn’t properly interact with it, and that was reversed by the end of the fucking comic where he was if anything optimistic about humanity’s chances. Turning him into a villain requires either a willful misunderstanding of the character or you knowing Doctor Manhattan actor Billy Crudup left Mary Louise Parker when she was pregnant. DC Universe Rebirth #1 is proof positive that Geoff Johns doesn’t know how to read. “He’s some blue naked man that was in some acclaimed story, but wouldn’t it be awesome if Superman, like, fucking punched him in the balls so hard they exploded and then there’s a double page splash of the Man of Steel covered in fourth-dimensional jism?”
The followup to But I’m A Cheerleader no one needed, But I’m A Fishman
Okay, so not only is introducing Watchmen into the DC Universe inherently stupid, the way it was done beggars disbelief and some glove slapping. Batman just finds a fucking bloodied smiley button, that thing that’s the logo of the comic, in the Batcave? “Man finds button in cave” isn’t a real cliffhanger, and since he doesn’t know the connotations of the button it’s no different from him finding a goddamn Cal Eldred rookie card underneath his desk. I understand DC can do this. They can do a lot of things, whether they should is a different matter. They could write a storyline where Pa Kent is revealed to be a child molester, that doesn’t mean it ought to happen. (For the record, I could buy Kevin Costner as a kid toucher.) Given Johns is fucking off from comics to lighten the DC Movies – which is weird code for telling Zack Snyder that maybe some arms should be ripped off before Jimmy Olsen’s shot in the face – I don’t know who the hell is going to further this DC Universe vs. The Watchmen, and no one in the stable of writers strikes me as up to the task of doing that in a non-moronic way. Even Grant Morrison, who’s spent multiple event comics bitching about Alan Moore, would couch it in more subtle terms. What I’m looking for at this point is for shit to become as stupid and as decadent as possible. The movie was strike one. The video game strike two. Before Watchmen strike three, so anything afterward is razor blade toppings on the shit cake. Fuck it, have Nite-Owl become part of Batman Incorporated, throw Rorschach in Arkham so he can say “you’re locked up in here with ME” to like Two-Face and Killer Croc holy shit, um maybe Dollar Bill can cross over with Infinity Inc. like we’ve always desired. Always bet on stupid when it comes to DC.
“Why do you have an erection right now?!”
Also, you know, fuck you, Geoffrey Johns, writer of multiple episodes of Smallville, for trying to assign blame for dark and violent, thoughtless garbage comics on fucking Watchmen. Watchmen deconstructed superheroes in response to gradually more and more realistic superhero comics in the 80s, giving psychological motivations to superheroic archetypes while also stretching the form of comics as a medium. Geoff Johns wrote a comic that culminated in the Golden Age Superman, the one created by Siegel and Shuster, being beaten to death by Superboy-Prime, a kid whose ideas of heroism and doing the right thing were shaped by…reading DC Comics! He invented a whole class of Green Lantern enemies who vomit in rage. He chops off more limbs in a year than farming accidents. Just the other day I read his origin story for Flash villain Mirror Master; he’s an orphan who happens to becomes a contract killer and realizes he’s been contracted to kill his birth father after he’s done the deed, and before he can reach out to his birth mother she kills herself. Also as a boy he kills a bully in the orphanage who’s been molesting him. Mirror Master has a cocaine addiction because what do you snort cocaine off? MIRRORS! (Or in my case one night some years ago, a Donald Rumsfeld book.) Alan Moore didn’t put a gun to your head to make you write that shit, you did so of your own volition. You made a Green Lantern villain named after Bill Finger, Exhibit A for the comics industry eating their own, into a corpse fucker. Apologizing for all the stupid bullshit you did while you walk out the door and passively piling the blame on someone else is disingenuous and cowardly. You trying to be Alan Moore and fucking it up isn’t his fault any more than Matt Groening deserves blame for Family Guy.
“Tell it to someone who cares, Elia Kazan!”
Comics as an art form and as an industry have been for decades – really, since the beginning – considered to be an also-ran of the dignified fields of entertainment. Products such as DC Universe Rebirth Reheat Afterbirth #1 suggest that’s not only deserved but it should be encouraged. I cannot for a second believe anyone gave a shit in making this comic; it’s an incestuous mess, a plea to fans who stopped buying these shitty comics five years ago. “Yeah, look, I’ve gotten like five DUIs but this time I realize I shouldn’t drink and drive. Can I have your car? Also, this beer is just to loosen me up in the morning.” The only valid restitution for DC Comics being the most laughable fucking thing outside of Jeffrey Loria’s one-two of raking the Montreal Expos over a floor of dirty needles and scamming an eyesore stadium that’ll never get filled with die hard Miami Marlins is maybe a lot of people losing their jobs for being terrible at them. Recommendations: Bob Harras, who emerged like a cockroach from the aftermath of driving 90s Marvel into the ground to do the same thing to DC the last five years. Dan Didio, who looks like if Corey Stoll answered directly to Benito Mussolini during the Ethiopa campaign, a huckster incompetent with the likability of the Zika virus. Eddie Berganza, the Superman editor who explained away sexually harassing women as an effort to closet his homosexuality (sexual assault is the best way to assure people you’re straight) and is such a PR eyesore that DC can only get acclaimed writers like Greg Rucka under the condition that they don’t have to work with this guy. Scott Lobdell, another sexual harasser who’s written more Jason Todd comics than should exist and has been a leech on Harras’ underside for decades. I could continue with this list but there’s a Franklin & Bash marathon coming up in 15.
Check out this new house ad if you want confirmation that DC’s marketing department is two bonobos who jerk each other off each afternoon.
A $3 comic that can be summed up as “we’ll bring back things you like, we’re retarded, but you fucked up, you trusted us” doesn’t and shouldn’t cut it these days. Back in the day at least intelligence insulting comics written for poorly adjusted sub-normals who masturbate to pictures of Guy Gardner’s haircut cost a third or more less. If DC Comics can’t handle publishing comics that sell more in a given year than VHS rewinders, maybe they ought to get out of the publishing game. If you can’t sell a superhero whose symbol is more recognized than the goddamn cross maybe the problem isn’t with the superhero. Yet I’ve seen a lot of positive buzz about this comic, so maybe just trotting out nostalgic signifiers amidst a lousy mea culpa is just good enough for comic book readers. Maybe I’m just as much a sucker for devoting so many words to this piece of shit. Who gives a fuck if the means is a woeful bit of trash, WALLY WEST is BACK! And he’s WHITE!