A lot of ink’s been spilled lately on what Marvel’s comics division is doing wrong. But meanwhile, DC’s been absolutely crushing it since launching DC Rebirth, and nary a columnist has made a peep.
I’m here to fix that. DC Rebirth drew me back to the DC Universe in a big way, and I think it’s time someone made some noise about what Rebirth got right and why, over a year in, DC’s comics are still firing on all cylinders. For all the talk of comics’ usual reboot smoke and mirrors, Rebirth actually delivered a huge change in both design and direction for the DCU, one that’s created better comics, better heroes, and a better universe.
Rebirth Brought Back Color
It started before Rebirth actually, with a little thing I like to call “the purple Bat-Cape”.
The sense of color and design that Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia brought to Bruce Wayne’s new Bat-Suit right before Rebirth carried over to every title in the DCU after Rebirth hit. Suddenly, Wonder Woman got to rock bright blue and gold armor again, instead of chrome and dark black. Superman got to transition from Man of Steel body armor to Man of Steel spandex to a costume that actually has some contrasting colors.
But it’s not just costumes. The overall art direction for DC Rebirth screams “BRIGHT PRIMARY COLORS” in a way many mainstream comics haven’t done since…maybe the Silver Age, honestly. Just take a look at this page from Superman, and tell me that isn’t one of the trippiest explosions you’ve ever seen.
Good comics are eye-catching and visually interesting. I’ll admit even DC Rebirth dips into maintaining a house style at times (likely due to the demands of publishing many titles twice a month), but no artist in the current DC roster is bland or uninteresting. And most all of them are using colors to good effect, creating lively comics in which heroes and villains jump off the page.
Rebirth Brought Back History (But Slowly)
With a return to color has also come a return to DC Comics’s history. But unlike other attempts to shuffle pieces of our heroes’ backstory around (*cough*New52*cough*), Rebirth seems to both know where it’s going and be fine with taking its time getting there.
In this case, there’s no better example than Superman. DC could have simply reset the board on Superman at the start of Rebirth. They’d cleared the deck by killing off the New 52 Superman, and the big, universe-altering changes we all expected from Rebirth were primed to simply make the dimension-shifted, married-with-a-kid Superman we’d been following around for the last year into the real deal once again. No muss, no fuss.
Instead, the Superman writers built a meaningful story out of the continuity changes they wanted to make, with real stakes for the Kents, their friends, and the world they live in. The story itself was goofy, buckwild, and wonderful, which went a long way towards paving over the fact that, essentially, it was all done as table setting.
At the same time, that story’s not even over yet. There are still several holes in Superman’s history to fill in (Where Is Connor Kent?), the ever-elusive Mr. Oz lurking around the corner (Edit: Since this writing, Mr. Oz’s identity has been revealed. I’m not going to spoil it here, in case you’re coming at it cold.), and Doomsday Clock waiting after all that.
Rebirth’s given the same history lesson to other heroes as it has to Superman. Wonder Woman: Year One was an excellent, organic re-telling of Diana’s origin (just in time for the movie), and Detective Comics has gone out of its way to rebuild the previously broken Bat-Family. Which brings us to the best part of bringing back all this DC Comics history: it’s made DC’s heroes into friends again.
Rebirth Brought Back Friendships
Hero vs. hero conflicts have been all the rage at the Big Two lately, but DC Rebirth’s largely rolled that back. These days, DC heroes prefer team-ups to fisticuffs, and the DC Universe is so much better for it.
As a kid, one of the best parts of reading a Justice League story was just seeing all these awesome people hanging out and being friends. That camaraderie between people attempting to do good, to change the world for the better, is no less impactful now than it was then. In some ways, it might be even more meaningful.
Putting heroes at odds with each other can be interesting for a moment or two, but creating lasting relationships that readers can become invested in is where it’s really at. It proves the heroes we love to read about are decent people who respect and depend on one another. Those are the kinds of heroes I want to cheer for, month in and month out. Putting back that common respect and air of friendliness is a large part of what’s drawn me to DC Rebirth.
Seeing heroes smile and crack jokes, instead of jaws, when other heroes show up is one of Rebirth’s major selling points. And heroes are now showing up in each others’ books more often, because…
Rebirth Brought Back Coherency
Like I said above, the Rebirthed DC Universe knows where it’s going. The overall creative direction coming from the top, and the talks editors must be having day-to-day, have created a universe that actually feels cohesive. Completely different writers on completely different books know what’s going on elsewhere, and it lets them build moments they might not have found if things were less loosely bound together.
The ability for characters to easily show up in each others’ titles and to easily reference happenings from other books has created something greater than the whole, where it feels like each DC comic is actually driving at some larger narrative that’s been in place since Rebirth began. My absolute favorite bit of this universe-building was when Tim Drake, who was captured by Mr. Oz in Detective Comics, showed up in Superman to taunt his captor, creating a tantalizing little lead-in for the story that followed.
But this larger sense of direction isn’t just showing up month-to-month. It’s showing up in DC’s overall publishing game plan. You can tell they’re thinking more long-term by the way they’re collecting issues as story arcs rather than series (see Batman: Night of the Monster Men or Batman/The Flash: The Button), and by the way they’ve structured their covers. The clearly (and cleverly) placed cover blurbs calling out story titles, as well as what part of the story each comic is, have gone a long way towards creating jumping-on points at every story arc, as well as telling a reader what they might have missed if they’re jumping in at the middle.
All of these changes have made the DCU into a better, brighter, and more interesting place. And I, for one, am hooked. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been enjoying DC Rebirth, as well as which titles you’ve liked best. I’ve read the first trade of most of them, but not all, and I’d hate to miss out on a new favorite!