In 1994, DC soft-rebooted its line with Zero Hour, only six years after Crisis on Infinite Earths fully-rebooted the entire company. Despite containing some pretty heavy-handed changes, they were mostly cosmetic. And the alterations that were more serious would go onto be ignored by most writers and eventually revert back to status quo anyway.
DC’s summer Rebirth event is essentially the new Zero Hour. It is a soft reboot that will continue where the New 52’s continuity ends. Sure, it will attempt to appease some fans of the Modern Age by incorporating aspects of that era. But for anyone already deciding to treat the timeline as brand new, I think that is a ludicrous idea. We don’t even know for sure if anything from the New 52 will actually be fully changed (or erased). Let’s take a look at some of the early Rebirth announcements and predict how they will affect continuity.
Batgirl’s recent Burnside history remains, as does The Killing Joke (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). Rumor has it that her time as Oracle will be reinserted to appease fans. I personally think this is a bad idea, but if it is done it shouldn’t affect much New 52 canon. After all, there never was mention of her as Oracle, but there never was anything stating outright that she wasn’t either.
We know for certain that Superman will die before Rebirth, paving the way for Modern Age Superman—who already exists in New 52 continuity—to take his place. This, to me, is one of the most fascinating aspects of Rebirth. I’m looking forward to how this will be handled. While some might view it as an absolute return to ultimate status-quo by simply replacing a current in-the-works Superman with a previous and tested model, it actually is a truly radical departure from anything that’s happened with such a major player in comics before. The way some fans will view it—and the way I am choosing to view it—is that the main-line Earth-0 Superman (i.e. THE one true blue Superman) is being killed off and replaced by an alternate (read “secondary”) version of the character. As far as continuity and narrative both go, Modern Age Superman, while having a ton of history on his side, is still technically an alternate “copy” of the original. He’s an out-an-out doppelgänger. Hell, his banishment to the New 52 happened via Convergence and his kid was born in Convergence, which means the single biggest aspects of his life at the moment both came from something quite stupid and nonsensical. For many fans, especially newer fans, the one-and-only REAL Superman is being ditched for some alt-faker. And they ain’t wrong! This is a big deal. I wonder how long until the CORRECT Man of Steel (New 52 Superman) returns?
Moving on. Helena Bertinelli will supposedly leave Spyral to join the Birds of Prey. This might mean that Spyral becomes defunct before Rebirth. Stay tuned to Grayson to see what happens.
Speaking of Grayson, that series’ conclusion will determine exactly how Dick leaves Spyral, gains his secret ID back (via Somnus Satellite mind-wiping technology), and returns to his Nightwing persona for Rebirth.
As far as other supporting characters around the DCU, most (if not all) are continuing right where the New 52 will leave off, with all of their New 52 histories intact. This goes for Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, Wally West, Black Canary, and Donna Troy. For anyone that thinks Titans Hunt contradicts Donna Troy’s origin in the pages of the Finches’ Wonder Woman—where donna was seemingly formed out of clay by an evil occult ritual—they just aren’t getting it. Titans Hunt tells us that Donna was around as a hero before the Titans were mind-wiped from the collective memory of the entire world. Titans Hunt shows us what happened to most of the Titans from that point, but it very specifically does not show us what happened to Donna Troy. This is because she disappears. The occult ritual “birthing” scene in Wonder Woman isn’t actually a birth—it is a resurrection or summoning.
The insertion of the old Justice Society of America into the history of the DCU proper is problematic. Will this be done with yet another mind-wipe explanation? That’s getting very trite. The New 52 has included various metahumans, supernaturals, and aliens involved in its WWII past—from WRAITH to Enemy Ace to the Creature Commandos to Sergeant Rock and company—but the JSA has never been mentioned. More specifically, the entire idea of the New 52 is that Batman and Superman were the first two legit superheroes, having taken influence from many things, but definitely NOT from the JSA, which never existed.
Wonder Woman is problematic as well. Rumor has it that she will be getting a new origin. Will it resemble her origin in the upcoming film? Or will it be a slightly tweaked version of her New 52 origin? After all, Greg Rucka, who was responsible for her New 52 origin in the first place, is returning to the title. I would imagine that he wouldn’t mess with his own prior narrative too drastically. Suffice to say, any change would likely require small caveats or tiny retcons that hopefully wouldn’t disrupt the history of the timeline too much. Another rumor attached to Rucka’s Wonder Woman is that it will occur ten years after the debut of the New 52 (i.e. ten years after the debuts of Batman and Superman). This would put the entire continuing DCU timeline in Year Ten, which is odd since 2016 is technically Year Nine. (Even Batman Vol. 2 #51, which is setting things up big-time for post-Rebirth has a character refer to Batman’s opening “Court of Owls” arc as having happened “five years ago.” Yes, “five years ago” was 2011, when “Court of Owls” was published and the New 52 began, but in narrative story-time, the “Court of Owls” arc happened four years ago. If this goes down as such, my timeline might need to be slightly adjusted. Is this the beginnings of a poorly-constructed sliding-timescale? Oof. I sure hope not. More realistically, this is likely more terribly bogus specificity in regard to the hallmark DC “five year” mentions that they love oh so much. Don’t do it!
I’m still convinced that Rebirth won’t act as a real reboot, erasing everything before to start from scratch, especially only five years after the New 52 began. But if I were to play Devil’s Advocate and support the idea that Rebirth is a full reboot, my argument would revolve around Wonder Woman and the JSA. We’ll see.
No matter what, fanwanking comicbookpeople are always going to have their own headcanon and fanon. And editors and creators will be targeted for online assassination over and over again. Debates will surely begin and will surely heat up to boiling temperatures. The puzzle pieces will be scattered onto the sandbox floor. (Am I mixing comicbook metaphors?) Continuity conundrums will arise, but ain’t that half the fun? It’s been a while since these darn “graphic novels” were fun. I welcome the change and I’m excited for Rebirth. This could go a lot of ways and, for once in mainstream comicbookland, that is quite refreshing.
Before I say goodbye, let me close with an injection of truth serum. Not that I’ve been fibbing or sugar-coating, but my excitement for what is to come emanates from my usual cheery disposition and half-glass-full optimism. I mean, exactly how refreshing can a soft-reboot—so shortly after a full-reboot, led by Geoff Johns, and with DiDio and Lee still piloting the ship—really be? The “Lemonade” of corporate comics? Likely not. Big ideas tho. This team of leaders has cultivated strange times for one half of the Big Two. Shelly Bond gone—bummer. Eddie Berganza still around—huge bummer. Gerard Way’s in-continuity Vertigo-esque line—coming in the Fall and should be excellent. Something volcanic is stirring just under the surface. Until we meet again, ta ta for now.