I wasn’t sure whether or not DC was heading toward a full reboot with its long “Rebirth” saga, set to wrap early next year with the cosmic intervention of Watchmen‘s Dr. Manhattan and Mr. Oz. But the multiverse-shattering conclusion to “Superman Reborn” in Action Comics #976, basically confirms that DC is indeed doing a full reboot.
In fact, the reboot has already begun! Much like how the Silver Age was rebooted in sporadic chunks from the 1950s into the 1960s, it appears as though the New Age proper (aka post New 52) will be ushered in via a similar method. Action Comics #976 has effectively killed the New 52—or at least fatally poisoned it. In case you haven’t read it, here is what happened in convenient synopsis and analysis form (lifted straight from the New 52 Year Ten Chronology). Thanks to the meddling of Mr. Mxyzptlk and the undefined seemingly-cosmic powers of Superboy, the spirits of New 52 Superman and New 52 Lois Lane merge with Modern Age Superman and Modern Age Lois Lane. A new merged timeline, which combines both Modern and New 52 histories of these characters, is created in an instant. If you thought Convergence was clunky and messy, Action Comics #976 is right in that vein. If the Superman timeline has indeed changed then the entire DCU timeline has effectively changed as well, which means full reboot. This ain’t a soft reboot. I’m sure a lot of people will say that it is a softie, even comparing it to something like Zero Hour or Infinite Crisis. But that just isn’t the truth. With both Zero Hour and Infinite Crisis, there only really a few cosmetic changes for DC’s big players (Batman and Superman). And in the case of the former, most of Zero Hour‘s bigger cosmetic cosmic alterations wound up being cancelled-out or ignored within a few years’ time anyway.
But just to prove my point, let’s use a character case study to better explain. You can fully alter Vibe’s history and it wouldn’t effect the entire DCU timeline. No offense to Vibe fans, but he’s simply not that important as a character. A change to Vibe would register as a caveat, a minor retcon. But when you fuck with Superman’s history, you fuck with the entire history of the DCU. Along with Batman, Superman is a continuity linchpin of the DCU. To look at Action Comics #976 specifically, it merges two pairs of radically different characters. New 52 Superman was madly in love with and dated Wonder Woman for quite some time. New 52 Lois Lane was only ever a friend to Clark. Modern Age Lois and Clark were in love, married, and had a child together—a child that is 12-years-old at this point! I’m not sure how these things can coexist without a total reboot.
DC, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do! Kyle Pinion, at The Beat, says it best: “Don’t expect a ton of answers beyond hand-wavery on the specifics of how we got here or how the pieces all fit together. Really though, there’s no way Superwoman or New Super-Man could still exist as is, given how specifically tied they are to the events of ‘The Final Days of Superman’ just ahead of Rebirth.” And it’s not just Superwoman and New-Superman. Nor is it just stuff related to recent story arcs. The majority of the New 52 timeline couldn’t exist “as is” without the very specific and detailed existence of Nehru-collared New 52 Superman and solo New 52 Lois. James Whitbrook, at Kotaku, writes: “This obviously has ramifications—monumental ones—that stretch far beyond the lives of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. We have yet to see the evidence of it in the wider DC Comics roster, but this is essentially a brand new DC Universe. Moments from before the New 52 reboot in now exist again, alongside the events of the New 52 universe itself. This is so out of nowhere that I feel like I might have gone slightly insane reading this comic book. DC doesn’t just up and create a whole new universe for its comics without a fanfare. But this has to affect more than just Superman and Lois’ lives, right?” Yes, yes it does. Even Action Comics writer Dan Jurgens basically says it is a full reboot: “The events of Action #976 reset and reshape the entire Superman timeline. Where there had been two Superman [sic], their realities have now been fused into one timeline with just one of them. And, yes, Clark and Lois are back at the Daily Planet. Not only does everyone know they had a child; they were there shortly after Jon was born. The Daily Planet crew has known Jon his entire life.
With all the evidence stacked up before us (or above us), I’d say it it pretty clear that the “rebirthing” has officially begun. Some stories published after Action Comics #976 might be able to fit into both the New 52 and the post-New 52 timeline. But others certainly won’t be able to. It’ll be the new task of the Real Batman Chronology Project to determine how things fit up until Dr. Manhattan takes over.
However, seeing as the big Watchmen reboot event won’t likely come until Summer 2018, we have over a year until the possibility of a new and finalized DC timeline. That puts me at a crossroads of sorts. In the very near future, much of the DCU will be in an interim period, meaning that it will be firmly outside of the realm of the New 52 (reflecting “Superman Reborn” changes) yet prior to any changes that could occur as a result of the Watchmen stuff. In essence, all comics from Summer 2017 until Summer 2018 are the equivalent of a reboot crossover à la the original Crisis on Infinite Earths. Big difference is that Crisis lasted 12 issues whereas this “reboot arc” will comprise all of DC comics for a year. That’s a lot of issues. I’m hesitant to make an interim timeline, but maybe it is necessary? After all, “Futures End” was a year’s worth of stories that wound up equalling nothing more than a discardable interim timeline—and I have that catalogued on the site. We’ll see, we’ll see. Any thoughts?