This summer's Rebirth event gives DC the opportunity to alter its comic book universe, and readers are seeing that what's emerging is a combination of the present DC universe and previous versions of the comic book universe.
That means the end of the current era, at least to some degree — the "New 52," which launched less than five years ago in a line-wide renumbering and relaunching of all DC's titles.
As we remember the bright and dark spots of the "New 52" timeline and say goodbye to the current status quo, Newsarama is looking at several of the the key characters from within the "New 52", with our next spotlight directed toward the Flash.
What If You Missed the "New 52?"
When DC's "New 52" universe first launched in 2011, DC's in-story reason for the reboot was specifically linked to the Flash. After all, it was Barry Allen that was suddenly thrust into an alternate timeline during the Flashpoint event series that led into the "New 52," and the Flash was uniquely aware of the "New 52" changes that occurred because of the time travel battles between himself and villain Eobard Thawne.
As the speedster entered the "New 52," under the direction of writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, he was a young, fairly new hero that was still trying to figure out his powers. Barry had a distinct sense of right and wrong, as he worked for the Central City Police Department while also secretly functioning as the costumed Flash.
In the "New 52" universe, Barry was introduced as being in love with some other than reporter Iris West. His girlfriend was Patty Spivot, who worked with him at the police department.
But recently — particularly during the events of "Darkseid War" in Justice League — it's been hinted that the friendship between Iris and Barry is turning into something more.
Old Concepts Made New
The newly launched Flash series kicked off with a new villain called Mob Rule (who has regenerative/cloning powers), but readers were treated to the introduction of many old concepts that had been interpreted in new ways.
A new batch of Rogues showed up, and a key to their appearance is a reckless scientist named Darwin Elias, whose motives are questionable (although not necessarily villainous). Because of Elias, many of the Rogues have superpowers, something that wasn't always the case before the "New 52." For example, Heatwave can shoot fire from his chest, as opposed to formerly just having a gun that shoots fire.
The Rogues of the "New 52" include a lot of familiar names and a few new faces. Among them are Captain Cold (Leonard Snart), his sister Glider (Lisa Snart), her boyfriend Mirror Master (Sam Scudder), Heatwave (Mick Rory), Weather Wizard (Marco Mardon), and the Trickster (Axel Walker).
The Rogues aren't particularly villainous — in fact, they cross the line sometimes to fight villains they think are worse (Captain Cold even becomes part of the Justice League for awhile along with Lex Luthor).
"They know they're breaking the law, but they don't see themselves as bad guys as much as they see themselves as hard workers who are trying to live the American dream," Buccellato explained to Newsarama. "They just happen to do that on the wrong side of the law."
Other concepts have gotten new definitions. The Speed Force is now something that was created when Barry received his powers, and at one point, it was actually endangering space-time itself. In fact, the Cosmic Treadmill was crafted by Dr. Elias to help positively direct Barry's effect on the fabric of space-time.
"[The Speed Force is] what's running time forward," Manapul explained to Newsarama when the new concept of the Speed Force was introduced. "And Barry Allen is the engine."
There's also a new Professor Zoom in the "New 52" — he's from the future, where he hates that the Flash is revered, traveling back through time to enact revenge on the hero. There's also a new Reverse-Flash, and he wears a very familiar surname: West. (The name "West" has a long history in the DC universe, including fan-favorite former Flash, Wally West.) Daniel West had been imbued with the Speed Force-powered ability to turn back time, but his need for the powers of others led him to murder several people before he was depowered and captured by the Flash.
Daniel's nephew, Wally West, is the "New 52" version of the former character that became the Flash. He's got a different appearance in this continuity, with darker skin and no longer red-headed.
In the "New 52," Wally is the son of Rudy West — Iris and Daniel's brother. Wally was abandoned by his father, and his mother went missing when the Crime Syndicate tore through Central City during DC's Forever Evil event.
When the youth was first introduced in The Flash, readers are shown that, five years in the future, Wally is killed. The Flash from that timeline — who's actually Barry from the future — comes back to prevent Wally's death. The story also reveals a Wally from the future, who becomes a new speedster, although he ends up sacrificing himself to fix a tear in the Speed Force.
As a result, readers know that the "New 52" versions of Barry and Wally will eventually be very close, even though the character is still pretty new in the "New 52."
In the few solicitations we've seen so far for the post-Rebirth DC, Wally West is now Kid Flash — part of not only the twice-monthly Flash series, but also the new Teen Titans. New Flash scribe Josh Williamson told Newsarama has confirmed that Barry likes "teaching people, he enjoys being a mentor." And part of his mentoring appears to involve Wally West.
A Speed Force storm also brings about other new super-powered characters, Williamson said, whom the Flash will try to mentor.
The first arc of Barry's new series will also introduce a new villain called Godspeed, who is one of the people that gains Speed Force powers. Williamson calls him "calculating" and a "lot more sympathetic."
So although the "New 52" may be ending this summer, many of the characters and concepts introduced during the universe's continuity will remain — just with some slight tweaks (particularly Wally West's new status) beginning with Rebirth.