DC Universe: Rebirth #1 has opened the door for the return of beloved characters like Wally West and the Justice Society of America, along with the reestablishment of the original Teen Titans, tapping into the idea of a legacy being passed down through heroic generations. At the same time, the issue promised the return of long-time friendships and characters in love, from Aquaman's proposal to Mera to a married Superman and Lois Lane once again taking front-and-center in the DCU.
But while fans are (for the most part) delighted with relationships being re-forged, the mechanism DC is using to piece them back together doesn’t appeared to be finely-tuned. From page to page in the Rebirth one-shot and from title to title, it's looking like different parts of the old universe are being reestablished in different ways.
What's emerging — so far, of course, and there's a long way to go — looks like it could end up being:
A.) A softly stirred-together blend of old and new that takes a pinch of this and a pinch of that to make a whole new universe, or...
B.) A haphazardly constructed Frankenstein's Monster that doesn't know what happened in the past of this brand new universe (and what didn't).
Of course, the explanation for all of this, for now, is that Dr. Manhattan stole 10 years from the DCU. However, the ramification of that time theft differs from character to character. Either way, as DC events that play with their continuity often do, Rebirth looks like it’ll open a can of worms for fans who like clean explanations of how things work.
Whole New History
Rebirth architect Geoff Johns made room for a whole new DC Universe history to be written — one that smashes together the post-Crisis and "New 52" universes in a whole new way.
The most obvious evidence for this brand new, combined history? The two Wally Wests.
Before Rebirth, there was a distinct origin story for the old Wally West, and a distinct origin story for the new one..
After Rebirth, there's a brand new origin story that includes both the old Wally West and the new one. And apparently, the characters are both completely aware of the rewrite. The new story of their past matches perfectly with their new memories.
However, not everyone's memories are so clear...
Sort of Remember…
Although Wally has a whole new set of explanations for his presence in the present, some of the content of Rebirth pointed toward characters only "sort of" remembering the past. And it looks like they still won't quite understand what they're experiencing.
At least not yet.
One of the best examples of this is the scene where Green Arrow and Black Canary are sensing that they once had feelings for each other — feelings from a past that they still believe never existed, a "spark that neither one of them can explain."
So although Wally and Wally got a new, spelled-out past, Black Canary and Green Arrow appear to be getting more of a murky inclination of a past.
That's similar to what was once plaguing the characters in Titans Hunt. Their muddled memories were explained as a machination to get out from under the grip of Mr. Twister, although that didn't explain everything (like how Donna Troy has memories from a past she shouldn't actually remember because she didn’t have).
As Titans Rebirth writer Dan Abnett told Newsarama, "Titans, as a book, begins with the team assembled, knowing that they were once a team, knowing that they were once friends, but essentially having no memory of it, and realizing that that lack of memory is a big problem."
And then there's yet another category of characters — those who remember nothing at all (or at least very little).
According to the Justice League solicitations, the post-Crisis Superman will be joining the League, but Wonder Woman and Batman regard him as a stranger. They're not the only ones — no one appears to remember the old (yet current) Superman.
And even though there are hints that the JSA will return — and Johnny Thunder obviously knows a thing or two about the team's existence — nobody else appears to remember them, not even Johnny's own grand-daughter, although his great grandson believes him.
There are also still apparently two Lois Lanes, but from what we can tell so far, Lana, Jimmy and the rest of the Superman characters only know the "New 52" version. Will they be drawn to her like Ollie and Dinah and the Titans are drawn to one another? Another question to be answered.
Perhaps the questions that best put the unspecified mechanism of the Rebirth into focus are 1.) which version of Superman will old Wally West remember? Will he retain his post-Crisis familiarity with the married Superman, or will his already fading memory eventually make his regard the maybe-dead "New 52" Superman as the Superman he knew and worked with, even though he never did?
And 2.) Now that Barry remembers Wally, will he also remember the post-Crisis versions of history including Superman? He remembers Wally’s origin and his Teen Titans years and has a false memory of Wally disappearing. So which version of Superman co-exists with those new-old and sometimes false memories?
And while we're on the subject of memory, does anyone remember the WildStorm characters who have apparently vanished?
Of course, all this has to be clarified while DC is also dealing with the repercussions of adding the Watchmen to the DCU. Not only does the story over the next year or so (or who knows? maybe longer?) have to deal with the missing 10 years, but DC has to start asking itself what happens after the presumed defeat of Watchmen characters. Do readers who enjoyed Watchmen now get to see Rorschach interacting with Robin? A Silk Spectre team-up with Supergirl? Or do Doctor Manhattan and the rest of the Watchmen folks disappear back into their own universe?
Resolving all these questions is a tall order for the Rebirth stories going forward. We can only hope that all the inconsistencies will eventually be resolved as a new universe emerges and becomes a more coherent reality.