WARNING: Spoilers for DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Superman: Rebirth #1, Batman: Rebirth #1, Green Arrow: Rebirth #1, and Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 follow.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty eventful for DC Comics and its fans. Word came down relatively recently about a major course-change happening as the publisher’s film adaptations at Warner Bros. continue to progress, and last week the publishing arm of the company released their own major course change – which many would likely classify as a correction – in the form of DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
This issue, written by longtime comics writer and future DC Films overseer Geoff Johns with art by grade-A talent like Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Phil Jimenez, and Ivan Reis, presented a DC Comics Universe that begins to change on a few core, fundamental levels. As many DC fans have attested to in the week that’s passed since the release of the opening shot of the line-wide Rebirth, perhaps the biggest change made to the feel of the universe is in its tone: while there’s an ominous and shocking warning for what’s to come in the final pages of that first issue, there also seems to be a newfound sense of hope and optimism, as well as a belief in the iconography of heroism itself.
This week, the first batch of one-shot issues focusing on the reformulation of specific characters hit comic shops, so we thought it might be prudent this week to examine how DC’s new Rebirth initiative is progressing right out of the gate, while also seeing if this change in tone might be indicative of a similar change coming to the forthcoming films of the DC Extended Universe.
First, Here’s What You Need to Know About the Comics
While the “New 52” relaunch initiative in 2011 certainly brought a lot of new readers into the fold of DC Comics initially with the promise of allowing them to get in on the ground floor of a revived universe, it became clear to a lot of comics fans and observers that the concept had run out of gas pretty definitively a couple of years in, and was virtually running on proverbial fumes at this same point in time last year.
To rectify some of the changes made to the larger universe, DC attempted to coalesce everything into a new crossover event called Convergence. What resulted, though, was a somewhat confusing mess of events that made little-to-no headway in giving the DCU a much-needed shot in the arm.
Still, though Convergence wasn’t particularly successful in the long-term, it did introduce some key concepts that would prove important for Rebirth. While longtime fans were disappointed that the “New 52” dissolved the romantic relationship and marriage between Superman and Lois Lane, one of the major revelations of Convergence was that the pre-New 52 Superman and Lois Lane, as well as their young son (!), had survived the “transition” to the new universe.
Fast forward to this week.
In recent issues of DC’s Superman titles, the New 52 version of the Man of Steel was killed in an effort to save the world, leaving the DC Universe with only one Superman to stand in his stead. In the coming weeks, we’ll see the pre-New 52 Superman rise to take the place of his fallen successor, and this week’s Superman: Rebirth #1 by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, and Jaime Mendoza laid the groundwork for that transition beautifully.
Similarly, fans were also disappointed by the fact that another prominent heroic relationship – this time between Green Arrow and Black Canary – was given absolutely no service in the vast majority of those characters’ appearances in their respective New 52 series. In addition to redefining Oliver Queen in a much closer sense to his traditional, irascible self, Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 by Benjamin Percy and Otto Schmidt reignited the flame between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance in a way that likely made fans of both characters very happy.
In another “green” corner of the DCU, Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1 ushered in two major characters of focus whom we’ve seen elsewhere before, but certainly not like this. Lending some of the story ideas to the Green Lantern family of titles for the first time since his historic run on the series ended in 2013, Geoff Johns and ongoing writer Sam Humphries, along with artist Ethan Van Sciver, establish both Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz as rookie ringslingers, tackling the pretty tough assignment of protecting Earth and its surrounding sector, number 2814.
We also saw the release of Scott Snyder, Tom King, and Mikel Janin’s Batman: Rebirth #1, one of the few characters and titles that needed no course correction coming out of the New 52. The highly acclaimed offerings from creators like Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, John Layman, Jason Fabok, Francis Manapul, and Brian Buccellatto showed that Batman was still very much a go-to family of titles. Still, the concepts introduced in his one-shot leave some very interesting implications for Gotham City going forward.
All in all, Rebirth is progressing very well, and seems to rededicate the heroes to being actually heroic once more. Particularly in the case of Superman, we see some great elements of both familiarity and promise as we head further into the rest of the reborn line, and the buzz seems largely positive from the normally-critical comic book fanbase.
So…What Can This Mean for the Movies?
As we detailed a couple of weeks ago, the reshuffling of Warner Bros.’ various intellectual properties under the guidance of specific, well-informed executives will likely help the studio dedicate proper resources to each franchise. In the case of DC Comics-based films (and recent words from expected DC Films co-chief Geoff Johns), that likely means a very similar change in direction for the films to the publishing line will likely be a priority coming off of the poor critical reception to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
As we alluded to in a previous look at Superman’s role in his recent crossover film, nowhere is this change perceived to be more necessary than with the Man of Steel. Superman has long been the undisputed symbol of noble aspiration in superhero comics, which was fueled further for two generations by wonderfully charismatic performances by both George Reeves and Christopher Reeve on television and film, respectively. Henry Cavill has the same potential as both of these iconic actors in the role, but both 2013’s Man of Steel and this year’s Batman v Superman have simply not given him much of a chance to do so. You can count on one hand the amount of times Superman openly grins in both movies.
Further comments from Johns – along with some delightfully pointed posts on social media – seem to fuel the idea that Warner Bros. and the films will attempt to restore Superman to his former status as the undisputed superhero of both DC Comics, and of the new DC Extended Universe. Beyond that, we already detailed for you why Johns is such a natural pick to help determine the course of the films going forward: he’s written every major (and a lot of minor) characters in comics, has experience in screenwriting and television adaptations, and is simply one of the strongest fans of the characters themselves in a prominent position of power at one of the major publishers and studios.
It seems pretty clear that the idea behind Rebirth – returning the DC Universe to a place of heroic familiarity – is being explored in both comics and, potentially, the films. It’s an exciting time to be a comic book fan in both print and on film, and for the first time in quite a while, it feels okay to hope again for the future. If history is any indication, that’s just the first step toward making hearts soar.
Chris Clow is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.