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DC Universe Rebirth #1

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, and Phil Jimenez
Published by DC Comics

When you mess up, you’re supposed to admit it and say you’re sorry. We learned that in kindergarten, but as adults, we forget that a lot. And many readers would say that DC has messed up over the years. The sterling heroes of the 1930s and 40s were tarnished by the time DC had to pull out the Crisis On Infinite Earths to clean up continuity errors. Subsequent stories built up DC’s reputation as that company that publishes Superman, the hero most Americans think of first, the hero we all played when we’d wear our bath towels as capes and jump off the bed – well, they kept publishing that, but they also published horrifying violence and casual disregard for humanity. A former teen sidekick, after his arm was ripped off, swung a dead cat at a gang of muggers in a grimy alley, and he was hallucinating that he was actually swinging the body of his recently-murdered five-year old daughter, and that was FINE by DC standards. The latest reboot, Flashpoint, gave us the New 52, with fewer egregious moments like that but a sense of disconnect, of loss. We saw heroes start over, but we didn’t see a good reason why the relationships and triumphs we’d seen didn’t count in this new world. DC knew there was a problem but treated it with a fancy new outfit instead of going to therapy.

And this week, DC says it’s sorry.

DC Rebirth #1 is narrated by one of the most notable cheerful heroes that didn’t make it into the New 52, jogging around the world and checking in on DC’s promises to bring back fan favorites. Over and over, this character is saying he’s sorry, saying he’s sad to see the world with such loss, with so little legacy. And at the end, readers learn that a familiar character is responsible for the worst of the reboots, giving readers a punchable face. It works in the context of the story, and it works as representative of the publisher owning up to mistakes with the previous reboots, to apologizing for the casual violence and adolescent misogyny of the last decade of publishing. Hard-core fans can get to working sorting through the continuity, but most of us are going to be fine knowing that we get to smile again when we read DC. We get to be excited for our heroes falling in love, for saving the day without killing anybody. For not having to imagine smashing their daughter’s body into a mugger with the arm that didn’t get mutilated. Because seriously, that was unacceptable bullcrap there, that was.

This story is a great vacation from the murk of recent DC comic books, and if you didn’t get a copy at last night’s midnight release party, come on in to Ultimate Comics for a copy, free with select other purchases.

-Matt Conner