Don’t call it a reboot; maybe a reshuffle or re-imagining, but not a reboot.
This is what I take away from that various hints/teasers/comments that staff at DC have been dishing out since the big news of DC’s new launch initiative: 52 #1s in the month of September, kicking off with the Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
Why not a reboot? Personally, I think you’ll piss a lot of people off, both fans and creators. Why a reshuffle? DC needs new readers, and not just current fans to jump onto new titles, but new readers who are not currently reading comics period. A reshuffle can’t do this on its own obviously; I still claim that if you ask a few random people in your home town, especially smaller ones like mine, where the comic shop is, they’ll have either no idea or no idea that there was even a shop to begin with. How does one get to a new audience? well go to where that audience is, and that’s wherever digital content is sold and viewed. It’s a one-two punch that could go a few ways and only time will tell which way it will go.
For the purpose of this post, I won’t discuss the digital side of things; I want to look at the future landscape of the DCNu, as Newsarama calls it, and how we can expect to see more of the same and something new, and it all has to do with the Flash.
There is a great article over at Robot 6, a blog on CBR that highlights the Flash’s involvement in a lot of new eras of DC. The Flash in question is Barry Allen, first appearing in 1956, and is arguably the first Superhero of the Silver Age. Barry was also heavily involved in Crisis on Infinite Earths, a 1985 maxi series that ended with Barry’s death and the creation of a new, continuity free DCU (very quick synopsis). This DCU has been around for a little more than 25 years, and within that 25 years there has been a lot of continuity, so much that creators are beginning to retcon numerous pieces of history so that they may tell their stories, or trying to make a character more modern. There seems to be a need within DC to have a new set of continuity, and that’s where Barry Allen comes in.
Barry was brought back to life in Final Crisis in 2008, much to the excitement of long time Barry fans, but also to much disdain for Wally West fans. Barry’s rebirth signaled the beginning of a resurgence of dead characters and status quos for a lot of DCs finest, and paved way for the DCNu to take place.
2009 saw the line wide event, Blackest Night, a Green Lantern centered event that saw the dead rise, including several mainstays such as Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, the Hawks and maybe most importantly, the Reverse Flash, all who ended up being brought back to life. Several of the characters who were brought back to life went on to star in the year long Brightest Day, which not only solved a number of continuity issues, such as the Hawks continuity plagued history and Aquaman’s heritage and missing hand, but also brought back Vertigo characters Swamp Thing and John Constantine to the DCU.
This brings us to DCs current event, the Flash centered event Flashpoint. Flashpoint is a bit different than previous events; it takes place in an alternate timeline, but will affect the DCU proper, and it’s this event that will change the status quo, giving readers the DCNu. How will it affect the DCU and turn it on its head remains to be seen, but one can venture a guess. My guess stems from information the previous events have given readers, as well as other things that are going on in the DCU concurrently with Flashpoint.
With the Reverse Flash brought back to life in Blackest Night, and freed by Captain Boomerang during Brightest Day, Thawne continues his quest to kill Barry Allen, but there is a catch; how does one kill the hero who ultimately makes you. You kill him, there’s no Flash, which means you never get to know about him, which means you can never be like him and never get his powers. But with the end of Johns and Manapul’s Flash series, Reverse Flash seems to have mastered the speed force and can use time to his advantage, and that’s the key to all of this.
Flashpoint’s premise is that Barry wakes up in a DCU that is not his. He has no powers, no one’s heard of Superman and his mother is alive. For those of you who know your Barry Allen origin, Barry becomes a cop, a crime scene specialist, to solve the cold case of his mother’s killer. While working during a storm one night, a bolt of lightning strikes Barry’s lab, causing chemicals that line the lab to spay over him. The combination of lightning and chemicals give Barry access to the speed force, and he becomes the Flash. What readers find out later is that Reverse Flash, who is from the future, comes back in time and is responsible for Barry’s Mother’s death and the bolt of lightning. With Barry’s mother alive in Flashpoint, Barry has no reason to work diligently to solve her murder, and is not in the lab when it is struck by lightning. One would think with no Flash there is no Reverse Flash, but he’s around. This could mean several things: 1, that Thawne is detached from time, able to move in and out of it, or that he has made a separate time stream where he can be, but there is no Flash. We won’t fully know until Johns tells us this during Flashpoint.
Reverse Flash doesn’t seem to stop at Barry’s origin, and that’s one of the key elements to this key point of the reboot/re-imagining/reshuffle that DC is doing. Reverse Flash has seemingly affected every major hero’s origin: Superman doesn’t land in Smallville, so he isn’t raised by the Kents; Abin Sur doesn’t crash on Earth, and Hal doesn’t get the ring, which also affect the rise of Guy, John and Kyle; and *Spoiler* Bruce is killed in the alley with his mother instead of his father, who then becomes Batman. These are just a few origins that have changed, and I’m sure there will be more.
Concurrently in the main DCU, there is a ticking time bomb in Firestorm, a story line that developed out of Brightest Day. He is set to go off at the end of August, when surprise, surprise, Flashpoint ends. This is the other major piece to the puzzle; Firestorm’s big bang like explosion would cause the DCU to not exist, making room for the “reboot” to occur. This is where I put my theory cap on.
I think the DCU is about to get a Flash-like-origin overhaul. The combination of the end of Flashpoint and Firestorms explosion will be to the DCU like the lightning strike and chemicals were to Barry Allen. When it’s all said and done, the DCU will be different than it was before, much like Barry was different now that he had the speed force and became the Flash, but at the same time would still be the DCU readers know, much like Barry remained a police officer. It’s really genius when you think about it. Furthermore, like Barry’s origin, the origin of the DCNu could be caused by Reverse Flash, who may have the ability to create a new DCU out of the Flashpoint universe, or this ability may be given to Barry, who would then use it.
One of the many questions that have come about is, “will things that came before matter?” The answer is yes… and no. Ever since Barry Allen came back from the speed force in Final Crisis there has been a steady rebirth of many heroes, which I noted earlier. I believe that DC needs all these heroes back for their “reboot” to get back to status quo. If this “reboot” was a hard “reboot” than it wouldn’t matter if Aquaman was dead, the “reboot” would just have him there; or if it was important to have Swamp Thing and John Constantine come back to the DCU proper they wouldn’t have had Brightest Day end the way it did. Blackest Night and Brightest Day brought these characters back to populate the DCU again, and Flashpoint may be what “reboots” or shuffles these characters after Firestorm’s explosion. By having these characters back from the dead, you are able to tap into particular points of their continuity so one doesn’t have to re create it from scratch. Think of of it like a pre-made pie crust; a solid foundation which to fill with conent.
This may be seen in DCs announcement of a few of the titles and creative teams that are involved in the new DCU. The Fury of Firestorm (include cover) will revert Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond to high school friends “drawn into a conspiracy of super science that bonds them forever;” the cover suggests a different type of Firestorm, one of a few characters who will go through more changes than some characters. Also, we have yet to see Firestorm in Flashpoint, which could have some significant meaning to the “reboot.” Plus, we have now seen the Green Lantern books that will be launched in September, and they seem to remain similar to current events ongoing in the DCU.
It’s hard to say how much certain characters will be affected by the Flash like origin of the DCNu, though there may be one or two characters who doesn’t change at all: Batman and Green Lantern. In Flashpoint, Bruce died as a child and isn’t in the Flashpoint world, which could allow Batman to escape any major changes to him or any current story line he has, i.e. Morrison’s Batman Inc. While Hal Jordan is apart of the Flashpoint world, he isn’t a superhero, and with him currently in the War of the Green Lanterns in the DCU, he could be far enough removed that he and the corp aren’t greatly affected by whats to come. Plus, these two characters are a part of a very large, long and dense story that would bad business if DC up and wiped them out.
This is just my theory, and it could very well be wrong and reading into a lot of things. I don’t really think this is a full on “reboot.” Will there be major changes for some characters? Yes. Will there be minor ones for others? Certainly. Will some characters not change at all? I think so. Once this announcement was made, I was disappointed, but the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. What I can say for certain is that I will pick up a lot of these first issues and give the DCnU a shot. There is great potential in these books.