Warning: Lots of spoilers below.
Thanks to Geoff Johns spoiling his own freaking comic on Monday, we already knew that the original Wally West returns to the main continuity in today’s DC Rebirth #1, with Barry Allen pulling him into reality just before the Speed Force consumes him.
But as Wally traverses the Speed Force in a desperate bid to find somebody who remembers him, we see that he’s not the only one back from the brink of nonexistence. Indeed, the story marks the triumphant return of several characters DC has either ignored or actively avoided since the New 52 began, along some other … questionable choices. But even the most cynical DC fan can’t deny that most of these return are long overdue.
TURN BACK NOW ALL YE UNSPOILED.
After a failed attempt to connect with Batman, the Speed Force hurls Wally toward an elderly man trying to escape an abusive rest home worker, sensing something oddly familiar about the unnamed man, noting that “he’s connected to lightning too,” before the memories come flooding back.
Wally tells us this man claims to have been part of a covert team that helped end World War II and has also lost friends to the new history, though he hints that he may have caused their disappearance. And in case the WWII record and talk of missing comrades weren’t a big enough tip, Wally drops the bomb.
Yep, it’s the original Johnny Thunder of the Justice Society of America, trapped in an abusive retirement home and unable to summon the genie of his namesake for some reason. Wally also mentions that only his great-grandson believes his war stories, hinting that it’s gonna take both Johnny and Jakeem Thunder to revive the forgotten JSA.
Next, we observe a blonde woman arrested in Gotham City for stealing a sandwich, claiming that where she comes from food is free and that she needs to speak to her friend, Superman. Since he’s kinda dead now, the cops don’t buy it, and her response to the news doesn’t help either.
Now, a mentally unbalanced woman asking to speak to a dead celebrity while claiming to have precognitive abilities is pretty much Wednesday afternoon for the GCPD, but it’s the sole item they find on her person that makes it all too clear for us.
So it seems Saturn Girl, premiere telepath and seer for the 31st Century’s Legion of Superheroes, has come to the present with a message for Superman, which could send her the way of Pre-New 52 Clark Kent, but that’s up in the air for now.
We then cut to Ivy University, home of Ray Palmer AKA the Atom. Apparently, he’s been missing for a week and the dean is bearing down on him for answers, threatening him with deportation back to Hong Kong should he fail to find with Ray. Against his better judgment, he ventures into Ray’s office, and then this happens:
If you haven’t figured it out yet, his TA is Ryan Choi, and it turns out Ray’s been investigating the cracks in history already, and he’s married to a non-insane Jean Loring again from the sounds of it. But now the trail’s gone cold and he’s trapped in the microverse, so he’s calling for help. He needs someone who knows everything about his tech. He needs someone only he can trust. He needs an All-New Atom.
Meanwhile in presumably El Paso, TX, another long-forgotten legacy resurfaces as Ted Kord shows Jaime Reyes all his old Beetle tech. Jaime makes it clear he just wants Ted’s help in getting the scarab off, but Ted’s clearly got bigger ideas in mind.
It’s true we already knew this was coming due to the announcement of a new Blue Beetle series post-Rebirth, but seeing Ted Kord and Jaime Reyes together is still awesome. And even though the following scene is bold-faced set-up for their upcoming comic, we’re still pretty excited by the possibilities it opens up.
Fans of the incredible and prematurely buried Young Justice cartoon may yet find their lifeline into the comics as we soon come across breakout star Kaldur A’hm/Jackson Hyde AKA Aqualad II arguing with his mother about recent developments in his life.
Wally also stumbles upon a younger version of Linda Park, resulting in the most tragic scene of the whole comic as he desperately tries to establish a connection with his former wife.
Though not exactly a returning character, we’re shown the return of Kid Flash to the forefront of DC when Wally encounters his cousin, the other Wally West. Despite the Speed Force slowly grinding his body into nothing, Wally doesn’t resent his young successor. In fact, he praises him for saving a girl without hesitation, remarking that the Kid Flash mantle “is in good hands.”
And finally, we come to the unseen manipulators, the silent hands who erased so much of the DC Universe away. We already revealed a couple days ago that Doctor Manhattan, the cynical demigod and sad naked blue man of Watchmen, is the one responsible for shaping the DC Universe into its current, fractured state. We never see him, of course, but his presence is definitely felt in two critical moments. First, the immortal Pandora is murdered in an eerie parallel of Doctor Manhattan’s execution of Rorschach.
Then, Batman finds a sign of events to come hidden by the letter from his later father, a sign those who’ve read Watchmen know all too well.
But rumors abound that Doctor Manhattan may not be the only new player from another world. Mr. Oz, a recent recurring character in the Superman books appears at the Kent household following New 52 Superman’s death, promising cryptic information as most enigmatic hooded figures do.
There’s been a great deal ofspeculation in the wake of Rebirth #1 that Mr. Oz is in fact an older Ozymandias from Watchmen, and although the evidence surrounding the rumors is pretty compelling, what his true intentions are and how he might fit into the conflict at large is still unclear.
Mysterious figures from other worlds aside, the return of so many long-lost characters is cause for celebration in its own right. Is it proof that DC is finally pulling itself out of the gutter and moving forward? It is at least a small flicker of hope.