Dear Reader #17: Is DC’s “Rebirth” Necessary?

Dear Reader,

Seriously DC? This again? Again? Flashpoint (ugh) was only five years ago!

I only JUST got that running joke with Flashpoint (ugh) established!

Rebirth Pic 1

(Ok, deep breath. Calmness and insight. You have points to make, just get to the points and keep a cool head about this utter monstrosity.)

DC has announced that they are doing another reboot. It’s going to be called REBIRTH and the stated intention is to bring back more long-running elements of certain characters into active continuity. Specifically, Geoff Johns mentioned the idea of ‘legacy’ as something they want to focus on. So far we know nothing about how this reboot is happening in-continuity, what characters are involved. All we know is there will be a miniseries, and that a lot of titles are starting their numbering over at #1.

Obviously I can’t judge this until, you know, it happens and we can all read it. So my assessment and speculation is based solely on past experiences with this sort of reboot: the likes of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Secret Wars, and Flashpoints (ughs). I’m gonna go ahead and say that this is a terrible idea.

Rebirth Pic 2

Comic books work when you give the reader some reason to come back and read the next one. It doesn’t greatly matter what that reason is: wanting to see how a cliffhanger turned out, wanting to see more of a character you like, wanting to see more of a writer or artist that you’ve enjoyed reading in the past, just wanting to see which X-Man is going to die or come back to life or both this week. The reader needs to have an investment in seeing what happens in the next issue for the form of narrative to function on the most basic level. That’s the same kind of reader investment you need if you hope to make any money making ANY kind of series.

A reboot like Rebirth always destroys this investment. Always.

This is because the investment is founded on the reader’s ability to know what kind of book they’re getting into when they pick it up off the shelf. To want to see how a cliffhanger turned out, you have to know what the cliffhanger was. To Rebirth Pic 4want to see more of a character you like, you have to know whether that character exists. To want to see more of a writer or artist you enjoy, you have to know whether their title is being published.

(Ok, but let’s be real, there’s no circumstance in which X-Men aren’t dying and coming back to life—that one forms a pretty certain bedrock on which to build comics-based-expectations.)

The reason comics have continuity in the first place is not because BoosterGoldRoxx87 is going to get angry if Zatanna’s costume is drawn incorrectly (although he absolutely will), it’s to assure a reader that the next book they are going to buy will matter, because look, all the past ones mattered! All the past ones still ‘count,’ they are still affecting the one you are reading now, and they will still affect the one you buy next week. Zatanna’s costume being drawn correctly is just a symptom of that continuity being unbroken. That’s why WhateverISaidHisScreennameWas87 gets mad about a costume irregularity. He’s not mad about the costume, he’s mad because he considers any blip in continuity a threat to his suspension of disbelief.

A reboot, no matter how necessary, how justified, or how well-written, cannot help but say ‘all the past issues don’t count, so maybe the one you buy next week won’t count either.

Now, I will be the first one to say that undoing as much of Flashpoint (ugh) as possible is a worthy goal. And judging by what Johns is saying about legacy and how “every character is someone’s favorite,” it sounds like the things that he’s Rebirth Pic 3trying to bring back are the things that I was most angry with Flashpoint (ugh) for exiling. So it looks like they’re going to do the reboot that you should do if you must do one.

It’s just that it’s so soon after the last one! Flashpoint (ugh) was recent enough that we still don’t know the “New Earth” continuity status of several fan-favorite characters! There are people who were kids before Flashpoint (ugh), grew into teenagers, and now the entire New Earth continuity is going to pass within their ‘I’m too cool for liking things’ phase. They’ll come back to everyone telling them that Flashpoint (ugh) is dead and they never even knew it was alive!

Yes, it’s good to get rid of a reboot that was deeply unpopular and clumsily handled. But having another reboot so soon makes us very reluctant to get involved with the new continuity, because we have every reason to believe that they’ll just reboot that in another five years!

If a doctor came to you the day after your surgery and said “Time to do another surgery! Not that we messed anything up with the last one, we just want to include more obscure characters and elements of legacy in your new pancreas!’… you would go looking for another doctor!

Am I Gonna Have to Switch to Saying ‘Rebirth (Ugh?)’

-The Guy Who Wrote This.

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