Sunday, June 4, 2017

Titans: The Return of Wally West (comics)

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Brett Booth
Collects: Titans: Rebirth #1, Titans (2016) #1-6

If you care about the big mystery of the relaunch, this was probably the title worth keeping an eye on. DC Universe Rebirth was, after all, about Wally West - the original pre-Flashpoint version - and what his return meant. As it turns out, it doesn't have quite as much to do with that as I expected, but it does touch upon it more than most of the line did in the early months.

While the team itself is prominent, this volume is, as the name suggests, Wally Wests story. The entire Rebirth issue is spent getting the band back together, or getting them to remember him at least, and the rest is Wally dealing with the memories of another life, that of the pre-Flashpoint universe and his family with Linda Park. Wally's obviously having a hard time adjusting, making it the perfect time for Kadabra, claiming he was the one who erased Wally from the timeline, to strike.

There seems to be some fudging of lines going on here, though. I'm not sure if we're supposed to believe this really is the pre-Flashpoint Wally West, or if there really was a New 52 version of white Wally that was just erased. The story makes a point of suggesting that maybe Wally just glimpsed other realities while he was lost in the speed force, including the like of his pre-Flashpoint self, and took the memories into himself. It looks like a minor mystery to deal with in the future, but frankly, it seems like it might be making things a bit more convoluted than it needs to be.

I do wonder where Rebirth leaves the New 52 version of Wally West, though. He doesn't show up here, obviously, but he's still out there, participating in the Rebirth version of Teen Titans, even, during its first year. Having two versions of the same character in the same universe isn't something that typically holds, so I imagine there's going to be some story shenanigans or maybe he merges with Wally Classic, sort of like what goes down with Superman a bit later. I wonder how that would go over. I don't think anyone got too attached to that version, because he did a whole lot of nothing during the New 52, but they made a fairly decent deal out of that version of Wally being black and the last thing DC probably wants is to look like they eliminated another black character, of which comics are in short supply in both major companies, in favor of the white counterpart.

Best case scenario is probably that someone just has a name change, in story. Like, New 52 Wally takes the last name on his mothers side or something. Still, kind of an awkward situation DC's in with this one.

Regardless, Kadabra causes trouble for our heroes by summoning magic clones of their younger selves, from their Teen Titan days, to wreck their world and cause Wally undue pain. This includes kidnapping Linda Park, who is kind of freaked about everything and doesn't remember Wally at all. Like I said, it's Wallys story, right down to use of a Flash villain. It's a fairly simple superhero plot at its heart, buoyed by Wallys character struggle with a life he's not even sure he actually lived anymore. It ends with Wally accepting that he needs to move forward, a fresh start between him and Linda and the promise of Deathstroke, historically a major figure in the Titans line, causing trouble down the line.

I'm a little concerned with how heavily it plays off on our nostalgia for the Wally of the old universe and his life there. Wally was a cornerstone of the old universe, one of the few sidekicks who actually assumed a mantle and held it for a very long time. There's a lot of history there and if you've read any DC comics prior to the New 52 you're probably familiar with some of it. If DC uses nostalgia for the old days too much in the hook of their stories going forward, it's going to get old fast. In what I've read so far of Rebirth, it's confined to Titans, so for now it's fine. But I could see it becoming a crutch if used too often.

Brett Booth is our penciller for the book. His work is perfectly fine, if nothing spectacular. Actions scenes are perfectly understandable, everything is clean and good looking. It's nothing you'll remember the next day, but not every comic needs art like that. A lot of superhero comics are built on the backs of perfectly cromulent artists who know how to put a page together.

If I have any complaint - and it's subjective - it's that our heroes seem maybe a little too muscular? Also, there's a point where, like, Roy sucks his gut in during an action pose, for example, and his abs get weird. It's not Kelley Jones level, "oh my god, why dies Bane have a billion individual gut muscles on this cover" noticeable stuff, but I might as well bring it up. On the writing side, some of the dialogue feels a bit too awkward. But none of it harms the overall product much.

We'll see how it holds up going forward, now that this story is out of the way, but so far, Titans Rebirth is worth the read.

My Opinion: Read It


  1. I tried reading the "Road to Rebirth" trade Titans Hunt a few weeks ago, and gave up after a few pages for lack of understanding who was who and what was going on. That book is pretty invested in Titans history, more so than I expected it to be. If I'd been smart I would have started with this trade instead, even if I don't have a nostalgic attachment to Wally (not having read much pre-New 52 Flash other than Silver Age Barry Allen appearances).

    The question of whether Wally is really the pre-New 52 version or just a guy with that version's memories seems like another page out of the Alan Moore book of storytelling tropes: this time, a callback to Swamp Thing's "Anatomy Lesson." Curious how so many of Rebirth's most asynchronous and least compelling moments consciously recall Moore, despite the hard line the reboot as a whole has taken against the kind of storytelling in superhero comics that Watchmen wrought.

  2. I don't know if it's consciously so much as that's just how it worked out. I think, even at this stage, DC wasn't a hundred percent sure or locked into what they were doing with Rebirth and were waiting to see how it went. The merging of the two Superman, for example, might not have been something they planned on right at the start. Even then, it's fine to take the good things that Moore did while discarding the bad. It's not even original to Moore, as identity crisis is not exactly untrod territory prior to him.

    And frankly, I'm alright with what they're discarding, or moving away from that kind of storytelling, because god damn is it so tired by now. I'm more than ready for comics to move on from the influence a lot of Moores work has wrought. Instinctively, I even balked at the idea of Watchmen being used in the DCU in some fashion - partly because I'm so over it - but I've kind of turned around when it seemed that they were going to use it as a stand-in for where comics went after Watchmen and fight it directly. There are obviously issues involved in the whole sordid history and people think Watchmen is almost sacred, but if DC is going to get away from the influence of Moore and Millar and what their work brought about, well, sometimes you need to make that fight literal or else people don't get it and it doesn't stick.