The weight of an apology is measured not in words, but in deeds. DC Rebirth has become known as an apology to old fans who stopped buying their comics when characters and storylines became too dark. Despite their attempts in recent years to build up a new fanbase of readers whilst assuring their older ones that they should stick with them, it became clear that their New 52 sales probably weren’t doing as well as they’d hoped for.
In a time when public interest in superheroes has never been higher, comic book sales across the board have been slumping. In January, DC’s market share was reportedly only half of that of Marvel’s.
The key now seems to be mending fences and rebuilding bridges, in a bid to encourage those readers who left to return. Rebirth #1, the first step in doing so, managed to outsell Marvel’s latest Civil War effort, a clear indicator that this apology may have been exactly what many fans wanted. Yet how genuine is that apology? Is it just another attempt at encouraging fans to try out what they’re offering, paying lip-service to what the older fans want but without actually changing anything?
In the wake of their first batch of individual DC Rebirth titles, it’s really hard to tell how sincere their apology really is.
Superman: Rebirth may have set up the direction for the Man of Steel’s future, and had a wonderful moment of Superman seeing statues of both his Kryptonian and human parents in the Fortress of Solitude, but very little happened to sell fans on any actual changes. Green Arrow: Rebirth had a story emphasizing his status as a protector of the oppressed, and finally set him back on course for romance with Black Canary, but wasn’t exactly gripping. Batman: Rebirth had Bruce Wayne ridiculously doing pull-ups on the edge of a building, an intriguing take on Calendar Man, and seemed to be par for the New 52 course.
Green Lanterns: Rebirth, however, told a wonderful introductory story to the GL Corp’s latest recruits. Whilst it may not have continued Rebirth’s mysterious storyline, it was still one of the best reads DC as put out in a long while and looks to be well worth following.
Then there’s The Flash and Wonder Woman.
The Flash, presumably the comic book which should have made the most impact given the apologetic Rebirth special, seemed off-key. From the jarring artwork to the flat and mostly dull story, it didn’t cover any more ground in the bigger story. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was a revelation as DC’s flagship heroine came to grips with her contradictory origins and her struggle to understand the truth of how wrong her existence in the 52 world is. In terms of the big picture, this was the one which made the most impact.
Given how such a big deal was made of Rebirth and to prove how sincere DC’s intentions are to return to a better quality of storytelling, it’s a disappointment. These issues were key in following through on their apology, in order to sell long-time fans on what they’re doing and the direction they say they’re going in. Instead, for the most part, they seemed to be reluctant to really commit to anything one way or the other.
With Rebirth, DC has already generated enough interest to make the storyline a potential bestseller. It’s a chance to make a real impact in a market where fans have become jaded, and been forced to understand that every major event simply seems designed to grab attention and sell more copies. But as it stands right now, it’s already looking like a wasted opportunity.