Last week, DC effectively ended its rebooted New 52 universe and brought back all of the convoluted continuity they got rid of 5 years ago. Many people liked Rebirth #1. I, however, found it to be a disjointed fanboy circle jerk devoid of originality or intelligence. Perhaps I lack the anatomical parts required to enjoy it. Regardless, this is the DCU’s new status quo and even the biggest characters have to fall in line. Pre-reboot, writer Scott Snyder made Batman one of the New 52’s most consistently good books. Likewise, he sets the standard for the Rebirth one-offs by taking the event’s premise and using it to question the very notion of the event series.
Written by Snyder and new Batman helmer Tom King, the issue manages to be more than just set up. Instead of picking up with Bruce holding a blood splattered happy face pin, it follows his latest battle with Calendar Man. Rebirth #1 was just as much about time as it was about plot and Snyder and King pick that up here. Each step of Bruce’s fight against the villain is marked not only by a day of the week, but by a season, emphasizing the cyclical nature of both time and the story itself. This is not Batman’s first or final confrontation with Calendar Man because comics are all about cycles and the longterm story the issue sets up makes that clear.
Thanks to old friend Lucius Fox, Bruce regains control of his family fortune and Wayne Enterprises. Bruce, hanging from the outer frame of the Wayne Enterprises helipad, then comments on how many times Fox has had to do this very thing, acknowledging the now-restored continuity while also pointing out how repetitive it is. He also gets a new sidekick, bringing in Duke Thomas to fill the Robin role, though he insists that Duke won’t be called that. He wants to try something new while still keeping the same basic structure—and that’s what Snyder and King are doing too.
In describing the regenerated Calendar Man, Duke (who seems to have gone through puberty between this issue and his last appearance) says, “every time he comes back, he comes back slightly different, his DNA altered.” The same is true of Batman. The difference is, his DNA stays the same while the accessories change.
When Duke asks Bruce how they can beat a villain that is always improving, his response is simple: “We come back better each time too.” And while it’s too early to tell if this newest reset will necessarily be better than any other, it gives King a proven formula to work with. Rich, emotionally distant Bruce Wayne fighting crime with a young boy by his side is a dynamic we’ve seen thousands of times since the character’s creation and yet Snyder and King have taken it and made it feel exciting and full of possibilities by suggesting that Bruce has actually learned something from not just the New 52, but his restored continuity. Perhaps Geoff Johns should ask them for advice.