It feels rather fitting that, on the day DC launches a brand new era with their “Rebirth”, I’d be writing about a completely separate shake-up to the continuity that occurred some seventeen years prior.
I’m always way behind on these things.
Drawing on the events of Kingdom Come, this comic focuses on the possible future our heroes face. With their own selfish plans, the Quintessence grants cosmic powers and understanding to an unsuspecting Superman devotee. Driven mad by this knowledge, he grows to believe Superman is responsible for the tragic events that ended millions of lives. Adopting the name of Gog, he sets out to destroy Superman, not once but thousands of times, traveling backwards one day at a time and murdering him each and every day.
Our heroes soon realize that the entire world as they know it will be wiped out if they don’t put a stop to this madman. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman vow to travel back through time and change history, effectively altering all reality for their contemporaries.
The bulk of this comic focuses on a few key characters, presented as children of beloved modern superheroes. It was entertaining to read about the exploits of Batman’s son or Robin’s daughter, but the “we’re facing our last day on Earth” narrative cast a pall over most of the story. The stories sometimes felt like tangents, and while these characters join forces at the end to help the trinity, their individual stories sometimes felt a bit drawn out or unnecessary.
I was all geared up to not really enjoy this comic. As it began to reach its climax all I kept thinking was, “Well, this is just one possible future. There’s no guarantee any of this will ever actually happen.” I especially felt that when the heroes of the future met our modern-day trio. Being able to warn them of their futures, surely these events could be prevented.
I combed through the remainder of the comic not expected to get all that much out of it. Of course, then the story had to go and change things up.
Out of nowhere, our heroes end up in Hypertime, which is concisely explained to them by Rip Hunter:
Aaaaaand the multiverse is back.
Rip provides an overview of hypertime, explaining that there are actually numerous parallel timestreams, all similar but all with distinct differences. Yes, this is different timelines rather than different multiverses, but essentially it’s the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths way of thinking.
Rip (and the writers) address the fact that for years now, the prevailing thought was that only a single universe existed.
“They think orderly, catalogued continuity is preferable to a kingdom of wonder.” I love that line. I like to believe that it’s a commentary on those responsible for uniting the multiverse into one cohesive world which, while monumental, is also potentially limiting.
The comic implies that this multiverse will be explored and studied in months and years to come, which I can only assume to mean that the “multiverse” is back in full swing, and heroes and villains alike from various parallel worlds will be making appearances.
Surprisingly, I find myself extremely happy about this change. When I read Crisis on Infinite Earths, I was thrilled that I would no longer have to keep track of what was going on between Earth-1 and Earth-2. I liked the simplicity and clarity of a single universe, and for a while I was perfectly content with it.
Of course, like all things, I started to feel sad about the fact that I would never be seeing certain characters again (I’m looking at you, Barry Allen) and found myself wishing that there was some way to bring them back without completely erasing all of the stories I had previously read.
Perhaps that was one of the driving forces for the resurgence of the multiverse. At least, that’s what I’m choosing to believe. This comic ends with no more than a hint of what may come, yet it’s enough to make me want to keep reading. With these comics moving into the 21st century, there is an entirely new crop of talent who can take these characters in new and exciting directions. It would have been incredibly disappointing if certain characters were off-limits for these writers, simply because of prior events in continuity.
I’m looking forward to reading about whatever cross-overs may happen with these parallel-worlds, assuming it’s a plot point they keep up with. I’m hoping DC will have a slightly better handle on the multiverse this time around, and that I won’t be so completely lost while reading.
Who knows? Maybe a year or so from now when I finally catch up to all the “Rebirth” happenings I’ll be writing about how DC is reuniting the multiverse into a single continuity and how great it is, because multiverses are confusing.
No spoilers about what actually happens in “Rebirth” though!
After all, I’ll get there eventually.