A Tale of Two Reboots

The rumor mill (and all recent in-story signs and signifiers) hint at something odd happening with DC’s main line in the near future—specifically, the cancellation of a reboot so that another reboot can stand in its place. Geoff Johns’ Doomsday Clock, undeniably canon, was a reboot story. It ended the Rebirth Era by undoing the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent, restoring the primary version of the Justice Society of America to the Earth-0 timeline (with Wonder Woman at the helm), and restoring the full history of the Legion, including the team’s interactions with teenage Clark (Superboy). 

But after Doomsday Clock wrapped, a month passed without any other titles acknowledging any changes whatsoever. Nothing was acknowledged. Nothing reflected the supposed reboot. Rumors swirled (as they have for the past year plus) about an ongoing schism within the DC office between publisher Dan DiDio and top writer Geoff Johns, internal frustration over publication delays, and different opinions about the overall trajectory of the superhero line. Then there was a tiny speck of ostensible Doomsday Clock reboot recognition in the form of a Scott Snyder-penned Wonder Woman origin story in Wonder Woman #750, cementing her as the first ever public superhero back in the 1940s, complete with a wink and nod at the formation of the JSA to follow.

However, a week after that, Snyder struck again, turning everything on its head with Justice League #39—the “finale” of his years-long Justice League arc, specifically the last issue (of ten-issues) of his “Justice/Doom War.” In Justice League #39, our titular heroes, defeated by the goddess Perpetua, are given one final chance to right things, via the Quintessence’s magick reboot door. Ganthet of the Quintessence insinuates to our titular heroes that Doomsday Clock has already occurred, saying “events that unfolded outside your purview. Some disconnected from your reality altogether but still deeply felt and impactful.” We even see a panel from Doomsday Clock in Justice League #39, specifically an image of Johnny Thunderbolt crashing through Black Adam!

After Ganthet ends his monologue, the JL bolts through the reboot door, leading to… nothing. It’s a damn To be Continued! And we are told that things will be continued in Metal 2 aka Death Metal aka Encore aka Snyder’s exhausting never-ending opus. And rumor has it that Encore will be a reboot that ends the Rebirth Era by undoing the deaths of Ma and Pa Kent (maybe), restoring the primary version of the Justice Society of America to the Earth-0 timeline (with Wonder Woman at the helm), and restoring the full history of the Legion, including the team’s interactions with teenage Clark (Superboy).

But wait?! That is exactly what Doomsday Clock‘s reboot did, you say? How astute you are! This is absolutely true. And this implies that Snyder’s reboot is trumping Johns’ reboot (even though they are virtually the same)—which, in turn, implies that Wonder Woman #750 isn’t a preview of a post-Doomsday Clock (Johns-rebooted) multiverse, but actually is a preview of a post-Encore (Snyder-rebooted) multiverse instead. Narratively, we can only guess how this’ll play out. The “official” company fanwank could very well be that Doc Manhattan rewrote the DCU at the end of Doomsday Clock only for Perpetua to have pressed the pause button or rewind button, preventing Manhattan’s alteration from sticking. What followed was Sam Lane’s death, Alfred’s death, Justice/Doom War, magick Quintessence reboot door in Justice League #39, and then…

Justice League #40! Here’s even more confusion. See, JL #40 is just a fresh creative team (Robert Venditti and Doug Mahnke) starting a new story that has nothing to do with reboots or the follow-up from Snyder’s magick door. There is internaut speculation that the continued fanwank-athon might see the JL emerge for Encore via some time anomaly, which will then lead to the “official” Snyder reboot. JL #40 is a head-scratcher in and of itself. In JL #40, we see a scene that was clearly drawn with Alfred alive and well, but then cleverly changed by Venditti and Mahnke to fit post-Alfred’s death. Sodam Yat is featured in the story, as is the Hall of Justice. Likewise, Wonder Woman mentions her connection to the JL Dark. Yet, Flash has never heard of Eradicator and neither Batman nor Superman seem to be familiar with Madame Xanadu. I literally have no clue as to where JL #40 takes place—or even on which timeline, even with an editorial note that tells us outright that this issue is after Superman’s secret ID reveal in “The Truth.” (Technically, it should go some point after both JL #39 and “The Truth,” which is where I’ve placed it on my chronology.) Scott Snyder then put his foot in his mouth on Twitter, inexplicably saying that JL #40 takes place before “Justice/Doom War,” which makes zero sense no matter how you spin it. Thankfully, Twitter isn’t canon, but it does speak to the general confusion and messiness behind the scenes at DC HQ.

Why is this all so complicated? And why cancel a reboot for another reboot (especially when they are the same reboot)? This is inner company warfare affecting story. This isn’t a team sport. It’s a bunch of singular egos, led by one Dan DiDio, battling for supremacy of a continuity clusterfuck they believe can only be saved by meta-acknowledgment of its very clusterfuckery. I’m sure if it were totally up to the Powers That be, they probably would have thrown Doomsday Clock right in the bin, ignoring it outright in favor of the Encore reboot or whatever’s to come. However, Doomsday Clock was one of DC’s best-sellers (and, no matter your personal opinion of it, critical darlings) these past two years. As much as they’d like to, they can’t ignore it. The best they can do is spike it six feet into the earth, claiming it’s canon but was “erased.”

Maybe I’m blowing my top for no reason. Hell, maybe I’m misreading this entirely or buying into the bogus commentariat dirt-sheets. Maybe I’m dead wrong about how things will play out. After all, there were similar problems in the Modern Age—like when Death of the New Gods came out alongside Countdown and “Batman RIP”/Final Crisis. And don’t even get me started about the New 52’s “band-aid story” Convergence. Relegating Jack Kirby’s Bronze Age Super Powers arcs as non-canon comes to mind as well, but the Doomsday Clock/Encore mess seems more egregious than anything in prior publication eras. After all, Super Powers didn’t connect to the greater DCU the way Doomsday Clock did and still does. And the aforementioned Modern Age and New 52 stuff wasn’t make-or-break reboot material. This whole Doomsday Clock/Encore debacle seems to have resulted directly from DiDio, Snyder, Bendis, and company having made a big mistake (or series of mistakes). When you make a mistake, it’s best to own up to it. But in this case, it seems like DiDio, Snyder, Bendis, and company are instead choosing to fix their mistake by claiming it was all planned and that they meant to do it this way. But, again, maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe these guys really do have a clever and inventive way of straightening this out. Snyder said, in a recent interview, “The idea is that everything happened – and happened IN continuity – everything mattered, Doomsday Clock, Year of the Villain, stories old and new, there’s just a story reason why it doesn’t seem that way on the surface right now. Bottom line, we need to reward fans for their dedication and passion for all the characters, for all these great stories, and say – now let’s do a big, crazy story that shows the connections, some obvious, some secret, a story that celebrates and rocks the whole DCU and – above all – let’s have some fucking fun doing it.” Could they do something that salvages all of this and could they do it in an interesting and fun way? It’s possible. But, like the old adage goes: Fool me once, shame on you… These funnybooks have already fooled me consistently since the 1980s, so I won’t hold my breath in anticipation of a miracle.

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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