Superman: Rebirth #1 is a very odd book. Most of the strangeness likely comes from mislabeling. This really isn’t a book about rebirth. It is a book about the opposite. The action of the story, such as it is, consists of Clark Kent, the pre-Flashpoint
Superman whose story is chronicled in Dan Jurgens’ Superman: Lois and Clark, and Lana Lang setting out to resurrect this world’s Superman and failing.
That failure has long been foreseen, since interviews and solicits have long made clear that the Superman Universe will focus, for the upcoming period at least, on the elder Clark Kent and his family, particularly his son Jon White, the new Superboy. It’s also the case that rebirth need not mean anything so literal as a bodily resurrection, nor so artistically drastic as a complete reboot. The next era of Superman has certainly begun, and that constitutes a kind of rebirth.
Still, in Superman: Rebirth #1 Peter Tomasi, joined for this issue by Patrick Gleason, makes some puzzling choices. Much of the issue involves Clark relating to Lana his death, in the old universe, at the claws of Doomsday. That sets the stage for their visit to the Fortress of Solitude in search of the Kryptonian regeneration matrix that restored him to life. Unfortunately, it seems that technology does not exist in the post-Flashpoint continuity.
Now, this raises all sorts of questions. Ever since the dawn of the New 52, readers have been plagued by doubts as to what parts of DC history transferred and what did not. The question of whether the Superman of the New 52 continuity in fact ever died in a confrontation with Doomsday has gotten contradictory answers over the years. It would seem we are back to, no. More precisely, we are to the point where the events chronicled years ago in The Death of Superman obviously did not play out in the same way. Especially, if there was a resurrection, its means have yet to be found.
The “yet” is important. Probably one of the most penetrating insights into comics came with Mark Waid’s comment that comics are about resurrection. It is difficult to imagine that the Superman of the post-Flashpoint world is dead forever, or even for all that long. Then again, there was a strong hint in DC Universe Rebirth #1 that none of the current Supermen are who, or what, they think. This came from the mysterious Mr. Oz, who dresses like a young Father Time and whose name recalls Ozymandias of Watchmen. In that, the shadow of the Rebirth initiative is clearly visible on the Superman Universe.
Perhaps a story that largely serves as a review of THE DEATH OF SUPERMAN is appropriate as an introduction to a Superman Universe that will soon feature multiple Supermen, as did the famous aftermath of that event. And, in so far as the REBIRTH project involves an attempt to attract new readers, or re-engage old ones, providing such a review as a kind of on-ramp is not a terrible idea. Nevertheless, a rebirth that opens with a failed resurrection seems more of a simple continuation of Tomasi's LAST DAYS OF SUPERMAN sequence than a true new beginning. If such is the essence of REBIRTH, the project has disappointing days ahead.