DC’s new Generation Zero initiative has a lot of people questioning whether all of this is a reboot in disguise. The information attached to the “Generations” announcement gives us a whole new timeline, with Wonder Woman as DC’s first public Superhero. Given the events of titles like Doomsday Clock, Flash Forward and Wonder Woman #750, it does heavily feel like DC is leaning towards a full reboot. But why reboot so soon, when Rebirth was only four years ago? Why is it needed, and why is it being done? But above all, why is the Wally West Flash at the center of it all?
Note: Spoilers for Doomsday Clock & Heroes In Crisis Follow
From what we know of Generation Zero, the fallout of Doomsday Clock and the upcoming epilogue for Flash Forward will have a significant impact on the DC timeline, with Wally West at the heart of it all. The idea of using Wally West seems to span back to the beginning of the Rebirth initiative, and the one-shot DC Universe: Rebirth. Wally is central to this story, as his return kicks off the initiative, and brings in the idea of the Watchmen universe, specifically Dr Manhattan, having a hand in the previous restructuring of the DC Universe.
The fact that Wally was brought back, and made a central figure, did heavily feel like an apology from DC for the previous events in DC. The perception among fans is that Dan DiDio, the senior VP at DC, has a distinct disliking for legacy characters, specifically Wally West and Dick Grayson. The New 52 initiative was largely his and Jim Lee’s doing, and notably left Wally West out of the new continuity. Giving his return in DC Universe: Rebirth a greater deal of impact.
Based on the preference of the higher ups at DC, it’s no surprise Wally West made a comeback right as Geoff Johns became President and CCO of DC. Johns being the architect for both DC Universe: Rebirth and Doomsday Clock. The fact that Wally’s return was part of something larger that would unfold was incredibly clear. However, in June of 2018, Johns stepped down. He continues to write for DC as a contract writer, such as the heavily delayed Doomsday Clock, but his control over the DC universe, is now minimal at best. So DC, and more specifically Dan DiDio, are left with Wally West back in the universe, Dr Manhattan making major changes in the DC Universe, and a desire to return to their Pre-Johns direction. What do we do with Wally West?
Wally West did crop up in the Flash series by Joshua Williamson, such as in the “Speed of Darkness” and “Flash Wars” storyline and was a regular player in Titans towards the beginning of the DC Rebirth initiative. But the most prominent storyline to include Wally recently has been Heroes in Crisis by Tom King and Clay Mann. A love-it-or-hate-it storyline that saw Wally West at the center of a murder case involving Sanctuary, essentially a therapy center for heroes. Wally accidentally kills a number of the other patients when his stress and grief overwhelms him and his abilities. Regardless of how you feel about it, Heroes in Crisis does show just how far Wally has fallen and how much he has lost since the last ‘reboot.’ An affirmation of what happened to him.
Following the events of Doomsday Clock, Dr Manhattan restructures the DC timeline to return certain aspects of DC history that had previously been erased. Such as the Justice Society of America and reinstating a good chunk of the Multiverse. While in Flash Forward, Wally West is exploring this Multiverse and trying to save it.
The epilogue of his adventures is due to be released on Free Comic Book Day, alongside the Generation Zero one-shot. The book that will supposedly “lay the foundations for even more seismic-level changes in the DC Universe” according to DC’s press release on the issue. The cover image for Generation Zero shows what appears to be Wally West, infused with both the abilities of Dr Manhattan and the Mobius Chair, while examples of both the Multiverse and Dark Multiverse envelop the rest of the page. When considering the previous events of the DC Universe over the last few years, this is actually a perfectly logical, if brilliant way to make changes to the DC Universe, without a full reboot.
What needs to be kept in mind is that both the Mobius Chair and Dr Manhattan are outside of the multiverse and are several dimensions higher. Dr Manhattan is obvious, as previously stated, he has already caused monumental changes in the DC Universe and Multiverse. However, the Mobius Chair belongs to the Fourth World Mythology as a creation of Jack Kirby’s. As far back as Crisis on Infinite Earths, it’s been consistent that the Fourth World mythology, specifically the New Gods of New Genesis and Darkseid’s forces on Apokolips are unaffected by changes in the timeline or through the multiverse, as stated in Crisis on Infinite Earths #10. They are above what is known, but just below us, the reader. However, the last time we saw the Mobius Chair, it was floating about in space at the end of the New 52’s The Darkseid War. Supposedly interfered with by Dr Manhattan prior to the big reveal that he was pulling the strings behind the scenes.
What will be the most interesting to see is how Wally comes across the Mobius Chair? Given its abilities to see the past, immediate future, and the secrets of the universe, what will it reveal to Wally, and will the powers of Dr Manhattan cause him to change what he deems is wrong? Such as returning his children to him. Something that was taken away from him by Dr Manhattan in story, and Dan DiDio, et al. in real life.
Finally, is this a reboot for the DC Universe? Especially only four years after the Rebirth initiative? No. Not in the slightest. Assuming the threads laid out do actually come together in a logical fashion, then it is impossible for this to be a full reboot. Instead, it’s a restructuring that goes beyond the local multiverse, and out into the god sphere, a complicated part of DCs own mythology as explored in both Dark Nights Metal, and Multiversity. Both stories have become incredibly important given recent developments and the upcoming Dark Nights: Death Metal announcement, the sequel to Dark Nights Metal, that will star the (now) first DC Superhero, Wonder Woman.
If this were a true reboot, by the definition of the term, then none of the above should matter. None of the previous events, much less the disservice done to Wally, would inform these actions. The clear choice to use Wally speaks to a much more purposeful and direct decision. Wally West was brought back into the DC Universe as a sign of good faith, and as a personal preference of the creators behind the scenes.
However, after being folded back into the DC Universe, what he lost from the New 52 reboot has just become more and more apparent. His fall seemed to become deeper and deeper until reaching his breaking point in Heroes in Crisis. With Johns gone, whatever was in store for Wally is now most likely scrapped. But he’s still a central, if understated figure who needs some redemption. The turn as a god is most likely temporary, but it’s something that can be pointed to as a moment where Wally has the actual power to do something about his situation and how he feels the world has changed and mistreated him.
So, how do you solve a problem like Wally West? You apologize to the character for his treatment, and you make him a god, even if only temporarily.