With April’s Watchmen-focused Flash/Batman crossover “The Button” just over the horizon, it’s more clear than ever that the reborn DC Universe is speeding toward something massive -- maybe even a full-blown Crisis.
Fortunately, the DCU is no stranger to cosmic catastrophes. Since 1985, crisis events have become almost commonplace, and what’s more, there have been direct connections linking nearly all of them to one another. After all, if there’s one thing the DC Universe likes more than the number 52, it’s digging deep into its own continuity, especially when the fate of the multiverse is at stake.
With that in mind, it's time to take a look at some of the biggest potential clues, trailheads and conspiracy theories buried deep within the crises of DC Comics' past to see what they could mean for Rebirth’s future.
What about Pariah?
One of the focal points of 1985’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Pariah is the code name chosen by scientist Kell Mossa, a resident of an alternate Earth whose experiments netted him a horrible fate: Untethered from his own universe, he was forced to witness the collapse of the multiverse yet unable to prevent it. Like a figure from Greek mythology, Pariah was doomed to be powerless in the face of evil -- forever.
Interestingly, however, Pariah’s curse makes him one of the few DC characters who can travel through the multiverse without assistance -- a useful skill if your goal us to interfere with or manipulate the timeline. Also, the theme of bearing witness to catastrophe would mesh with the pervasive sense of doom Wally West seemed to be running against as he made his way back into the timeline. Revealing Mr. Oz’s identity as Pariah would certainly be a move from out of left field, but one that could definitely be made to work.
Where Are the Monitors?
The Monitors have been a long-standing component of the cosmic side of the DCU, evolving from a singular, all-knowing, multidimensional entity and his antithesis, the Anti-Monitor, into an entire community of dimensional guardians with individual names and personalities.
Recently, the “Multiplicity” arc of Rebirth “Superman” paid special attention to the Monitor’s legacy, by name checking both Nix Uotan and his ship, the Ultima Thule, as Clark and his army of Supermen from alternate earths worked to save themselves by making us of yet another Crisis hallmark: the “bleed” between dimensions. Even stranger, you may recall that Nix was temporarily exiled to earth during “Final Crisis”, where he was shown sketching a face that looks suspiciously like Dr. Manhattan (or, perhaps Captain Adam) in a notebook.
There’s no way of knowing if the Monitors will become relevant again in the future, but historically if the universe is threatened, the Monitors like to get involved.
Superboy Prime’s Reality-Shattering Punch
The (in)famous catalyst for even the most non-sequitur events in the DCU -- like the resurrection of Jason Todd -- Superboy Prime’s literal punch to the fabric of the multiverse was used to set up a great many of the dominoes that would collapse into “Infinite Crisis” and its aftermath.
While it’s unlikely that Superboy Prime will show up again any time soon (especially considering the MIA status of every iteration of the Boy of Steel, aside from Jon Kent), a callback to his reality-altering temper tantrum isn't outside the realm of possibility. After all, if Barry Allen’s rewriting of the timeline in Flashpoint isn’t actually to blame for the New 52 universe, what is?
Captain Atom, Captain Adam and Superman
With Dr. Manhattan being teased so heavily by all corners of Rebirth, it’d be impossible to ignore the reintroduction of Captain Atom as a potential clue. Atom was the original Charlton Comic character that Moore based Dr. Manhattan of off -- a human granted almost limitless, ultimately fatal, atomic power.
The new miniseries, “The Rise and Fall Of Captain Atom”, hasn’t explicitly connected itself to the rest of the Rebirth universe just yet, but the visual parallels between Nathaniel Adam and Dr. Manhattan are pretty starkly made in the first issue. It’s also worth noting the visual and thematic connection between Captain Atom and Captain Adam, aka Allen Adam, the metallic skinned “quantum Superman” of Earth-4 who appears as a feature of the “Final Crisis” tie-in “Superman Beyond”.
With the “Multiplicity” arc of Rebirth “Superman” diving deep into the different multiverse incarnations of Clark, and with Superman’s penchant for having a starring role in crisis events, there’s a distinct possibility that even more links to Dr. Manhattan are about to be unearthed via the Man of Steel.
A major player in “Final Crisis," Libra functioned as a sort of Trojan horse to infect the Earth with the Anti-Life equation. But before he was tied so closely to Darkseid, Libra was a human known as Justin Bellatine, a two-bit villain from the 1970s with a machine set to steal the powers of the Justice League. The machine, unsurprisingly, backfired and smeared Libra across the multiverse, until he was “reconstructed” and made corporeal once more by Desaad on Apokolips.
The visual connections between Mr. Oz and Libra are difficult to ignore, right down to their billowing, hooded capes and golden staves. Also, there’s the matter of Libra’s apparent death during “Final Crisis," which led Dr. Sivana to observe, "we haven’t heard the last of him."
Eclipso is a villain that’s been through more than a couple re-writes in his day, going from C-lister to otherworldly demon to outcast of Gemworld, with the potential for yet another incarnation. As part of the Rebirth universe’s first major crossover event, “Justice League vs Suicide Squad," Maxwell Lord managed to not only snag the Eclipso diamond but enslave a portion of the Justice League in the process.
While the rules this new (or, maybe old?) version of Eclipso plays by have yet to be explained, judging by the amount of fanfare his reintroduction received, it’s likely he'll have some sort of cosmic-level power. It’s also worth noting that one of the pieces of Alexander Luthor’s puzzle during “Infinite Crisis” was the use of the Eclipso diamond to possess a host and spark a war with the Spectre that would destroy magic itself.
Why is the Psycho-Pirate in Gotham?
One of the more off-kilter potential trailheads for Rebirth’s future comes on the pages of Tom King’s “Batman." The Psycho-Pirate has been a lynchpin in both of King’s completed arcs in the series, but also as a fundamental part of “Infinite Crisis” and “Crisis on Infinite Earths." It was in the latter where the Psycho-Pirate met a brutal end, but his strange multidimensional legacy clearly lives on.
Psycho-Pirate is anything but an A-list villain, but his ability to find himself at the center of cosmic events is uncanny, and now that he’s resurfaced in such a prominent (and unexpected) book, it’s likely worthwhile to pay attention to him.
The Flash Family vs the Cosmos
Wally West’s return to the DC Universe was definitely the biggest non-Watchmen related bombshell to come out of last year's Rebirth special, but the idea of a Flash being on the forefront of a cosmic event is anything but new. As Geoff Johns has said, The Flash is a character who's always “on the forefront of change.”
In “The Flash” #9, Wally and Barry Allen were privy to a glimpse of an all-too-familiar winged silver helmet from within the Speed Force, a pretty direct indication of Jay Garrick's imminent return. But, as crisis events have proved time and time again, when a Flash comes back from -- or enters -- oblivion, the consequences are rarely anything but cosmic.
The Titans and Extant
“Titans Hunt," one of the “Road to Rebirth” limited events that led into “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1 and set the stage for the return of the original Teen Titans (including Wally West), briefly highlighted the existence of Hank Hall, aka Hawk of the crime-fighting duo Hawk and Dove.
In the early 1990s, Hank became the time-traveling main antagonist of “Zero Hour: Crisis in Time” known as Monarch, and later, Extant -- an identity that would also, coincidentally, position him, however briefly, as a foe of the increasingly relevant Captain Atom.
Hank’s more cosmically inclined history was retconned out of continuity even before the New 52, but with the rules of Rebirth not yet firmly established, a return or reference to Extant or a potential connection to the Teen Titans isn't necessarily off the table.
It’s definitely worth noting that one of the biggest, and most shocking, moves DC Comics could make would be to do something the publisher almost never does, and ... well, keep it as simple as possible.
There's always the chance that the entirety of Rebirth was caused by the manipulations of Doctor Manhattan, full stop. Mr. Oz could simply be short for Ozymandias. It may seem like the lowest-hanging fruit, but so far the heart of Rebirth has been going back to basics, so however unlikely it may be, all the Watchmen teases may just be designed to be taken at face value.
After all, “Justice League vs Watchmen” would be its own sort of pattern following this year’s “Justice League vs Suicide Squad” crossover, wouldn’t it?