The "DC Universe: Rebirth" special, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by a host of artists and colorists, restores to DC's superhero universe a number of plot, character and storytelling elements which the New 52 sought to eliminate, or at least downplay. For example, the New 52 implemented a truncated timeline with only five years' worth of backstory and virtually no generational or "legacy" elements.
In that respect, Johns' use of the pre-"Flashpoint" Wally West is hardly subtle. Even more so than his best buddy Dick Grayson, Wally represented the successful graduation from teenage sidekick to adult standard bearer. Starting off as Kid Flash, Wally became the third Flash after the death of his uncle Barry Allen; and he vanished into the Speed Force during the lead-up to "Flashpoint" and the New 52 relaunch. In "Rebirth," however, he's back in his yellow sidekick duds (and a slightly younger body) while still retaining all of his adult memories. As Wally bounces around the current DC Universe, his musings offer readers insight into what came before, and what "Rebirth" seems to promise.
1. TEN MORE YEARS
When all is said and done, the post-"Rebirth" DCU will probably be a bit older than the New 52 version in a few different ways. One of those ways involves putting 10 years back on the clock. As mentioned above, the New 52's present day was originally some five years after the debuts of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League. Adding those 10 years means that the League debuted some 15 years ago, which is about as old as the pre-"Flashpoint" DC Universe got prior to the New 52 relaunch.
(It may be just a coincidence, but in the real world it's been about 10 years since the end of "Infinite Crisis," by Johns, Jimenez, et al.; and the start of "52," co-written by Johns.)
What could have happened in those ten years? Plenty -- with most of it likely tapping into DC's voluminous library of superhero lore. There's enough room for a good chunk of the post-"Crisis On Infinite Earths," pre-"Flashpoint" stories of 1986-2011 to have occurred across those 15 years of comic-book time. While we shouldn't assume that the 1986-2011 comics are just being reloaded like some long-lost backup file onto DC's narrative hard drive, expanding the timeline should allow for more character development.
2. COMMITTING TO COMMITMENTS
Specifically, more than a few love connections were made in those 10 missing years. While the pre-"Flashpoint" DC Universe -- which I like to call Earth-August for short -- didn't have a monopoly on married superheroes, the New 52 made a point of dissolving (or otherwise discouraging) some prominent marriages. In the New 52 timeline, Barry Allen and Iris West, Aquaman and Mera, Hawkman and Hawkwoman, and Clark Kent and Lois Lane were never married; and the nixing of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer's nuptials led to J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman leaving "Batwoman."
Now, however, Earth-August's married Lois and Clark (with a school-age son, Jonathan) will be the post-"Rebirth" headliners in the Superman books, and Aquaman just proposed to Mera in the pages of the "Rebirth" special. Again, Wally's involvement is telling, because he (married to reporter Linda Park) was one of those Earth-August couples affected directly by the New 52 relaunch. We'll have to see whether their children (one of whom became Impulse II) are coming back as well.
3. LOVE WILL KEEP US TOGETHER
It's not just marriages making a comeback. The "Rebirth" special also emphasizes old relationships and traditional pairings cast aside by the New 52. In particular, the "Rebirth" special hints at reuniting Green Arrow and Black Canary, who became involved romantically in the early 1970s and finally got married in 2007. In the New 52, neither had much room for the other, what with Green Arrow's globetrotting and Black Canary's Birds of Prey adventures. Rekindling their mutual attraction may look different than it used to, because the current versions of these characters are significantly different from their predecessors. (Personally, as much as I liked Ol' Lefty Ollie, I always had the feeling that Dinah was way too good for him; so this particular pairing may need to be justified by more than nostalgia.) Still, it's yet another indication that the post-"Rebirth" DC lineup will be a closer community than the New 52 was.
Adding back those ten years should also help make these relationships more believable. After all, the New 52's most prominent new relationship was Superman and Wonder Woman's budding romance; and it seemed to come out of nowhere. By contrast, John Byrne, George Perez and company teased a Superman/Wonder Woman fling over a few months in 1987 and '88. It culminated in an awkward kiss at the start of "Action Comics" #600, whereupon both the Man of Steel and Amazon Princess realized they were better off as colleagues and friends -- and over the next 20-plus years, they became the best of platonic buddies.