By Jarrod Jones. If we’re going to be honest with each other, it has been chaos being a DC Comics fan.

And this is an especially chaotic week, with two purportedly meaningful event books being released right on top of each other, though any real impact they might have had has been effectively eclipsed by the coming of Rebirth. Those books — Superman #52 and Justice League #50 — featured the death of Superman (yes, again) and the end of the overlong (and overwrought) Darkseid War. Both have moments in them designed to make readers drop their collective jaws. But in reality they’re just prerequisites to fully appreciate, yes, Rebirth.

If it feels like the publisher has finally collapsed at our feet after a marathon of Wrapping Things Up just in time to get Rebirth #1 into our hands, well… it’s because that’s exactly what’s happened. In a way, this feels like Flashpoint all over again — it’s difficult to truly appreciate these radical events when everyone’s so keen on getting a move on to the Next Big Threat and An All New Era. I mean, when you have Rebirth #1 sitting on top of Superman #52, with that brand-spanking new DC logo publicly shaming the peeled-back corporate insignia underneath it, it’s damn near impossible not to just leap forward. After all, these new changes have been a long time coming.

The New 52 is dead. And its Superman had to be sacrificed in order to make it happen. So was it worth it?

Well. There’s a certain amount of relief that comes with Rebirth, and with it, a certain amount of melancholy. It’s the end of an era, one that stalwart DC fans have moderately tolerated for nearly five years now. We’ve been through this level of cosmic restructuring before (with the wildly inadequate Convergence and the critically polarizing Flashpoint), but we’ve never felt it matter so much as we do now. There’s a feeling, like something is truly at stake, more so than the usual titanic threat or paradigm shift. (And how you interpret that is entirely up to you.)

That’s the gift writer Geoff Johns has — he has the ability to make you absolutely love the DC Universe in a way that no other writer can. Rebirth feels like a fitting end to Johns’ run at DC. Johns is laying the future at our feet, and in a way, he’s asking his readers for forgiveness on behalf of his publisher. (That Johns would use language like “A darkness from somewhere [had] infected us…” to describe the creation of the New 52 in this book speaks volumes.)

Everyone Johns has ever cared for in his long tenure is here again, in different forms maybe, but they are still there — The Justice Society, the Titans, Wally West… *pauses, composes self* Wally West. If there’s one thing that just might get you choked up (provided you can still feel anything after the needlessly grim New 52), it’s the very presence of pre-Flashpoint Wallace West. But then, having Wally here — happy as I am to have him — only feels like more of the post-Convergence “cake and eat it” doctrine that DC has been so keen on selling us as of late. But it’s damn near impossible to feel cynical about that when so much hope is on display here.

Hope and optimism — in the DCU, they almost feel like novel concepts these days. There’s a long way to go before reader confidence will return to DC Comics, but if the heartfelt and downright staggering Rebirth #1 is any indication of what’s to come, the path ahead looks mighty fine.

DC Comics / $2.99

Written by Geoff Johns.

Art by Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli.

Colors by Hi-Fi, Jason Wright, Brad Anderson, Gabe Eltaeb.

Letters by Nick J. Napolitano.

8.5 out of 10