Could everyone please dip into their pockets, we're having a whip round. I'm booking Ethan Van Sciver a place at the Jack Kirby College of Dynamic Foreshortening. Cos that cover image is just wrong. Yes, it's the latest Flash/Superman race, this time to see who can look most constipated, most quickly. I think Barry has it by a nose.
Inside the issue, Abra Kadabra gets blasted by someone evil from the future. The JSA and JLA try to disinfect Barry of that annoying Dark Flash life-sucking business. Bart shows up all weepy over Max Mercury. Supes and Bazza race, as you know. And Barry takes drastic action in a bid to save his loved ones, meets some old friends and is ambushed by a Surprise (If You Were Asleep In The Abra Kadabra Scene) Villain.
The biggest threat Barry faces here is techno-babble on a scale that would frighten the most ardent Trekker. Just look at this nonsense! (Click for a lovely big version, so much easier on the eyes) That's Jay Garrick, expert in hard water, keeping a shiny hat on at 2000 mph and talking shite. My highlight this issue was wife Iris calling Barry out on his recent policy of never resting. Other than that, it was another tiresome dragging out of Barry Allen's return, replete with references back to Flash tales of 25 years ago. I wasn't in favour of Barry's resurrection, feeling that he died a fine, heroic death and the DC Universe has moved on spiffingly without him. But if we're getting him back, let's just accept it and give him some new challenges. A hyper-convoluted story bringing in all the other speedsters, various villains, JLA and JSA-ers and dredging up the Speed Force, I don't need.
And I really didn't need Barry Allen implying to Superman that any of their races he did well in was due to Barry folding for charity. Bunk! I've read those comics. It may be the tiniest bit of history rewriting - certainly not on a par with Johns's addition of a murdered mother and imprisoned father - but it still irks.
Van Sciver's art remains as busy as ever. You can't fault the fella in terms of energy - Speed Force crackles, things explode . . . it's neato or migraine inducing depending on my mood. One thing that definitely annoyed me was the Green Lanterning of Mystery Villain's chest emblem and cuff design, so that they float as if generated by his power, rather than sit like the bits of material they are.
I like Van Sciver best in the quiet moments: Barry's flashback dinner with Iris, Liberty Belle and Hourman at JSA HQ - really, I wish he'd not try so hard. Except when we have three panels of present day Barry and Iris chatting in the rain via three identical-bar-the-colour-effects panels; those, he could put a bit more effort in. I'm not suggesting something radical and strenuous such as different angles, or relative distances, but at least tilt the heads, move the mouths - something. Look at this panel - simple, but imaginative, a new way of showing super speed. More imagination, less clutter is the way to go. And well done to Brian Miller for his consistently nifty colouring.
I realise this is coming across as a big moan, but I'm buying this book because Johns did such great work on Flash when it was Wally's book, and I've liked lots of Van Sciver's stuff. And I'll buy the rest of this series to see how things go for my old chums Barry and Iris. If they're all cheered up by the end, I'll forgive everything. For now though, despite the hype, this book remains - to use one of the speedy references so beloved of Johns - distinctly run of the mill.