Friday, 31 December 2010

Flash #8 review


After last issue's focus on one of Barry Allen's super-villains, this issue focuses on ... one of Barry Allen's super-villains.

Is there a problem here? I know writer Geoff Johns loves the Rogues Gallery, but after dumping Wally West to bring back Barry, it'd be nice to get to know the guy again. As it is we've had six issues of super-speed time travel adventure with the odd Barry scene, followed by an irrelevant recap of Captain Boomerang's origin, and now another villain focus with a heavy emphasis on time travel.

For this issue is setting up the coming Flashpoint event, which will again go heavy on chronological chaos. Is Johns missing his days as writer of Booster Gold? Sure, Barry had his share of time-centred tales in his original three decades of publication, but I'm starting to suspect that time twisting is now the official theme of the book. At the very least it seems to be the default setting. Green Lantern went from being a book about a guy who happened to have a certain power set and met varied villains to being about a ringslinger who only ever meets other ringslingers. I dropped that book and I can see myself dropping this one if every issue centres on time-spanning speedsters.

'Reverse-Flash: Rebirth' isn't actually bad. As villain focuses go, it's pretty good, showing us that Eobard Thawne - Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash - has always been a sick puppy. A series of scenes show him as a hubris-heavy young academic, becoming ever more bitter, all the while receiving a murderous helping hand from his future self. Rather than straightforward super-speed crimes, Zoom's shtick now is to constantly revise the past, editing time. He's the ultimate rewrite man, having recently given Barry Allen a tragic beginning contradicting previous history. My hope is that the continued emphasis on this aspect of Zoom's operation - he's the only speedster able to change history - will lead to the restoration of Henry and Nora Allen, Barry's parents, as a happy couple. I wouldn't put it beyond the tricky Johns.

The 25th century as imagined by Johns and artist Scott Kolins is a rotten place, one which considers itself forward thinking while being horribly oppressive. 'That outburst has been registered in the family log,' snarls Zoom's father as Eobard has a spat with his annoying little brother. It's a wonder more people don't crack (thank goodness Booster Gold escaped into the past!). The moments when future Zoom steps in to help/shape his past self are very effective, and really rather creepy. Kolins has a knack for showing a character's rage and frustration which, combined with his skill at depicting super-speed, makes him perfect for this story.

Overall, this is an entertaining look at one of Barry's classic villains. I do hope that one day Barry gets a similar spotlight.

13 comments:

  1. Yeah I'm getting a bit worried about Johns obsession for mythology building too, as good as it is he's warped Green Lantern into such a shape that Hal Jordans life on earth is basically a thing of the past, I think you'd have to go back to about #18 or so with the 'One Year Later' jump to have seen Hal do anything outside of being Green Lantern!

    With The Flash I'm on the fence, I never saw any reason to bring Barry back and I'm still not seeing it. Everything here we've seen before, it's been flogged to death and feels like retreading well trodden ground.
    If you grew up on Wally West it doesn't help as what Iris and Barry have is basically identical to Wally and Linda's life. You wonder why they bothered ressurecting Barry...
    The Reverse-Flash is a cast iron example of this problem as here's a character who has been pretty much mined out as far as i'm concerned, I don't know if Johns has factored in Wally's stories featuring him (Chain Lightning specifically) but if he hasn't and has chosen to forget this stuff it's an insult.
    The Flash as it is has been merely okay so far, nothing special, if it's the idea to somehow make Barry a Chronal cop who deals with time related issues in some way I'm worried. It's like Johns is trying desperatly to find some reason, a mandate, to justify why The Flash exists and what his 'role' is in the DCU... I'm not sure that's a solvable question, not in the way he's approched Barry Allen so far.

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  2. Thanks for the comments, Dave. I was also happy with Barry being dead, and Wally running forward. He'd trained for the Flash role, and earned it. Mark Waid nailed his character, Geoff Johns made him the working class hero, everything was working well - why DC then decided to tinker with things I don't know. Bart as Flash with Wally gone? Bart dead but Wally back with kids? Barry and Bart back and Wally gone?

    It's as if someone came up with the ideas without knowing what the follow through would be. Barry could easily have been positioned as a time cop without replacing Wally as the DCU's Flash, he could have worked from within the Speed Force.

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  3. That was kind of what was happening anyway, Barry was visiting Wally from the 31st century before his death and even popped up out of the Speedforce in Infinite Crisis to pat Bart on the head...
    I know that's sort of the justification Dan Didio gave for bringing him back proper "He wasn't really dead cuz he was still popping up", but I think they ran out of ideas where to take Wally's Flash and for some reason decided he really didn't matter anymore, to anybody.
    Its a sales/publicity gimmick really isnt it? Bringing Barry back?
    But now there seems to be the same fundamental crisis of faith they were having with Wally, what to do to make this character 'work'...

    I do think Geoff Johns is fabulous, let me be totally upfront about my liking his work immensely, but he has had a growing trend for rewriting history to suit himself and what he feels should be. I think with The Flash the last thing he should be doing is going into longterm time-travel plots or anything that removes the Flash from Central City and Barry Allen:Police Scientist. I think due to what his power is and the fact he needs re-establishing in peoples minds he needs to be grouded into some recognisable reality with normal people as reference points; I like Green Lantern as a book but Hal Jordan and his position in the world of Coast City is non-existent. It's scarcely even a sleepover to him these days and the Green Lantern mythos has taken over all aspects, even Carol Ferris has joined him being Staar Sapphire fulltime. Sooner or later that will run out of gas however and there'll be a hole at the creative centre of the book.

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  4. Dan DiDio forgot, or was ignoring, Waid's dictat that Barry could pop back to visit Wally just three times.

    What to do to make Barry or Wally work? Backseating editing is my game ... for one thing, I'd ban the continual looking back. Ask our writer to go for a year without getting tangled up in history; old villains and characters could appear, but not to reveal that they were future cousins of clones created from Speed Force-infused Barry dandruff. No stories longer than three parts. A balance between costumed action and everyday drama. Barry/Wally presented as being as fascinating as the villains. That sort of thing!

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  5. Martin
    this isnt about any comic review...I just wanted to wish you a very Happy New Year. All the best!

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  6. And to you, Karl, may 2011 treat you well.

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  7. I don't know - I like that Johns typically brings a sort of thematic edge to his work. He does rewrite history, but I'll concede that I have no problem with the heavy revision of continuity - all the past great stories are fantastic because they are great stories, not because they are "important" to continuity, and as long as the core of the book remains, I don't care about specifics.

    I like that Green Lantern is to space as Flash is to time. I think the ideas just fit well.

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  8. Thanks Darren, it's good to see the other point of view aired. I realise I'm in the minority so far as the current direction of GL is concerned. Still, something for everyone, eh?

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  9. I'm quite happy with that Geoff Johns has done with both franchises, Flash and Green Lantern. In the Lantern's case, he's revitalized a set of character's I've always loved, and in Flash's case, he's made me really care for a set of characters I was never very interested in.

    This particular issue was brilliant, I chose it as the book of the week in my column, though I miss Manapul.

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  10. Undeniably, Geoff Johns has injected the GL books with a single tone, that chimes with many - no arguments there!

    It'll be interesting to see what happens with the Flash book. If he'd just focus on Barry somewhat, I'd be miles happier.

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  11. You know what they say about a hero's enemies... it's even double so with Batman, Spidey and Flash.

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  12. Thing is, Geoff Johns seems to like the Rogues far more than he does Barry.

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  13. I beg to differ, sir. In a book with only one main character, you can't always focus on him, or it gets repetitive.

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