Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review: A stumbling start for Flash: Rebirth #1

After reading Flash: Rebirth #1 I'm ... ambivalent.

I'm glad to see Barry Allen back in the DCU, and for the most part Geoff Johns seems to have a handle on Barry's sense of duty and responsibility. But — as was mentioned in some recent comments — Johns has a seemingly growing obsession with the Silver Age as well as the increasingly in-continuity future laid out in Kingdom Come (originally an Elseworlds story).

He can lay in on pretty thick, which is the reason I stopped reading his Justice Society of America. And I don't know if it's my own paranoia or not, but I got the same sense of relentless nostalgia from parts of Flash: Rebirth #1. There are references and asides a reader would need a strong knowledge of Flash history to understand, and I can't help but see hints of Kingdom Come in the story.

In Kingdom Come Wally West is the Flash who is constantly moving, always running after melding with the Speed Force made his molecules unstable. If you've read Rebirth #1 already, you'll know this sounds familiar but with Barry being the Flash who won't stop, who seems to be connected to the Speed Force in a new way.

Frankly, that's annoying. I'm hoping it's a matter of reading too much into it, but I keep having flashbacks (no pun intended) to Geoff Johns' JSA/Kingdom Come storyline. It is only the first issue, though — I'll be sticking with it to see what direction the story takes.

There were some other, nit-picky stuff that jumped out at me:

• Johns is often chided about is his apparent love of gore, so the blood-spatter on page 3 ended up being a distraction more than anything else. I'm not a prude, but it came across as gratuitous and self-indulgent. And that new (as far as I can tell) backstory for Barry? Even moreso. Doesn't the character have enough tragedy in his background to make him interesting without giving his a traumatic childhood?

• The art by Ethan Van Sciver is great, with detail that informs rather than overwhelms. Hardly anything Van Sciver puts in a panel is static (no pun intended — dammit!), and he brings a heroic-but-human sensibility to Flash. But man, what's with all the Flash-lightning? Is it just me, or does it remind anyone else of the way Todd McFarlane would draw Spider-Man's webbing? Seriously, that lightning effect is getting waaaaay out of hand.

I did enjoy the banter between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, and one thing I really liked — it might be my favorite part of the whole issue — is Bart Allen's scene. In it he's at the Teen Titan Tower grousing and basically tells his teammates, "Barry Allen, Schmarry Allen; who cares? Wally's the real Flash."

Because that's another way to read this issue: It not only reintroduces the characters and puts the pieces in place for the coming storyline, but it's also very, very meta. It's a fairly clever and gentle way of acknowledging the hand-wringing fanbase, and in a weird way it gives me some hope for the future of Flash.

Has anyone else read Flash: Rebirth #1? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments.


Bill Galvan said...

I agree with you...Flash Rebirth is the first DC comic I've picked up in a while, and I kinda wanted the same kind of great experience I had reading Green Lantern's Rebirth book. But this one seemed a little off. Maybe it's because Barry actually "returned" in a different book...I really don't know which one. But another thing that makes it tough, is as much as I like Barry, Wally is a great character.

rob! said...

Like we discussed in the previous thread, the violence just totally put me off.

Gore in a horror comic? Fine. But what the f*ck is that level of gore doing in a Flash comic book?

God forbid DC make a Flash comic kids could read.

snell said...

I do wish Hal Jordan had said at least once in their conversation, "Dude, I was dead, too...get over yourself." But maybe that's just me.

Khairul H. said...

I thought Bart was killed by the Rogues? What's going on here?

Maxo said...

Bill: You might be on to something with the GL/Flash comparison. I think I was expecting to have the same kind of blow-my-socks-off reading experience with Flash, and it fell short. It wasn't a bad comic, but it wasn't as good as I was expecting. And yeah, I really hope this isn't used as an excuse to push Wally to the sidelines.

Rob: For some reason, it really took me out of the story. Maybe it's silly, but I guess I was thrown off by the idea of gore in a Flash comic, too.

Snell: You and me both! Especially when Barry and Hal started talking about Ollie, I started thinking, They've all died and come back to life! They should go find Superman and start a new club. And don't forget to save a seat for Batman.

Khairul: I haven't been following Flash regularly, so I actually had to look that up. Apparently Bart came back from the future where he was resurrected by Brainiac 5 because ... aw hell, I don't know. But wasn't Bart JUST KILLED? Like, recently? What's with the sudden turnaround?

Bill Galvan said...

Death really doesn't mean much in comics anymore. Back in the day, a comic book death used to occur rarely, and it almost always had a lasting effect. Nowadays, they pump them out with the same frequency as they do comic book movies. That being said, ironically, Barry's return makes the most sense to me, as he was traveling back through time when he was dying in Crisis. But unfortunately, his replacement (Wally) fit into his role better than anyone expected.

Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

Hal could have said "Dude, almost everyone has been dead one time or another. You, me, Superman, Green Arrow, now Batman."

To which Barry would reply, "But I was dead the longest!"