Sunday, March 04, 2007

Flashback: Fixing the Fastest Man Alive—Flash Issue 9

The Upshot from DC Comics: Breakout writer Marc Guggenheim (SUPERMAN/BATMAN, Wolverine) comes aboard for a new chapter in the heroic journey of Bart Allen! Bart has literally grown into the mantle of the Flash, but if he's going to be a team player, he must first choose a team. Does Bart belong with the JLA or the Teen Titans?

At the risk of sounding like we’re damning by faint praise, Flash Issue 9 did NOT totally and completely suck. Given the untold damage that this book’s previous writers Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo have done to the Flash legend following their disastrous re-launch—not sucking is the best that new writer Marc Guggenheim can hope for. He pulls it off.

Unlike Nightwing’s Marv Wolfman—who like Guggenheim was brought in to clean up the mess of previous creative teams—Guggenheim has an infinitely harder job as there have been just too many changes to ignore.

Guggenheim starts his run in a deep creative hole not of his own making and he has to dig his way out using the tools at hand—an “adult” Bart Allen now living in Los Angeles instead of Keystone City as an LAPD cadet with an uninspired love interest.

As regular FanBoyWonder readers know, we were not at all fans of the Bilson and DeMeo run and we dropped this book after Issue Six, two issues before the Hollywood clowns left due to health reason—the readers got sick of them (thank you Howie Carr!).

We have a long-standing love for the Flash legacy so when we heard a new writer was being brought on board; we decided to give the book another chance.

Despite the flawed premise (or at least the extremely premature idea) of Bart Allen as the Flash, we think it COULD be made to work in much the same way that J.M. DeMatteis made Hal Jordan as the Spectre work, however imperfectly.

Guggenheim has already started to initiate damage control procedures—namely by giving Bart back some of his personality; dumped the “girl hostage” love interest (for good we hope) and taken on the issue of Bart’s (second bout of) artificial aging front and center.

It’s cute to see Bart—a 16 year old (sort of) in the body of a 20-year-old—handle the break up with the love interest (we never bothered to learn her name) so innocently like it was his first time. Poor kid.

Yet frankly, we know there does exist an emotional and life difference between someone 16 years old and 20 years old, but from Grampa FanBoyWonder’s point of view, it’s like looking down from 50,000 feet to try to discern the difference between someone who is 5 feet tall and 6 feet tall—but we digress.

The art for Issue 9 was serviceable but nothing outstanding. We are heartened to learn that Teen Titans artist Tony Daniel is coming on board in a couple issues and that should lend some much needed visual consistency to the book.

Guggenheim has got his work cut out for him in trying to rescue this book. We’ve made no secret that Wally West was our favorite Flash—likely we grew up with Wally as he struggled to step up from Sidekick to Hero.

We have liked the Bart Allen character. As Impulse, Bart was every bit his namesake. In Teen Titans Geoff Johns matured Bart by making him Kid Flash and having him embrace the Flash legacy and honor his Grandfather Barry’s name. We were just beginning to see great things come from this character when events of Infinite Crisis jumped the gun.

DC disposed of Wally West for no good reason in a really dumb way and forced a change in a really clumsy way. Yet DC can still make Bart Allen as the Flash work if they decide to think outside the box and not just try to repeat history (Wally West redux).

If FanBoyWonder had control of the DC Universe, after we fired Judd Winick (just because we could), here’s how we would fix the Flash:

* De-Age Bart Allen to his pre-Infinite Crisis self but keep him as the Flash. There’s no law that says the Flash can’t be 16-years old. The aging of Bart should have been a metaphor of a boy trying to fill a man’s shoes as well as live up to a legacy he wasn’t ready for but was thrust upon him—not literally made so.

This is not unprecedented; Peter Parker was 15 when he was bitten by the radioactive spider. A teenage (don’t call me “kid”) Flash has built in angst and there is room (literally) for Bart to grow.

* A new, distinct Flash costume. That ugly red suit of Barry Allen’s has been around for some 50 years (Showcase #4, 1956). Bart can carry on the Flash legacy and wear a suit that expresses his individuality. Even giving Barry’s Flash costume, a Kid Flash-like half mask would be enough—just do something to make it different.

* Bring Back Wally West. Wally West is a great character who didn’t deserved to be broomed away like he was. Bringing Wally back doesn’t mean he has to be the Flash again. After two decades as the Flash in his own right, he has nothing to prove.

Let Wally give Bart his blessing and allow Wally to establish his own identity in a Nightwing-like fashion. Call him Velocity, Charley Hustle or Man of Speed or something, there are dozens of characters who fly and are strong. There’s room for another speedster in the DCU who isn’t named Flash.

Our recommendation to the readers who left Flash like we did is to come back. At least for the first few issues of Guggenheim’s run. Let’s give him a chance to fix things.

Added bonus, the bump in sales should be one final repudiation against those Hollywood bozos who thought they could just parachute into the DCU from SoCal and tinker with a legend and to those at Damage Control (DC) who let them.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Free Hit Counters
Online Universities