Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Murder of ‘Bart Allen’ & The Lightning Return of The Flash

It was an exciting week for books this week as we lost a Flash and then re-gained a Flash. Here are our picks for the week of June 20.

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13
The Upshot from DC Comics: The Flash must make the choice he was offered at the beginning of "Full Throttle." And you won't want to miss the stunning full version of this cover — but you only can catch it when this issue races into stores!

Ok so “Bart Allen” is dead. There we said it but more on “Bart Allen” in quotes later. On the merits of the issue itself, writer Mark Guggenheim performed something of a minor miracle here in making this Flash’s death compelling while keeping the reader wondering if somehow Flash might beat his destiny and cheat death. Alas it was not to be.

But we talk about the death of “Bart Allen” in quotes because this character who filled these pages for 13 issues was NOT the Bart Allen we knew and loved. This Wally West Clone (we don’t use that word by chance) appeared in issue One and there was an expectation, a demand almost, that readers connect to this stranger with a familiar name (well two names, “Bart Allen” and “Flash”).

“Bart Allen” was to the DC Universe what Ben Reilly was to the Marvel Universe. When we watched “Bart” die at the end of #13, we immediately recall feeling the same way when the clone of Peter Parker, one-time Scarlet Spider and replacement Spider-Man bit the dust (literally) quite abruptly when Marvel realized what the Spider-Clone story line was doing to the entire Spider-Man franchise.

But it wasn’t the Rogue’s Gallery that killed this wearer of the Flash costume, it was DC Comics’ on Dan Didio—aided and abided by Hollywood bozos Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo. Didio attempted to shoehorn a character just finding his way as KID Flash, completely change what made Bart Allen a beloved character and again, turn him into a Wally clone just for the sake of “change”.

What Dan really wanted to do was to put his own fingerprint and/or leave his own legacy on the DCU. Dan’s well on his way there, but perhaps not in the way he would like. Two words Dan: Turd Sandwich.

We’ll say it again-- This is a major concession by the powers that be at DC that their attempt to fix the Flash following their disastrous post-Infinite Crisis re-launch of The Flash—both the book and the title character—was not working.

To Guggenheim’s credit, we really loved the final issue's reaction shots without dialogue, first from Robin who has already lost a good friend with the death of Superboy. Then with original Flash Jay Garrick (who had taken in Bart like a son) and Liberty Belle, the one time Jesse Quick. Kudos to artist Tony Daniel for pulling off real grief all through the power of visuals.

But while we feel sad that this character of 13 issues has expired, it is the position of FanBoyWonder that Bart Allen—Kid Flash and the former Impulse is NOT dead. That is to say there is an easy way to bring back the Pre-Infinite Crisis Bart.

We said as much during our post last week when news of this title’s cancellation leaked. This “Bart Allen” should be revealed as from one of the newly minted parallel Earths. Kid Flash is still out there and just waiting to be returned. As for Wally West…..that’s been decided in the pages of the Justice League.

Justice League of America #10

The Upshot from DC Comics: Best-selling author Brad Meltzer and superstar artist Ed Benes bring you the final chapter of "The Lightning Saga," as the villains are revealed!

Egad…talk about a non-description description. Worse, there was no villain here or much in the way of action…but a LOT of talk, usually in the form of narration monologues that shifted from character point-of-view to point-of-view.

The Lightning Saga took a LONG time to get where it was going and while there was a rewarding payout at the end in the form of the return of Wally West/Flash and his wife and (now apparently teenaged) kids from the Speed Force or wherever, this JLA/JSA/Legion cross-over never really captured our imagination or frankly our interest for that matter.

No one loves the old Justice League/Justice Society team ups more than us. We loved the original team ups as a kid. But writers Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns let sentimentality get WAY ahead of actually telling a story. Actually, there was too much “telling,” which is to say too much talk.

Reading the 5-part Lightning Saga felt a lot like attending a high school reunion with a class that you left at the end of Junior Year. We knew all the players and most of the back story but there were details and in-jokes and things we just didn’t get and no one bothered to explain things.

That said, we did like the feeling of build up and the bit of a fake out where it seemed that it was Barry Allen that the Legion was going to bring back with their Lightning Rods. And apparently they thought so too—so Wally’s return is a happy accident.

Yet there is a sign of more to come. Perhaps Wally is not the only Flash waiting in the Wings to return.

Countdown #45

The Upshot from DC Comics: This year-long weekly series featuring a cast of hundreds kicks into high gear in its second month, under the watchful eye of head writer Paul Dini! See Mary Marvel undergo a surprising transformation! Learn why Donna Troy and Jason Todd are integral players in a cosmic chess game! And see Jimmy Olsen as you've never seen him before!

This issue wasn’t bad as it gave us some action between Donna Troy (they really have to get around to giving her a new code-name…or go back to using “Troia”) and Forerunner, who is revealed as a genetically engineered killer-solider to do the biding of the Monitors

She was sent to dispatch The Red Hood/Jason Todd and Donna for being anomalies to New Earth. This was Jason Todd’s best issue to date as he was unconscious for nearly the entire issue.

Meanwhile, Team Countdown gave the readers something of a plot summary in the form of Jimmy Olsen recapping the history of the New Gods and how Lightray mysteriously died.

With the interludes between the Legion and Justice League, we are finally starting to see where it’s going. With the Lightning Saga concluded, Karate Kid and Starman are apparently staying in the 21st century to complete some other mission so we can expect to see them in these pages some more.

Officially we rate this issue of Countdown as being “not awful.” It’s a start.

The Brave and The Bold #4

The Upshot from DC Comics: A couple of easy riders head out on the highway…get ready for the most unlikely team of all: Supergirl and Lobo!

Considering that this issue featured a team up of our two LEAST FAVORITE (which is to say most hated) characters in the DC Universe—Supergirl and Lobo—this issue was quite good.

Writer Mark Waid continues to do what this series is designed to do, introduce readers to DCU characters they may not otherwise come across while at the same time advancing the plot of this story arc—namely the recovery of the lost Book of Destiny.

We have to admit seeing Destiny, the cosmic-guy in the purple robe brought back from memories of the Justice League from the pre-CRISIS days. This is that sets Waid apart as a true industry pro as opposed to some of the newer blood or worse—the Hollywood writers who parachute in, muck things up then go back to their “day jobs.”

Why create a new cosmic character when Waid can go find a forgotten one back in the DC archives. For their part, the art by George Perez and Bob Wiacek remains top shelf.

Although we’ve never been big Legion of Super Heroes fans, we’re looking forward to seeing Batman team up with them next issue. We’ve always wondered if the Dark Knight’s scary mojo would work on them.

Checkmate #15

The Upshot from DC Comics: Part 5 of "Checkout," continued from OUTSIDERS #48! They say politics makes for strange bedfellows, and as their mission with the Outsiders reaches the end stage, the Royals are about to discover how many different meanings that has…

As we’ve noted, we have been refusing to purchase the Outsiders portions of these cross-overs and we’re just riding out this story. Although watching Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux lie naked on a medical table to be experimented upon/tortured like something out of Saw was a bit extreme.

Worse when her arm was amputated—okay it’s supposed to grow back but still. Although we did like her spunk as she spat in the face of her “doctor”—good for her.

The one useful thing this issue did do was to set up the impending showdown between the rest of Checkmate and White Queen Amanda Waller who has been running around unchecked for too long. See you next issue.

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