Friday, May 02, 2008

Final Crisis Reverses A Historic Comic Book Classic…In a FLASH!

Hello faithful readers. FanBoyWonder is in the midst of packing for a few days in Boston for a business trip—but while we’re there we’ll see FBW’s nephew Baby Jack, our brother and sis-in-law.Joe and Suzanne. As an added bonus, we’ll have lunch with Mom and Dad FBW before we fly back.

But before we left, we wanted to weigh-in on the big buzz of the week.

In case you didn’t get the memo, the big secret of Final Crisis has been revealed in that Barry Allen, The (second) Flash will return from the dead to save the DC Universe (from itself?).

News of Barry’s return was broken on Wednesday in of all places the New York Daily News (although credit where credit is due, FanBoyWonder learned about it from the Occasional Superheroine and from there it was off to the races for the comic book websites, blogs and message boards.

For those of you readers too young to remember or NOT actually alive at the time, Barry Allen was The Flash of the Silver Age—actually the first Silver Age hero and his creation (or more accurately his re-imagination from the original Flash Jay Garrick)—was the vanguard of the super hero rebirth in 1956.

The Barry Allen Flash character was killed in 1985 in issue 8 of Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was a grand death, especially because character had endured such hard times in the years before his death—from the murder of his wife Iris by his arch enemy Professor Zoom, to his two-year manslaughter trial for killing Zoom when Zoom attempted to kill Barry’s fiancé on their wedding day.

To us, Barry Allen’s death was so poignant both because it was so rare for a hero of his stature to die and because Barry Allen’s death represented the interruption of an unfinished life.

FanBoyWonder is old enough to have read the adventures of Barry Allen as The Flash during the pre-CRISIS days and we liked Barry Allen. But we wish he stayed dead. Why? Well first and foremost….. doesn’t dead mean DEAD anymore?

Apparently not as Final Crisis writer Grant Morrison told the NY Daily News:

That's the point of comics - they don't have to die, because they're fictional creations," said Grant Morrison, one of the writers behind the comeback. "We can do anything with them, and we can make them come back and make them defy death," Morrison said. "And that's why people read comics, to get away from the way life works, which is quite cruel and unheroic and ends in death."

Hey Grant, thanks so much explaining to us why we’ve read super hero comics for the past 30 years.

Let’s drill deeper into that synthetic, made for the press release quote…what we hear Morrison saying is: “It’s ‘ONLY’ a comic book story so it REALLY DOESN’T MATTER….we can undo what’s been done and someday, someone can undo what we do here.”

In our humble opinion, that mindset is a disservice to the genre in that if comic book writers don’t take their own storytelling seriously and if they don’t respect the intelligence of readers by upholding rules and consequences to the outcomes of previously told stories—then how does one convince the “mainstream” world that comic books are a legitimate storytelling medium?

We happened upon a piece by Sam Gafford—also a child of the pre-CRISIS who remembers Barry Allen fondly—at where he laments that he is finally getting what he wants with the return of Barry Allen but he is scared of what DC will do to him and we think it’s worth quoting:

If Barry does come back, DC will do something to him.

“They'll make him insane or give him a drinking problem or a split personality (he could be the Flash and the Reverse Flash as the same time!), or he'll drown baby kittens in the river. If that's not enough, they'll put him through some other heart-rending tragedy like killing his wife, Iris, again. Just ask Ray Palmer. He'll tell you how rough Silver Age DC heroes have it these days.

Five years ago, I would have rejoiced to have seen Barry come back and to read a new monthly comic of his adventures. Now, the mere thought of it inspires the type of fear that even Stephen King can't create. In this new DC, where heroes die at the drop of a hat, where villains get their heads punched off (or through), where family and friends are murdered with an alarming regularity, what will become of Barry? I'd like to think that his honor would inspire others and usher in a new 'Golden Age' of super-heroism. I'd like to think that, but DC comics are littered with too many corpses for me to even believe that for a minute. No, if Barry does come back, he'll end up corrupted by the darkness that is at the root of DC comics today… or he'll just get killed again.”

Amen Sam. We children of the pre-CRISIS have to stick together.

Word is that Geoff Johns will be writing a new Barry Allen Flash book so we have faith (not misplaced we hope) that the character will be respected, as Johns did with Hal Jordan’s return in Green Lantern.

But the big question is—If Barry Allen returns as THE Flash, what happens to Wally West.

At the end of the original CRISIS, Kid Flash Wally West took Barry Allen’s costume and name and vowed to continue his legacy. Over the next two decades, we saw Wally struggle to live up to the Flash mantle and eventually to surpass Barry Allen as the Flash.

Kid Flash’s “promotion” to The Flash was a seminal in comics history. For the first time ever, the sidekick stepped up to become the hero. Now after nearly 25 years, DC is poised to throw it out the window….for a sales gimmick????

FanBoyWonder’s Flash Fixes

FanBoyWonder is not foolish enough to think we can turn this supertanker around—this is a done deal. However, there are steps that DC can take to minimize the collateral damage and appease the fans—fans of ALL the Flashes—in the wake of Barry Allen’s return.

1) Don’t Give Wally West The Broom—Having witnessed Kyle Rayner, the one-time “last” Green Lantern and GL standard bearer for 10 years—get the swiftly swept out away to B-list status upon Hal Jordan’s return, we do NOT wish to see the same thing happen to Wally West.

After 23 years as the Flash in his own right, Wally West has proven himself as a character and should NOT be marginalized. Don’t kill Wally, don’t de-power him, don’t de-age him and don’t de-mote him back to Flash’s sidekick or supporting player.

With Barry’s return, Wally should be free of the burden carrying the Flash legacy. So allow him to establish his own identity in a Nightwing-like fashion. But as a peer to Barry. Let Wally be War Machine to Barry Allen’s Iron Man.

Call him Velocity, Charley Hustle or Speed King or something other than “Flash.” There are dozens of characters who fly and are strong so there has to be room for another speedster in the DCU who isn’t named “Flash.”

2) Bring Back Bart!—Bart Allen, Barry’s grandson was shoehorned in as the fourth Flash following Infinite Crisis. The “new” Flash an ill-conceived, poorly executed maneuver, in which they prematurely aged Bart (again) to college-age, took all that we knew and liked about the Bart Allen character and made him into a bland early-Wally West clone.

This lasted about a year until it was painfully obvious it wasn’t working so “Bart’ was killed off and Wally returned as the Flash.

However, we stand by our previously suggested to fix what Infinite Crisis broke regarding Bart Allen. Bart, the Kid Flash and former Impulse who disappeared during Infinite Crisis #4, is still alive and was not the same older Bart Allen who appeared at the end of IC, who ran as the Flash and who was killed.

That “Bart Allen” should be revealed as from one of the newly minted parallel Earths, leaving Kid Flash still out there just waiting to be returned.

DC management—here’s how to have your cake and eat it too. Think of Flash and Kid Flash together again for the first time—Grandfather and grandson running together.

Bart Allen didn’t have to die and if you’re brining back one Flash, why not a two-fer? Come people! Are we the only ones tired of Dead Flashes?

Can we get an AMEN people?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Battlestar Galactica—Escape Velocity

The Upshot From Sci-Fi Channel: Gaius Baltar (James Callis) sows unrest in the fleet by promoting belief in the Cylon god. Meanwhile, the four secret Cylons—Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan), Tory Foster (Rekha Sharma), Chief Tyrol (Aaron Douglas) and Samuel T. Anders (Michael Trucco)—on Galactica clash over how far they should go to keep their mutual secret.

While incredibly well written, performed and presented, FanBoyWonder had a very hard time viewing this episode.

Watching the sheer raw pain of Chief Galen Tyrol as he mourns the loss of his wife Cally’s death and the guilt following her “suicide” was so powerful, it nearly broke through the Fourth Wall.

Of course, we the viewer know that Cally didn’t kill herself, although she intended to and her baby boy by ejecting out of a viper launch bay but she relented, prompting secret Cylon Tory Foster to finish the job, after saving the baby.

Why? Because Tory knew that Cally knew, even as the others remain unaware of lengths that Tory went to keep their shared secret.

Tory seems to be embracing her “Cylonness” quite readily—declaring herself to be “better” than human and she is even taken to “counseling” Gaius Baltar about the One True God.

The point was punctuated when the compartment housing the Church of Baltar found itself ambushed by the Sons of Ares as they look for Baltar and pretty much just bust up the place.

Seeing themselves attacked for their beliefs, Baltar leads his followers to the Kobol Temple and quicker than you can say “holy war” he disrupts services—tit for tat—before he’s taken off to his old cell in the brig.

His holiness Pope Gaius the First—prompted by both Imaginary Six (Tricia Helfer) and by a very corporeal Tory—stands up for the right thing but with him you know there’s always a wrong reason not too far away.

As we see it, the genius of Baltar’s “anti-villain” character is that there is no evil in his heart—selfish, vein, cowardly and narcissistic perhaps—but NOT evil. Yet our poor boy Gaius seems to constantly find himself in the middle of and/or instigating some VERY BAD THINGS.

We really can’t blame followers in the Church of Baltar for not being able to see through his bulls**t We have had the lowdown on Baltar since day one and WE can’t help but feel pity for the miserable fraker.

Misplaced or not, part of that pity comes from the morally questionable—if you’re not with us, you’re against us—tactics employed against Baltar by President Roslin (Mary McDonnell).

It’s a classic, if tragic, over-reach that does him short-term harm but rewards him in the long view as he is perceived as the persecuted religious martyr.

As Roslin has been so fond of saying to others, she has “lost perspective” where Gaius Baltar is concerned.

During a visit to the brig, Roslin as much confesses as warns Baltar that she is dying …that she is slowly feeling herself slip from this life. As such the old rules…the old conventions of morality and restraint are less and less important to her.

So for the “safety” of his followers, Roslin says she will restrict public assembly for his worshipers and for his worshipers alone. Thus Gaius should be a good boy and life a quiet life and she will die a quiet death and she won’t have to quash him like the bug she thinks he is.

During a Quorum meeting, Delegate Lee Adama (Jamie Bamber) is back standing up to President Roslin by questioning the legality, morality and the political wisdom of singling out Baltar and his people for special legal restriction.

Mary McDonnell does a masterful job of silently expressing Roslin’s frustration by Lee Adama’s opposition and his seeming going to bat for Baltar, especially as other delegates chime in with their concerns.

Why can’t they see Baltar for the threat that he is and that Roslin is doing what she sees is necessary to protect this fleet? How can they be so blind?

One can almost hear Sean Connery’s Malone from the classic 1987 film The Untouchables whispering into her ear—“You wanna to get Baltar? If he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. If he puts one of yours in the hospital, you put one of his in the MORGUE—THAT’S the Caprica way!”

Roslin does NOT want Baltar to again amass political power—power that will grow and be expressed through his devotees—but when she waives the bloody shirt of New Caprica, Roslin has diminished herself and strengthened Baltar in the eyes of the people and she knows it.

Meanwhile, Cally’s death has profoundly affected not only her husband Galen Tyrol but also Col. Tigh who is rudely reminded of the loss of his own wife.

When Tyrol fraks up an otherwise ordinary Raptor repair—nearly killing Racetrack (Leah Cairns) and her co-pilot—he’s terrified because Tyrol doesn’t know if he was “only” distracted by his grief or if his “sleeper” Cylon programming prompted him toward subliminal sabotage.

When Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) tires to pep-talk Tyrol at Joe’s Bar—widower to widower—Tyrol goes off on an obscenity laden rant, desecrating Cally’s memory and literally daring Adama to demote him and yank him from the flight deck.

Adama takes the bait and so “Specialist Tyrol” gets what he asked for and a credit to Aaron Douglas’ performance, Tyrol looks gut punched and horrified in the afterward.

As for Tigh, we find that he has been an early and often visitor to the imprisoned Cylon Caprica Six (again, Tricia Helfer) in Galactica’s brig. But during his visits, Tigh has started having visions of Ellen (Kate Vernon) as Six.

It’s good to see Kate Vernon again—even in this very weird way. It’s a pity that, like Saul, FanBoyWonder didn’t really appreciate Ellen until after she died.

For our cubits, Saul Tigh is hands down the meanest Mother Fraker on the show and also the most pitiable.

We first got to know Tigh as a self-hating drunk with a whack job wife who both loved him but also brought out the worst in him at every turn. Tigh is one the best guy to have with you in the foxhole under fire, but when the guns go silent, he’s a peacetime frak-up.

On New Caprica, Tigh ruthlessly and effectively lead the resistance against the Cylon occupation—expending dozens of lives in the form of suicide bombers. But the worst death would come as Ellen was caught colluding with the Cylons (to save her husband’s life).

Her actions got other people killed so she had to pay and he had to be the one do it—he poisoned her. And then he found out that he’s a Cylon. Talk about self-hate.

So when Tigh visits Six, he asks her how she can live with all the death she caused—as in the destruction of nearly the entire human race.

Does Six sense Tigh’s desperation or does she sense “feel” that he is one of the Final Five as she claimed to Roslin a couple episodes back?

Whichever it is—Six rolls with it and Ellen/Six’s “counsels” Tigh first by punching the frak out of him, then with kisses. Geez, the poor guy really IS a sucker for man-eating blondes.

A couple of end notes:

It was bittersweet to again see Roslin and Admiral Adama address her dismal prognosis. Rather she addresses it by telling Adama that she would like a funeral service just like Cally’s. For his part, Adama is still painfully in denial.

Also, we’re still not quite sold on “Delegate Adama” but through him the viewer is allowed to see the Quorum on action and the workings of fleet government. It punctuates the fact that BSG really is a political drama—think West Wing in space without all the fast walking and self-important talking.

We did notice however the absence of Vice President Tom Zerek (Richard Hatch) who during the last episode chaired the Quorum (as President of the Quorum the same way the Vice President is President of the Senate???) while President Roslin seemed to be in the Parliament Prime Minister’s role.

Yes we know it was just a brief scene and perhaps not worth from a production standpoint flying Richard Hatch to Vancouver but we do home that we get to see more Zerek in the near future. So say we all!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Power Girl—the Last Daughter of the Multiverse—Finally Gets Her Due

FanBoyWonder was pleased by DC Comics’ recent announcement of an ongoing Power Girl solo series and it’s about damn time.

The new Power Girl series will be written by Jimmy Palmiotti and frequent collaborator Justin Gray with Amanda Conner to provide the artwork. Connor previously drew PG during the four-issue Power Girl story arc in JSA Classified #1-4 and we were quite impressed with her rendition of Kara Zor-L.

We’ve always been fond of Power Girl—even as her character and her origin had been tweaked and re-tweaked following the original CRISIS on Infinite Earths to the point of absurdity.

When she debut in the pages of All Star Comics during the mid-70s, she was the fresh new face of Earth-2, the parallel Earth home to the Justice Society and the heroes of the Golden Age.

But PG wasn’t just a pretty…..face. She was quite an original character. Sure she was a ball buster but she was her own girl. Like her Earth-One counterpart, her cousin was also named Superman but THIS last daughter of Krypton wasn’t content to be a derivative—no “Super” for this gal. She is Power Girl, hear her kick arse.

It was her independence that saved her from retroactive obscurity when her cousin Superman/Kal-L and the rest of Earth-2 was wiped out following the CRISIS.

The ONE good thing to come out of the GODAWFUL Infinite Crisis was to finally acknowledge Power Girl’s true origin as the last daughter of Krypton. But in a more dramatic twist Kara Zor-L isn’t just sole survivor of Krypton but of her entire universe.

On the character level, we like how Power Girl has ascended to become the Chairwoman of the Justice Society of America. The one-time team hothead is the leader and den mother.

So it’s from this point that Palmiotti and Conner pick up the ball and carry it.
Palmiotti told Comic Book Resources that the Power Girl ongoing would be new reader-friendly and requires no previous knowledge of the character’s sometimes convoluted past to jump in and enjoy the new series.

“When you read #1, and if you have never read her before, you’ll get it,” Palmiotti told CBR News. “You can go in raw and you will understand it because we are going to explain her completely and set her up in her own book. It’s her own story. We are going to create new villains for her, there will be some from the past, but we are going to create her own rogues’ gallery. It’s going to be big and over the top, just like she is, literally!”

Connor has her own take on the character as she tells CBR:

“I think the most important thing to give Power Girl, besides great knockers, is a lot of personality,” Amanda Conner told CBR News. “Part of it is her kicking ass, obviously. Of course, it has to be about her kicking ass because that’s what makes it fun. But a lot of it is also what she is up to when she is not kicking ass. She goes home, and she is hardly ever home, and her cat is pissed off at her and shits on the bed. I think it is a lot about what she is doing when she is not kicking superhero behind. I think it is a lot about what she is doing when she is not kicking superhero behind.”

In the series’ debut arc, Palmiotti, Gray and Conner introduce Power Girl to audiences and give her “a big problem to solve.” “We also set up her world and her personal life and her secret identity,” Palmiotti again told CBR. “It’s an establishing story, book-ended with a massive amount of action. We are definitely looking at it as an introduction for anybody who hasn’t read her before but at the same time, if you read [Justice Society of America], it follows right after that.”

It sounds like Palmiotti is coming into this project with the right attitude and motivation. Yet we are wary. FanBoyWonder and our best pal Kemosabe met Palmiotti and Connor a couple years ago at Pittsburg ComicCon (which is to say that the two of us and about 100 other comics fans were all in the same room pitching them questions) and they are both really, really super cool.

Palmiotti especially was as nice as could be and did his best to accommodate the fans. So it’s with that in mind that we feel really, really bad by admitting that we have hated just about everything that Palmiotti and his partner Gray have ever done.

Yet we’re pulling for him and hope that this time is the charm with Power Girl. We’ll be first in line when it comes out later this year.
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