Monday, September 25, 2006

Flash-ing back in the wrong direction

We’re a little late in posting, but here is FanBoyWonder’s pics and pans for the week of Sept. 19.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #4

The Upshot from DC Comics: The Flash loses his heart — and maybe even more — as the Speed Force's secret is revealed!

FanBoyWonder has finally had a chance to weigh-in on the re-launch of the Flash with issue 4 of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.

This re-launch has been a disappointment from the very start and not only because the premise seems so distressingly familiar: A one-time Kid Flash must step up and reluctantly assume the mantle of the Flash after the previous Scarlet Speedster was downed during the events of a Crisis.

Is this 2006 or 1987? We spent two decades watching Wally West attempt to run in the footsteps and past the shadow of the martyred Barry Allen and as we have noted, we had a fondness for Wally, the first sidekick to take over the role of the hero and make it his own.

Now the powers that be at DC have decided to (try to) make lighting strike twice (actually four times) by making Bart Allen, Barry Allen’s grandson, the former Kid Flash II and the hero formerly known as Impulse, new Flash (but the same old costume).

The rub is that the protagonist of this book is Bart Allen in name only. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, Bart Allen emerged from the Speed Force aged four years from kid to young man—a surprising decision since the character was first introduced as someone whose speed forced him to age from an infant to young teen in the matter or days.

We can’t blame writers Danny Bilson and Paul Demeo totally for this flawed premise but they should take the full weight for this so far flawed and clumsy execution. The former creative team behind the 1990 Flash television show, it seems as if they are trying to superimpose much early, Mike Baron-era Wally West with parts of the old TV show.

But even a faulty premise can be made workable (at least for a while) if the reader cares enough about the character—think Hal Jordan as the Spectre—but the Bart Allen featured here is a stranger—it’s hard to care about a character we don’t even know.

The Bart Allen who was Impulse was the living personification of attention-deficit disorder, a clueless goof but with heart. Bart Allen’s transformation in to Kid Flash in Teen Titans by Geoff Johns introduced some maturity into the character—we were just getting to know him before this Flash forward.

We don’t think Wally West needed to go as the Flash but if Bart Allen is the fourth Flash, it’s not going the work like this.

Our suggestions—1) de-age Bart back to his teenage self. There’s no reason why The Flash can’t be a teenager as he takes up the mantle. 2) Enough with the hand-me down red suit. Of all the Flash costumes, Barry Allen’s “classic” is ugly as sin—it made sense for a while for Wally to wear Barry’s costume to honor his sacrifice we always believed it to be a mistake that he didn’t have his own look. This goes double for the really new Flash.

Bottom line: We’re going to give this book two more issues to improve (with or without this current creative team) before we drop it.

Checkmate #6

The upshot from DC: The return of SUICIDE SQUAD! Greg Rucka teams up with co-writers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir (ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN) for a 2-part thriller that puts Amanda Waller's pet project back in action with a CHECKMATE twist!

It’s nice to see the old Squad. There’s not quite the magic spark that John Ostrander had when he wrote the original Suicide Squad book but he was a tough act to follow.

Prohibited from Black Ops, Amanda Waller had this Squad in her pocket for “off the books” work but she seems to have lost control of her team, prompting her to “ask” Col. Rick Flagg, newly freed from a Qurac prison (DC does love their fake cities and countries don’t they?) and the Bronze Tiger to go get them.

Not that we’re unglad to see Col. Flagg but when last we saw him in Ostrander’s Suicide Squad circa 1988, he suicide bombed Qurac with a thermo-nuclear warhead—it was a good “death” totally in keeping with the character that Ostrander built up (and broke down)—doesn’t ANYONE stay dead in the DCU anymore?????

Others have critiqued Rucka for bringing in the Squad so early in Checkmate’s tenure—noting it’s a sign of a weak book to have a cross-over so soon. We disagree. The Suicide Squad/Task Force X is a vital part of Waller’s past—it’s an aspect of her that demands be explored and exploited.

We did like the interplay between Waller and the Bronze Tiger and between Waller and Flagg—very reminiscent of the old days. However, Rucka needs to do something that Ostrander never managed—to give a credible foil, a counterweight to Waller within the organization.

She is such a forceful personality that few have been able to stand up to her and rarely directly. It gets boring watching her be right and win all the time.

Birds of Prey #98

The upshot: There's an eerily familiar Caped Crusader running around the Birds' territory…one that's freaking out Huntress and Black Canary. But Oracle's life will be the most affected by this heroine's bizarre return!

This issue wasn’t bad—by no means, but it felt a little flat and we’re not sure why. The Gail Simone’s dialogue was as crisp as ever and the art by James Raiz and Robin Riggs was superior with being flashy.

The identity of the “new” Batgirl was a bit on the anti-climatic side and it raised questions than answers but we can’t fault how she was introduced—“I’m the damn Batgirl!”…ha ha….you don’t think Gail was giving a certain All Star writer a little “tweak” do you?

52 WEEK 20

The upshot form DC: "Adam's right, Kory. This is way too big for the three of us."

Most of this issue was focused on space with Starfire, Animal Man and Adam Strange and Lobo. With the exception of Starfire, we don’t care about these characters as they never ranked among our favorites.

We would not be unhappy to see this part of the story wrap up sooner rather than later to make room for the more compelling plotlines—such as the Steel vs. Luthor drama and we’re actually starting to become interested in who Supernova might be.


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