The Flash: Rebirth #1(of 5) - 'Lightning Strikes Twice' - Johns and Van Sciver
Story - So, Barry Allen is back, Bartholomew Henry Allen is back, and how does that make you feel? On the whole, response to this particular resurrection has been lukewarm at best, most people like Barry, but simply prefer Wally West more, and this is the trouble Johns faces here, this isn't like Green Lantern, where there was a rabid fanbase already asking for Hal, everyone has accepted that Barry Allen is gone, and moved on, so maybe this is why the series is presenting that as Barry the character himself, the DCU has accepted that he's dead, and so has he somewhat, so how do we justify this Rebirth?
Well, it remains unclear as of yet, but this comic was of a high-enough quality that Barry's return may have some merit. I haven't read much of Johns' previous Flash work with Wally, apart from 1 trade and the recent Rogue's Revenge Final Crisis mini-series, so I am being dropped into an unfamiliar world of bad speed-related puns and cheesy museums, ('hurry up and get it done', 'everybody wants to move faster today' a bit too on the nose there Geoff), but I didn't mind. The opening few pages are an atmospheric, first person sequence, which was an odd, and unusual choice, but I suppose it's a better, more original way to hide the identity of this new villain than shadow over his face, after this violent opening gambit, we get decidedly lighter, as the return of Barry celebrations begin across Keystone and Central Cities, and we see 3 generations of the Flash legacy discuss what Barry means to them, it is these scenes, particularly the Jay one which disappoint me the most about this comic. In what bizarre world does Barry Allen inspire Jay Garrick? It's the other way around! This is ridiculous writing, serving only to show how weak the reasoning behind Barry's return is, it's bad writing, and one of the worst things I've read from Johns, he's not writing characters here, he's writing a HEAT (it's BASH for Barry right)-esque fan-fic, and it just annoys me, the Wally scene is better, there are legitimate reasons for him to be inspired by Barry, he was his sidekick after all, but Barts is the most true, and shows Johns for once not treating his characters as perfect (Oh Hal! You're so awesome!), so he was messiah to everyone, so what? Exactly Bart, exactly.
So after pages of everyone talking up the character like he's some kind of Jesus-like adonis with perfect morals and a sexy ass and awesome hair, what do we get when we actually see Barry? We see him as a fairly decent and normal guy, slightly overwhelmed, but pleased by the increased pace of modern life (with DC's shrinking timeline, how long has Barry been gone in their time really? Probably only about 3 years!), it is this scene with Hal where Johns shines, we see that the character is non-plussed by all this attention, I hope this is what Johns aims to do with this mini and the subsequent ongoing, the Myth of Barry Allen has become so inflated, that he needs to deflate that, and show that, he's just a guy, but on the basis of the sickening Jay scene, it seems unlikely, all-conquering Hal Jordan 2.0 here we go! But maybe not, hopefully not, I pray not, deflate Geoff! Deflate! After this, we see Barry run off to fight some crime or something, and a flashback which has proved controversial, Geoff retcons it that Barry Allen's mother, who was alive when he died in Crisis, was killed when he was a child, and his father was a suspect, this too me is conflicting, it's certainly an interesting way to take things, a twist on Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, but seems entirely unnecessary, the Barry Allen of old did not have this back-story and motivation, and when you've just spent 25 pages explaining why Barry was so great, it seems kind of counter-intuitive to me to introduce an element which fundamentally alters the character, if you're going to bring Barry back, why bring back a different guy? But I can see the logic behind it, the old, happy-go-lucky Barry Allen probably wouldn't cut in today's modern age of Dark Knights and Dark Reigns, so this may be necessary, but still, it was presented poorly, in contrast with the previous pages. It's also interesting in that Johns is playng on Fatherly relationships with Barry like he is with Hal, at this rate, the DCU is going to end up like LOST (seriously, nobody has a good relationship with their dads in that show, except the ones who's parents are dead), what is Geoff's deal? Does his dad have lot to answer for? It's his fault we had to suffer through Infinite Crisis and Thy Kingdom Come!
After this flashback, Waid-Era Flash villain Savitar pops out of Barry's chest in a weird scene, and then Barry touches him and he dies... what? Yeah, it was odd, but a decent cliffhanger all in all. So, overall, what did I, Punchy, the famed Johns and Silver-Age hater make of the return of a Silver-Age favourite? I thought it was decent, I had some problems with it, the mum murder retcon and the Jay Garrick scene were the worst offenders, but it was well-constructed and showed an awareness of the ambivalence surrounding Barry's return, and set up some interesting threads, so it's an entertaining, if not spectacular read, with some typical Geoff Johns problems and tropes.
Art - I think Ethan Van Sciver is one of the best artists currently working for DC Comics, so often they lag behind Marvel, who have a modern-looking stable, but DC is stuck in the past, with the exception of about artists, Van Sciver is one of them, he's just great, and his art is a big reason why this comic works, he's got a great sense of design, and plays around with the silly elements like speed trails well, and there were some excellent touches here, like the previously mentioned first person opening scene and the transitions between the present day and flashback, good stuff, but it would have been better with Moose Baumann colouring it, can't believe DC fucked up so much to piss him off.
Best Line - It's hard to choose one, not because there are too many, but because I find Johns to be terrible at crafting dialogue, it's so clunky and declarative, all those speed related nudges, where he thinks he's being clever, but it's just lame, and that innocent and guilty stuff, ugh, so no, there was no best line here, just average lines, and terrible clunky obvious ones, he's one step away from Claremont, truly.
Last edited by Punchy
on Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.