Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Flash: Rebirth #1 Review

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ethan Van Sciver

It wasn't bad would probably be the nicest way to describe this issue, which amounted to, more or less, 40 pages of everyone, save Bart Allen, praising Barry Allen as if he was the second coming of Christ. In between the blatant Barry lovefest scenes on Johns' part, the book does a good job of building up a decent mystery around Barry's return to the land of the living and his new powers.

Oh, yes, new powers. It doesn't outright state it, but it appears that Barry Allen is the new Black Flash, who was shown dead in a cornfield and crumbled to ash when some kids poked the corpse with a bat, or, at the very least, he has somehow acquired the Black Flash's powers. I say this based on the fact Barry was the one responsible (or so we're led to believe) for the death of 'a speedster' that the solicits hinted at for this issue.

Who was the mystery speedster that bit the dust? Well, if you read the issue, you'll know it was Savitar long before he ever appears because they mention him all the time. It's like he had been some close friend or family member that got trapped in the Speed Force when he was just a blip on the radar, only having appeared in a handful of issues and hasn't been seen since the mid-90's. I suppose Black Hand didn't have a huge presence in the GL books back around the time of Green Lantern: Rebirth and look where he ended up. Maybe Johns has plans for Savitar beyond just having Barry drain the speed from him and turning him to dust.

As I said, I actually enjoyed the bits and pieces of this Black Flash/murder mystery that we were given, but, as far as first issues go, this was a rather dull issue as it amounted to nothing more than a lot of a corny dialogue from every hero possible about just how damn great Barry Allen is/was. The worst offender has to be Jay Garrick, who actually utters the words, "Barry made me the Flash", and goes on to explain how he had retired and it was Barry that made him the man he is today. Other JSA'ers go on to state the same thing about how Barry brought them out of retirement and made them the heroes they are today.

Even if it were true, which it's not, it doesn't make me love Barry or even see any reason for his return. In fact, it actually alienates the character from me as it feels like Johns is ramming him down my throat. Show me why he's so great or why he deserves all the attention or even why he deserves to come back to life. Don't force feed me a bunch of trumped up Wikipedia factoids from the mouths of characters that shouldn't be spouting such drivel in the first place.

The only character with any kind of sensible reaction, which stemmed from the fact he wished Max Mercury came back from the Speed Force, was Bart Allen, who's back in our timeline and alive with no explanation whatsoever. For those out of the loop, he mysteriously came back in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #3, a series that has since been delayed into oblivion. I assume we'll find out how he returns to the present day / is alive (they just have him show up after using a cosmic treadmill with no explanation). He appears to know he died and was the Flash at one point, so I'm unsure just how he's alive and not deaged to a Kid Flash persona.

However, Bart's reaction, aside from the anger over no one celebrating his return and his desire to have his mentor, Max Mercury, back, was also flawed. Bart loved hearing stories of his grandfather Barry and always wished to have adventures with him and follow in his footsteps. Having him not care one bit about Barry's return is also a bit odd. Much of Bart's dialogue also comes off as Johns' attempt at quelling the average fan's concerns, fans who have never read any comics featuring Barry and also mirror Bart's take on Barry with the whole 'never knew him' and 'what did he sacrifice if he didn't really die' bits, by showing the one dissenting character as obnoxious and childish. It felt eerily similar to his Superboy Prime, who has been portrayed as a substitute for internet comic fans, except less subtle, to me at least.

My final complaint comes in the form of Iris Allen. It was nice seeing Barry meet up with and save her in Final Crisis. However, I was expecting some kind of interaction between the two here. Hell, with how straight laced and how black and white Barry was shown to see everything in this issue, why wasn't there any kind of follow up to Iris' team up with Zoom - the very same team up that eventually led to the death (he got better) of Bart Allen when he was the Flash? Are we just ignoring that now?

Up until now, it's been mostly a negative review with what amounts to nothing but doom and gloom on my part. I'd like to dispel the notion that this review might be making the book out to be terrible. As I said in the opening line, this is a good book. I think my biggest problem with it is that it's not as good as the current Green Lantern titles and the Rebirth tagline on the book is meant to elicit feelings and expectations in relation to Green Lantern, who had a Rebirth title of his own several years back by the same creative team.

Verdict - Check It. A solid, if slow opening issue that failed, by a large margin, to reach the expectations set for it. Additionally, Johns spent far too much time having characters espouse the greatness of Saint Barry as opposed to actually showing us why he's so great or deserving of all this attention. However, it's early on in this miniseries, so there's still time to solve these problems.

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