Tag Archives: Flash

Today’s Super Comic — Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (1985)

Funny little coincidence: Thirty years before Supergirl and Flash starred in television shows on back-to-back nights, DC killed them off in back-to-back issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Okay, maybe not funny. But either way, it’s Barry Allen’s turn to die in issue #8.

This Flash had been around for twenty-nine years at this point, and he had hit a creative low point with a protracted trial storyline that ended his series. So Barry died, sacrificing himself so that the Flash franchise could grow and evolve. Or, in story, sacrificing himself to save the universe.

Flash had been a captive of the Anti-Monitor for most of the miniseries thus far, and the villain’s henchman, the Psycho Pirate, tortured him with emotion-manipulating powers, continuing the trend of this being a low point for the Scarlet Speedster.

But this is the character who kicked off the Silver Age superhero resurgence in 1956, so he deserves one last chance to be amazing—and he gets it. Using his brains as much as his speed, and with only a whimpering lame villain to assist him, he sows confusion among the Anti-Monitor’s minions, allowing him to slip inside the main weapon. After a quick assessment, he knows what he needs to do—and what it will do to him. And he acts anyway. “More than my life is at stake,” he says as he starts running.

He dies running. He dies thinking. He dies alone, without any expectation that anyone would ever learn about his sacrifice.

There’s that old saying that the true test of character is what you do when no one’s looking. When no one was looking, Barry Allen sacrificed his life to save everyone else’s.

Like with Supergirl’s death, Flash’s death stayed true to the character, encapsulating what made him great and giving him a fitting send-off.

Kid Flash, Wally West, would take over, and his series would function as one long coming-of-age story—the former sidekick striving to live up to his hero’s example, this example. Wally’s series, which will always be a sentimental favorite of mine, worked so well that Barry was able to stay dead for longer than twenty years. By comic book standards, that’s a lengthy stint in the afterlife.

Barry hit rock-bottom, caught a last-minute second wind, and went out in top form.

Writer: Marv Wolfman

Penciler: George Perez

Inker: Jerry Ordway

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Crisis on Infinite Earths (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — DC: The New Frontier #6 (2004)

DC: The New Frontier ends with a rousing action sequence and a JFK speech (the latter is where the series got its name from, after all). And it reminds you why you love superheroes in the first place.

Throughout the previous five issues, we’ve seen the hopes and fears of various characters, but in #6, when a powerful menace threatens the entire world, it’s time to set aside all personal issues and do what’s right. It’s superheroes in their purest form.

Flash and Green Lantern get the most attention here, as both learn to think bigger and push themselves further. Ultimately, the world is saved because two men, acting bravely and selflessly, perform feats they had never previously attempted. The time for angst and introspection has passed—it’s time to be adults and get the job done. And, ironically, they’re at their most adult when they act the most like childhood fantasy heroes. No reason maturity can’t be brightly colored.

I’m reminded of the Muppets. Yes, Muppets. When you’re a young child, the Muppets are hysterical. When you’re a teenager, it’s all, “Oh, I’m too old for that kid stuff.” Then as an adult, that becomes “You know what? I like the Muppets. They amuse me, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.”

And that’s basically what The New Frontier is saying, but with superheroes. It recaptures the fun of watching purely heroic characters saving the world, and it gives you permission to enjoy it without shame. And it encourages you to aspire to greater heights yourself.

Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in DC: The New Frontier Volume Two (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — DC: The New Frontier #4 (2004)

Things tilt toward paranoia and fear in DC: The New Frontier #4. The government’s attempt to abduct the Flash sends the speedster into hiding. Wonder Woman has retired to Paradise Island. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, decides to hitch a ride back to Mars. And Hal Jordan is scrubbed from that same Mars mission (though that’s against his will).

But amid the fear, acts of heroism shine through. J’onn J’onzz gets a great one, which leads to a turning point for a character who has spent the series concealing his true nature for fear of how he’ll be treated. And his fear is hardly baseless, given what happens to a black vigilante named John Henry who tries to strike back against the KKK. And John Henry’s tragic situation reminds us about the need to be better than we were.14

Darwyn Cooke’s story makes excellent use of DC’s shared universe. These characters aren’t just inhabiting the same world—they’re affecting each other within it. When Flash publicly calls it quits, J’onn makes up his mind about trying to return to Mars, and his means of departure is the mission Hal’s involved in.

Characters and situations connect in an organic way, a thematic way, but not a “Look how cool—it’s, like, all connected, man” way.

Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in DC: The New Frontier Volume Two (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Titans #6 (2016)

My DC: The New Frontier reviews will take a quick intermission, because I just picked up the trade paperback for the new Titans series and it was pure fun.

A large part of the appeal, at least in my case, is nostalgia. The first storyline, “The Return of Wally West,” reunites “my” Flash with the original Titans as they tussle with one of the first Flash villains I ever read, Abra Kadabra, a techno-magician from the distant future.

When DC rebooted with the New 52, Wally got lost in the shuffle (as did fellow Titan Donna Troy, the original Wonder Girl, who’s also back here, though her return happened in a previous story I haven’t read). Wally’s back now, and he gets a starring role in the new Titans series (featuring the original Teen Titans, but a bit beyond the “teen” part).

Wally must come to terms with the fact that the world isn’t quite how he remembers it, which is fitting, as it’s not quite the DC Universe I remember either. But some things remain constant, and one of those things is friendship, as Titans #6 makes clear. The bond between these former sidekicks remains as strong as ever, which the issue creatively shows using pre-established Flash lore.

I’m not sure if it would work as well for newer readers, but for older readers who grew up with these characters, it’s almost like checking in with old friends you haven’t seen in ages. Seeing this classic Titans lineup in action together just makes me happy, because I read their classic adventures when I was a young teenager. And I grew up reading about Wally West’s maturation into adulthood, so seeing him in action as a Flash and as the storyline’s leading character—even better.

Writer: Dan Abnett

Penciler: Brett Booth

Inker: Norm Rapmund

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Comixology; included in Titans vol. 1: The Return of Wally West (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — DC: The New Frontier #2 (2004)

The second issue of DC: The New Frontier continues setting the mood in this 1950s reimagining of the DC Universe, and it’s an opportunity to admire Darwyn Cooke’s art as being among the greatest of his generation. His work synthesizes various classic elements into something that feels familiar but also new, fresh, and exciting.

Superman looks like he flew out of a 1940s Max Fleischer cartoon. Batman wears the original Bob Kane design, rendered by way of a Bruce Timm Batman: The Animated Series influence. Wonder Woman lacks a quintessential cartoon version, which allows Cooke to put more of his own stamp on her design. In an inspired touch, he makes her a true Amazon, taller than even Superman.

The Flash is a kinetic figure with a large head to denote his scientific intellect. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, appears unsettling and creepy but without any malice in his native form, and his human form, Detective John Jones, is the archetypal movie detective.

The events are fairly episodic at this point, but they tie together thematically, all pointing toward changing times. The Martian Manhunter, ripped away from Mars, is trying to fit into a new world. Superman and Wonder Woman verbally spar over newfound ideological differences, not unlike how they did in Kingdom Come. Batman begins to realize that his appearance is frightening to more than just criminals. The Flash is still adjusting to his new powers and new super-heroic lifestyle.

And Hal Jordan, our ostensible protagonist, has difficulty readjusting to civilian life after the Korean War, and his guilt over killing an enemy soldier drives him to take the sort of fearless risks that will soon get him noticed by a certain intergalactic police corps, one with an affinity for emerald jewelry.

If you’re a DC fan, this series is a love letter to all your favorite characters (including many I haven’t mentioned here), and the early Cold War setting grounds it with substance.

Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in DC: The New Frontier Volume One (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comics — The Flash #1-8 (2016)

DC Rebirth is two for two so far. Green Arrow recently won me over, and now The Flash has, too.

The series is more fun than it’s been in years, and the characterization of Barry Allen is spot-on. He’s a positive superhero who enjoys what he does, and his biggest source of angst is that he can’t be in two places at once, thereby limiting the good he can do. He’s a total good-guy square who prefers justice over vengeance, and that’s exactly right for the character.

He also gets to try out a new role in the series’ opening storyline—teacher. Dozens of Central City residents mysteriously acquire super-speed, and the Flash is best suited to show them the ropes of life in the fast lane.

Of course, one of these new speedsters takes a villainous turn, which initially seems repetitive. Whether the Flash has been Barry Allen or Wally West, the franchise has already had an abundance of super-fast villains. But this new one, Godspeed, distinguishes himself by having a personal connection to Barry and a belief that he’s doing the right thing. While a purely evil, mustache-twirling villain can be bring a campy sort of fun to the proceedings, it’s always the not-evil antagonists who are the most interesting. Good people are capable of doing bad things, too.

The book also gets it right with the supporting cast, namely a new Kid Flash who’s sort of like the old Kid Flash, an Iris West who’s a friend first and romantic interest second, and a new romantic interest who also happens to have super-speed.

I’ve missed enjoying new Flash comics.

Writer: Joshua Williamson

Artists: Carmine Di Giandomenico & various

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Flash vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Flashpoint #1-5 (2011)

flashpoint_vol_2_1The Flash broke the DC Universe. He messed with the timeline, resulting in the New 52, which I am not a fan of, barring a handful of notable exceptions. It’s unfortunate. But the storyline in which he ruined everything was pretty great.

Flash (Barry Allen) interferes with time for a noble, human reason—he wants to save his mother, who was murdered many years ago by a time-traveling Reverse Flash (kind of like in the TV series). So Barry has a strong justification for his actions, but he nevertheless creates an alternate timeline in need of serious repair. The most compelling reason: A feud between these non-heroic versions of Wonder Woman and Aquaman is putting the whole world on the brink of war.

Flashpoint’s standout alternate version of a character is Batman, who isn’t Bruce Wayne here—he’s Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne. In this world, Bruce and his mother Martha were murdered by a mugger, and Thomas was the sole survivor. So when Barry comes along speaking of a better world in which Bruce survives, Thomas has powerful motivation to help him out, crazy as he sounds. What parent wouldn’t want to trade places with their child in that situation?

Yesterday, I mentioned how Zero Hour lacked a central protagonist. DC seemed to have learned its lesson seventeen years later. Flash anchors the series and guides us through. He’s the only one from “our” world and therefore the only one who can ultimately set things right (not that he nails the target perfectly, but that’s irrelevant to judging this series on its own merits).

As someone who grew up with the Wally West Flash, this is one of the better Barry Allen stories I’ve read.

Writer: Geoff Johns

Penciler: Andy Kubert

Inker: Sandra Hope

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Flashpoint (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Zero Hour #4-0 (1994)

zero-hour-4Zero Hour was the first company-wide crossover event I read, and the scope was suitably epic.

The superheroes of the DC Universe need to band together to save time itself, which is rapidly unraveling, creating all sorts of mysterious (and entertaining) anomalies. A young Batgirl in her prime appears in Gotham. People randomly disappear as their timelines are wiped out. The elder statesmen of the Justice Society of America stage a heroic last stand.

And at the center of it all is a classic DC superhero gone rogue. (Spoilers ahead, since I can’t really discuss this one without revealing the big bad.)

The most amazing part for me, when I read this at the age of 11, was the reveal of the villain. In the final pages of the penultimate issue, a green glowing fist clocks Superman, knocking him out cold, and then we see Hal Jordan, the definitive Green Lantern since the 1959, standing over him, taking credit for orchestrating this whole crisis in time.

It blew my young mind—the idea of a hero of this stature being the bad guy. And Green Lantern, now calling himself Parallax, is utterly convinced he’s in the right, which is an important ingredient in any great villain. He’s fixing time and removing all the mistakes. Basically, he’s playing God to bring about a utopian vision. And that never goes well.

It’s no work of literature, but it thrilled me back in the day. It lacks a central protagonist, but lots of great characters have their moments, especially Green Arrow in the final faceoff against his old friend. The Flash also gets a big heroic moment early in the series.

By the way, the numbering for this miniseries goes backward. So the first issue is #4, second is #3, and so on. It’s a countdown to the end of time. Happy New Year’s Eve.

Writer/Penciler: Dan Jurgens

Inker: Jerry Ordway

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Zero Hour: Crisis in Time (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Flash #134 (1998)

flash_v-2_134The original Flash takes over for an issue in #134, and it’s an enjoyable change of pace.

The then-current Flash, Wally West, sustained a serious leg injury in the previous storyline, so Jay Garrick comes out of semi-retirement to fill in during Wally’s recovery. And playing the hero again is an absolute hoot for the old man, making it fun for the reader, too. He gets to run around and knock the stuffing out of bad guys, speak to a classroom of children, catch up with old friends, and still make time to celebrate his golden wedding anniversary.

As the cover says, the issue is framed as “a day in the life.” And his overarching goal throughout this otherwise episodic day is to save an old enemy who has become a friend. It’s not so easy, though. His friend, known as the Thinker back during World War II, is dying of a brain tumor…but maybe, just maybe if Jay can find the man’s old thinking cap, the Thinker will be able to devise a cure for his tumor…

Even in his golden years, Jay can still learn a lesson about the limits of what a superhero can accomplish. A solid done-in-one story.

Writers: Mark Millar and Grant Morrison

Penciler: Paul Ryan

Inker: John Nyberg

Cover: Steve Lightle

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Flash by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Flash #80-83 (1993)

flash_v-2_80I know too much pointless trivia. I’m watching the latest episode of The Flash on TV, a new character is referred to as “Frankie,” and I instantly realize, “Oh, that’s obviously supposed to be Frankie Kane, a.k.a. Magenta, ex-girlfriend of Wally West back when he was Kid Flash and hanging out with the Teen Titans.” The TV version has a different backstory, of course, but yeah, the show captured the spirit of the character well.

I first came across the character from her guest appearances in Flash #80-83, the last three issues of which also feature guest appearances by Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and Starfire. It was a nice partial reunion of the greatest Teen Titans team, a good reminder about the longtime friendship between the original Robin and the original Kid Flash, and an excellent way to infuse some tension in the relationship between Wally West and Linda Park (whom we also met a version of in the TV show a while back).

Wally and Frankie were childhood friends and teenage sweethearts, and in #80 Frankie unexpectedly arrives in town, her magnetic powers wreaking havoc on her psyche (as they had since her debut in The New Teen Titans 11 years earlier). Between a super-powered ex, an alien princess, and a guy who grew up with Batman, Linda begins wondering how her ordinary self fits among Wally’s Superfriends. Meanwhile, Flash tries to help his old best friend through a crisis of confidence.

It’s a solid storyline of love, friendship, and action that raises the stakes at the end with a literal ticking clock.

Also, this is artist Mike Wieringo’s first storyline on the title, and his clean, kinetic style is a perfect fit for the character right from the start.

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Mike Wieringo

Inker: Jose Marzaz, Jr.

Covers: Alan Davis & Mark Farmer

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up