Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Flash #1

Finally, the moment I've been waiting for. I started this blog with the intent to cover every appearance of Barry Allen in DC's New 52 comics in chronological order, and I didn't realize how many stories had to take place before I could officially start the official Flash title. I think I've found a couple of more appearances of the Flash in Justice League and Action Comics that very easily could have happened before The Flash #1, but I don't think they require that placement, and so, since I can't wait any longer, here is the first part of the five-issue story that launched The Flash.


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Brian Buccellato Colors
Sal Cipriano Letters
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

I find it interesting that The Flash has the same editing team as Justice League. As we'll see later in both those books, Brian Cunningham makes good use of the editor's notes to expand the DC continuity and let the reader know what other issues they can pick up to see certain story lines continued.

The cover is by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, and it is a very good cover. Flash looks strong, focused and dynamic. It is a simple design, but it is effective and powerful. However, I absolutely love the black-and-white version.

I guess it's not a "true" black-and-white because the lightning is yellow, but I love it because of that. I can't quite explain it, but there is just something really beautiful about this cover — I could stare at it forever. I even made it my iPhone wallpaper and always smiled whenever I saw it.

This variant cover is by Ivan Reis and his usual collaborators, and it's not a bad cover at all. Flash's new costume was a pretty big deal when the New 52 started, so it's good to see more images of him putting it on.

Our story starts at a fancy tech symposium in Central City where Barry Allen, after waiting two years, has finally asked out Patty Spivot on their first date. They're interested in a display for a monorail that runs on a theoretical source of renewable energy, when they meet the famous scientist Dr. Darwin Elias. He starts to talk to them about the law of congestion: how building more highways would create more traffic. But he's interrupted when a team of masked soldiers comes crashing through the windows and sets off some smoke bombs. Slipping away in the confusion, Barry pulls out a ring, which pops open, releasing a bunch of metal shards that expand and wrap around his body as he runs through them, forming the Flash's costume.

The Flash starts to beat up the soldiers, but a few of them get away with a special piece of equipment they stole. Flash chases them up to the roof, where the soldiers are running into a helicopter-type aircraft that's already taking off. Flashes catches the guy with the stolen object, but the two of them are unable to hang on to the helicopter's rope, and they both begin to fall. Flash creates a mini-vortex to push the guy through a nearby window, while he vibrates through the street and lands in the sewer below. But Flash vibrated at the wrong frequency and creates a big hole in the street. Iris West, reporter for the Central City Citizen, is nearby when this happens and asks the Flash if he's OK.

But instead of sticking around for an interview or anything, Flash returns the object to Dr. Elias, who tells him it's a portable genome re-coder. Dr. Elias thanks him and offers to help him in the future and the Flash quickly takes off and reappears as Barry Allen. He meets up with Patty, who tells him to grab his crime scene kit because the man the Flash pushed through the window is now dead. At the crime scene, one of the police officers, Tony, is surprised to see Patty out of the lab. Patty takes off the soldier's mask, and Barry recognizes the face of his old friend Manuel.

We get a flashback of Barry and Manuel running through the forest. Apparently Manuel is being chased by the rugby team after he slept with one of their girlfriends. Barry says Manuel should be preparing for his huge interview tomorrow instead of being chased by an angry mob, but Manuel laughs him off and says Barry's problem is he hasn't found something worth taking a beating for.

As Barry and the cops leave with the body bag, Iris West asks him if the Flash had something to do with the suspect's death. Barry gives her the standard answer: "A cause of death hasn't been determined yet ..." So Iris tells Barry she'll call him later, which kind of annoys Patty. Hidden in the crowd of reporters and spectators is the mysterious Pandora, who was heavily involved in the creation of the New 52 universe.

The next day at work, we're introduced to Barry's co-worker, Forrest, their boss, Director Singh, and Singh's boss, Captain Frye. Frye is quite upset about the rumors of a homicide with the Flash's fingerprints on it and he orders Singh to not let any news about it get leaked to the press. Singh assures Frye that it looks like the suspect died of something else.

Later, the Flash is standing on a building overlooking the city, thinking about Manuel. He remember playing basketball with him, going on double dates and stuff like that. He's joined by Dr. Elias, who tells him it wasn't his fault. Flash says however Manuel died, it was related to Elias' genome re-coder, which he asks to borrow. Elias agrees and then says, "These things ... it's as if they're personal to you?" Flash says, "They all are. And I need to find out what happened."

Barry goes back home and starts working with the re-coder and examining samples of Manuel's DNA, which he can tell has been altered. He ignores several texts from Iris, who says she's coming over. Barry's interrupted when someone breaks into his apartment, and it's not Iris. It's Manuel. But before he can say anything, someone kicks down Barry's door and the two of them escape through the window.

As they run, several more men join the chase and Barry asks Manuel what's going on, but all he really says is, "You of all people should know ... we're always running from something." Barry then purposefully trips into the river and emerges as the Flash. While he's doing this, he remembers the words of his mother: "Life is locomotion — if you're not moving, you're not living. But there comes a time when you've got to stop running away from things and you've got to start running towards something. You've got to forge ahead. Keep moving. Even if your path isn't lit, trust that you'll find your way."

When the Flash catches up to Manuel, he sees he's been captured by a bunch of people who look exactly like him, wearing the soldier uniforms we saw at the beginning.

The Good:

The art. Like Jim Lee, Francis Manapul has become one of my favorite artists, and I'm probably going to love everything he does from here on out. Of course, his style is completely different from Lee's, but that doesn't mean that one is better than the other. They are both masters at what they do and whenever one of them draws a comic book, that book is worth picking up for the art alone. Manapul's style is not like anything else I've seen. Look back at that title page again. The top part in blue shows the soldiers breaking in with their smoke bombs and everybody coughing, and the bottom part, which spells out Flash, shows him fighting the soldiers. I feel like every panel, every thing that is drawn serves a purpose, and sometimes they serve multiple purposes. Another thing I like about Manapul's work is the fact that he can draw people running well, which is essential when drawing the Flash. There was a lot of running in this issue (not always at super speed), and Manapul always made it look interesting.

Accessibility. On the title page, a caption reads, "Struck by a bolt of lightning and doused in chemicals, Central City police scents Barry Allen was transformed into the fastest man alive. Tapping into the energy field called the speed force, he applies a tenacious sense of justice to protect and serve the world as the Flash." That's his origin in a nutshell and all you need to understand and enjoy the character. This issue came out well before Issue #0, but I think it summed everything up well enough for even the newest of comic book readers. Although this was not an origin story, it was a good introductory story that set up the universe and allowed us to become acquainted with all the important characters in a rather natural way, I felt.

The story. They took a bold move by not using one of the Flash's main, recognizable villains like Captain Cold or Gorilla Grodd, but what they chose to do here worked, in my opinion. There was a bit of fun mystery with the clones, as well as the emotional conflict involving Barry's best friend. There was also a great heroic moment with Barry turning into the Flash at the beginning. We did see Flash accidentally rip a big hole in the street, and there was a nice little moment where he thought he also accidentally killed his friend. But I wish they would have played that up a little more — it just seemed like everyone immediately knew the Flash didn't kill him. But besides that minor quibble, this was a fun, fast, exciting story that definitely made me want to pick up the next issue.

The Bad:

I can't really say there was anything bad in this issue, but I do feel like there could have been some more and better special effects. By that, I mean we didn't see the Flash do anything that amazing. This was a pretty basic comic book in the action/fighting department. This isn't anything I'm going to hold against the issue, but it will keep me from giving it a perfect score.

Final score: 8 out of 10

To be continued!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Captain Atom #3

"Divine Intervention"


JT Krul/Freddie Williams - Writer/Artist/Storytellers
Rob Leigh - Letterer
Jose Villarrubia - Colorist
Rickey Purdin - Asst. Editor
Rachel Gluckstern - Editor

The cover is by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau. What strikes me most with this cover is how evil-looking the Flash is. Of course, that works when you're wondering if the Flash is friend or foe, but I think everybody knows the Flash will be a friend, and when you read the story, you find out very quickly that is indeed the case. So I guess the main premise of the cover is kind of flawed. This whole issue is about Captain Atom meeting the Flash, so naturally Flash had to be on the cover, but nobody ever doubted Flash's loyalties, so questioning them here is out of place. Other than that, I guess it is a good cover. Captain Atom looks a bit freaky and all-powerful, which is kind of the point. I don't like his flaming "hair," but that's not a problem with the cover, that is his design in the New 52.

Before I get into the story, I need to explain that I know very little about Captain Atom. This is the only issue of Captain Atom I've read, and the majority of my knowledge of the character comes from the Justice League cartoons. There, Captain Atom pretty much could only fly and blast different kinds of radiation from his hands. The most interesting thing I saw him do was created red sunlight to weaken Superman. This Captain Atom is nothing like that one. From what I understand, this version of the character is going back to his original incarnation, where he was much more powerful. I heard that Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan was based off Captain Atom, and I can definitely see the similarities between the two characters here. This Captain Atom can basically do anything. I guess you could say he really only has one power — to manipulate matter — but that power is virtually limitless. So yeah, just like the Flash, I know basically nothing of what's happening, and I'll jump right into the middle of this adventure!

The story starts with Captain Atom flying around the world and saving a bunch of people without them realizing it. He wonders what his role should be in the world and where he needs to draw the line with helping people.

Captain Atom visits a battle in Libya, and he's moving so fast that no one can see him. Except for the Flash. Flash, who had been watching the Libyan rebels fight for their freedom long enough, has decided to come lend a hand by picking bullets out of the air and tilting guns down. However, he is not happy to see Captain Atom there.

He suggests Captain Atom should be on lockdown somewhere because a lot of people, including the Justice League, feel Captain Atom is too unstable. Atom assures Flash that he's not radioactive, and if he were, he'd put himself in quarantine. Flash still feels uneasy, and says Captain Atom isn't the kind of power they should be using in the Libyan war. He feels they shouldn't win the war for the rebels, but just level the playing field. Flash then dismantles a tank with his super speed, and Atom dismantles a tank by transforming its molecules to hydrogen and oxygen.

Although it feels like the Flash and Captain Atom have been talking and fighting together for a while, it only has lasted a few seconds, which has been more than enough time for Flash to begin to trust Captain Atom. Flash says that maybe the other were hasty in forming their opinions. He may be fast, but he's not one to make snap decisions, preferring to get all the facts first.

Their conversation is interrupted, however, when a nuclear warhead detonates. Flash is able to pull most of the people out of the way of the blast radius by pushing himself to run so fast that even his eyes start to glow yellow. Meanwhile, Captain Atom absorbs the explosion, which puts a massive strain on his body. Somehow, he's able to pull the blast back in time a few seconds and some people who were killed were brought back. After absorbing the bomb, Captain Atom redirects the energy into a relatively harmless blast that turns the sand into glass. Flash tries to talk to him, but he walks away, depressed how everything he does just reinforces how different he is now. Captain Atom barely considers himself a man anymore and wonders if he's an alien or a monster.

The Good:

Powerful Flash. JT Krul and Freddie Williams brought the Flash in this issue to show how powerful Captain Atom is. Here is a hero who can not only keep up with the world's fastest man, but can also do unimaginable things even the Flash can't. But in no way did the Flash look weak here. I love his first appearance, how he's nonchalantly walking around, picking bullets out of the air. To everyone else, he'd just be a red blur, or appear to be running ridiculously fast. But to another person who can operate at that speed, he's just strolling along, not really exerting himself. I've always felt that super-powerful super heroes need to act like this more often — like what they're doing is no big deal. Naturally, that kind of attitude can only work when it's contrasted with the same character being pushed to his limit, which he did get to see with the Flash saving people from the bomb. I've never seen his eyes glow like that, but I really liked it and hope we'll see it again in a Flash book.

For Flash fans who don't care about Captain Atom, I recommend picking up this issue. I didn't read any Captain Atom issues before, and I didn't feel too lost. But although I enjoyed this issue, I didn't feel compelled by the story or art to keep reading once the Flash left. The bulk of the story was very philosophical, which is good to have occasionally, but I don't think I'd want to read a whole ongoing series that continually got that deep. Then there's also the problem with Captain Atom, himself, who has nearly limitless powers. Once you make a hero that powerful, he becomes really boring really quick, which is probably the main reason his book was cancelled after 12 issues.

Another big reason for that would be the art. It wasn't bad art, by any means, but it's not what most people look for in a comic book. This art matches the other-worldly, super sci-fi nature of the book very well, but it seems like the artists put their priorities into the "special effects" of the book. In order to make the big moments look amazing, they sacrificed a clean look for each individual panel. A lot of things were so messy that it was really hard to tell what was going on, which doesn't help the complex sci-fi plot at all. Also, some panels were just painful to look at, like when the Flash suddenly looked really fat. But I guess that's what you get with this style. You lose the panel-by-panel precision we get from Jim Lee, but we do have some really fun moments. I don't mind reading an occasional book drawn this way, but I don't think I could ever last a whole series like this.

Ultimately, I am sad that Captain Atom got cancelled. I hope he makes regular guest appearances throughout the DC universe because he is an interesting character, even if he does look a little stupid and is too powerful. Perhaps he never will be a strong enough character to carry his own book past 12 issues, but as a guest star, I think he'd be great. If they took this exact story and put it in The Flash, I'd love it. They could easily adjust the subplots to match the Flash's storyline, and have Francis Manapul do the art, and it would be a wonderful side adventure for Scarlet Speedster.

Final score: 6

Next time: We finally get to the Flash's real first appearance with The Flash #1! It kicks off a five-issue storyline, which is (ever so slightly) connected to Captain Atom #3, which is why I did it first. But these issues will definitely be worth the wait.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Action Comics #10

From what I can tell, this story not only takes place before the events in The Flash #1, but I think it even happened relatively soon after Justice League #6. Of  course, the Flash doesn't do a whole lot in this issue, but it is an appearance nonetheless, and I think it is kind of interesting to see the Justice League start to function after they defeated Darkseid and Starro.

"Superman: Bulletproof"


Grant Morrison Writer
Rags Morales Penciller
Rick Bryant Inker
Brad Anderson Colorist
Patrick Brosseau Letterer
Wil Moss Associate Editor
Matt Idelson Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

The cover is by Rags Morales and Brad Anderson, and it's not too bad. For those who had been following Action Comics (like I did before it got too weird), Nimrod the Hunter was introduced in Issue #8, so it was kind of an exciting thing to see Clark caught in Nimrod's crosshairs before he could change into Superman. However, this is only a metaphorical cover, as this scene does not literally take place in the book, but Nimrod does discover Superman's secret identity, and this is kind of a symbolic way to show that.

I like this black-and-white cover because, unlike in Justice League, they put the inks on the drawing so we can actually tell what's what here and appreciate the details that might have gotten washed out in the red of the regular cover.

The variant cover is by Bryan Hitch and Paul Mounts. It is an iconic image that is well done, but I'm not a fan of the coloring here. Or rather, the source of light they chose. It just seems odd to have the sun right behind Superman's back, and it is blindingly bright. I think this could have been one of my more favorite covers if they would've toned down the sun a little bit.

So the story starts with Nimrod the Hunter being recruited to hunt a bulletproof man. His previous prey was a Tyrannosaurus rex:

But before he fights the man of steel, Superman apprehends a man who killed a little girl. He takes the guy to jail, but the murderer had two pet hamsters that Superman is now stuck with. So he turns to the Justice League for help.

They meet in the abandoned printing press we first saw in Justice League #2, and Green Lantern says they need a better base, like something in a volcano or a satellite. Superman, meanwhile, is disappointed that none of them want the hamsters or to start tackling poverty in Somalia. He says they should be helping the world more since they're the king of an undersea empire, an Amazon princess and a billionaire playboy. Batman gets pretty mad for being called a playboy, and says, "Oh, I forgot. Your'e a journalist. A snoop." Superman is surprised to here Batman knows his secret identity and Wonder Woman calms everybody down.

Getting back on topic, the Flash reminds everyone that the whole "Justice League" thing was partly created so they could talk business. He was hoping they wouldn't have to fight every time they met.

So Batman gets right down to business and explains that he doesn't want to be a part of a living weapon that marches into countries uninvited to "fix" problems they barely understand. But Superman says there is so much widespread suffering and starvation in the world, and he looks to the Flash to back him up. But Flash says he also has a life and a family and he knows his responsibilities and limitations. He maintains that it's important for the League to stay within the law while they figure out their new status as superheroes. Flash reminds everybody that they're not gods and they need to tread very carefully. Superman says, "I understand. Next time a space monster shows up, you know where to find me." And he leaves with the hamsters. After he's gone, Batman says, "One of these days, we'll all have to go after him."

Later, Clark gives the hamsters to Lois Lane's niece, and he fights and easily defeats Nimrod, but he's worried about how easily Batman and Nimrod discovered his secret identity through nothing more than old fashioned detective and hunting skills, so Clark fakes his death at the end of the issue. There is a backup story where Jimmy Olsen and Lois and others gather in a tavern to celebrate the life of Clark Kent.

The Good:

Justice League conversation. Yes, none of them actually fought anything, but as the Flash said, it was kind of nice to see them all together without having to fight something. Instead, they're still a relatively new group trying to figure out their place in the world. I found their debate to be really interesting. I can sympathize with Superman's desire to do more good in the world than just beating up aliens, but I can also understand Batman and Flash's concerns about exercising too much power over the world. I also like how the Flash took charge in this conversation. He has a very strong moral compass and can explain things in a softer, nicer way than Batman can. Coming right out the Darkseid fight, it makes perfect sense for the Flash to say what he says and for Superman to listen to and respect him, although he may not entirely agree.

If you've read the first six issues of Justice League and you're looking for a rare, usually unseen "in-between" moment for the League, then I recommend this issue. For once, you get to see what these heroes are like when they're not punching bad guys and you get to learn a bit about their personalities and philosophies. And in all the other pages of this book, you're treated to a pretty fun story with Superman and Kraven, I mean, Nimrod the Hunter.

Final score: 6

Next time: I finally catch up to the "now," which becomes increasingly difficult to put stories in order. One of the things I love about The Flash, is that from Issue #1 through Issue #14 and beyond is basically one continuous narrative. But there are a few moments of rest I can find, where I'll send Flash off to have a couple of quick adventures with the Justice League and others. But before I can jump into the Flash's main title, I have to make a quick stop in Captain Atom #3, where the Flash makes a very quick, yet significant appearance.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Justice League #6


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Scott Williams with Sandra Hope, Batt and Mark Irwin Inkers
Alex Sinclair with Tony Avina and Hi-Fi Colorists
Patrick Brosseau Letterer
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

The cover is by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair. It's a striking image, and it sort of shows what's been happening in the book — Superman is being tortured and Green Lantern's arm is in a self-made cast. But like the Aquaman cover that bugged me, this scene does not take place in the book. Spoiler alert! Darkseid does NOT win and the Justice League does NOT bow down to him. Also, to be technical, Batman shouldn't be wearing his cape here, which he ditched last issue. Oh, and Cyborg's missing, too, but I've found that I really don't care about him that much. It might be because of his rushed/forced origin story, it might be because he technically is still a teenager and really should be with the Teen Titans. I don't know. But he really should be on the cover of the last issue in this story arc, especially considering how big a role he plays in it.

Luckily, the black-and-white cover didn't come over sideways this time, so we can properly enjoy Jim Lee's pencils. With this one, I found it interesting to see what he did and didn't shade, like under Batman's chin and his boots were completely left to the colorists. It would be neat to see a step-by-step process of who does what and how.

The variant cover is by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Rod Reis, and it rocks. This is the first time I'd put the variant ahead of the main cover. I just find the closeup of Darkseid way more exciting and imposing than a ridiculous scene of the Justice League kneeling before him. (We all knew that would never happen in this play-it-safe book.) And who says the Justice League always has to be on the cover of their book? This says more than enough with just the face of probably the most powerful villain in DC.

So the story starts with Darkseid just walking along, killing people left and right. Seeing they have nowhere to run, a man gathers his family together and prepares them for their death. But before Darkseid can kill them, he's distracted by a bunch of green fireworks. In his moment of hesitation, Darkseid is attacked by the five remaining heroes.

Meanwhile, Batman, sneaking around Apokolips, finds Superman and overhears Darkseid's minions talking of how Superman will be a new breed of soldier, one vital for the search of the daughter of Darkseid.

Back to the fight, Wonder Woman is able to deflect an omega beam blast with her magic bracelets, which knocks Darkseid off balance enough for her to thrust her sword into one of his eyes. Flash then picks up Aquaman and sends him flying at super speed to stick his trident in Darkseid's other eye. But Darkseid is still standing after all this, so Cyborg decides to send him back to where he came from by activating all the mother boxes and opening a bunch of boom tubes everywhere, even on Apokolips. During the commotion, Batman frees Superman, who flies through one boom tube and starts to push Darkseid through another. Green Lantern tells Cyborg to close the boom tube on Darkseid, but he doesn't think he can. Batman (with his mask back on) gives Cyborg the encouragement he needs, and with a gigantic explosion, Darkseid and all his parademons are gone and all the mother boxes are fried. A crowd of people surround the heroes and Flash suggests they leave, but the crowd is happy and cheers the world's greatest super-humans.

Later, the heroes are being honored at Washington, D.C. Cyborg feels he shouldn't be up there, but Flash says, "Sure you should. Be proud. Your dad looks like he is." Green Lantern doesn't like the idea of them being considered a team, but they ultimately decide that they'll join forces again if something big like this happens again. Flash comes up with their team name, the Super Seven, but nobody likes it, so he says, "We'll think of something."

We then see that the man who was saved at the beginning was David Graves, who wrote Justice League: Gods Among Men, which features a picture of the League fighting a giant starfish-like alien.

The story ends in London, where two mysterious and sinister-looking men briefly discuss the rise of superheroes. One of them says, "I guess they'll call us super villains." And a caption reads: The Beginning.

There is a quick backup story that's basically just a conversation between Pandora and the Phantom Stranger. Pandora was the mysterious being who helped the Flash fix Flashpoint and cause the New 52. She also appeared in the first issue of each of the New 52 books. She tells the Phantom Stranger that the Justice League will help her be released from her curse, whether they like it or not. And a caption reads: Continued in Justice League.

The Good:

The art. Even though this issue required entire teams of people to do the inks and colors, the pencils were solid and interesting. There were a lot of great fight scenes, and even though the Flash didn't do that much, I do recommend that Flash fans pick this up just to see Jim Lee drawing the Justice League fighting Darkseid. Sadly, I can't add anymore points to the score because of the very little the Flash had to do and the rather disappointing story, in my opinion. Yes, there was strong emotion with the family at the beginning, and some nice humor at the end, but the battle was ultimately won by Green Lantern creating fireworks and Cyborg concentrating real hard. Kinda lackluster.

Final score: 6

Next time: Before I can go to the current time (of 2011), Flash makes one small guest appearance in Action Comics #10.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Justice League #5


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Williams, Hope, Irwin and Weems Inkers
Alex Sinclair with Gabe Eltaeb and Tony Avina Colorists
Patrick Brosseau Letterer
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

I find interesting that Jim Lee always gets a bad rap for being slow and missing deadlines and the such, but through all these Justice League books he was the only penciller, while Alex Sinclair and now Scott Williams have had to bring in extra help. Seriously, four different people had to ink this? Was Williams sick or something? Although I can tell a difference in the inks and especially the coloring, the most important part, the pencils, have been consistent.

This cover is by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair. Nice, heroic poses for everybody, but I'll never understand Lee's fascination with putting Cyborg in front of the American flag. He did it several times in past issues, and now here he is on the cover, acting like Captain America. Why? Anyway, my biggest problem with this cover is the lack of Batman and the Flash. There's just not enough love out there for the Scarlet Speedster.

This is the first black-and-white cover that came across sideways on my iPad. I don't know why this is. Otherwise, it would be fine. In the future, I won't show the sideways black-and-white covers here. They're just to hard to see and appreciate.

This variant cover is by Eric Basaldua and Nei Ruffino. It's pretty good, but I find Superman's heat vision almost comical. What's going there? But at least the entire Justice League is shown here. See, Jim Lee, it's not that hard! Just don't draw gigantic American flags and you'll have room for everybody.

The story starts immediately after Darkseid knocked out all the heroes. The Flash is the first to recover and he sees Darkseid blow up some fighter jets with his omega beams. Darkseid stares Flash down, who says, "Uh ... guys? Anyone else awake yet? I'm not that good at making chitchat." Superman then wakes up and Darkseid fires an omega beam at each of them. Flash picks up Superman and starts to outrace the beams. The two separate and each tries to outrun/fly the beams. Flash gets rid of his by finding a parademon and vibrating through it so it is destroyed by the beam. For the first time in his heroic career, Flash has to catch his breath. He look up and sees Superman wasn't able to get away from his beam and took it hard in the back. A parademon then swoops in and takes Superman to the tower.

Flash runs back and tells the others what happened. Green Lantern then tries to take on Darkseid one-on-one, but he gets his arm broken in the fight and the other heroes are buried under rubble as a result of Darkseid's powerful punches. Darkseid walks away and Batman has a heart-to-heart with Green Lantern. He says that they're the only two normal humans there and they need to realize that this fight is bigger than them. To illustrate this point, Batman tells Lantern his origin story and takes off his cape and cowl, but Green Lantern doesn't know who Bruce Wayne is. Batman then tells Green Lantern to get out of his own way and start to lead the other superheroes. Batman also takes off the bat symbol on his chest and allows himself to get captured by a parademon so he can go save Superman.

Green Lantern digs out the heroes and they put together a plan to take out Darkseid's eyes, with Lantern acting as a decoy. He picks up all the heroes with his ring and flies them toward Darkseid, yelling out, "We got this!" Flash makes fun of Green Lantern's stupid battle cry, and is surprised, but impressed with his sudden change in attitude.

The parademon then delivers Batman to the tower, who breaks free and sneaks in himself. He goes through a boom tube and ends up here:

The Good:

The art. It feels like we've been waiting forever to see Jim Lee draw the League fight Darkseid, and now it's finally started. Every other issue also had good action scenes, but this one had some of the best, which is how it should be. The fights should continue to get bigger and better as the story progresses.

Flash outruns omega beams. For the first time since Issue #2, the Flash actually had something interesting to do. I loved that he was the first to recover from Darkseid's initial attack, that just makes perfect sense. Sadly, we didn't get to see Flash try to fight Darkseid by himself, but saving Superman from the omega beams was exciting and heroic. And vibrating through a parademon was pretty neat, too. So as a Flash story, I recommend picking this one up not just for the art, but a great Flash moment, as well.

Final score: 7

Next time: Justice League Part Six

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Justice League #4


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Scott Williams Inker
Alex Sinclair with Gabe Eltaeb Colorists
Patrick Brosseau Letterer
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

This is a very well-done cover by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair, and it is a rather iconic image — Aquaman standing triumphant over a defeated Green Lantern and Batman, and if you look closely, you can see Superman and Wonder Woman in the water. However, I have one major problem with this cover — it doesn't happen in the story! The goal here obviously was to get people to say, "Holy cow, Aquaman beat the Justice League?! How did this happen?" But Aquaman never really fights the Justice League as we'll see in a few moments. I hate when covers do that. And what happened to the Flash? Did he run away before Aquaman kicked everybody's butts?

The good news is I actually like this black-and-white cover. For once, Jim Lee didn't put in way too many details that confuse me and pull me away from the main action. This issue, like the other in Justice League, also had several other versions of this same cover, only with slightly different coloring. I never post those because I think that's being too redundant (maybe even showing the black-and-white is redundant), but I mention this here because one of these alternate colorings had them all completely underwater, which I thought was kind of a cool idea (minus the fact that nothing like it at all happened in the book).

The variant cover was done by Andy Kubert and Alex Sinclair. Kubert has a style very similar to Jim Lee's, which is also enhanced by having the same colorist. I really like this cover, but I have to say: Five there are, yet six there were. Tell me, where is the Flash, for I would very much like to see him on a cover of Justice League.

Our story starts in Detroit, where young Victor Stone wakes up and begins to realize that he has been turned into a robot. He is quite upset with this and runs away from his dad.

Back in Metropolis, our heroes are introduced to Aquaman. Batman knows who he is, but Green Lantern thought he was just a sketch on Conan O'Brien, and Flash reminds him to be polite. Aquaman tells them he'd been fighting the aliens in the water, and says, "You've obviously gathered together to fight them." Flash says, "I guess we ... kinda did?" Noting there's no leader among them, Aquaman takes charge, suggesting they assault the tower where the aliens are taking all the people to. Seeing Green Lantern is bright and shiny, Aquaman tells him to lure the aliens away. Green Lantern doesn't like being bossed around like this, and starts to argue and complain. Flash tries to calm him down by saying, "Set the attitude aside, Lantern. It's the end of the world." But that doesn't work, and Green Lantern demands of Aquaman, "What can you do that we can't?" Right on cue, a bunch of aliens swoop in on them from over the water and Aquaman summons a group of great white sharks to eat them. While the heroes begin to fight more aliens, they're also attacked by military helicopters with strict orders to engage with "any non-humans, demons, super-people, whatever."

Meanwhile, Victor gets into a fight with an alien and inadvertently hacks into its system and learns that these parademons are following Darkseid's orders to go from planet to planet and gather up the inhabitants to turn them into more parademons. Victor wonders where the sounds in his head are coming from and he accidentally opens up a boom tube he falls through.

Back to the fight, Superman tells Flash they need to take down the helicopters. Flash says they're U.S. soldiers only doing their job, but Superman says, "You seem like someone who wants to do the right thing, but the same can't always be said for everyone in positions of authority." So Flash reluctantly joins Superman by creating a tidal wave and running up it to reach the choppers. (I decided I can't have a post without a picture of the Flash, so I threw this one in.)

Victor then falls out of a boom tube and tells the heroes, "He's coming ... right here ..." Batman asks who, but before Victor can answer, a very large boom tube opens and out comes a very large alien, who creates some kind of shockwave that knocks out all the heroes. In case you didn't already know who he was, he introduces himself:

The backup story is some employee files on the doctors we met at S.T.A.R. labs. And to fill up the last few pages (as in other Justice League issues), there is concept art for main characters' new costumes. Today we have the Flash, drawn by Francis Manapul, based on designs by Jim Lee. There really wasn't a whole lot of information here, just basic things, like his boots are thick rubber, like sneakers, his belt and forearms are V-shaped lightning, his earpieces are curved metal objects and his chest emblem is slightly raised off his costume. The most interesting tidbit from this was an explanation of the seams in his suit, which are normally thin black lines, but glow with electricity when he runs at super speed.

The Good:

The art. Once again, and always with Jim Lee, I recommend picking up this issue if for nothing else, just to look at the pictures. This story was all about Aquaman, and the most joked-about superhero actually came across as pretty cool here. But the best part definitely was the arrival of Darkseid. As a Flash story, there is very little reason to pick up this book. Yes, his conversation with Superman was interesting, but very brief, and the only cool thing Flash did here was to run up a wave of water, which really wasn't that amazing. So, just like the other issues of Justice League, I'll leave this with a slightly above average score.

Final score: 6

Next time: Justice League Part Five

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Justice League #3


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Scott Williams Inker
Alex Sinclair with Hi-Fi and Gabe Eltaeb Colorists
Patrick Brosseau Letterer
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

I found it interesting that Alex Sinclair needed help coloring this issue. Maybe he realized that big mistake he made on shadowing Barry Allen's face in Issue #2 was a result of him being overworked. Sadly, I can pretty easily tell which pages Sinclair did not color — his are brighter, bolder, and just better than the other ones, which is a shame that we had that inconsistency here. Also for some reason, we got two new editors on this issue. I could probably tell a very slight difference in how they edited, but's that's just because I'm an editor myself and I pick up on minute details. But the overall feel and look of the story has not changed drastically, which is the most important thing.

This cover is a good one. It was done by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair. This issue is all about Wonder Woman and she rightly takes a prominent place front and center. We also get to see all the other heroes pretty good, fighting the endless supply of aliens. This is also a scene straight from the inside of the book, which is always a good thing. Maybe the expression on Wonder Woman's face is a bit odd, but that's a minor quibble.

This black-and-white cover has the same problem as the last one. There's just too many messy details for me to fully appreciate it. What's supposed to be rubble? What's supposed to be an alien? I like the idea of the black-and-white covers, but I wish they would've let Scott Williams ink them as well. Just a little bit more contrast would have gone a long way.

The variant cover was done by Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia. I find this cover almost comically awful. Superman and Flash look fine, but everyone else is just weird. Wonder Woman looks like she's 16, Cyborg looks like he's 42, Aquaman is just off, Batman feels completely out of place and why is Green Lantern a million miles away? I also don't like these obviously posed shots. Come on, give them something to do!

Our story starts in Washington, D.C., where Captain Steve Trevor is looking for Wonder Woman. Apparently she had been watching TV, saw a winged monster out on the streets and decided to break out of the Pentagon to fight it.

Everybody's too afraid to talk to Wonder Woman except for a little girl with ice cream, which Wonder Woman thinks is amazing. Trevor finds her, but before he take her back inside, a big BOOM goes off and hundreds of aliens come out of a portal, and Wonder Woman is only too excited to fight them.

In a quick cut to Detroit, Dr. Silas Stone resolves to save his son, Victor, who is very badly burned, even as the aliens are scooping up tons of people and flying away with them.

Back to Metropolis, our heroes are fighting more aliens and the Flash tells them he's been listening to the radio through his earpiece and he found out that these aliens are appearing all over the world and most people are blaming the superheroes. As they fight, Flash is surprised to learn Batman doesn't have any powers — he had assumed he was a vampire or something.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stone and two other doctors take Victor down into a top secret lab and lay him on an operating table.

In Metropolis, Batman realizes the aliens aren't killing anybody, just taking them away. Our heroes are then joined by Wonder Woman, who had followed the aliens to them from Washington, D.C. Everyone is impressed with her strength and Green Lantern calls dibs.

Dr. Stone starts to fix his son's body with robotic parts and experimental, controversial, possibly alien technology.

The aliens start to leave the fight from our heroes and Green Lantern thinks they scared them off, but Flash points out that they're circling over the water.

Victor's new computer systems go online and he sees a giant alien standing on a volcano world, surrounded by hundreds of the winged aliens. It almost seems like the giant, imposing alien can see Victor watching him.

A big explosion erupts from the ocean by Metropolis and a large, alien tower emerges from the deep. Flash asks, "What is that?" Someone answers, "I was hoping one of you could tell me." They turn around and see an alien approaching, but it falls down dead with a trident in its back. It's Aquaman.

The backup story is the first few pages of a book called The Secret History of Atlantis by David Graves. This is a reprinted edition to coincide with the release of Graves' best-seller, The Justice League: Gods Among Us, published in 2006.

The Good:

The art. As usual, Jim Lee gave us a lot of great detail and big, splashy fight scenes. Yes, there were a few little coloring issues, but those didn't detract enough from the greatness of this artwork.

The Bad:

There really wasn't anything bad in this issue, there just wasn't that much good stuff ... for the Flash, that is. This was a Wonder Woman and Cyborg-heavy story, and that's fine. It's just this is a Flash blog, and he only had a couple of lines about listening to the radio and Batman being a vampire (which was funny, but not enough to add a point to the score).

Final score: 6

Next: Aquaman Rising

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Justice League #2

Like The Flash #0, the first six issues of Justice League takes place five years before the proverbial "now" of The Flash #1, so I'm going to have to take a little detour before I jump into the amazing Francis Manapul/Brian Buccellato run. I'm not going to review Justice League as heavily as The Flash — I'll try to just look at how the Flash is portrayed in it and judge it off those merits alone. Sadly, the Flash didn't appear in Justice League #1, so I'm going to begin with Part Two. I think this is kind of fun because I'm now coming in with as much knowledge as the Flash, so I'll have to hope whatever happened in Part One is explained here.


Geoff Johns Writer
Jim Lee Penciller
Scott Williams Inker
Alex Sinclair Colorist
Patrick Brosseau Letter
Rex Ogle Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

The cover is by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair, and it is a very good cover. There is probably nothing more exciting in the DC universe than a Superman-Batman fight, and this has Green Lantern thrown in for good measure. Another key element to this cover for me, is that it portrays something that actually happens in the book. The only little complaint I have is that the Flash is not there, when his appearance is kind of the biggest thing that happens in this book.

The black-and-white cover shows Jim Lee's pencil work, which is good, but a bit too messy for me to follow. I can't tell what's rubble and what's a Green Lantern chain, or where Superman's knee ends and Batman's begins. This cover shows me the value and importance of Scott Williams' inks. While Jim Lee is one of the best in the business, without Scott Williams backing him up, nobody would be able to tell what he was drawing.

The variant cover is by Ivan Reis, Andy Lanning and Rod Reis. It's not bad, although it's nothing incredibly special. Yes, it does feel a bit posed, but there is some good movement here and we have a nice displays of the heroes' powers and weapons. My favorite detail is having Batman's shadow look like a bat. My least favorite part is all the lantern logos floating around Green Lantern. If Ivan Reis thinks that those little things show up every time Green Lantern uses his ring, then remind me to never read a Green Lantern story drawn by him. That would get pretty annoying.

Our story starts in the Central City Crime Lab, where Barry Allen is arguing with Director Singh about the decision to have everyone work on the Flash case. Singh says he'd love to get back to solving murders, too, but chief has ordered for everyone to focus on finding out who the Flash really is. In the background, we see the lab covered with pictures of Flash with some handwritten notes, wondering things like if he's invulnerable and how much he eats. We then go back to Metropolis where this is happening:

Superman is fighting Batman and Green Lantern, and it's not going well for them. Batman has emptied his utility belt and Green Lantern's shields aren't strong enough to keep out the Man of Steel. So Green Lantern decides to call his friend Barry Allen's cellphone. Green Lantern asks for help, but Barry refuses, reminding him that they last time they teamed up they saved Central City from a talking gorilla, but they destroyed a museum in the process, which has caused the whole police department to focus on the Flash. But Green Lantern is pretty desperate, and he yells out, "Flash! This guy is going to KILL US!"

So Flash shows up, spins Superman around real quick and shoves him down to the other end of the street. Superman jumps right back up and tries to hit the Flash, but can't. As Flash is dodging, he says he thinks this is all a big misunderstanding, and he tells Superman to stop bothering because nobody's ever managed to touch him. But Superman eventually does hit him, by swinging his fist, which Flash barely dodges, then flicking out his finger and sending Flash flying down the street.

Batman finally stops the fighting by telling Superman they're not working with the monsters, but trying to stop them. Green Lantern's ring said the monsters were alien, so they went to Superman to see if he knew anything. Batman also shows Superman a box he took from one of the aliens. Flash sees they're done fighting, so he starts to clean up the damage they caused, but some helicopter arrive on the scene. Flash doesn't want to be caught with the vigilantes, as he makes a point to never break the law. Superman is worried Lex Luthor will be with the military, so they all retreat to the sewers.

Meanwhile, at S.T.A.R. Labs in Detroit, Dr. Silas Stone is working on another cube, identical to the one Batman had, but Dr. Stone is interrupted by his son, Victor. The two argue about Victor's football future at college, and Dr. Stone says sports are obsolete in a world of superheroes.

Back to our heroes, Superman has led them to an abandoned printing press. They start to try to figure out what the box is and Flash asks Green Lantern if the aliens who gave him his ring know anything about it. Green Lantern says they don't, and he suggests Flash quickly disassemble it, but he refuses, fearing it could be radioactive. Superman's x-ray vision doesn't work on it, so Flash suggests dusting it for fingerprints and looking for DNA. Batman says he sounds like a cop and Flash admits he is and works in a crime lab. Green Lantern says, "Barry, you're exposing your identity!" Flash answers: "And you just called me 'Barry,' genius!" Just then, the box starts to glow and makes a big BOOM sound, opening a portal opening to hundreds of alien soldiers. The box in S.T.A.R. Labs does the same, severely injuring Victor Stone in the process.

There is a little backup feature, which show excerpts of an interview with Amanda Waller and Captain Steve Trevor about his trip to an island of Amazons and how he met someone named Wonder Woman.

So that was my first foray into Justice League. I had heard so many people were disappointed with it, that I was very hesitant to buy it. But now that I've given it a try (a year after it came out), I think too many people just had too high expectations for it. I realize now that this first Justice League arc pretty much had to play out in a very specific way with very little room for innovative freedom. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee were really the only creators who could be considered for this project, and their choice in characters was equally natural and obvious. Of course you had to have Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman. Aquaman was a less-obvious choice, but Johns felt he could make him cool again, which he has done in the Aquaman book. The only surprise to the team was Cyborg, but even that makes sense when you consider DC's desire to diversify a little bit by including a black teenager to the team. And naturally, the only possible villain for this story would be Darkseid. The story itself then writes itself after taking all those considerations. You start by introducing the two characters with movies coming out (Batman and Green Lantern) have them fight aliens and each other, then slowly start introducing everybody else, always making sure they fight each other a little bit first before giving them plenty of ruthless aliens to beat up. It's rather similar to what the Avengers movie did, but it works. A lot of people were expecting more from DC's flagship title, but it really was required to play things relatively safe, especially with this story taking place five years in the past. All in all, I don't think Justice League is too bad.

The Good:

The art. The very first comic book I read was Batman: Hush, drawn by Jim Lee. Seeing that amazingly detailed and larger-than-life artwork was one of the main reasons I picked that book up. So I'm familiar of Lee's style, and I'm definitely a fan of it. I feel like the majority of comic book artists try to draw like him, but many fail. My other favorite artists are usually the ones who move in the other directions and try something completely different (like Francis Manapul). But I certainly take a lot of joy in looking at Lee's bold and dynamic pages. Yes, he sometimes draws everybody a little too stiff and muscular (even normal background characters tend to be a bit too beefy), but nobody can say that this artwork is not good.

Flash vs. Superman. This is a fight that nobody really talks about. We always want to see Superman fight Batman, and we always get that. But whenever we talk about Superman and Flash, it's always just in a dumb race around the world, which always stupidly ends up in a tie. But here, we finally get to see what would happen if Superman wanted to punch the Flash. Yeah, it'd be tough and it'd take him a while, but Superman would eventually figure out how to land one on Flash and that one little blow should be enough. Yes, this fight got off to a cheesy start with Flash spinning Superman around, but everything after that was pretty much perfect.

The Flash's attitude. We got to see him a few different scenarios, which was really nice. First there was Barry, upset that he can't work on a murder case and conflicted because his alter ego is the reason why. Then there's overconfident Flash, who has recently realized just how powerful he is. When he showed up to fight Superman, he was smiling, fully believing he could take down the Man of Steel ... until he was proven wrong. We also saw the image-concsious Flash, who didn't want to be considered a law-breaking vigilante or be the cause of more property damage. He was the only hero who thought to clean up that destroyed street in Metropolis. We also got to see a smart Flash, who always seemed to be thinking. When they're trying to figure out what the box is, he's constantly moving around it, looking at it from different angles and throwing out different ideas. Later in The Flash, we'll see him learn to think at super speed, but even without it, I like to consider him a smart guy and natural quick thinker. Anyway, the Flash was written very well here and even had a funny moment with the secret identity line.

The Bad:

Continuity flaw. Geoff Johns needed to find a way to quickly introduce the Flash, so he created a small previous adventure where Flash and Green Lantern teamed up to save Central City from a talking gorilla, who we all assume to be one of the Flash's top enemies, Gorilla Grodd. But in The Flash, five years later, Grodd meets Flash for the first time. Obviously Johns and Manapul weren't communicating.  Of course, you could argue that the first talking gorilla was Monsieur Mallah or the Ultra-Humanite (there are a handful of talking gorilla villains in DC), but neither of those characters fight the Flash regularly. I think Johns intended Grodd because he was a well-known villain and hardcore Flash fans could read that and go, "Cool! Flash and G.L. teamed up to stop Grodd!" I suppose I could blame Manapul for not taking that line into consideration for his book, but I'm going to put the majority of the blame on Geoff Johns here. He should have left the first reference of a major Flash villain to the Flash book. The closest equivalent to this I can think of would be to have Bane casually mentioned in Justice League and then have his origin shown a year later in Detective Comics.

The Ugly:

Epic fail. No, that's not Two-Face, that's Barry Allen. Apparently Jim Lee wanted to have half of Barry's face in the shadows, but Alex Sinclair's coloring just didn't make it dark enough. And why didn't Lee draw the eye, anyway? The only reason I'm making a big deal of this is because this panel took up the entire bottom of the first page and was a pretty important shot of Barry, as well, showing him struggling with the conflict the Flash has created. Yes, Jim Lee is the best, but he made one huge mistake this issue, and that happened to be with Barry Allen, who is the subject of this blog, so I have to penalize the score for this.

Final score: 6 out 10

If I were judging this book as a whole, it would probably score a lot higher. But as a strictly Flash story, it's only a bit above average. This also would have done better a year ago, when the continuity error didn't exist, but until someone goes back and shows that early adventure with Green Lantern and it doesn't conflict with modern continuity, then I have to penalize this book.

Next: Wonder Woman!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Flash #0

This was the first Flash story I ever read, and in my opinion, it is a perfect jumping-on point for anyone, regardless of their previous Flash knowledge. I knew very little about the character coming in, and not only did this explain everything quite well, but it encouraged me to buy and read everything else with the Flash in it. This story takes place five years before The Flash #1 (which was technically his first appearance), so that's why I've started here.


Story by Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Colors Brian Buccellato & Ian Herring
Letters Wes Abbott
Associate Editor Chris Conroy
Editor Matt Idelson

The cover is the standard cover DC used for all its #0 issues, which is a black-and-white inside page from the comic being ripped open by the main character, who's in color. I really liked that DC was able to get that same concept applied so consistently to all its titles for this month. However, I'm not a huge fan of this Flash cover. The main artists of the book, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato did the cover, and the Flash looks good enough, I guess, but I think he seems a bit bored. I know they were trying to make him look focused and resolute, but it kind of comes off a little sad and disinterested to me. There is also a black-and-white version of this cover, which for some reason shows up sideways on my iPad, a trend DC has been doing a lot lately. I don't know how the physical comics look with these black-and-white covers, but I'm not happy to have it sideways on my iPad. Here's what it looks like:

I'm not quite sure why they thought it would be better to do it that way. Anyway, without further ado, I'll jump right in to the summary of the story, then I'll say what I thought was good and bad and give it a score.

Our story starts in Central City five years ago. We see a depressed Barry Allen working alone one night in the police crime lab at the top of a building. Barry is remembering an earlier conversation he had with his dad, who is in prison. Every year on the anniversary of his mom's death, Barry visits his dad and goes over his mom's case file again, trying to prove his father's innocence. But Barry's dad, Henry, tells him to stop letting the past hold him back. An upset Barry throws some lab equipment out the window and into the rain. He remembers his dad saying, "You've wasted enough time ... on a guilty man. I killed your mother." As Barry remembers that last sentence, a bolt of lightning comes in through the hole in the window, striking Barry and pushing him back into a table of chemicals. Barry thinks he's going to die, but even as the lightning strikes and the chemicals burn his skin, it's his father's words that deliver the deathblow. Barry then sees his life slip by like a flash. He sees the tombstone of his mom, Nora Allen. He's a little kid being comforted by a police officer at a crime scene. He sees his parents arguing. His mom is helping him put on a bow tie. Even though the police had told Barry his dad killed his mom, and Barry had seen how angry he was, he still refused to believe it. How could he, or anyone, do that to his mom?

We then see Barry unconscious in a hospital bed, wrapped in bandages. One of his co-workers and friends, Forrest is there wishing him to get better. A lady named Miss Lago comes and gives Forrest some food. Barry remembers his mom helping him with his bow tie and wishing him luck on his spelling bee, which she can't attend. Barry's dad comes to take him, but first he has to talk to Nora. He throws a file at her and says, "You let a stranger come to our home and serve me this?!" Nora says it's not because of him but because of us. Henry then says, "You think I'm just gonna let you go?"

Back to the hospital, Barry is visited by Darryl Frye, who says he needs to tell his family that he got promoted to captain. He then sits close to Barry and says, "I can't go through this again ... I miss her so much ... I need you to wake up, Barry." Barry remembers the day after the spelling bee, but before he can tell his mom about it, his parents send him out to the bookstore so they can talk.

At the hospital, Barry starts to wake up, but his mind is racing so fast he can't make sense of it. He feels like electricity is surging through him that needs to be set free. He remembers the scene of his mother's murder, and he starts to get up and run. At his house, the little kid Barry is asking police officer Darryl Frye to let him in to see his mom. He didn't get to show her his spelling bee trophy. Darryl tells Barry the police need to gather evidence, which will tell them who was responsible. Barry's dad is handcuffed and put into a police car and he tells Barry that he didn't do it. Darryl tries to comfort Barry, but he runs past him and see his dead mom, lying in her blood. Darryl tells Barry he knew his mom, and she wouldn't want him to be alone right now. The adult Barry running out of the hospital, remembers that he spent his entire life trying to prove his dad's innocence because he couldn't lose both his parents. He dedicated his career and life to the search for the truth, but if it was all a lie, why did Henry and Darryl let him go on for so long? As he contemplates these things, he finally stops running, only to realize that he's in the Virunga Mountains of East Africa, wearing nothing but his hospital gown.

Three weeks later, Barry is with Darryl on a park bench, talking about his miraculous recovery and his father's confession. Barry thanks Darryl for being every bit of a father to him as Henry was, maybe even more. Darryl thanks Barry for his positive influence, which he attributes to being able to make captain. Darryl likes being captain, but he misses the police badge and uniform, which he saw as a symbol that stands for good, something the world needs more of. While running around, Barry found Darryl's first police badge, which he put in a frame and gave to Darryl.

Inspired by Darryl's words about making a symbol for good, Barry decides to make a superhero costume, but he shreds normal tights when he runs to fast. So he makes himself some armor and finds that metal reacts strangely around him, almost like a force is building around his speed, creating a thermal expansion. He then makes a suit out of tiny pieces of metal that can be condensed into a ring on his finger.

Barry visits his dad in prison again to tell him that for too long he needed him to be innocent, but now he's going to look forward. While they talk, police guards escort Daniel West to his cell, who was caught by the Flash two days ago while robbing a bank. Daniel starts to fight off the guards, but Barry gets up and stops him. Remembering two days ago, the Flash chased down Daniel's getaway car and ran up on the side of a semi to jump through the car and kick out two of the robbers. One of the robbers was unable to hit the Flash with a machine gun and he called him a "red blur," but the Flash says, "More like a flash. Took me forever to come up with that name!" Back at the prison, Henry tries to escape during the commotion, but Barry also stops him, saying, "When you get out of here, it will be as a free man ... after I prove your innocence." Barry tells Henry what Darryl always says: People lie, but the evidence doesn't.

Barry then visits his mom's grave and leaves some flowers and his spelling bee trophy. He tells her he doesn't need his dad to be innocent anymore, he just wants him to be. He also realizes that everything that happened to him helped him become who he is today — the fastest man alive, the Flash.

I call this last page the title page, which has become one of my favorite features of Francis Manapul's work. On every title page, he puts the words "DC Comics proudly presents The Flash," but he usually works those words in organically with the art, and it's become kind of fun for me to try to find all the words. Here, DC Comics proudly is on buildings, presents is on a bus, and The Flash is in his shadow. It's just a really fun way to take advantage of the comic book medium. Sometimes, I feel that comic book writers and artists are limited by the medium, and they end up doing little more than storyboards for a movie. But Francis Manapul seems liberated by this art form and enjoys utilizing a lot of fun little tricks that can only exist in comics. So anyway, here's my scoring:

The Good:

The art. Continuing from what I just said, this is one of the most unique, visually appealing and interesting comic books I've ever seen — and I've seen a lot of good ones by Jim Lee, Tim Sale, Alex Ross, Rags Morales, David Aja and more, but this is one of my favorites. Not only is the art fun and great, but I love the coloring. It almost has painted-like quality to it that kind of makes it more subdued, in a way. I think too many comics throw out a lot of bold, flashy colors, screaming, "Look at me! Pick me up!" But not The Flash. The art and story are married perfectly to each other, and neither element is trying to outdo the other. I also really enjoyed how the flashbacks were in a kind of black-and-white style, which made it real easy to follow the story that really did have a ton of flashbacks.

Barry Allen. Not only was this an origin story of how Barry Allen became the Flash, but it's an origin story of how Barry Allen became Barry Allen. In some ways, Barry's backstory is more tragic than Bruce Wayne's. I mean, how messed up is it for a kid to come home and find his dad has killed his mom? But unlike Batman, Barry remained positive and optimistic, which makes him so endearing to me. He's not motivated by grief or vengeance, although he has every right to be. Instead, he's motivated by a desire to find the truth and help people, whether he's in his costume or not. One good example of this was with how nice he was to Daniel West, who tried to escape from jail. Barry is just so kind and good, he's a very easy hero to cheer for and relate to.

The Flash's powers and suit. I always knew he kept his costume in a ring, but I never understood how or why, until now. I like that it's a bunch of shards of metal that pop out of the ring and wrap themselves around him to become armor. A bit fantastical, yes, but it is something that I think makes sense in this story where a man can run at the speed of light. I also liked how they described the source of his speed as electricity building up inside of him that needed to be released. They didn't just say he was struck by lightning and doused by chemicals, but they didn't really need to add too many details, either. They found the perfect balance of giving enough information without bogging down the story.

The story. This is simply a well-written and expertly put-together story. The flashbacks matched up with the current narrative in a wonderful way that I've only seen done better in Watchmen. This story also has a lot of fascinating plot lines for us to consider. Did Henry really kill Nora? If not, who did and why is Henry now saying he did after originally claiming he didn't? Is Darryl Barry's real father? They both have blond hair and Darryl sure acted like he loved Nora. And who is Daniel West? I know Wally West was Barry Allen's replacement in the pre-52 universe, so how is Daniel going to fit in the story?

The emotion. This was a really sad, touching tale. We got to go on the emotional journey with Barry from losing his one of hope of keeping his world together — his dad's innocence — to slightly changing his view on things and figuring out how to move forward. It was also really touching to see how sweet Barry's mom was. You just want to cry with little Barry when he realizes he never got to tell his mom about the spelling bee that she helped him prepare for so much. It really is a tragic story, but it never got too dark or graphic. It's filled with hope, but also never becomes too cheesy. Again, a perfect balance was found by Manapul and Buccellato.

The Bad:

I really don't have anything to complain about. This comic gave me everything I wanted. Great art with a great character-driven story filled with surprises, mystery, understandable sic-fi elements and good emotion. Yes, there was really only one page where the Flash was actually fighting somebody, but that was fine because everything else was so engaging. My only quibble with this book is the cover, but it's not nearly bad enough to negatively impact the score of this book.

Final score: 10 out of 10.

Next time: Shortly after Barry Allen becomes the Flash, he meets up with the Justice League!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Hello! My name is Dallin Turner and this is my blog about the Scarlet Speedster himself, as portrayed in the current DC comics. I'm a lifelong superhero fan, but I haven't seriously started reading comics until the New 52. I was excited to jump in at that point, but I was disappointed to see that my favorite character, Batman, did not really reset and I wasn't too keen on the direction the many Bat titles were going, but Action Comics jumped out at me. I was very happy with for about a year, but then things started to get a little too weird for me, so I decided to pick up a title I'd been eyeing for a long time, The Flash, and I instantly fell in love.

After very quickly reading from Issue #0 through the annual and beyond, I began to look for more sites, blogs and podcasts that covered this book I loved so much. Sadly, I wasn't able to find much. There is, which focuses on all news related to the Flash, but doesn't provide many reviews. There is also the FLASH-back podcast, which is a very nice podcast that covers each issue of The Flash. But I wanted something more. I wanted a more comprehensive cover of anytime this Flash, Barry Allen, showed up in any current DC comic. (This will mostly just be The Flash and Justice League, but every now and then he makes another appearance somewhere else, like in Captain Atom.) So here I am, attempting to create the kind of blog I've been searching for. I owe a lot of my inspiration to the New 52 Adventures of Superman podcast, which covers every appearance of every Super-character (Superman, Superboy, Supergirl). I'd like to include Kid Flash in this blog, but in the interest of time, I'm going to focus exclusively on the main Flash, Barry Allen. Besides, I haven't seen much connection between the two characters so far. But I'm keeping myself open to the possibility of that changing.

Keep in mind that I am by no means a Flash expert. I only started reading him in November 2012. But I think this will provide the blog a fresh perspective on the character. I've decided that I have a lot of difficulties with Batman and Superman books because I have so many preconceived notions of the characters. With the Flash, I knew basically nothing coming in. My biggest experiences with him were through the Justice League cartoons, which never got too deep into his individual backstory. So basically, I was able to come into this title with no baggage. I don't know or care who Barry Allen's girlfriend is supposed to be or what happened to his parents or even how his powers and costume work. It's all new to me, and so far, I'm loving every minute of it.

I also write another blog, called Sports and Superheroes, where I basically write anything I want to about my two great loves, sports and superheroes. Currently, I've been reviewing a lot of episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, but you'll also see some occasional posts about my favorite teams, the Utah Jazz and BYU Cougars.

For a fun change of pace, I'm going to try to cover the Flash in the chronological order in which the stories occur, not necessarily when they were published. So I'll start with Issue #0, then do the Justice League run that happened five years in the past, then I'll start with Flash #1. It'll be pretty tough to figure out what exactly when the Justice League stories happen in relation to the stories in The Flash (I don't think anybody really knows that), but I'll do my best. I should have the review for #0 up in a couple of days, but I'm not going to hold myself to a strict schedule, mainly because I don't want to make promises I can't keep. Mostly, I just hope you'll share in my love and enjoyment in this exciting and entertaining character.

For a little bonus, here are the first official "appearances" of the Flash in the New 52 — the covers of Justice League #1. The New 52 began on Aug. 31, 2011, with Justice League #1, which doesn't have the Flash in it, so I won't be covering it, but since he is on all 10 of the covers, I figured I should show them here. (This monumental issue went through several re-prints, getting a new cover for each one.) I want to use this blog to document and show every time Barry Allen/The Flash appears in the New 52, but I wasn't sure what to do with these covers. They're not really a story connected to the continuity, they're just covers. So I'll stick them here and begin my official coverage with The Flash #0.

These first covers are by Jim Lee, Scott Williams and Alex Sinclair.

This is the original, main cover, which was the first time anybody saw these characters in their new costumes in the new continuity. The seams on Flash's costume aren't very well defined here, but I like that his mask covers his eyebrows. I know, that shouldn't be an issue, but early in Justice League, Jim Lee just started to show Flash's blond eyebrows sticking out from his mask for no reason. It wasn't always that way, and it's much better when it's not. Anyway, this is a good, exciting cover, which it had to be because of its importance. I am also really happy that Scott Williams inked the black-and-white cover. He won't be doing that for later issues, and while Jim Lee's pencils are unparalleled, they can be a bit difficult to enjoy without the inks.

The first variant cover was done by David Finch, Richard Friend and Peter Steigerwald.

I'm not sure why he drew everyone so evil looking. I just don't get it. Everyone looks really ugly and stupid. I think Wonder Woman's too short, Batman's too tall, Superman's too old, and why is Flash being struck by lightning? Even the black-and-white seems a bit off, and I'm not sure the inks would've helped it.

After this comic book sold out like crazy, they printed more editions with more variant covers. Here's some more by Jim Lee and his team.

This one feels a bit rushed to me, which I can understand. They're busy trying to get the next issues out, when suddenly they have to throw together a new cover. And that's fine, it's not a bad cover by any mean, just not really special. The black-and-white didn't get the inks, but I think it's OK here because there isn't any background for the characters to accidentally blend into, which can happen with Jim Lee's pencil work.

This cover is by Ivan Reis and his team.

Reis did a lot of the Justice League variant covers, which were usually pretty good, but this one just makes the characters look pretty cartoony to me. It is better than making them look evil, but I don't like them to resemble the Super Friends so much. Maybe my main problem with this is the coloring because the the black-and-white doesn't bother me so much.

The next two are sideways covers, which I hate. Why do they have to be sideways? Other than that, they're both pretty good covers by Jim Lee and company.

The most interesting thing for me with this cover is the people in the background — people I haven't seen in Justice League yet, even though I'm writing this a year later. I recognize Deadman, Firestorm and Hawkman, who have appeared in the New 52, and the Atom, who I don't think has made an official appearance yet, although his alter ego, Ray Palmer, was briefly mentioned in Action Comics. I am ashamed to admit that I don't recognize the other people, but I honestly don't care enough to look them up.

This last cover is really just a collection of images from the first six issues of Justice League, with the exception of the Flash, which came from a variant cover for The Flash drawn by Jim Lee. I guess he just never really drew him that well in Justice League.

So there you have it. Now that you know what the Flash looks like, you can learn who he is and follow his adventures in approximate chronological order with me. Enjoy!