Friday, March 27, 2015
The Flash #30
Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Kate Durré Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor
I'm back! After the departure of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, combined with the disappointment of Trinity War and Forever Evil, I needed to take a break away from The Flash and The New 52. But after learning DC will finally stop using the New 52 label after Convergence, I decided to suck it up and cover the remaining issues carrying that tag. When all is said and done, this will hopefully be a comprehensive list of every single Flash appearance in a comic with "The New 52" on the cover. Or, in "event" terms, from Flashpoint to Convergence. Just a word of warning, though. I took a break for a reason. There's a good chance I won't be liking this Venditti/Jensen/Booth run very much. So don't expect as many positive reviews as I had in the past. Of course, there's a chance my angry reviews could be even more entertaining than my positive ones. We'll see. In any case, thank you for joining me on this ride.
OK, let's start with the cover. It looks like Flash is saving a guy from crashing his motorcycle and stopping another guy from robbing someone. Central City is still in ruins from the events in Forever Evil, and overall, the Flash looks ... fine. The art is going to be very hard for me on this run. I don't like Brett Booth's style. Which is odd to say, since I enjoyed his Vibe covers so much, and was perfectly happy with him replacing Manapul. But the more I've seen of Booth's style, the more I've become disenchanted by it. Forgive the pun, but his style is all flash and no substance. It's very spiffy and shiny, but inconsistent and lacking in the crucial emotional expressions. I'm not against Booth, per se, I'm just not a huge fan. And I'm going to do my best to not compare him to the visionary Manapul.
Our story actually begins in the future. Five years from now, in Central City, Flash arrives at the scene of an accident only to see Iris strapped to a stretcher and being loaded onto an ambulance. A white-haired official (not sure if it's supposed to be Darryl Frye) pulls Flash back, saying the police need to do their jobs — they haven't even identified the teenager who was also in the car. The official explains that the kid flat-lined right after the EMTs arrived, and they were unable to revive him. The old man then rather rudely rips into the Flash for not being there to prevent the accident. But Flash is no longer listening to him, horrified by this sight:
Quick note: If the EMTs worked on this poor kid and tried, but failed to revive him, why did they leave his corpse in a mangled heap on the ground? I'm no paramedic, but I'm pretty sure that's not standard protocol. On TV, you always see them respectfully covering the deceased with a white sheet. Or something like that. Anyway, enough complaining.
Now. We arrive at the Central City Police Station downtown precinct, which is in pretty bad shape. Not only was it beat up with the rest of the city during Forever Evil, but it has also attracted a fair amount of remarkably tame graffiti — mostly calling the cops pigs and drawing a "not" sign over the Flash symbol. Our hero, Barry Allen, is napping in the wrecked records room, when he's visited by his girlfriend, Patty Spivot, who works above him as a hematologist. Patty tells him he's late, and Barry says he'll have no trouble cleaning the room. But Patty was referring to his appointment with the psychologist. Apparently everyone on the force is required to be cleared for duty, which gives Barry the chance to get his old job back.
Barry starts to clean the room, and he and Patty fall into what has become a familiar argument: Barry is having a hard time balancing his day job with his career as a superhero, and keeps losing track of time. To help alleviate his chronic tardiness, Patty presents Barry with a watch set to the station's clocks, so he can no longer have an excuse for being late. Barry appreciates the gift, and finally admits his hesitation to talk to the "shrink." Patty says it's unpleasant to relive the Crime Syndicate's wave of terror, but promises it feels better to be able to talk it out. Barry insists he needs to be out doing, not sitting around talking. But Patty points out that he's been working nonstop day and night to help get the city back to order. She then finally shoves her boyfriend out the door to his dreaded appointment.
As Barry walks in, his old friend James Forrest walks out, looking quite a bit thinner from when we last saw him. Forrest insists he doesn't need this "new-age nonsense" and it'll take more than a few capes to rattle his 20 years of experience. So Barry takes a deep breath and enters the room with Dr. Janus. She begins the session by going over Barry's past and saying there's enough drama there to spend several months of therapy on. But in the interest of time, she'll stick with the recent history. She reminds Barry how important this evaluation is, explaining that without it, defense attorneys will be able to have every case thrown out on claims of the department being mentally unstable.
So they begin. Barry admits he hates seeing his city being torn apart, and he says he should have been there to stop things. Now it's so bad, he doesn't even know where to start. Dr. Janus says it's natural to feel responsible, but ultimately realistic. Lucky for Barry, Dr. Janus spends quite a bit of time looking down at her notes, which gives him time to zip out and do some cleanup as the Flash without her noticing. He takes a flyer from a girl looking for her dog, and passes Forrest, who's having an emotional breakdown while eating lunch on a park bench.
Barry avoids the specifics of his whereabouts during the attack, simply telling Dr. Janus that he was trapped, and had run right into it. Barry still insists on saying he could have done more, saved more lives, but he failed the city. Dr. Janus again tells him he can't shoulder all that responsibility. She asks him if he thinks he'd be able to punch out Grodd, and tells Barry to accept that there are some villains too powerful for the police. As she talks, Flash patches a large hole in Iron Heights Prison, finds the girl's lost dog, and puts it and the flyer right in front of Forrest on the bench.
Dr. Janus tells Barry that he needs to be grateful that he's alive, and that he can work through his grief by reestablishing routines and connecting with other people. She then takes a bathroom break, which gives Flash enough time to rescue a bunch of people from a collapsing bridge. And we're treated to a heartwarming scene of Forrest returning the dog to the little girl. Dr. Janus then concludes the evaluation by asking Barry why he wants to stay on the force. Barry says he wants to make a difference, bring criminals to justice and to help people. So Janus decides to recommend Barry to return to the force, but she wants to continue seeing Barry every couple of weeks. While he has noble intentions, they're not necessarily healthy. And Dr. Janus is worried Barry will push himself too hard and break.
Barry then proudly tells Patty that he's well adjusted and heading back to the lab immediately. But he notices his new watch is already two minutes late, and he suggests they return it. But Patty thinks he's just trying to make up an excuse to stop wearing it, and she instead talks about how great it'll be for them to be working together again.
Twenty years from now, Barry is a mess. He's wearing a fancy new blue suit, and still has the watch Patty gave him. But when he looks at it, he realizes he's lost two years, eight months, seven hours, 56 minutes and 12 seconds. The distraught hero is surrounded by newspaper clippings, lamenting all the time he's lost. But Barry claims he now understands where it all went wrong. He pulls up a clipping that says, "Funeral Held for Teen Killed in Car Accident," which shows a picture of the boy we saw die at the beginning of this issue. Barry says, "I'm on my way. I promise, Wally ... I won't ever be late again."
Future Flash. I'm ready for some time travel with the Flash. Manapul and Buccellato avoided it, but the Flash has always been about time travel. I don't think I'm wholly on board with this "losing time" concept, but I am intrigued by this future Flash. The pre-52 Barry died while still in his prime, so we never got to see what he'd be like after 25 years of being the Flash. And this older Barry apparently feels like his career was a failure, and is quite desperate to fix it, which makes him quite compelling.
I also liked how this issue dealt a lot with the Forever Evil aftermath, but I don't think it went far enough with it. I really wanted a detailed rundown of what actually happened. Did Grodd kill Solovar? How many Rogues survived? This was the place to address these types of questions, but it ignored them. And I have a sinking feeling in my gut they'll never be answered.
Wally West. So here it comes. Yeah, I know he didn't do anything other than die in this issue, but I still put him in the "Bad" category simply for being black. I'm a horrible racist, I know. But I am strongly opposed to the idea of changing a pre-exisiting character's ethnicity to create more diversity. If DC wants more diversity, then DC should create more diverse characters or promote existing diverse characters. But don't make radical changes to beloved, legacy characters. And yes, changing a character's race is a radical change. A white man's experiences are different from a black man's, regardless where you're from. In my opinion, race is as strong a defining characteristic as age, gender and sexuality. How many changes can you make to a character before that character becomes someone else? To me, this version of Wally is a completely separate and different character who just so happens to have the same name.
I guess what really makes me mad is it feels like DC is telling me I was wrong to like the old Wally. I never cared that Wally was white, but since he was, that's what I grew accustomed to and appreciated about the character. It's as if DC is admitting a mistake in making another major character be a white guy, and now their universe is bogged down with too many of them. Wally was quietly shoved to the sidelines during Flash: Rebirth, and completely swept under the rug after Flashpoint. After years of complaints from the fans, DC finally acquiesced, but with a caveat. They basically said that the only way for a "Wally West" to exist in this new age, it would have to be an ethnically diverse "Wally West." They could have easily created a new character, or dug up an old one like Jenni Ognats, but they chose the quickest, sloppiest way to pay lip service to the fans while simultaneously checking off some mark on an imaginary diversity quota sheet. When they made the Justice League animated series, they chose John Stewart as the Green Lantern instead of making Hal Jordan black. Why does it have to be so complicated in comics?
I could go on, but I'll wrap things up here. After all, I'm not that big of a Wally fan. I've always liked Barry better, and Impulse is really my favorite character of all time. But Wally was such a huge, constant presence in the DC Universe for two decades that it feels wrong for him to be seemingly treated with so little care by the editorial board. I do have a theory about this. The guys in charge now, namely Geoff Johns, were big Barry fans when they were kids. So now that they're calling the shots, they're trying to re-create their nostalgia. I suspect in about 10 years, we'll get a new group of people in charge who grew up with Wally and Impulse from the '90s and will do everything they can to bring that era back to life. It's only a matter of time.
Of course, very little of this has to do with the issue at hand. I don't think it's fair to pin this all on Venditti, Jensen or Booth. So I'll wrap things up by saying this was a perfectly average comic book. It transitioned from the previous major event and established the new plot line for the series. But as the debut issue for a new creative team, it didn't particularly grab my attention. I guess I needed something a little more spectacular to grab me and show that I'm in store for something amazing.
Final score: 5 out of 10
Next time, we'll take a larger look at the post-Forever Evil world with Justice League #30.