Saturday, August 29, 2015

Flash Timelines

We've just made it through a bunch of time travel in The Flash, and we're about to embark on some more time travel, so I thought I'd do a quick post explaining all the different timelines we've seen. Analyzing the time travel in the comics can be confusing, because the point of reference is always the ambiguous "now." So I've assigned some arbitrary years to these events, keeping in mind that time moves much slower in comic books than real life. Events such as Gorilla Warfare and Forever Evil took about half a year to come out, but the actual story only lasted a couple of days.

In 2011, Barry Allen learned that Eobard Thawne had traveled back in time and killed his mother. So Barry went back to prevent that horrific event, but accidentally created the bleak world of Flashpoint. He eventually was able to travel back in time again and stop himself from saving his mom, but (with some manipulation by Pandora) Barry didn't return everything completely back to normal, and actually created a new timeline, which coincided with DC's launch of The New 52. We'll call this ...

Timeline A


In Timeline A, Barry Allen became the Flash approximately in the year 2006. He joined the Justice League soon after and helped them repel Darkseid's invasion. In 2011, Flash battled Mob Rule and the newly super-powered Rogues. In 2012, Flash fought off Gorilla Grodd from invading Central City, took on the Reverse-Flash, and was involved in the Trinity War and Forever Evil events.

Using 2012 as our "now," we can say that Wally West was killed in 2017 — an event which slowly began Barry's descent into madness. In 2019, the Trickster accidentally killed a young family and committed suicide. In 2024, Captain Cold died of cancer, and in 2028, Mirror Master accidentally killed 11 people. In 2032, Flash killed Gorilla Grodd and began his trek backward through time. Because he wore a blue suit, I call him Blue to distinguish him from the past, sane versions of the Flash.

Blue's first stop was in 2028, where he prevented Mirror Master from killing 11 people. By doing this, and allowing Sam Scudder to die, Blue created a new timeline. But since we don't see anything result from this new timeline, we'll just call it Timeline A' and move on.


Blue then visited Leonard Snart on his deathbed in 2024, but he didn't change anything, so no new timeline was created. But he did create Timeline A'' when he prevented Trickster from killing a family and convinced Axel Walker to not commit suicide.


Once again, this new timeline is virtually meaningless for our narrative, as we don't see anything post-2019 with a good Trickster. The same applies for the quick series of changes Blue makes after that — stopping the Top from also committing suicide, and rescuing a couple of groups of people.


All in all, Blue created at least five new timelines that we really don't care about. But he did create a new, significant timeline in 2017, when he saved Wally West's life and killed the Reverse-Flash. We'll call this ...

Timeline B


After killing Daniel West, Blue battled the current version of the Flash. The two Barrys created a massive Speed Force-induced explosion, which sent Blue further back in time, killed the current Flash, and gave Wally super speed. Wally spent several years training and studying his powers before mastering time travel and finding the insane Blue in the year 2012, which by this point was now ...

Timeline C


Wally sacrificed himself to save the current Barry's life. But after Wally died, Barry was sucked into the Speed Force, and Blue assumed his identity for a few days. Eventually, Barry escaped the Speed Force, and teamed up with Blue to defeat Selkirk. Blue died in the battle, leaving only the current Flash behind, and bringing everything (more or less) back to normal. It is possible to use one of these time-travel jumps to explain the slight differences between The Flash #0 and Secret Origins #7 ... if you obsess over continuity as much as I do.

So hopefully this didn't make things more confusing. Next time, we'll begin DC's weekly series called Futures End. As the title suggests, it takes place in the future, but (surprise, surprise) it doesn't match up very well with what we saw in The Flash. In Futures End #0, we'll start 35 years from now (2047) in what I believe could be considered a continuation of this new Timeline C. I'll explain more when I review that issue.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Superman #40


Powerless

John Romita Jr.: Writer & Penciller
Klaus Janson: Inker
Dean White: Colorist
Travis Lanham: Letterer
Cover by Romita Jr. & Janson w/White
Jeremy Bent and Andrew Marino: Assistant Editors
Eddie Berganza: Editor
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
By special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family

Our cover shows Superman demonstrating his new, solar flare power for the Justice League. Naturally, this power was never mentioned in the main Justice League series because Geoff Johns doesn't pay attention to the other books, but that's a different matter altogether. I think this is a pretty good cover that gives us a good idea of what happens inside the issue. I'm not a fan of Romita Jr.'s style, but I kind of prefer to have something unique and stylized over the generic house style we usually see.

Our story begins in the Khentii Mountain, in outer Mongolia, elevation 9,200 feet. What appears to be a volcano erupting is actually Superman testing out his new power, which leaves him exhausted and naked. Before too long, Batman shows up in his Batplane, and actually jokes about picking up naked hitchhikers.

Twenty-four hours later, Superman is fully recharged and is holding a meeting on the Justice League Watchtower. Superman talks about how he's coming to enjoy the sensation of being human after he uses his flare, especially having to eat food like everyone else. But ultimately, he wants the League to help him figure out his new power and learn to control it. Wonder Woman is worried whether this flare is dangerous to Superman, and Aquaman asks if his powers return completely. Flash agrees that these are good questions, and becomes concerned by Superman's uncertainty.


So Cyborg says a test is in order — a test which he has stupidly dubbed JL 1-1A. Exactly 45 minutes later, the League meets in the recreational center of the satellite, where Batman and Cyborg take great pleasure in blasting Superman with rocket launchers at point-blank range. Wonder Woman delivers a mighty blow to her boyfriend's face, and reports that his head is as hard as Themysciran reinforced concrete. Flash is happy to see Superman's back to his invulnerable old self, but now he wants to test his reflexes. Flash pushes a button, which causes a massive weight to instantly slam down over Superman. But the Man of Steel is able to dodge the weight fast enough, and he jokes they should rename the "rec" room the "wreck" room.

Cyborg then says they need to test and measure Superman's solar flare. He's spent the past day preparing the satellite's jet exhaust tunnels to handle the blast, and has reinforced the area with four feet of titanium to protect the Watchtower. Cyborg jokes that maybe Superman's demonstration will solve the energy needs of the entire planet — a joke the Flash calls "hysterical." So Superman strips down to his underwear and enters the tunnels to perform the solar flare once more.

Cyborg's protections mostly hold, although Superman did cause quite a bit of damage. Flash asks where the broom and dustpan are, and Aquaman playfully shields Wonder Woman's eyes from the naked Superman. Although Superman feels like he's gaining better control of the trigger of this new power, he still has a lot of questions. But Batman has the most important question right now: Are you hungry?

Six hours later, the Justice League (in their civilian identities) meet at a tavern on the corner of Grand Avenue and 18th Street in Metropolis. Flash proposes a toast to the world's first controlled and monitored super flatus (a burp or fart), which makes everyone laugh. Cyborg, who has not joined the party, calls up Bruce on his cellphone to report he thinks he's found a way to harness the energy from Superman's flares, although it would be costly. But Bruce tells Vic he'll have to call back later, because Clark is having his first beer and becoming a pretty funny drunk.

Clark makes plans to head to an Italian restaurant after this, then loudly boasts of how he can use his new power to take down "super cosmic baddies." When he realizes he's talking too loud, Clark excitedly whispers about how his power will eventually lead to world peace, while Barry teases him for having the tolerance of a flea.

And that's the end of the Flash's role in this issue. Clark wakes up hungover the next morning, and rushes off into a minor battle as Superman, forgetting his powers haven't returned yet. He eventually does save the day, but he takes a big cut to his head, which is captured by civilians' cellphones and soon shown around the world. And when Clark shows up to work with a bandage over the same spot as Superman's wound, Lois Lane takes notice and becomes suspicious.

The Good:

This was an unusually light and funny issue — a rarity in the New 52. Issues like these were so rare, in fact, that once DC dropped the New 52 tag, they brought in a bunch of out-of-continuity titles with a very goofy and comical tone. Perhaps DC wouldn't have need to do that had the New 52 included more issues like this. Moments with the Justice League just hanging out, playing video games, teasing each other, and going to bars. You don't have to be 100 percent serious all the time, nor do you have to be 100 percent goofy all the time. And I think this issue does a pretty good job of having fun in the beginning and ending on a rather serious note.

The Bad:

This issue reminds me of a stupid '90s issue of the electric blue Superman insisting on putting his new powers to the test against the Justice League. As cheesy as I thought that issue was, I think it did a better job of using the JLA's powers against Superman — for instance, he actually raced the Flash around the world. In this issue, Batman wielded a bazooka, Wonder Woman threw one punch, and Flash pushed a button. And as usual, Aquaman did nothing. Kind of a missed opportunity.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time, we'll jump ahead to the far future of ... five years from now ... in the Futures End event. But before we do that, I think it'll be beneficial to examine all the various timelines the Flash has been involved in.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Flash #40


The End of the Road

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

It is fitting that my last review of The Flash has a cover filled with inconsistencies. As we saw last issue, the Flash is tied down flat on a stone tablet — not awkwardly straddling this wheel-thing. And all those people cheering in the background? Not there, either. I know Booth had to draw these covers far ahead of time, but more often than not, his covers either had nothing to do with the corresponding issue or were significantly different in some way. It really annoys me that he's so bad at this.

We resume our story right where we left off in Central City, with Overload electrocuting the future blue Flash. Patty, still nursing a sprained shoulder caused by Blue, finally believes Iris' theory that the Flash is a murderer. Iris, refreshingly, has decided that human lives are more important than salacious headlines, and she bravely stands up to Overload, telling him not to kill the innocent bystanders. Overload prepares to kill her, but luckily, Blue is able to recover quickly and punch Overload.


Blue explains to Overload that he was never able to catch him in his time, but by studying his victims, Blue was able to deduce how Overload's powers work and develop a suit to protect him from Overload in case he ever found him. However, Blue's suit has one weakness — the watch Patty gave him 20 years ago. Overload is able to hone in on that watch and cause it to explode, ripping apart Blue's arm. Patty rushes to Blue's side, and he finally tells her that he's the future version of Barry Allen.

Beyond space-time, in the savage world of the Speed Force, the current Flash wakes up to find himself tied to a big, flat stone, with Selkirk standing over him, wearing a stupid hooded robe. Flash shouts at Selkirk for going back on his word, and Selkirk explains that he will indeed help Flash regain his powers, and then he'll take them. Selkirk says he's known exactly how to escape the Speed Force for a long time, but was never able to without an avatar of the Speed Force, which is the Flash. Barry asks Selkirk about his people, and Selkirk says he lied to them that he'd share Flash's powers with each of them. He sent Spotter and Johnny (whose name is spelled differently in each issue) back to the Outpost to bring all the people to the mountain, but Selkirk plans to be long gone by the time they reach the temple. So Selkirk begins the ceremony, which is actually quite simple. He pokes Flash with a lightning-shaped dagger, and then says some magic words. Suddenly, Flash is consumed in lightning/energy.

In Central City, Blue and Patty sit and have a rather long conversation while Overload is trying to and possibly killing people. Patty sits and asks a bunch of questions, and Blue tries to justify his actions, saying he loves her so much and wanted a second chance, but now he know he betrayed her, blah, blah, blah. Finally, Patty tells him he can't undo the damage he caused, but he can still stop Overload, who is literally frying people to death while these two idiots have their heart-to-heart. And insensitive members of the crowd are tweeting pictures of the carnage with captions like, "Dude b trippin." I guess the people of Central City are quite used to things like this by now.

Blue says he hit Overload with everything he had (one simple punch), but it barely staggered him. Blue concludes that the WiFi towers are making Overload too powerful, so he has his suit generate a robotic arm for him, then proceeds to carry out his plan to disrupt Overload's signal. Blue first grabs a cellphone from a girl who was having the stupidest text conversation ever: "At that event at the park. Some weirdo in a top hat is fighting the Flash. CRAZY. Going to take a photo! The guy shoots energy OUT OF HIS HANDS. This is going to get me so many likes on Instagram! #superhero." And this girl's stupid friend responds with "LOLZ!" Before Blue grabs the phone and texts, "Borrowing your friend's phone. —Flash."

Blue continues running through the crowd, grabbing everybody's phones, tablets and laptops. He makes phone calls, sends texts, takes stupid selfies with his tongue sticking out, and does everything to crash the brand new wireless Internet network. In some inexplicable way, Blue's plan works, and the network not only crashes, but the massive WiFi towers somehow explode violently. Then another inexplicable thing happens. Overload completely returns to normal. He not only loses his powers, but can no longer hearing the buzzing of electronics in his head. Overload thanks Blue for taking away his pain, then wonders why Blue isn't trying to kill him anymore. As the police take Overload away, Blue dramatically falls to his knees and says, "I'm not that man anymore."

In the savage world of the Speed Force, Flash is screaming in agony as the lightning returns to his body. Selkirk says another magic word in an attempt to take the power, but he gets blasted by the lightning and is severely injured. The light show ends, and Flash is perfectly fine. Finding he has his powers back, he inspects Selkirk, who has half his face fried off. Flash says he would have helped Selkirk and his people, but he chooses not to, and rushes out of the Speed Force and back home, not noticing that Selkirk is still alive and does, in fact, have super speed.

In Central City, Blue approaches Patty, who now has her arm in a sling. He tells her he really wanted to kill Overload, and easily could have, but she helped him see how far he's fallen and remind him of the man he can be. But Patty is furious with him, saying he might have been the Flash once, but he's not him now and never will be. Patty sadly adds that the man she loved is gone. And right on cue, the man she loves returns in a sparkly explosion.

Flash is shocked to see his future self surrounded by chaos and carnage. Flash demands to know what Blue did to his city, and Blue says Flash can have it and Patty back. He says he's exhausted, and basically asks his younger self to kill him. Before Flash can wrap his mind around the insanity of the situation, Selkirk suddenly arrives, demanding to have the rest of Flash's power. Flash and Blue instantly decide to team up and take down Selkirk, but they initially have a hard time even hitting him. Apparently, Selkirk has honed his intellect through a lifetime of study, which means that he can think faster than both the Flashes.

So Flash decides to take the fight away from the city, and he drags Blue with him out to an empty field. Blue reminds Flash that the Speed Force won't allow two versions of them to exist in the same time, which is what caused the explosion that killed Wally and sent Flash to the Speed Force. Flash says he wants to cause an ever bigger explosion because Selkirk is a madman and can't go free. So Blue says he'll sacrifice himself to cause the explosion, which he does by ... I don't know ... pulling some energy from Flash?

However he did it, Blue created a massive burst of energy that sent Selkirk flying away, and left himself dying at the bottom of a crater. Flash regroups with his future self and offers to help absorb some of the energy. But Blue refuses his help, and with his last words, he tells his younger self that he finally found a clue about their mom's killer — Thawne. After uttering that mysterious, yet significant name, Blue fades away in a puff of smoke, leaving the correct, current Flash behind.

Later, Barry finally returns home to his girlfriend, Patty Spivot. However, Patty has packed her bags and is leaving. She tells Barry she knows he's the real one, but she can't look at his face without seeing the murderous monster his future self was. So, just like that, Patty walks away from Barry forever.

Elsewhere, we see that Selkirk is still alive, but paralyzed. But he's not alone. Someone picks him up and brings him to a man who introduces himself as Professor Zoom. Selkirk moans that all his studying was for nothing, but Zoom says he can still serve a purpose, and he promises to teach Selkirk all about the Speed Force.

The Good:

I had a hard time containing my disgust during the synopsis. It just sucks! This is a really horrible, terrible issue. I did like that Iris actually, almost, did something heroic for a change, but that was a very brief and fleeting moment. And I guess I should be excited to see the New 52 version of Eobard Thawne, but I can't follow this creative team for one more issue. Thankfully, I can use the dropping of the New 52 slogan as an excuse to end this blog.

The Bad:

Patty Spivot. Iris West had slowly been degrading, and both version of Barry Allen had devolved to something between a complete idiot and clinically insane. But through all that, Patty somehow remained the lone stalwart, reasonable, likable character on the title. Until this issue. Overload is killing people all around her, Blue has just demonstrated his murderous tendency and sprained her shoulder, but she still insists on running to his side and engaging in a lengthy heart-to-heart conversation with him. I know she did end the conversation by directing Blue to actually take down the bad guy, but she's the one who started the conversation and somehow felt it was appropriate to ask a whole bunch of questions. And then she welcomes back her true boyfriend by walking out on him. Actually, I'm not too made she did that. I just don't like her reasoning. She should have left Barry because of the way he treated her before the future Barry replaced him. Remember, the current Barry had turned into a huge jerk, looking for every excuse to ditch his girlfriend to hang out with a random 12-year-old boy. That's a much more valid reason than "you look like the murderer who impersonated you for a few days."

Overload fight. I hated how Blue punched Overload once, then later said he hit him with everything he's got. No that's not! You've trained under Lady Shiva and Batman! At least punch him twice! But more egregious: this was the stupidest way to beat a bad guy ever. I don't know a whole lot about WiFi, but I'm pretty sure what Blue did here is impossible. Even if he was somehow able to use everyone's devices to push the network past the absolute limit, the WiFi tower would not explode like that! The servers would crash, sure, but the physical structure would be fine. And how, exactly, did Blue crash the servers? They said these towers (even though we only ever see one) could provide WiFi for the entire city. We never see Blue leave the city to bring in more devices than it can handle. He just commandeers everyone's phones. But here's the thing: they were already using their phones on the WiFi. How could Blue possibly force more data through the phones than was already being used? Just because he can run at super speed doesn't mean that he can magically speed up electronics to somehow use an hour's worth of data in one second. I don't get it. And what was with all the people of Central City? They don't care about the people dying around them, nor are they very efficient texters. Instead of telling your friend that you're going to take a picture, how about just taking the picture first and sending it to your friend? Finally, how in the heck did the destruction of the WiFi tower(s) cure Overload? There are still a million electronic devices operating just fine. Only the WiFi was disabled.

Flash's escape from the Speed Force. When Selkirk took Flash to the mountain, they made a big deal of what a dangerous journey it was. They could only get three others to accompany them, and one of them died. But this issue opens with Selkirk apparently sending the two others away to get the rest of the people. Why? How did they go along with this plan? Selkirk says the whole village was in on a plan to take Flash's powers. So why didn't anyone else come to the mountain with them? Why were Spotter and Johnny/Johnnie so willing to leave Selkirk alone with the Flash? The writers needed to get rid of the extraneous characters, and they did so in a sloppy, nonsensical way. But what really, really gets me mad is what Barry does once he gets his powers back. He doesn't even bother to check if Selkirk is alive. And he makes no effort to save anyone else from the Speed Force. Yeah, they were all jerks who conspired against you, but that's only because they were desperate to get out of there. And regardless of what Savitar tried to do, he still deserves basic medical attention. The Flash I know and love would have rushed Selkirk back to the Outpost, had the doctor work on him, then do everything he can to pull everybody out of the Speed Force. He wouldn't try to bring them back to their original times, but living in Central City in the 2010s sure beats living in the Speed Force.

Selkirk fight. Selkirk has had super speed for roughly two minutes, and he can already think faster than both Flashes? In the New 52, Barry had quite a bit of trouble learning to think at super speed. He would be able to quickly analyze all possible outcomes, but it would freeze him in his footsteps. And this was after he'd been using his powers for about five years. OK, so Selkirk has been studying these powers for who knows how long. But can he still easily outclass the future blue Flash, who has been using his powers for more than 25 years? I think not! And don't you just love how convenient these Speed Force "explosions" have been? The Speed Force doesn't want two versions of Barry Allen to exist in the same time, but it'll sure take its sweet time trying to expel one of them. And how nice and clean is it that only undesirable, hard-to-explain future version of the characters fell victim to this — the future Wally and future Barry.

Ugh. I hate this issue so much! I did my best to give the new creative team a fair chance, but I did not like anything they did. I didn't like the stories they told, I didn't like how they portrayed the main characters, and I didn't like the art. Sure, there were lots of shiny energy moments, but there was no distinction between the Flash's energy and Overload's. Everything just felt shallow and superficial. I tried my best to objectively score each issue, I really did. During Manapul and Buccellato's run, I regularly handed out 9s and 10s. Under Venditti, Jensen and Booth, I never scored higher than a 5. And this one is my lowest score for a Flash issue.

Final score: 1 out of 10

We're done with The Flash, but we're not done with The New 52. Next time, we'll lighten things up a bit with Superman #40.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Flash #39


Power Loss

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

This cover is a true rarity for this creative team — it actually shows something that happens in this issue. Flash and Selkirk actually do scale a mountain and are chased around by giant pterodactyls. Of course, the Flash's costume isn't as beat up anymore, since he had it repaired. And the floating rocks in the background are more reminiscent of the Francis Manapul Speed Force than what we've actually been seeing lately.

Our story begins during the reign of villains known as "Forever Evil" in Central City. As Deathstorm, Multiplex, Hyena and Typhoon went around killing people at will, one person was actually happy. The man who would become Overload was thrilled by the blackout caused by the Crime Syndicate. With no TVs, computers, radios or phones, he finally put to rest the constant buzzing in his skull. His whole life he'd been living in chronic pain that doctors couldn't explain, until this brief moment of relief. But then the Flash returned and brought order back to the world. The blackout ended, and the buzzing returned for Overload, who finally realized what the source of his pain was. He became uncontrollably furious at his predicament, and accidentally discovered he has electrical powers. Now, still in Central City, Overload tells his horse, Alastair, that he can't suffer anymore and will put a stop to all the buzzing today.

Nearby, Iris West is talking on the phone to her editor, Dave. He's apparently having a hard time believing Iris' story about the Flash becoming a killer, but she asks him to trust her as he did with the missing bodies story, and says she has a source deep in the police department. Iris then heads to her meeting place with the source, who turns out to be Patty Spivot.


Apparently this isn't the first time these two have met in secret, although none of the previous issues dropped any hints of this going on. Anyway, Patty (almost hopefully) tells Iris that some witnesses said Napalm's severed arm was an accident. But Iris reminds her that she was on the scene and watched the Flash nearly slice Napalm's throat. She asks Patty for surveillance feeds and audio from interviews with Napalm, which Patty would be very unlikely to obtain, since she is just a blood analyst. Patty again has a hard time believing that someone who has given so much to the city would become a killer.

So Iris tries a new tactic, and asks Patty if there are any mysterious cases of injuries or deaths the Flash could have caused. As it turns out, Patty has just the case that meets that criteria. Patty tells the reporter about the recent case of the college kid Kyle, who had his heart pulverized. But Patty is quick to say it couldn't have been the Flash. Iris says that maybe the Flash was a hero, but people change — usually for the worse. Without giving too much away, Patty says she has ways of tracking the Flash, and she'll call Iris when he's on the move. If they're going to bring down the hero of Central City, they need hard evidence.

In the Central City Police Department central precinct morgue, the future Barry Allen is examining Overload's first two victims. In Blue's timeline, Overload killed hundreds before escaping in the chaos and was never brought to justice. Now, Blue vows to make things right. He finds that both the victims have some horse hair on them just as Patty walks in. He tells her he's noticed some similarities between one of the bodies Iris found and a recent homicide victim. Blue then abruptly says he needs to leave on "Flash stuff." Patty surreptitiously activates the GPS on her boyfriend's phone and hands it to him before he leaves.

In the savage Speed Force, a land beyond conventional time and space, the current Flash, Selkirk, and three others have begun their climb up the mountain. Suddenly, the group is attacked by quetzalcoatls — the giant dinosaur-birds on the cover. The climbers try to defend themselves with their futuristic weapons, but the twin brother Taylor is swept away by one of the beasts and gruesomely torn limb from limb by the other birds. Flash gets distracted by the carnage and is also captured by a pterodactyl.

Back in Central City, a large crowd has gathered at the public unveiling of some LexCorp broadcast towers that will create a citywide WiFi grid. Overload is in the crowd, preparing to make his move, and Blue is there, as well, planning to prevent the attack. It doesn't take long for Blue to find Overload, and he begins beating the crap out of him, blaming him for killing 207 people and frying all nearby electronics. Blue says this time he'll kill Overload, and someone nearby tells Flash he can't mean that.

In the savage Speed Force, Selkirk is able to save Flash by leaping on the back of the giant pterodactyl and shoving his knife through its neck. Selkirk regroups the climbers and prevents Johnnie from going berserk over the loss of her twin brother. The group soon reaches the top of the mountain, which contains a temple dedicated to the Speed Force. Flash is amazed at the detail of the hieroglyphics on the walls, saying they even surpass the ones he saw in Gorilla City. But as Flash studies the runes, he learns that Selkirk needed a speedster to act as a lightning rod for him to call down the lightning. Just when Barry realizes Selkirk intends to sacrifice him, he's knocked out from behind.

Back in Central City, we see that Patty has somehow caught up to Blue at the WiFi unveiling. She's accompanied by Iris, who is gleefully gloating about having the headline of the decade "Killer Flash" (which is actually a pretty weak headline in this journalist's opinion). Patty tells Blue that if that man is guilty of a crime, then he needs to be arrested, tried and convicted. Blue pauses for a second, but then says he's going to save everyone. Patty tries to stop him, but he roughly tosses her aside, spraining her shoulder. Realizing what he's done, Blue tries to apologize, but Iris rushes to Patty's side and tells Blue to stay away from her. Just then, the WiFi tower is turned on, and Overload goes nuts. He attacks the future Blue Flash, while Selkirk prepares to attack the current Flash.


The Good:

I really can't say there was anything I particularly liked about this issue. I guess I mostly feel relief that some of these story lines are finally beginning to wrap up. And I am very happy I only have one more issue of this creative team to cover.

The Bad:

Iris West. I want to smack her so bad! She is standing three feet away from someone about to commit murder and she is cheering about having the headline of the decade. Seriously?! Did Iris forget about all the Flash's heroics in the past? Did she forget how he saved her from the Speed Force? Is she choosing to ignore the battle against her insane brother, the Reverse-Flash, and the moment where she had super speed and worked alongside Flash? Has it completely escaped her mind that she was once asked to write a story on the Flash's brutality but chose to scrap it do to a lack of evidence, despite the growing public opinion to the contrary raised by Dr. Darwin Elias? Actually, the answer to all these questions is that Robert Venditti and Van Jensen forgot all these things and/or simply didn't care. For whatever reason, they're intent on making Iris the biggest jerk ever, and it's breaking my heart.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next: Flash and future Flash race toward the end of the road!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Flash #38


Skeletons in the Closet

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

Our cover is another symbolic collage of sorts. Blue Flash is crashing through one of Mirror Master's mirrors, and at his immediate left is Patty Spivot. Continuing clockwise, we have the current Flash, Mirror Master, Wally West (who is thankfully not in this issue), Iris West, Selkirk, and the new Rogue, Napalm. I have no idea who that's supposed to be in the bottom left corner. Overload? It sure doesn't look like the guy we say last issue. And there isn't anyone in this issue that looks like that. This is just yet another example of these Flash covers not meshing with the actual content inside. Why are covers so problematic for this creative team?

Our story begins now in Central City, where Blue has finally organized all the dead bodies he led Iris to. And even though Patty has a completely different and equally busy job, she's insisting on helping with the examination of these bodies so she can spend more time with her boyfriend. Of course, this kind of negates Blue's earlier statement about doing all this work at super speed, but whatever.


So Blue begins by quickly determining the cause of death for each victim, determining that most of them were killed by Deathstorm, Typhoon, Hyena and Plastique. But on John Doe 63, Blue finds signs of electrical scarring, as well as trauma consistent with a small-scale explosive event, leading him to believe he's found Overload's first victim. Overload, meanwhile, is out complaining to his horse, Alastair, about all the electronics around him, vowing once again to soon silence all the jabbering fools.

Blue's examination is interrupted by the inexplicable appearance of Iris. Even though she's the most despised woman at the CCPD, they still let her just waltz in to this highly sensitive room. Anyway, Iris thanks Blue for giving her the tip, and says she might have a shot at beating out Lois Lane for the Pulitzer Prize this year. But Barry is furious with Iris' award-chasing attitude, and reminds her that these unidentified victims were real people with real lives. Before Iris can defend herself, the police scanner reports Mirror Master being spotted in the financial district (what kind of a city has a financial district?). Iris immediately excuses herself, saying the Rogues usually end up on the front page above the fold. And Blue callously says there might be a body count if Iris is lucky.

Outside the bounds of time and space, in the savage world of the Speed Force, Barry is finally having his suit repaired by the 18th century seamstress, Louise. She comments on how remarkable his suit is, not even needing patches. Barry says he needs clothes that can come back from a beating (like armor ... but he changed that for some reason). Barry then engages Selkirk in another conversation where he strangely seems shocked out of his mind to be surrounded by things from the past and future.

William Selkirk takes Flash to his room, and explains that in the early 20th century he was a student of the Speed Force. He was a specialist in myths and legends of ancient indigenous cultures, and first came across a mention of the Speed Force during his doctoral studies of anthropology at Oxford. He then spent his family's fortune traveling the world to learn the mystery of the speedsters. He found Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia that depicted lightning granting power to people, and stone carvings in Bolivia that suggested the same thing.

Selkirk published his findings, but was derided as an amateur. So he redoubled his efforts, spending years living with obscure tribes and cultures. Eventually, his travels led him to America, where a Goshute shaman directed him to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. There, Selkirk just happened to come across a tear in the Speed Force. In his exuberance, he stepped too close to it and was sucked in. Selkirk met up with some other people, and he quickly became their leader because he knew the most about the Speed Force and had already spent the past few years living in harsh conditions.

Of course, all Barry cares about from this story is whether Selkirk can help him get his powers back. Selkirk assures him that he's just the man to do it, saying he received his lightning scars from attempting a ritual taught to him by pygmy sprinters in the Congo. So Selkirk gathers a team of a guy named Spotter and the Singer twins, Johnny and Taylor (Johnny's a girl), and they head off for the mountain.

In Central City, Mirror Master pops up in a random bank, accompanied by a guy in a fire suit named Napalm. But Napalm is a bit out of control, and Mirror Master warns him to cool it. Apparently Napalm is the third replacement for Heatwave (who I guess is officially dead by this point), and Mirror Master warns Napalm that if he kills anyone, they'll get a fourth replacement. But Napalm doesn't listen to him, and actually begins to burn the very money they're trying to steal. Blue Flash soon arrives, and he and Mirror Master half-heartedly talk about the Rogues returning to crime after being heroes, and how Captain Cold is the only one who came away from Forever Evil looking good.

Napalm gets pretty excited to see the Flash, and he begins burning everything in sight. Mirror Master becomes disgusted with his behavior, and uses his mirrors to protect the civilians while telling Napalm he's failed his tryout. Blue Flash completely ignores how Sam Scudder just saved a bunch of people and says, "You never change, Scudder. Innocent people always get hurt around you, and it's never your fault." So Mirror Master starts to retreat, but as he pulls Napalm through a mirror with him, Blue uses one of the upgrades on his suit to launch a small projectile at the mirror. The mirror shatters with Napalm's arm halfway through, leaving Sam holding a severed arm on his end, and a screaming, bleeding Napalm in the real world.

Sam is shocked to see the Flash behave so violently, and Blue begins to justify his actions, saying everyone saw how careless Napalm was. He picks up a large shard of glass and says that if he kills Napalm right now, he'll protect the innocent people Napalm was likely to kill later. Iris conveniently arrives right at this crucial moment. Blue sees her and stops himself, throwing Napalm to the police and quickly taking off. Iris calls her editor, Dave, to tell him she has a new story — the Flash is a killer.

At the Central City Police Department Downtown Precinct, Patty is returning to her mystery case of Kyle the college kid. She's found a few fibers in his chest cavity, which appear to be made of graphene, a material decades away from commercial use. James Forrest comes by to tell her about the Flash's incident with Mirror Master, and say that Patty has specifically been requested for this case because of the large amounts of blood. Patty has a hard time believing the Flash actually severed a man's arm. Blue suddenly appears and asks Patty about the fibers she's analyzing. But Patty refuses to tell him about it and coldly walks away.

The Good:

Hmm ... I did like that Patty is finally realizing the Barry she's with is a big jerk. And Selkirk's backstory was semi-interesting, although I'm still sad he's not the New 52 version of Savitar. But really, this is one of the sloppier issues from this creative team, and there isn't much good about it.

The Bad:

Iris West. She has become completely unbearable in every possible way. I start to cringe whenever she appears on page. Not only is she suddenly able to appear whenever and wherever is needed to help the plot, but she now fully epitomizes the absolute worst qualities of any journalist. Immediately after being chewed out for placing her career ahead of people, she tactlessly gets excited at another chance to be on the front page. And if future Barry is so angry with how she's handling the story he gave her, then why did he give it to her in the first place? He easily could have uncovered the truth as Barry Allen. I guess we have to chalk this up to another bizarre, inconsistent action of the crazy future Flash.

Lost opportunity with the Rogues. This is actually the first time the current Rogues have shown up in The Flash since they saved Central City from the Crime Syndicate. And all we got was Mirror Master and some expendable Heatwave replacement. Where was Sam's girlfriend, Glider? Where was Weather Wizard? These guys had their own miniseries. But now? Just a quick cameo to remind us of how violent the future Flash is. The few, throwaway lines about the Rogues' role after Forever Evil and Captain Cold could have and should have been the focus of an entire issue. I love this family of criminals, and I really want to know what they're up to.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: On the hunt for a killer!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Flash #37


The Savage World of the Speed Force!

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

Our cover is very shiny and slightly messy, full of the usual special effects that dominate this art team's style. As you can see, the future blue Flash is battling a new villain named Overload, whom he casually mentioned recently. But as is usually the case with this creative team, the cover doesn't really correspond with the story inside. The issue ends with a brief introduction of Overload — nothing close to a fight with the Flash, as the cover implies.

Our story begins outside the bounds of normal space-time, with the real, current Barry Allen being led into Selkirk's fortress, which he calls the Outpost, the only human settlement in this patch of the Speed Force.


Barry is shocked to see so many survivors in the settlement, and Selkirk explains he's from the year 1911. He introduces Barry to Louise, a seamstress from 1762, and Doctor Leavell, from 2054. Once again, Barry is absolutely shocked to hear Selkirk mention anything from the future. Selkirk goes on to explain that time is frozen in the Speed Force. They live in perpetual daylight and never age. They don't know how long they've been there, but has been long enough for Joseph and Bev Okoro to fall in love and get married. But sadly, they're unable to have children in the Speed Force.

Barry then says exactly what I've been thinking the past few issues. He tells Selkirk he's been to the Speed Force before, but it looked nothing like this. Selkirk speculates that Barry's previous trip was to a different island in the Speed Force. He says they can see the other islands sometimes, but can't ever get to them. When Barry complains once again about being powerless, Selkirk says he might be able to help him with that. But before he can elaborate, one of the guards alerts them of an impending attack.

In Central City, Iris West decides to check out the news tip Blue gave her. She dresses all in black (but doesn't bother concealing her face) and cuts through a fence into a yard of dozens of refrigerated trailers. And each trailer is stacked full of dead bodies left over from the Crime Syndicate attack. Iris spends the next day chasing down the mayor until she learns that the city didn't have the manpower to process all the bodies, so they dumped them all into the trailers without even identifying them. Iris writes an amazing article capturing the coverup and the emotion from the hundreds of people who were never able to find their missing loved ones. Iris' editor, Dave, publicly congratulates her for the work she did, and refers to her as a "young reporter," even though she's been a reporter for about five years now. He also doesn't seem to know or care that Iris discovered those bodies through illegal means.

At the Central City Police Department Downtown Precinct, Director David Singh is furious over Iris' article, since it means his already overworked department now has an extra few hundred homicide victims to process. And the city's hasty dumping of the bodies broke the chain of evidence, making them that much harder to identify them and determine who killed them. Blue volunteers to take on the whole case by himself, and Singh warns him about the building media frenzy around it. Blue says he'll be able to handle it, but Patty Spivot pulls him aside, worried that he's taking on too much once again. Blue says he plans on using his super-speed to process all the evidence, but Patty says they still have a lot to do with their regular jobs, including a bizarre new case.

Patty explains that a grad student at Cather College was found dead in his dorm room. Other students reported hearing an argument and gunshots, but there were no injuries on the victim, and his door was still locked from the inside. Patty asks Blue to help her crack open the mystery, but he takes one look at the case file, and declines. Blue points out that the victim's hard drive was full of diatribes about his fellow students, and his plans to kill them. Blue flippantly asks who cares how the man died, which shocks Patty. She asks her boyfriend if he still cares about truth and justice, but he coldly replies that justice has been served. (And if there's any confusion, the victim they're talking about is Kyle, whom Blue killed last issue.)

Patty apologizes for Barry's behavior, then assists Jane in Kyle's autopsy. Jane reports only a few bruises on Kyle, and can only surmise that his heart suddenly stopped beating, which is odd, since he seemed healthy enough. Once Jane cuts Kyle open, she and Patty see that his heart has been pureed. Patty says she's seen this once before on one of the Reverse-Flash's victims. But she knows Daniel West is still locked up in Iron Heights, and the Kid Flash of the Teen Titans seems to be a hero.

In the savage world of the Speed Force, Barry is armed with an old-fashioned handgun to help fight off the attack. Suddenly, the gate bursts open, revealing the attackers to be people riding dinosaurs and animals that have been augmented with robotics. Selkirk takes out an elephant with a Blastmaster 3 from 2236. But the futuristic rifle needs to cool down for a minute, and during the skirmish, Selkirk is hit from behind by a large prehistoric bird. Barry saves him by shooting the bird in the head.

The attackers are repelled, and Selkirk explains they were paleo-Indians, who have become bolder in their attacks since domesticating the monstrosities the were riding. Selkirk tells Barry he's good in a fight, and he offers a place for him to stay in the Outpost. Barry appreciates the offer, but says he needs to return to his life and is eager to get his powers back. Selkirk says it won't be easy, but they'll probably be able to help him regain his powers by taking him to the top of a tall mountain and try to call down the lightning.

In Central City, Blue has taken Patty out to a fancy restaurant to dine on swordfish. But Patty is still mad at him for his callous behavior earlier. Blue admits he was out of line, and says he's frustrated with the knowledge that he'll never be able to bring all the victims' killers to justice. Patty says she gets frustrated, too, but that doesn't excuse him for acting like a jerk. She then tells Blue how her mystery victim had his heart torn apart, likely from a speedster, but she thought everyone who had been to the Speed Force had been stripped of their powers (or killed by Reverse-Flash). Blue promises to look into it, but says he first wants to spend the evening with his girlfriend.

Blue and Patty head home, walking past a dark man in a horse and buggy. A fancy businessman hires the carriage to take him to his car on the other side of the park. But the businessman ignores the horseman's no cellphone rule, and loudly prattles away. The horseman becomes very angry, and lightning shoots out from his eyes. The businessman is then blasted by a large surge of energy, which explodes his phone, strips the flesh off his hand, severs his arm and leaves the rest of him charred to a crisp. The villain, who is sure to be Overload, rides away, telling his horse, Alastair, that he can't stand people's chattering and buzzing, and he'll soon silence all of them.

The Good:

I do like that they finally addressed the difference between this Speed Force and the one we've seen previously, although I'm not entirely satisfied with the reasoning we were given. And I was happy watching Patty investigate the murder of Kyle, although I don't remember the Reverse-Flash ever liquefying someone's heart like that. But it was logical and consistent with his character to see the future blue Flash's reaction to this investigation, and his apology dinner with Patty later. So there were a few nice moments in this issue, but nothing that really excited me.

The Bad:

Iris West. At least she didn't come up with a stupid excuse to have Barry babysit Wally in this issue. But I am very disappointed that she broke her big story through illegal activity. I understand it is a huge, bone-rattling story that absolutely needs to be told. But did she have to break into the place with bolt cutters and everything? She's already strayed away from the being the ethical journalist we first met in the New 52. Now she is straight-up breaking the law and not facing any consequences for it. This probably bothers me a little more than most since I am a journalist, but I am going to lower this issue's score because of it.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next: Meet Napalm, the world's worst rogue!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Green Lantern #38


Leave

Writer: Robert Venditti
Penciller: Aduira Wijaya
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Billy Tan and Alex Sinclair
Associate Editor: Darren Shan
Group Editor: Matt Idelson

The cover gives us a simple, yet nice image of Hal Jordan walking away from his former girlfriend, Carol Ferris. I haven't read enough Green Lantern to fully appreciate the emotion of this image, but it looks nice enough. Something sort of like this happens inside, which is a plus; but the cover was not drawn by the inside artist, which is a minus.

Our story begins with Hal Jordan being granted a leave from his Green Lantern duties, having just saved the universe from the whole Godhead fiasco, albeit in a controversial way. So Hal returns to Earth, where he runs into Guy Gardner at Pancho's bar. They yell at each other for a bit, drink some beer and play some pool before Barry Allen suddenly arrives. Barry says he couldn't resist making the short trip a couple of states away to catch up with an old friend he hasn't seen in years. But this confuses Hal, who points out he hasn't been away from the Justice League for more than a few months at most.


The future Barry Allen manages to change the subject with more beer and pool. He kicks Guy's butt while bragging about his knowledge of physics, and doesn't seem too worried about who sees him use his super speed. Barry also tells Hal about how Central City was nearly destroyed by the Crime Syndicate, an event Hal completely missed while being off world.

As the booze flows, so do the emotions, and future Barry gets quite sentimental with Hal. Barry compares Hal to Superman and Batman, saying that of the three of them, Hal is only one to really nail down the perfect balance between the hero and the man. Barry then accidentally spills a pitcher of beer on some thugs, and although he offers to buy them a round, they're quite upset. Sensing an impending fight, Guy cracks a pool cue over one thug's head, and a full-out brawl erupts.

The three superheroes allow themselves to lose to the thugs and are thrown out of the bar. Barry thinks he broke his nose, and Guy is having the time of his life. But Hal is furious. He shouts at his friends, saying he was hoping for a quiet night away from the Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps. Carol Ferris then arrives, and Guy and Barry decide to give the former lovebirds some room. Guy wants to keep the party going with Barry, but he says he should probably return to Patty. And the issue ends with a lengthy conversation between Hal and Carol, which has nothing to do with Barry.

The Good:

Future Flash. As far as I can tell, this is the only non-Flash issue to acknowledge the fact that the current Barry Allen has been replaced by an insane future version of himself. And I guess we have Robert Venditti to thank for this, since Geoff Johns sure didn't mention it in Justice League. Speaking of which, the continuity between The Flash, Green Lantern and Justice League is a bit convoluted on this point. The only way I can make sense of it is to say the Amazo Virus happened before the future Flash arrived and this issue. And Hal Jordan's triumphant return at the end of Justice League #39 must have happened after this issue and after the current Flash returns to his proper time. A bit messy, I know, but this is what happens when a team title refuses to acknowledge developments in any of the individual titles.

The Bad:

Awkward writing. As demonstrated in The Flash, Venditti often has trouble conveying certain pieces of information in a natural manner. He often makes characters say stupid things that they shouldn't be saying. One big example in this issue is Hal acting surprised when Barry said a quick trip was only a couple of states away. C'mon, Hal! You know he's the Flash! And Barry (recklessly) just barely demonstrated his super speed right in front of you! Venditti's work is full of too many moments just like this, which is one reason why I'm so down on this creative team's run.

Final score: 5 out of 10

Next time: We'll return to the future Barry Allen trying to acclimate to life 20 years in his past in The Flash #37.