Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Flash: Rebirth #2 Review

Creative Team
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Scriver
Colorist: Rob Leigh

Story - Dead Run

While I had my problems with the first issue of Flash: Rebirth, specifically with the unnecessary dark turn in Barry Allen's origin, I still thought it was a solid start to the mini-series. But the second issue of this mini-series is something that no Flash issue should be: slow.

Other than the origin of Barry's bow tie (you read that right) and the final page there wasn't any new developments in this issue. Almost everything that Barry and Wally points out in this issue is the same exact thing that Barry pointed out in the first issue. And the truth is that if it wasn't for Ethan Van Scriver's amazing artwork this would have been yet another slow and boring issue that is clearly made for the eventual trade paperback and not for a monthly comic book, which is a trend with Geoff John books lately.

Now this is not to say Johns isn't going completely wrong with the return of Barry Allen. Johns has so far, through these two issues, been able to establish who Barry is as a character that reminds old readers and informs new readers to why Barry is seen by some as the true Flash. Through both Wally and Bart's versions of the Flash, the character of Flash has been seen as a Spider-Man type character who will joke around with his villains and take everything as it comes to them. And this can be attributed to both Wally and Bart first starting of their superhero careers as sidekicks, so when it was their time to take the Flash role they already had a more relaxed nature due to their experiences of learning what to do and not do from their mentor.

But Barry is a completely different Flash. Unlike Wally and Bart, Barry was a guy in his mid-twenty's who already had an education and a career in science that help shape his mentality as a man of science. Because of his science background Barry is a much more methodical Flash as he continues to believe there is a scientific answer to everything. And as a police forensics scientist Barry sees everything as black and white not grey like Wally and Bart.

Also with taking a similar role to Steve Rogers when he came back to the Marvel Universe after being frozen Barry is taking up a man out of time persona as he is still trying to get used to being back. And as can be seen with the scene between Barry and Iris, Barry is still uncomfortable with being back because unlike when Hal came back there wasn't anything technically wrong with the Flash characters and it is actually his return that is causing an instability in the Speed Force.

It is just to bad that Johns did not explore more of what is going wrong with the Speed Force in this issue. As I said before other than the final page there was almost nothing new coming out of this issue. The whole issue is basically Barry thinking about what is wrong with the Speed Force, just like in the last issue. Even the dialogue between Barry and Hal was similar to the last issue. With the amount of dialogue in this issue it actually felt like I was reading a Bendis New Avengers issue. When it comes to a Flash comic it should never feel like it has a slow pace but that is how this issue felt like.

While I understand that Johns is trying to reestablish Barry as the Flash to old and new fans he has forgotten that he also has to reestablish the Flash franchise as a whole since this has been an franchise that has been unstable for a while. But instead of also building up the other Flash characters like the returning Bart, Jay, or Wally's kids this series still feels like a dedication to Barry. Other than Wally who appears for the final six pages, where he gets his ass kicked, along with Barry all of the Flash characters only get one panel each that only shows them being tested by their teammates for what happened to them in the last issue.

And this lack of panel time is only made worse with Johns basically wasting a page and a half on a flash back that tells the origin of why Barry wears bow ties. Really, the origin of the bow tie gets more panel time than Bart or Jay? Really? Talk about a complete waste of panel space that could have been better used to develop the other characters involved in this mini-series that are not named Barry.

Speaking of the flashback, am I the only one that continues to wince at the sudden dark turn in Barry's origin story. As soon as the young Iris brought up the fact that Barry, before he became Flash, was still searching for the answer of who really killed his mom I just couldn't help but shake my head in disappointment with how every comic book character needs to have a dark origin to be interesting in the eyes of the writer, in this case Johns. Giving a character a dark origin just reeks of a writer being uncreative in this era of storytelling. I really would like to read a book, comic book, or manga were the hero of the story doesn't have some sort of dark origin and is a hero because he has the drive to be one. And the Flash characters used to be that way but know they are just another set of characters that are heroes because of something dark that happened in their past.

But the biggest problem I am having with this series, as of this issue, is the lack of an actual physical threat in the story. Sure we have the mystery of what is going on with the Speed Force but were is the actual villain(s) of this story. So far the biggest threat to the Flash characters, other than the Speed Force, was Savitar and his follower Christina Alexandrova who were treated as nothing more than cheat way to build up Barry as the new Black Flash since both characters died as fast as they appeared. Johns not only needs but has to start building up the Rogues since whatever is happening with the Speed Force also affects the Rogues as they need to start finding a way to deal with there being at least four Flashs around. But this again can be attributed with Barry being the main focus for about 95% of the series so far. If this series is to last for three more issue Johns needs to give us some other threat than just the Speed Force. And because this mini-series is leading towards the eventual relaunch of the Flash ongoing title Johns needs to also start building up the Rogues during this mini-series.

Issue Rating
Story: 5/10 - Johns slow and methodical approach to this issue was a complete time waster that he needs to resolve in the next and future issues.
Art: 9.2/10 - Scriver continues to show why he is one of the top artist in the business as he deliver plenty of amazing artwork.
Overall: 7.1/10 - This was a very disappointing issue that only benefits from having Scriver's pick up the slack with his excellent artwork. After these two issues that have taken a slow burn approach to Barry's return Johns has no excuse but to pick things up and start developing other characters than just Barry. We need an actual physical threat to go along with what is happening Speed Force.


Anonymous said...

"Talk about a complete waste of panel space that could have been better used to develop the other characters involved in this mini-series that are not named Barry."

Two things:

1) Bart is actually named Barry as well, kinda. Both are short for Bartholomew.

2) This is called Flash: Rebirth, not The Flash. The focus of this is supposed to be the Flash who was reborn i.e. Barry. Although, to my knowledge, at least, Johns mentioned that Bart WILL play a big part in the story. Maybe he/they'll get that panel time you're asking for.

unbrokenrabbit said...

It's too bad you didn't express these thoughts to Geoff Johns before he starting writing this series. If you had, he could have tailored the whole thing to fit your exact expectations of what it is that makes a good Flash story. But seeing as how you didn't, we're all now stuck with this dialogue-heavy piece of crap that uses subtlty to unfold the early elements of the plot. Now we're probably not even going to be aware of how emotionally invested in the story we actually are when it reaches it's climax. Damn you Geoff Johns! We're two issues into this thing and I'm not even sure yet who the Flash is supposed to be punching!

Kevin said...

@Anonymous: This is still called Flash: Rebirth, not Barry Allen: The Return. This is suppose to be a revival of the Flash franchise and all the main characters that have been Flash (i.e Barry, Wally, Jay, and Bart)just like Green Lantern: Rebirth was a revival of of the Green Lantern franchise and the major Green Lanterns (Hal, Kyle, John, and Guy). But more or less it has been a Barry love fest series.

@unbrokenrabbit: Hey I am all for telling rich and complex stories but what I am tired of is writers, like Bendis and Johns, that are writing a story for what is clearly made for trade paperback and not for a monthly series or mini-series. Look at Captain America, Brubaker is moving the story at a slow and methodical pace that is building towards a much bigger story but still keeps each and every issue exciting to read month in month out. But Johns is targeting this series for its eventual release as a trade and not for a monthly series that it is made this issue boring to read. That is all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

You expect too much out of johns. he is a great writer. he starts you off slow so that you can grasp the concept of barry's return, how the DC heroes are responding to him, and how the speed force has become unbalanced. Johns is introducing the setting and its players before he starts with the next 3 big issues full of action/suspense that we see from all great writers. Give him some time.

Kevin said...

@Anonymous: It is not that I expect to much of Johns but that I think that he killing time so that he has enough material for the next few issues. As I said in my review I don't think we needed pages dedicated to the origin of Barry's bowtie.

If he wanted to take the methodical approach he should have dedicated more time to the other speedsters how have only had a few panels so far.