Sunday, August 14, 2011

DC Comics Week: The Flash: Rebirth Review

I've always had an affinity for the Flash. I'm not sure what it is, but like Spider-Man, he was always a character that I've been drawn to. Maybe it's the red costumes? So when I decided that DC comics week needed a comic review, I went looking for a recent Flash tale and ended up bringing home "Rebirth" by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver. My thoughts on the book were decidedly mixed and my biggest problems with the book really illustrated why I've always filled my pull list with more Marvel than DC. Read on, but beware...


"Rebirth" chronicles the return of Barry Allen, the second incarnation of the Flash and the first silver age character. You see, he's been gone since sacrificing himself to save the universe in 1985's "Crisis on Infinite Earths." It turns out that Barry had been absorbed into something called the "speed force" and somehow he's been pulled out and he's alive again. He reunites with his protege and current Flash, Wally West, along with all of the other characters that are a part of the Scarlett Speedster mythos and it isn't long before they go up against the ultimate Flash baddie, Professor Zoom, aka Reverse-Flash.

Taken as a high-action story-arc with lots of heroes and guest-stars (Hal Jordan, Superman, etc.), "Rebirth" is very entertaining. Van Sciver's art is beautiful and colorists Brian Miller and Alex Sinclair make this a pretty, pretty book. Johns does a great job writing each character and their dialogue is excellent. If I had known more about the history of all of these characters, I probably would have enjoyed it more, but Johns did a great job showing how all of them are tied together.

My problem with the book is that even after reading the graphic novel and scouring the internet for further explanations of the "speed force" and the "negative speed force" I failed to develop a good understanding of this thing that gives all of the speedsters their power. I did, however, successfully develop a headache.

My problem with the speed force is very similar to my problem with "midichlorians" in the Star Wars prequels and "The Other" run on Amazing Spider-Man. I'm afraid that I just don't want the origin and powers of my favorite heroes explained in such depth. These are impossible, mysterious powers that they have. Don't make up some phony scientific explanation to explain it! It's not real, and by adding all of this fictional science to it, it forces me to stretch my suspension of disbelief too far.

Plus, it gives the writer too many liberties to explain things away or introduce unlikely new powers to suit the story. It's like," Oh yeah the speed force does that, too." or "Oh, the negative speed force does that, but the positive speed force doesn't." C'mon. It's too convoluted to keep track of and the reader needs to constantly be told what's happening. In the end, and when it comes to origins and superpowers, I say keep it simple, stupid.

Although I mentioned a Spider-Man run where they focus on this kind of thing, I feel like most Marvel titles don't get into this so much. We are told what each hero's skill set is, and then they are put in situations where they use them. We know what Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are all capable of during a story, so even when the story goes deep into fantasy, we use these characters as a point of reference. In "Rebirth," I felt like Johns introduced a new speed force-produced capability every other page, and it took me out of the story. Put simply, I couldn't relate. Outside of the Batman corner of the universe, this is something that I feel the DC universe is guilty of more often than not, and it limits my enjoyment of their books. Their stories are simply too separated from my reality.

All that said, I will be seeking out more Flash. For all it's faults, Johns set the stage for some interesting things in "Rebirth" and I'd love to see where he takes it. So even though I'm a little behind, I'm betting the speed force has someway to catch me up quick.

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