Drew: It’s hard to pick a favorite thing about The Flash. Is it the bright tone? The vivid, thematically rich art? It’s penchant for clever meta-commentary? In many ways, it feels like it was designed for the kind of nerdy dissections we do here at Retcon Punch, giving us everything we look for in a comic. Nothing brings that feeling about more than the specific pop-culture references this series drops from time to time. Things like having characters from LOST pop up randomly, or building an entire arc up to a single Planet of the Apes reference feel like they were designed rather specifically for my nerdy mentalities. Those references were fun, if entirely disposable — they amounted to little more than throwaway lines and background characters — but with issue 19, writer Brian Buccellato goes into full-on homage mode, giving us an extended Die Hard tribute that plays a key role in the plot. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing the Flash 18, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Scott: Use your gifts to help in every way you can. This is what Barry Allen believes being a superhero is all about. Or so he claims. In The Flash 18, Barry contradicts himself, telling the eager-to-help members of team “Speed Force” that they must not use their newfound powers. Despite having gifts and wanting to help, these men are not superheroes in Barry’s eyes, at least not yet. So what does it take to truly become a superhero? Does it require a fine-tuned sense of when and how to use your powers? Does it even require having superpowers at all? Looks like Barry’s about to find that out the hard way. Continue reading
Today, Drew and guest writer Pivitor are discussing the Flash 17, originally released February 27th, 2013.
Drew: “Move forward” are the words the Flash lives by — both the man and the title. We’ve seen both accept rather profound changes, from the newfound abilities of the Rogues to his own death, rolling with the punches where most superheroes (and their series) might work to return things to their status quo. At the same time, writers Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul are ever committed to their own continuity, recalling and building upon details first mentioned months earlier. The fact that those elements don’t come into play until long after they are introduced gives the series a propulsive sense of forward motion, allowing it to build incrementally. Thus, issue 17 can resolve plot elements first established in issue 6, as the Rogues, Gorillas, and the victims lost in the Speed Force finally get their due. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing the Flash 16, originally released January 30th, 2013.
Patrick: We expect our heroes to bravely sacrifice themselves for the greater good. If we’re blessed with complex characters, we can even expect this of our anti-heroes. But what about our ancillary characters? With the smoke-screen of a superheroic battle for the fate of city, real-world sacrifices tend to go unnoticed. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato deliver plenty of that bombastic hero action, but bury under it the sad, frustrated story of Iris West. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing the Flash 15, originally released January 2nd, 2013.
Patrick: Whenever a writer keeps up several narrative threads at one time, one of us will say that he or she is “spinning a lot of plates.” It’s an odd metaphor. I mean — “juggling” works just as well to express the same thing and it’s a much more common activity. My friend Pete Pfarr had a KLUTZ book that taught him how to juggle, but there sure as shit wasn’t any KLUTZ book to teach him plate spinning. So what makes that turn-of-phrase so useful in describing the storytelling in The Flash 15? Possibly because we get the sense that the stories continue (the plates continue to spin) even when we’re not watching them. But I think the real reason we use the metaphor — and the only reason we’d want to see someone spinning plates (because: boring, amirite?) — is because we can’t wait to see what happens when too many plates are spinning and they all come crashing down. Boldly, Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato give us just that. Continue reading
We generally avoid quantifying our enthusiasm around here — we’ll gladly praise or condemn comics as our tastes dictate, but turning that into a grade or a score makes us uncomfortable. As there are in our pull-list, there are holes in this ‘Best of’ list. Mea culpa. We’ve had some great experiences with comics this year, and these are the series that were consistently fun, thoughtful and beautiful. Too subjective for a year-end list? Ignore the rankings. Any way you slice it, these are fantastic series that deserve the scrutiny we heap on everything. Each is a rewarding read and well worth your attention. Our picks for the top 12 series of 2012:
Drew: I’ve always seen postmodernism as inevitable. As someone who likes art, consuming art about art just makes sense to me. It’s quite easy to take commentary too far — forcing the art to far up its own ass to really be relatable — and while I have a special place in my heart for stories that do that, it’s much more satisfying when they can support a compelling narrative, as well. Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul nail that type of just-right meta-text time and time again, as Barry grapples with his relationship to his own identity, history, and even time itself. Their pacing and narrative style have remained fluid enough to accommodate all of these ideas, tying them back to Barry’s own experience of the world. Issue 14 continues the recent trend of expanding the scope beyond Barry’s subjectivity, revealing a rewarding complexity to the world he lives in. Continue reading
Drew: I like The Flash. It’s a crisp, fun, dense comic, full of endearing characters and incredible art. Reading it over the past year has been an extremely rewarding experience as a fan of comics. I also like liking The Flash. The fan community around this title, from commenters to bloggers to the creators themselves have been as open and inviting as anywhere in comics. Writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have been incredibly approachable, and willing to discuss all of the things that make me love this title so much. In many ways, liking this title has been as rewarding as reading this title, thanks to all the wonderful discussions we’ve had about it. For that reason, issues that fail to meet my (admittedly high) expectations for this title are especially disappointing, to such a degree that I lose any objective sense of how good the issue actually is; is it the issue, or is it me? Let that be the grain of salt you take when I say that The Flash 13 is one of those issues.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Flash 0, originally released September 26, 2012. The Flash 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.
Patrick: This issue is essentially the two discrete pieces of Barry Allen origin story that you might already be familiar with. DISCRETE PORTION A: Barry’s mother was murdered when he was a child. His father was arrested for the crime and Barry became a forensic scientist in the hope of catching the real killer and clearing his father’s name. DISCRETE PORTION B: Barry is struck with lightning and doused with chemicals, transforming him into the Fastest Man Alive. Previously, Geoff Johns’ The Flash: Rebirth attempted to dovetail these discrete story points mythologically — and that’s the best tool in his tool box, so I can’t fault him for using it. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, revisit these moments and connect them emotionally. It is a story at once more sensible, more compact and more powerful. Continue reading
Drew: When I interviewed Francis Manapul back in April, he expressed that he reveled at the unique expectations mandated by the New 52. Specifically, he expressed that “the best thing about knowing what people are expecting is when I change something, it seems shocking.” Subverting expectations is such a simple concept — and one so central to genre fiction in general — that you’d think it would start to lose its spark; but then again, with Manapul and Brian Buccellato on writing duties, nothing ever is that simple.