Drew: I have a friend who used to love Law and Order – er, he liked it as much as a person can really like an episodic primetime drama — the point is, he was happy to tune in every week to see how the team handles the new case. That is, until his son pointed out to him how formulaic the show really is — right down to when in the episode they’ll nab the wrong suspect, find that key clue, or offer a plea bargain. It ruined the show for him — knowing what would happen next robbed every development of any drama, so he just stopped watching it. In some way, we all have this same experience with storytelling in general: the more stories we consume, and the more familiar with common formulas we become, the better we are at predicting what happens next. We recognize foreshadowing, we notice if we’re being intentionally misled — we just become harder to fool. Many of us are willing to put that aside to suspend our disbelief that maybe the hero won’t make it out this time, or maybe the lead couple won’t end up together, after all, but sometimes a writer still wants to surprise us. This often requires going into DEEP left field, which can make the resulting developments feel arbitrary, or even nonsensical. Unfortunately, those are the kinds of final act reveals we get in Flash 29.
Scott: As a kid, I didn’t enjoy ghost stories very much. I did my best to avoid them, but sometimes, late at night at a slumber party or around a campfire, it was impossible. I endured; listening wasn’t the hard part. In the moment, whatever shock or gore the stories contained didn’t affect me much. It was the aftermath, the lingering psychological torment — the fear, however irrational, that maybe the deranged killers they told these stories about might actually exist. In The Flash 28, Barry Allen is confronted with my greatest fear: the murderous monster from his childhood ghost story is real. A ghost story combined with a detective story, this issue is as fun as you can imagine, even though all of the elements don’t mix together quite right.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 27, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Drew: As a society, we emphasize “truth” above all else — even as we often acknowledge the necessity (or at least convenience) of small lies. We tell lies to beg off of social invitations, or to save face after doing something stupid — I once even made a fake email account just to avoid having to explain a too-complicated truth. These lies are generally pretty transparent, but we feel compelled to maintain the facade because “actually, your band sounded terrible,” just feels cruel. Of course, all of those lies flying around make it possible for people to get a false sense of themselves (or at least a false sense of how interested coworkers are in looking at pictures of their cats), that is, those little lies can become a bigger truth, upon which someones own sense of self might be based. Its those kinds of truths that seem to be in play in The Flash 27, as Barry begins to chip at the finish of his candy-colored world. Continue reading
Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing The Flash 26, originally released December 31st, 2013.
Scott: I recently watched the first episode of BBC’s Sherlock. After just a few minutes it was clear that the show is awesome- compelling characters, great acting, cool editing, etc. Then, something strange happened: halfway through the episode, I lost interest. I couldn’t figure it out; I had enjoyed everything about the show so far, but I couldn’t keep my head in it. It dawned on me that the show wasn’t following a typical format. The 90-minute episode is the length of a feature film, but with the slowly developing characters and relationships you’d expect from a new TV series. There’s nothing bad about the episode, it just doesn’t fit with what I’ve been trained to expect from a TV show. The beats were coming in the wrong places. I had the same feeling about The Flash 26. A stand alone issue of Flash? Something doesn’t seem right.
Today, Scott and Mikyzptlk are discussing The Flash 25, originally released November 27, 2013.
Scott: Have you ever said goodbye to someone outside a restaurant and then proceeded to walk down the street in the same direction as them? It’s weird. That’s what I was expecting out of The Flash 25, since writer/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato are back one last time after penning what felt an awful lot like their farewell issue a month ago. But rather than an awkwardly silent side-by-side walk to adjacently parked cars, this issue feels like a wake-up call. Manapul and Buccellato illustrate (I mean, literally illustrate) the reasons why I’m going to miss them. The issue is merely a tie-in with little significance to Flash as a series, but when these guys are doing the art (as they are for only a portion of this issue), they don’t need much story to turn out something great.
Drew: Endings are hard. Part of it is simply that people tend to struggle with goodbyes — we hate to let a good thing go — and part of it is that they’re inherently unnatural. Short of every character dying, there’s always more story that could be told (not to be confused with the story that should be told). Attempting to “end” a run in a serialized setting is doubly tricky, as a creator’s desire to wrap things up neatly is at odds with the fact that the story isn’t actually ending. Technically, Flash 24 isn’t Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s final issue on the series (their “last” issue is 25, and Buccellato is actually coming back for three more with Rogues Rebellion artist Patrick Zircher), but it features such a clean, unlabored assertion of their thesis, concluding their run while pointing the way forward for the series, it works beautifully as a farewell. Continue reading
Today, Patrick and Scott are discussing The Flash 23.3: Rogues, originally released September 18th, 2013. This issue is part of DC’s Villain Month. Click here for our coverage of Villain Month.
Patrick: I wouldn’t say that Captain Cold is an alcoholic, but he does drink. Occasionally, he drinks to escape, but he also drinks to celebrate. It’s a dimension of who he his, but it doesn’t define him, which is so rare in comics. If someone’s a drinker, that’s probably some horrible vice that pigeonholes them into being abusive, inattentive or otherwise absent. Hell, Taylor and I just posted a piece of Casey Jones’ alcoholic father in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles yesterday. Beer is a consistent factor in this issue, it sees Cold through despair, it helps him unwind, and it’s even a sign of hospitality. Cold’s boozing habits are nuanced and resist simple definition, just like the man himself. Continue reading
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Flash 23.2: Reverse Flash, originally released September 11th, 2013. This issue is part of DC’s Villain Month. Click here for our coverage of Villain Month.
Oh, if I had just lived right up to that moment… and not one second more. That would have been perfect.
Walter White, Breaking Bad
Drew: Regrets are the worst. We make hundreds of decisions every day, but our minds seem only to fixate on the mistakes and missed opportunities. We fetishize how things might have been different if only we had made that one small change, creating entire life paths that never have been, never could be, never will be walked. If the regrets are small enough (I wish I had ordered the fajitas), we usually forget about them and move on, but larger regrets can consume us, creating a vivid fantasy world of “if only.” In “Fly,” a brilliantly mediative episode from Breaking Bad‘s third season, Walt pinpoints the exact moment where his life should have ended, with every moment since steeped in regret that it didn’t. It’s a surprisingly unguarded moment for the character, revealing that, for all his machinations, he may suffer from the same uncertainties — and be driven by the same simple motivators — as the rest of us. Daniel West finds a similarly specific final moment of happiness in this issue, but of course, he locates it with the hope of going back and undoing everything that follows. Continue reading
Today, Spencer and Scott are discussing The Flash 23.1: Grodd, originally released September 4th, 2013. This issue is part of DC’s Villain Month. Click here for our coverage of Villain Month.
Spencer: Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have put a lot of work into remaking Gorilla Grodd over the past couple of years. They’ve recreated Gorilla City and tied its existence—as well as Grodd’s ambitions—into the same source that powers the Flash. They’ve amplified Grodd’s powers and savagery. In many ways it’s worked wonders—Gorilla City has always been a beloved part of the Flash mythos, but now it also feels like it belongs in this world more than it ever has before—but despite all that, Grodd still came across as a bit of an one-dimensional character, obsessed with ruling and power and not a lot else. In The Flash 23.1: Grodd (what a mouthful!) Buccellato aims to change that by giving us a look into Grodd’s psyche and determining whether it’s destiny, evolution, or something else entirely that drives the gorilla. It’s surprisingly compelling.
In September, DC’s entire line is going to be highjacked by the villains of the universe. The creative teams frankenstiened together from DC’s regular stable of writers and artists, but — with a few exceptions — none of titles look like logical continuations of any of the current series. How’s a body supposed to know what they’re supposed to read? That’s where our four-part guide comes in.
“Everyone Else” is an unfairly dismissive designation. Look at the heavy-hitters on this list! There’s quite a bit more creative consistency in these titles, so we’re expecting a slightly higher hit to miss ratio. In part four of our guide, we’ll be going over the issues from Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and Swamp Thing. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 – Batman, Part 2 – Superman and Earth-2 and Part 3 – Justice Leagues and Teen Titans. Continue reading