Drew: I lost a part of my innocence when Richard Harris passed away. It wasn’t an existential crisis brought about by confronting mortality, but the cognitive dissonance brought about by his role of Albus Dumbledore being filled by Michael Gambon. I’m sure for many young Harry Potter fans, that was the first time they were confronted with the notion that the identity of a beloved fictional character is so dictated by casting decisions, but looking at the differences between the two actors’ performances, it’s almost as if they were playing different characters. Harris imbued the role with a quiet, almost doddering sweetness, while Gambon’s take was notably sterner. Both takes are supported by the books, but it had never occurred to me before seeing Prisoner of Azkaban that an actor’s (or director’s) emphasis on certain traits could have such a profound effect on the final product. I found myself thinking those same thoughts as Robert Venditti and Van Jensen assert their own read on Barry Allen in The Flash 30.
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
Shelby: It’s finally here: the reveal of the identity of Reverse Flash. Cruel, murderous, and the opposite of Barry Allen in every way, the Reverse Flash has been dogging this title for a few months now, killing Barry’s friends and honing in on our favorite speedster. Despite the fact we have been speculating and eagerly awaiting this moment, at the end of the book I found myself with more questions than answers.
Today, Scott and Spencer are discussing The Flash 22, originally released July 24th, 2013.
Scott: I imagine being the fastest man on Earth could be pretty frustrating at times. It has its obvious advantages — you’re never late for work, no car insurance, no travel expenses, etc. — but there’s one major annoyance: the rest of the world isn’t moving at your pace. This would be doubly frustrating for a police officer trying to solve a complex murder mystery, which takes a long time to piece together regardless of how fast your body moves. This is the predicament Barry Allen has found himself in over the past several issues of The Flash, and co-writers/artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato seem to enjoy taking the slow road with a fast character. The Flash 22 finds them leading Barry to the killer he’s been looking for, but still withholding crucial information about his identity. It’s a spectacular looking issue, and one that feels more focused than this title has in a few months.
Spencer: A mystery story cannot work with only one suspect. Without false leads and red herrings, everything’s too easy; we know whodunit before the story’s even begun. In Flash 21, Kid Flash becomes one of those false leads; the problem is, Barry is the only one actually trying to solve a mystery here. Us readers already know that the Reverse-Flash is behind these murders, leaving the real bulk of this issue to be carried by the first meeting of Flash and Kid Flash. I’m not sure the two of them are up to the task.