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, 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
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.