Today, Spencer and Mark are discussing The Flash 23, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: I’ve never liked Barry Allen’s “new” origin story. It’s always struck me as an attempt to make the character — a likable, yet bland presence in his Silver Age heyday — more palatable to modern audiences by loading him with unnecessary angst, angst which tends to consume and overwhelm both Barry and his title. I’d be curious to see if current Flash writer Joshua Williamson agrees with me on that front or not. Flash 23 does indeed find Barry becoming consumed by angst, but not only do Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico present a rather compelling reason for it (in the form of Eobard Thawne), they also present it as being a rather glaring flaw on Barry’s part. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Flash 22, originally released May 17, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Spencer: So now that the story’s over, I’ve got to ask: what was “The Button” actually about? While the crossover’s first three installments each served up satisfying stand-alone stories, they never came together with any kind of purpose. There’s a touching Batman story buried in “The Button,” but if it was meant to move forward the overarching “Rebirth” storyline, it essentially ended up standing still. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Mark are discussing Batman 21, originally released April 19th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: I was late getting into comics, so by the time I first read Watchmen, its cynical tone and psychologically nuanced characters weren’t the subversive breath of fresh air they were in 1986. Indeed, in the wake of Watchmen‘s success, publishers pumped out plenty of imitators over the past 30 years, but mostly by replicating the tone and approach to characters (honestly, I’ve read so many deconstructions of superheroes at this point, I’m not sure I have any ideas about them left to deconstruct). For this reason, the tone and characters of Watchmen have always struck me as well-done, but largely unremarkable — and before you sound off in the comments, I can assure you I understand how ahistorical this perspective is, but it’s how I feel. But I still love Watchmen deeply because of its formal perfection. While its idiosyncratic aesthetic may make declaring “perfection” highly subjective (or at least qualifies it with some serious “apples and oranges” hedging), I’m still in awe of its disciplined layouts, masterful pacing, and rich details. Continue reading →
Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Justice League 41, originally released June 3rd, 2015.
Michael: My biggest gripe with super hero movies or comic book reboots is that their world isn’t fully-formed; typically we have to wait an hour into the movie before the hero does the hero-ing we came to see. Origins, exposition and plot machinations take up an overwhelming amount of time and space in these situations. “Darkseid War” might be my favorite Justice League story yet because it doesn’t take that commonplace route. While Justice League41 does have a lot of exposition, we are entering into the fully-formed world of the New Gods of Apokolips. This isn’t the origin story of Mister Miracle; he’s BEEN Mister Miracle for a while now. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Flash 36, originally released November 26th, 2014.
Drew: There’s a lot of weirdness we accept in our comics — radioactive spider-bites, a dude who dresses up like a bat to scare bad guys, even dudes who dress up like birds to support the dude who dresses up like a bat to scare bad guys — but we tend to think of the morality as fairly straightforward. Oftentimes it is — Superman fights for good, Dr. Doom fights for bad — but the weirdness can also raise some bizarre moral questions. Is time-travel inherently immoral? Exactly how icky is the prospect of a body-snatched romantic relationship? Somehow, writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen manage to find the overlap between these inherently comic-booky ideas in The Flash 36. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Flash 32, originally released June 25th, 2014.
Spencer: Speedsters aren’t generally known for their patience. Before the reboot, one of Wally West’s best known qualities was his impatience, and Impulse was the ADHD poster-child; over at Marvel, Quicksilver’s attitude problem canonically comes from the frustration he deals with daily when he’s forced to interact with people who move so much slower than him. My point is, Barry Allen’s methodical, patient lifestyle is the complete antithesis to most speedsters — to use a comparison this issue makes itself, Wally is a basketball fan while Barry’s a baseball fan. The more I read this issue, the more I realize that Barry is the kind of guy who genuinely enjoys slowing down because it means he gets to spend time with the people he loves. It’s what grants him more patience than other speedsters, but it’s also aggravating his greatest flaw; Barry cares so much that he’s trying to be everywhere at once, help everybody at once. It’s an impossible task even for the fastest man alive, and in the process Barry may just be driving away the people who make it worthwhile to slow down in the first place.
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing The Flash 31, originally released May 28th, 2014.
Patrick: Because I spend a fair amount of my time writing about superhero comics, I end up having a lot of conversations about reboots and continuity and “fixing” timelines. You’ll notice that we tend not to dwell on those sorts of things in the actual content of these pieces — we always try to focus on the 20 pages in front of us, and not the uncountable pages that came before — but I’m of the opinion that retcons don’t actually work. If DC were to wipe out the New 52 with the Anti-Monitor next week and launch the old DCU the week following, writers, artists, press and fans would all have the last 3 years of storytelling informing their views on the characters. It’s just like how Aquaman may not have a mini-trident for a hand right now, but that will always be part of who the character “is,” even if it’s not part of who the character “is right now.” But we’re all fascinated with those universe changing mechanics, which is how The Flash 31 upstages itself with a history-altering Future Flash, when the more important character work is happening right now. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash Annual 3, originally released April 30th, 2014.
…at the end of the day, the Flash is still the same tone as it was before. It’s still the same character, but kind of just reinvisioned.
Drew: The above quote isn’t about Robert Venditti and Van Jensen’s new run on The Flash — Manapul was actually speaking about the start of his own run back when I interviewed him in 2012 — but it might as well be. That a statement can be used to describe a new take on the character as well as the newer take that succeeds is is a universal truism in comics, but it also speaks to an innate truth about the Flash: he needs to move forward. Of course, Jensen and Venditti aren’t privy to the clean break that started Manapul’s run, and have thus needed to address Barry’s past as much as his future. Fortunately, they are also paying attention to this series’ history of meta-commentary, addressing their own creative baggage right on the page. Of all the things they could have ported from the previous run, this is my absolute favorite, injecting The Flash Annual 3 with a sense of rebellion.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 30, originally released April 23rd, 2014.
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.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 29, originally released March 26th, 2014.
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.