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, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 24, originally released October 23rd, 2013.
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 →
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, Shelby and Scott are discussing The Flash 23, originally released August 28th, 2013.
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.
Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing the Flash 21, originally released June 26th, 2013.
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.
Today, Drew and Scott are discussing the Flash 20, originally released May 22nd, 2013.
Drew: Barry Allen is a man of contradictions. As a police scientist, he is beholden to rigorously examining every scrap of evidence before coming to a conclusion. As a speed-powered superhero, he is all about decisive action. I’ve always found the tension between those two extremes particularly relatable — who among us doesn’t vacillate between those poles? — even when the series itself has been heavier on the action. The scrutiny half of this equation has always come across in the subtext, as writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato have hidden details throughout their runs that reward only the most vigilantly close readings. In The Flash 20, they graduate Barry’s detecting skills from subtext to text, but the results are decidedly mixed. 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 →