Friday, August 08, 2008

Fast Friends (DC)
Flash #209 When: June 2004
Why: Geoff Johns How: Howard Porter

The Story So Far...
When Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the universe from the machinations of the Anti-Monitor, he was survived by his speedster nephew, Wally West. The then Kid Flash in turn adopted the heroic mantle of the scarlet speedster, the Flash, becoming a public icon of justice in Central City!

Having taken up residence in Keystone City; West is made to regret his unusually public identity when Hunter Zolomon, (Zoom), attacks his wife Linda, causing her to miscarriage their unborn twins.

Grief stricken, West accepts an offer from Hal Jordan, host for the omnipotent entity of vengeance, the Spectre. Jordan, on a mission of redemption, offers his friend in life the opportunity to erase all knowledge of his identity, thus curtailing future retribution from his enemies. The influence of the Spectre, however, erases knowledge of Flash's true identity en masse to include, clues of the Flash legacy, and even West's own alter-ego from himself!

It is not until the Batman deduces the identity of the absent Flash that the truth is once again revealed, but the mystery remains for the Justice League, whose altered memories can no longer pay tribute to the sacrifice of the previous Flash, Barry Allen, and are no longer certain of the fibre of their speedster ally.

Tale of the Tape...
ARTWORK: Jim LeeARTWORK: Michael TurnerStrength: Superman 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Superman 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Flash 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Superman 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Power: Superman 5 (Lasers)

- With the planet Krypton on a path toward destruction, a scientist, Jor-El, bundles his only son into a rocket ship designed to take him far from the impending doom. The young Kal-El would be rocketted far from his home to come to land on the planet Earth, where a yellow sun would grant him the powers to become the man of steel - Superman!

A spiritual leader for the superhero community; Superman has a wide array of physical capabilities to back his presence up, the stalwarts being; super strength, flight, heat-vision, super breath, and super speed. He also has a keen intellect, his Kryptonian brain enhanced in much the way his body is.

A keen strategist, Superman has a broad understanding of sciences and battle tactics, but is often hindered by his own sense of caution and responsibility.

- During a fateful visit to his criminologist uncle's police laboratory; a bizarre series of events that once conspired to give Barry Allen the powers of a speeding Flash were to bestow a gift upon the young Wally West! Doused in the same chemicals as his uncle, Wally too was given the ability to tap into the properties of the speed force to move at fantastic speeds!

When Allen gave his life to thwart the Anti-Monitor's plans to destroy the universe; West chose to honor his mentor by retiring his role as Kid Flash, to succeed his uncle as The Flash! In doing so, the new Flash inhereted not only the public responsibility of protecting Central City, but also upholding the ideals of his predecessor. To this end, Wally West has been very successful!

Along with the inherent ability to move at great speeds; West can utilize his abilities to manipulate his molecules to pass through solid objects, harness and channel velocity, and even travel through time with the right peripheral.

Math: Superman Ranking: Superman (#4)

What Went Down...
An emergency League meeting gathers the presence of; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Elongated Man, Zatanna, Firestorm, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Hawkman, and Atom; each asking the same question -- who is the Flash, and why can't they remember him?

The League offer their friend the benefit of the doubt, hoping to give him the chance to reveal the truth himself, but preoccupied by the disappearance of his wife, the Flash proves unwilling to stand and talk. At super speeds he escapes to the JLA Watchtower teleport system, which zips him to New York, where he intends to begin the search for his absent wife.

Intent on getting answers, it's not long before Superman reaches New York under his own power, catching up with the scarlet speedster with a firm, but understanding approach. The Flash remains uncooperative.

Harnessing the powers of the speed force, Flash bursts into a sprint that leaves a red blur marking his path. Superman's mighty muscles manage to propel him right behind the scarlet speedster, but he lacks the inherent abilities that allow Flash total manipulation over speed. He considers funneling Superman's kinetic energy into himself, but fears the destruction his invincible body would cause if his momentum was stripped as they zip across a busy bridge.

Flash continues to evade Superman, heading for a penthouse owned by his in-laws, bought with the fortune the Parks made from investing in KORD Industries.
With no sign of family, Flash heads to the countryside, redirecting his attentions to losing Superman, which he assumes he'll do across the Rockies. He's wrong.

As the pair skim across the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the airborne Superman tries to use a focused beam of heat vision to tag the Flash into slowing. Though a sound strategy, the Flash easily outruns the blast.

The duelling runners blur colours along the coastal vista of the Parks' Californian condo, where the in-laws are sitting down to a home cooked Korean meal.
Linda proves absent, sending the highspeed chase into international waters!

Superman begins deducing the cause for Flash's silent determination, slowly recalling the details of Flash's relationship with the Asian-American TV reporter. The revelation seems to slow Wally West for just a moment, but he vibrates free of Superman's grip, leading the charge across Russia, France, and back to the open sea.

Wally West looks deep inside himself and recalls the many times Linda Park has been his "lightning rod." The object of clarity that pulls him from the void. He reaches deep into his heart and believes she's waiting at home. He feels she just wants to talk about the shock of his newly secret identity. He feels it and with the burst of a second-wind, accelerates into a homeward bound supersonic boom!

Wally powers through Keystone City, blazing a trail toward his apartment!
Superman finds himself left in the crackling energy and dust of Flash's charge, but when the speeding hero comes to a halt, he finds only the deafening silence of an empty home. Finally, Flash stops running, and with Superman arriving close behind, he pulls back his crimson cowl, so that the truth can flood back into the Man of Steel's mind.

The Hammer...
Under ordinary Infinite Wars conditions this 'battle' would probably have been called a draw. Yes, there's some level of physical altercation, but ultimately, the conflict is resolved through non-violent means. However, in the interest of the Olympic spirit, we make another concession to declare Flash the winner!

And the winner Flash certainly was in a period of reinvigoration under the direction of Geoff Johns. This issue marks yet another tidy example of Johns' capacity for writing stories that draw heavily upon surrounding context, but do so with a new-reader friendly approach. If it were a more recent issue, I'd almost certainly recommend it to anyone enticed to jump into the Flash, because it not only recaps elements close to the character, but also reflects upon his position within the Justice League. A position very different to that of the cartoons, which recast the Flash as a less ponderous, comedy relief character.

The post-Johns period saw an eventual decline in quality that pretty much wrote the character off for the bulk of 2007 and 2008. The epitomy of this bungling was two seperate short-lived relaunches of the title, one as Fastest Man Alive which featured the ill fated career of Bart Allen as Flash, and All-Flash which stuttered the welcome return of Wally West and resumed numbering (200's).

One wonders if situations like these led DC Executive Editor, Dan DiDio, to admit, in a recent interview, that constant reboots of characters was counter-productive and only alienating longterm fans.
Such an interpretation would go in the face of unconvincing claims that Bart Allen's tenure as titular star, (under the TV-Flash writing team of Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo), was a planned investment to ruse fans into shock upon his death.

Regardless of post-Infinite Crisis ,it appears Flash will once again enter the race, leaving behind the shock combustion of Mark Waid's unsuccesful return home.
While the solo series meanders it's way through the quagmire of life with two freakish kids, Geoff Johns returns for the Final Crisis tie-in, Rogues Revenge.

The three-issue mini repairs Johns with former cohort, Scott Kolins, and appears to connect to his upcoming Flash: Rebirth, which is said to reintroduce Barry Allen into contemporary continuity and do for the Flash family what Green Lantern: Rebirth did for the Corps! Big claims, but if anyone can live up to them, it seems it's Geoff Johns!

The master isn't without challenge, however.
Hal Jordan's much maligned death was seen to be the result of severe creative mismanagement, making his return a welcome one in the 2004 mini.
Barry Allen's death, as a result of DC's seminal crisis; Crisis on Infinite Earths; was much less insulting. It put to bed a much-loved character with tremendous respect and heroic sacrifice setting the standard for a worthwhile superhero death for two decades, while also launching the legacy of Wally West's legend!

Reversing this has the potential to have the very reverse effect of constant reiminaginings of characters. Fans have already shown tremendous tolerance for treading on sacred ground, in particular the 2005 faux-resurrections of Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes.

We mustn't count our Flashes before they race! There's still plenty of mystery yet to be revealed, with the matter of Black Lanterns and New Gods still to be resolved! We will, of course, continue to watch on with great interest!

The Fight: 3 The Issue: 5

Are you watching with great interest?
Fancy seeing more first-hand? By using TPB and collection purchase links provided, you not only get a chance to glimpse the many races between Flash and Superman up close, but also help sponsor future entries in the Infinite Wars! Not enough for you? Be sure to stop-in with the Amazonian Gift Shoppe and survey even more titles on offer featuring issues collected from previous reviews!

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