Monday, May 11, 2009

Dead Run (DC)
Where: Flash: Rebirth #2 When: July 2009
Why: Geoff Johns How: Ethan Van Sciver

Strength: Wally West 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Barry Allen 5 (Professor)
Speed: Barry Allen 7 (Lightspeed)
Stamina: Barry Allen 6 (Generator)
Agility: Wally West 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Lady Flash 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Draw 1 (None)

Math: Flash [Barry Allen]
Ranking: Flash [Wally West] (#19)

Okay, we're still running ironically far behind, so this week's feature starring the fastest man alive will try to live up to the "quick fix" name as we take a look at the second exciting instalment of of DC's pre-summer event, Flash: Rebirth!

It's interesting to observe the path taken by DC to resurrect Barry Allen.
2008's second issue of Final Crisis gave us the "shock" final page return, but by virtue of the much larger epic tale, few specifics were afforded the Flash in his unlikely return. Geoff Johns has followed Grant Morrison in his non-commital role, maintaining an esoteric sense of superhuman phenomena. The truth behind his return remains unknown even to Allen, but in the first issue we got a pretty good impression that it involves the vengeful series mystery-villain, whose machinations involve resurrection and the apparent corruption of the Silver Age Flash's connection with the Speed Force.

With the second chapter, Rebirth plays it surprisingly free and loose when it comes to the big issues. Johns seems to be feeling experimental with his story telling, using the apes of Gorilla City to frame the story with prophetic primal scrawlings and a lot of hooting and hollering. It's certainly interesting, but we'll have to see exactly how much significance it has to the larger story. I'd like to think there might be some reason behind the appearance, which is far too vague to conceivably be part of an introductory checklist to the Flash mythology.

More effective as an introduction is Johns' trademark attention to the logical extentions of his ideas, in this case, careful acknowledgment of the entire family of speedsters. Jay Garrick, Bart Allen, Liberty Belle, and the West kids all get an appearance, but most significant is the eagerly anticipated meet up between Barry and his immediate successor, Wally West.

The iconic pair meet-up in a convergence of speedsters and key plotpoints, arriving in Barry Allen's dubiously named hometown (Fallville), where the Black Flash crash landed and "died" in the first issue. The pair don't have a lot of time to chinwag before the next obstacle emerges in an unlikely foe.

I was somewhat surprised to see the issue pick up so immediately from the death of Savitar [Flash: Rebirth #1]. I suppose I wasn't really giving Johns a lot of credit by assuming the less-than-spectacular speedster villain was served up as cannon fodder for a larger story. Actually, that probably isn't too far from the truth, but as he so often does, Johns at least honors the character's mythology with considerate acknowledgment for it's surrounding parts.

Christina Alexandrova, aka; Lady Flash, appears very early in the issue to overlap with Savitar's unintentional death at the hands of Barry Allen. As a disciple of Savitar's speed cult, she witnesses the scene of her master's final moments through a ritual apparently responsible for sealing his fate by bringing him back from inprisonment within the speed force. This immediate connection provides a simple and logical source for this issue's action, beginning with a blue swirl that surrounds Barry Allen, before heading in Wally West's direction.

The streaking Lady Flash slashes through West's costume and cowl, retaliating with an old fashioned right hook when he snags her left wrist.
The senior speedster comes to his nephew's aid, creating a gale force wind that blows Lady Flash off her trajectory with the spinning of his arm.

Possessing greatly enhanced speed from the ritual performed in Savitar's castle, Lady Flash resumes her assault, toppling Wally West with a jumping super-fast kick. Barry Allen takes full advantage of their numerical (and speed) superiority, catching the foot on it's follow-through to turn the tables of the fight.

Just as it had occurred with Savitar, the merest contact with another in tune with the Speed Force ignites a crackling lightning around Barry Allen. The ricochet of energy channels through Wally West, but as before, his fate is far less than that of the unfortunate Lady Flash. In moments she turns to dust and bones.

Confirming last month's suspicions, Barry Allen undergoes an instantaneous transformation into the embodiment of death for speedsters - Black Flash!

The featured fight goes the farthest lengths to progress the story, but it's not entirely inappropriate for a sizeable chunk of the issue to be dedicated to retelling portions of the title hero's history.

It seems highly unlikely that this shocking issue-end twist will last any longer than the mini-series itself. The tempered pace feels like a knowing response to the success the Green Lantern: Rebirth had for expanding the readership. It feels like the Flash version is more deliberately speaking to, and informing, readers who are understandably unfamiliar with a character who was off the table far longer than Hal Jordan post-besmirchment, (twenty-two years).

It's interesting to see Johns tinkering with the backstory of Barry Allen. Whether or not this is more heavy-handed revisionist history, or part of the plot hatched by the series villain, remains to be seen. I certainly don't remember Barry Allen's motivations as a hero revolving around a murder, and I'm not entirely sure we needed such a hammy 'secret origin' for Allen's penchant for wearing bowties, but fair enough. [Hey, maybe the bowtie did it!]

If the story being told here is to have any lasting consequences, I'd speculate that we might find ourselves with a new Black Flash. In fact, if Rebirth follows through with the relatively obvious return of the Reverse Flash (Professor Zoom) in the lead villain role, it might be fitting if it's he who assumes the role of death for speedsters. That, however, is a pretty big if, unfairly assuming that Johns will take a conventional tact in the way he did during the Green Lantern return tale (which also resurrected Sinestro).

Clearly, Barry Allen is back, presumably to stay.
You really can't fault DC for putting together a series that will not only elaborate on his return to the DCU, but also better inform a vast readership who probably weren't even around for his 1986 sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Their timing has been impeccable, giving the series a chance to live-up to the hype before Blackest Night engulfs the catalogue.

The Fight: 4 The Issue: 4.5
Winner: Flash (w/ Wally West)

Flash: Rebirth has been upgraded to a six issue mini-series and is currently available monthly from DC comics. The collected edition won't be available for quite some time, but you can preorder the hardcover edition through Amazon. There are plenty of other collected editions of issues from the Secret Archives available in our Gift Shoppe! By using purchase links provided on the site, you help sponsor future entries!

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