Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hero of the Week 2010 #3: The Flash

FLASH (DC) (2009)
Real Name: Barry Allen
First Appearance: Showcase #4 (October, 1956)
Group Affiliation: New Guardians, Justice League, Flash Family
Gaming Credentials: The Flash (1991); The Flash (1993); Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe (2008); DC Universe Online (TBR/2010)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #15

RebelFM: Podcast spin-off featuring 1up alumnists discussing various things 'video game.'
What they're rebelling against, I do not know, but in the most recent episode (01/20), I do know they gave pause to consider some of the popular concessions granted to developing MMOs when they're released. This was a specific reference to Star Trek Online and it's underdeveloped options, but as the talk went broader, there was a notable absence from their discussion!

During the week, DC announced that they'll be publishing a weekly comic series to conincide with the long anticipated launch of their DC Universe Massively Multiplayer Online game. In essence, the game will take on the role of an interactive parallel universe in the DC multiverse stable, allowing players to interact with versions of the iconic DC Universe stable, while also potentially contributing to the recorded canon reflected by the comic series.

It's the stable of resources and potential vision for the game exhibited by DC/Sony that has really made this, I think, the MMO to watch. DC Universe Online promises a lot of different things for a lot of different types of gamers. There's the inevitable cross promotion aspect, where DC will no doubt use the strength of their characters and storytelling to hopefully recruit new readers to both the MMO inspired comic series, and their other monthly published titles. There's also the simple aspect of presenting an MMO game that finally breaks away from the tropes established through RPGs and World of Warcraft.

For all intents and purposes, DC Universe Online looks set to meet gamers on conventional console gaming terms. Players will develop a character, lead them toward a path of good or evil, and interact with the world and their enemies through gameplay mechanics more reminiscent of adventure games than the stat-centric decision making established by WoW, and often imitated by others.

One would expect typical MMO grinding to be replaced, in part, by the use of the massive stable of NPC "hero characters" ready to appear in the game. Storytelling has been lacking in a lot of MMOs, but with DC, the promise of established heroes moving around the world should place greater emphasis on conceptually driven motivations to deepen your lust for power in the DCUO world.

Excessive Force: Players in DC Universe Online will have the potential opportunity to run with the Flash!

The Flash is already confirmed to be among the growing list of heroes and villains who will transition into the world of the game, and why wouldn't he be?
This time in last year's HOTW rotation we were talking about the return of the famous Silver Age hero in the pages of Flash: Rebirth. Since then, all reservations about the resurrection of the famously killed-off hero have dissipated as the Barry Allen Flash has been fully reinstated as the premiere speedster of the DCU. Rebirth reestablished his roots in the world, while the blockbuster success of Blackest Night has shown the Flash and his inspirational powers of hope to be one of the greatest powers, beyond even the supposed headlining hero, Green Lantern.

What does all this mean?...
In 1985 DC launched a landmark twelve-issue maxi-series called Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The intention of the story was to not only tell a spanning cosmic epic, but also streamline DC's various properties, who, through the course of acquisitons and fifty years of publishing, had been divided into brand-centric parallel universes. With the introduction of the villain called Anti-Monitor, DC had their means to create an in-fiction justifiying factor for the unification of their stable of characters and brands into a single, fluid, interacting universe.

As publishers are wont to do, DC wanted to add another layer, namely the death of the Flash.
In comics history, his tale was one of self-sacrifice, as he used his powers of superhuman speed to destroy the Anti-Monitor's big energy weapon, and allow a smooth merging of key Earths. For twenty years, this was one of the most respected deaths in a brand of fiction that has often regarded death with fickle fingers. This created a considerable legend around a character who was already of great significance for kick-starting the Silver Age of comic books in the 50s, and arguably was a figure related to a similar movement that created the so-called Modern Age of comics.

The expansive time and inferrences of meaning might make it seem complicated, but it's really not. A character was involved in a lot of significant things, died, and has now returned. It could've gone horribly wrong, but it didn't. Thus, the wheel of Boëthius remains a ruling principle, this version of the Flash being a chief example of how art imitating life will create ups and downs in a repeating cycle.

In the comics, Barry Allen was succeeded as Flash by his nephew, Wally West.
That Flash was, apparently, ripe for a video game of his own and was a HOTW last year for that very fact. Fortunately, DC have a very successful history of creating co-existing legacies that can currently be seen in Blackest Night and Flash: Rebirth [available soon in collected editions], which features up to four generations of Flash characters, all of whom are reasonably likely to put in time in DCUO. Hussah!

You'll also currently find Barry Allen wielding a blue ring of hope in the pages of both the central Blackest Night series, and also his own three-issue mini-series, appropriately named, Blackest Night: The Flash. Check out for more info on that.

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