Friday, July 22, 2016

Flash Facts (DC)
Flash: Rebirth #4 When: September 2009
Why: Geoff Johns How: Ethan Van Sciver

The Story So Far...
Before this universe came to be, there existed an infinite array of Earths populated by super-powered champions. When life throughout the multiverse came under threat from a violent creature called The Anti-Monitor, one hero rose above all others to run his final race to stop the end of everything. That hero was Barry Allen - The Flash!

To the merged universe that was created after the Anti-Monitor's defeat, Barry Allen had given his life so that all may live! The legend of his sacrificed lived on in the legends of all the heroes he'd known, especially Wally West - who carried the torch of scarlet speedster into a new age as The Flash.

Only, when the New Gods fell to Earth and another crisis threatened reality, Barry Allen made his shocking return - alive!

In truth, Flash had become one with the cosmic phenomena called The Speed Force: the lightning that powers all speedsters! His return has mysteriously meant death for other runners bound by the Speed Force - a fact that forces him to return to the otherworldly dimension, where he will face another who has escaped death - Professor Zoom, The Reverse-Flash!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Draw 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 7 (Light Speed)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Flash 3 (Street Wise)
Energy: Max Mercury 3 (Explosives)

Super-villain royalty finally joins the ranks of the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths in today's feature fight! Professor Eobard Thawne is better known throughout the ages as Professor Zoom, the villainous Reverse-Flash!

Originally born in the 25th century, he was a scientist who idolized the Silver Age of super-heroes, in particular the museum memorialized 20th century icon: Barry Allen, The Flash! Adoration turned to resentment when the Reverse-Flash chose to use his speed powers to commit crimes, beginning his inversion as the counter opposite to the scarlet speedster!

By recreating the chemical bath that accidentally connected Barry Allen with his incredible powers, Professor Zoom gained comparable super-human speed and mastery over all that entails. He can move and react at unfathomable pace, endure harsh physical forces, manipulate his molecules fast enough to pass through solid objects, and even use his speed to travel through time!

We haven't seen Professor Zoom in action in past entries, but his successor Hunter Zolomon could be found buzzing in the background of Infinite Crisis #1 as a member of The Society. The nature of Zolomon's powers differ in that they are more specifically linked to time manipulation and displacement.

The Flash has clashed with many speedsters throughout his career, including, but not limited to: Savitar, Lady Flash and even the faster than a speeding bullet - Superman [Flash: Rebirth #3]! We know he can run in step with Professor Zoom, but can he take him down alone? He won't have to!

For every fast running nemesis, The Flash has a speedster to call a friend! Max Mercury is a whirlwind runner from the 19th century, whose early encounters with the speed force eventually led him to become a Zen guru of speed! His life's exploration of The Speed Force phenomena led him to befriend Jay Garrick in the 1940s, and later mentor Wally West in exploiting the fullest of his speed!

Are two speedsters better than one? You'd think so - but let's find out...

The Math: Max Mercury & Flash Ranking: Flash (#14)

What Went Down...
A dance of ghosts greets The Flash as he rejoins the blurring red haze of The Speed Force. The Reverse-Flash - buzzing with afterimages and crackling with red lightning. He didn't expect his nemesis quite so early. It hardly matters...

The yellow clad villain blitzes across The Flash and Max Mercury in the blink of an eye. The collision of his fist against their jaws leaves a ghostly snapshot in time -- a fleeting memorial of his lightning quick ambush!

The world has only recently learned Barry Allen is no longer dead - lost to the world in an act of self-sacrifice that kept him a part of the Speed Force. With his return to the energy phenomena, the scarlet speedster now knows of Professor Zoom's imminent resurrection. A broken neck no longer an end to his tyranny.

Flash tries to rush his enemy, but catches only a fading image. Zoom is already behind him, stabbing through his arm with a lightning tipped baton! He leaves it there - dashing to overwhelm Max Mercury with an onslaught of punches!

Zoom is tapping into a negative Speed Force, cutting through the positive like a cancer - or the jagged lightning rod he left inserted in The Flash's arm.
The zig-zag bolt does as much damage coming out as it did going in. Flash cries in agony! Professor Zoom simply cries foul - admonishing Flash for the heroic legacy he left when he seemingly died stopping Anti-Monitor and his cannon.

Spiteful Thawne keeps Barry off balance - rushing him down with another super-fast flurry of fists! Then he assaults the Flash with a revisionist history - a grand plan to undo his legacy by bringing the hero back from the Speed Force!

Flash regroups with Max Mercury by his side, both under attack from the infectious red lightning of Reverse-Flash's Speed Force. He prepares another attack, but the impurity is too great. Zoom's force is too fast!

The sneering grin remains as Flash's hands clutch for a throat that's no longer there. Just a haunting image - fading, as Professor Zoom leaves the dimension of speed to complete his plot for revenge. If Flash won't infect his friends, Zoom will kill them himself. The starter's pistol to a race of life and death!

The Hammer...
It was a fight that ended with a threat, not a knock-out. Yet Professor Zoom ran rings around the heroes, and left them bleeding behind him as he set out to fulfill his wicked designs.

For those overwhelming reason - we must call this a villain's victory! To the matter of attacking The Flash at the very core of his heroic legacy -- that's a subject up for debate...

Throughout the month of July we've been discussing various points in history when DC Comics has invoked a "Rebirth".

In 2016, they're trying to put back the things they lost during their line-wide reboot: The New 52. It's similar to the predicament found in 2004's Green Lantern: Rebirth, which worked to restore the besmirched legacy of Hal Jordan, and bring back the definitive mythos of the Green Lantern Corps.

Green Lantern: Rebirth, also headed up by writer Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver, found itself at a very similar juncture at this point, but heading in a very different direction.

Issue #4 revealed once dead nemesis Sinestro was alive and well, himself reborn, and directly connected to a polarized impurity infecting heroes. In Flash: Rebirth, it's the negatively charged red lightning of Reverse-Flash's Speed Force. In Green Lantern: Rebirth, it's the yellow weakness in power rings, now known to be a vein of fear spread by the spectrum entity Parallax.

Both stories use this villain's power source to infect heroes, and make them a danger to their family in earlier issues. By issue #4, both launches the reborn nemesis into a two-on-one face-off against a pair of heroes. For a better parallel to the Kyle Rayner & Green Arrow team-up we featured last week, there's the mentor & next generation team-up of Jay Garrick and Bart Allen that Professor Zoom runs into immediately after this skirmish. The similarity ends there.

It was easy to get on board with Green Lantern: Rebirth. It fixed something that was clearly broken. Hal Jordan's fall from grace in the mid-nineties, and career thereafter as the super-villain who murdered the Corps, never sat right. Even with the creation of a perfectly adequate replacement (Kyle Rayner), there was no real denying that something significant had been lost. The DCU was smaller, and the Silver Age Green Lantern's legacy not what it should be when he was finally killed off in a half-hearted attempt to redeem him.

Barry Allen never had that problem. Yes, he'd been tainted by murdering the Reverse-Flash, but he was still the same hero he always was, conflicted in his lethal act. Thus, just as its told in Rebirth, the legend of the Silver Age Flash only grew with his demise. His sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 was poignant and well told. A cosmic predicament only he could solve. A death worthy of an icon, told in an important landmark maxi-series, responsible for the Rebirth of the entire DC multiverse!

Unlike the Green Lantern story, 2009's Flash: Rebirth had nothing to fix. The hero's death wasn't a mistake. His mythos - as stronger as ever! "Kid Flash" Wally West had quickly transitioned into the mantle of his dead senior. There would be plenty of times to miss the Silver Age Flash, but his modern successor was easy to accept. For over twenty years, he was The Flash, expanding upon the role as a multi-media icon, and the shining example of a legacy hero.

So, was the return of Barry Allen a victory - or a defeat?

I like the way these meta-textual questions play directly into the fiction of the story itself. If the series must happen, that's a very worthwhile idea to explore through the characters -- even if the end goal is never to answer the question.

For better or worse, Barry Allen would end this series as The Flash. (In truth, he'd already returned a few months earlier, in the pages of Final Crisis). His legacy would not be that of a selfless hero who sacrificed himself to save the universe. The DCU would not move forward. Wally West would continue to be The Flash, but became irrevocably lost in the shuffle, to eventually be jettisoned two years later when someone decided it was a good idea to rubbish the entire universe -- The New 52 reboot. [For more, see; Hero of the Week: Flash].

As a long time reader, I have an undeniable affection for the Silver Age heroes. Barry Allen was The Flash I knew and loved in some of the earliest comics I read. How could I not enjoy his return? Yet, I cannot ignore the conflict it creates with all that was spawned from twenty-plus years of Wally West! If Green Lantern: Rebirth was created to bring something back - Flash: Rebirth was created to take something away. Which seems like such a shame.

Sadly, our run through past DC Rebirths is also almost at an end. If you haven't read Flash: Rebirth and want to know more, take advantage of the Amazon link provided [to the right]. You can also find many more featured fights from Rebirths past by diving into the Secret Archive!

For a special fifth week our month of Rebirth goes back to where it began to take another look at a post-Crisis battle from the pages of Legends! Don't miss it!

Winner: Professor Zoom
#290 (new) Professor Zoom
#15 (-1) Flash (Barry Allen)
#794 (new) Max Mercury

No comments: