Comics has an accessibility problem. After decades of existence some books can be really hard to ease into. That’s why the infamous “jumping on point” was created — single issues designed to garner new readers and lure back old fans. Each week brave surveyors Luke Miller and Jamil Scalese will venture into the comics abyss and let you, the consumer, know just which series are worth JUMPING ON, and which are better left to be revisited at a later date.
The Flash Rebirth #1
(Joshua Williamson ; Carmine Di Giandomenico; Ivan Plascencia)
Jamil: The birthing continues. This is the third consecutive week of DC for us, and let’s be real, we’ll be following this newborn publishing initiative for a good part of the summer. I’m increasingly fascinated by the company’s about face. It’s still nutty to me that the New 52 relaunch was all about attracting new readers and this one looks to win back the hardcore fan. The Rebirth one-shots are a part of that odd animal, a wave of comic books trying to satisfy the infinite challenge of making the old seem fresh again. They work to remind and calibrate at the same time, tying continuity together while separating it and parsing it out.
The mixed agenda of Rebirth, to update everything with a classic tone while not repeating the mistakes of old, causes something like The Flash Rebirth #1. The book gallops at a steady pace, trying to let you take in the scenery, but forgets where’s going as it travels in circles.
Honestly, I liked a lot about this issue. Joshua Williamson is a writer I discovered through his Image’s horror series Nailbiter and I certainly think he handled the characters and history of comics’ premiere speedster well. In terms of art Carmine Di Giandomenico captures the sleek and frenzied nature of the Flash and there’s an abstract Scott Kolins vibe that supports the throwback motif. In spite of those strengths I really don’t get the direction, it’s a table setter that worries about everyone’s plate but its own. The script does more for Wally West and Batman than it does for Barry Allen.
Luke: I think the question of direction is pretty easily solved, Jamil. This felt like the “DCU Rebirth” episode of The Flash TV series (if such a thing were to ever happen.) At least for me, it was impossible to read this without hearing Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp voicing Barry and Henry Allen respectively. The guest appearances from Wally and Batman played nicely off of Barry’s character, but they didn’t do much in the way of “rebirthing” the character.
This issue was basically DCU Rebirth, part 2. I’m glad to see that storyline continue, but I would’ve rather seen it in its own book rather than in my favorite character’s book. I wanted Flash and Rogues and lightning and impossible little speed tricks to brighten my day. Instead I got a rehash of a book that everyone who picked up this book almost certainly already read.
But hey, at least we got an answer to why the Comedian’s button was in the Batcave, right?
Jamil: Gotta say I enjoyed that aspect. I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t interested in where the Watchmen thread is going but I really didn’t expect it to be picked up here. Much of this issue was recap or retread, and while I liked the Rebirth 80-page game-changer I picked this up because I’m interested in Flash and Speed Force hijinks. Even though I’m totally set to launch my money at a Bruce/Barry super forensic team-up adventure I needed more concentration on what’s in store for the guy on the cover.
You’re right that show is a highly visible thread in the weave of this re-positioning. That show has been a bigger hit than anyone was expecting, and its adaptation of the comic is now being reflected back on the source material like a funhouse mirror. The swirling of old and new might be the key for DC in this new era but here it looked too much a Frankenstein. Up to this point Rebirth has felt shockingly genuine, but pandering to the TV fan while winking at the longtime nerd isn’t a formula it can lean on for very long.
We get almost no indication or hint of Williamson and Di Giandomenico’s hook for their incoming run but from what I’ve read and heard it looks rad. The idea of multiple speedsters seemed a little hokey at first but I love the idea of challenging the “Fastest Man Alive” concept; it’s an angle that strikes right at the heart of the character. What say you, Luke? I’d suggest skipping this single issue, it’s a pretty much a #0, but I’m sticking with Barry and the creative team.
Luke: Sadly, I have to say skip this one too. If you’ve read the DCU Rebirth book, or even have a familiarity with Barry’s origin or the TV show, there’s nothing new to be offered here. “Batman/Flash: Super-Forensics” sounds like one of the best possible team-up books of all time, but we didn’t really get much of that here, and I sadly don’t think we will in coming issues. At least not any time soon. I’m also interested in the “Fastest Men Alive” angle, but this issue doesn’t tell us anything there, so a reader may as well wait for the actual Flash #1 issue.
But if you’ve got money just laying around waiting to be spent on Rebirth books, go check out Wonder Woman or Action Comics. Those were both superb.