Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: Tony Daniel (p), Glapion, Aloviza, Daniel (i)

Publisher: DC Comics

Average Rating:

Chris Murman:
Christopher Power:
Kevin Powers:
Thom Young:

Chris Murman:

Well, that was certainly one direction to take this title and legacy character.

I would love to discuss this issue, and this issue alone. Unfortunately, I cannot because DC doesn’t allow for delineation between their titles. What goes on in this issue directly ties into Justice League of America #10 and Countdown #45, which also hit stands this week. We all know what happens, so there’s no need to recap. Instead, let me make a statement I never thought I would ever utter in all my years of reading comics:

DC, you are chasing me – and my money – away from your line of comics with these antics. For the sake of readers, please quit these ridiculous antics.

For the record, I love Wally West, and I was a fan of the character well before Michael Rosenbaum made him popular in the Justice League cartoons. I am not opposed to him having a place in this current DCU in the least. In that same vein of thought, I love how DC did a snow job on us by soliciting fake issues as to throw us off the scent. They spent roughly two years preparing us for this moment of bringing another dead character back at the expense of another. They brought back a character I like, in a manner I think was inventive, and surprised many of us in the process. So why in the world am I rating this book low and threatening to take my business elsewhere simultaneously then?

Simple. Wally’s sacrifice in Infinite Crisis now means nothing and the blood line of Barry Allen has now been taken away from the DCU. Editorially, DC took a character that was finally on a run of comics that was doing well (Geoff Johns’ numbers on Flash were fairly solid at the time), then killed him in favor of a younger version of the same costumed hero with tons of potential. The restart floundered because of crummy pacing and storytelling, and the sales numbers honestly never rebounded after a change in creative teams was made. Then we find out this has been in the works for some time all along.

This whole scenario was planned. Maybe not the creative team change that was made, but still. Editorial signed off on Bilson’s and Demeo’s ideas regardless. They killed Wally in favor of a series that flopped and then brought him back meaninglessly. Does anyone else see a problem here?

Then we have the matter of all the books that are required reading in the DCU. As far as sales number, I understand why this happened. In DC’s eyes, they want me to have to buy the three books this week, so there’s no need to call me Captain Obvious. The recent numbers from Diamond certainly suggest something drastic was needed to keep DiDio’s job afloat. Nevertheless, these guerilla tactics of forcing books down my throat just so I can understand the basic gist of a story makes me feel spat on as a consumer. Insert a rehashed argument against constant big events here if you must, but we all know where this is going.

It’s a shame all this happened peripheral to Marc Guggenheim’s work on this title. The paring of Marc and Tony S. Daniel was a very nice change of pace from the previous team. I bought the book sporadically, but the title wasn’t doing that badly. Bart’s death was even well done and provided a poetic ending to a character too young to die. The question is, did we need this to happen? The line of Flash and the deaths involved were one of the few meaningful legacies in comics. Sure we saw Barry in Infinite Crisis, but he stayed dead nonetheless. Now a Flash being gone is meaningless. Regardless of where Wally stands in each of your minds on the popularity meter, this was all a cheap ploy to me.

Shame on you DC. I never thought I would say those words about the creators of some of my favorite characters ever. Your careless way of putting out monthly funny books makes you no better than that hack in charge of Marvel editorial.

Someone hand me an Image previews list.

Christopher Power:

Lo, that Guggenheim had been able to bring this kind of passion to the Flash earlier in the Bart Allen incarnation. The story is something that had the potential to be so powerful, but due to the missteps along the way, I’m not sure that it is possible to have a really powerful book for the ending of a series that had a lot of promise but fell flat.

It is hard to talk about this book without spoilers, so I will give fair warning. There will be spoilers in this review.

Flash has had his powers stolen from him and is at his weakest as he is beset by the Rogues. A quaint opening scene with Barry tells us what a hero is, and I actually really liked this scene. It felt like Barry, and I think that Guggenheim should be given a chance to write an out of continuity book with Barry Allen (or I suppose if Barry is brought back, in continuity). Clearly the focus of this book is this: is Bart a hero or is he just a kid that fell into the right place at the right time?

The scenes with the Piper confronting Inertia kind of snapped the book into focus for me. I actually finally understood Inertia’s motivations, as weak as they are. I think that after having this particular villain be a punk kid for so long, it is hard to write him as some kind of mastermind. I think this is the case whenever you get a doppleganger of a character. What do you do with him other than have him try to be the hero?

I don’t really understand why Iris Allen was involved in all of this except to provide some clairvoyance of the future, a future which can change. This is especially true given that she was taken out by Bart with a choke hold. Yeah, Bart knocked out his grandmother. He even remarks how strange that is.

There are a few really powerful pages where Bart fights back without powers, and even convinces me that he had great potential to be a great Flash; missteps by a company robbed him of the chance. Unfortunately, it is not enough, and although Bart buys enough
time for the city to be saved, he is beaten by the Rogues once and for all. Alas, poor Bart was a hero to the last, and he gets a Superboy style statue for his trouble.

However, there are problems. Why do the Rogues leave Bart’s body? Why are Iris and Val able to walk up to Bart’s body? What happened to Inertia? Did Wally come and escort Bart into the Speed Force? The only thing that seemed to be resolved is that we know why the Rogues are partying in Countdown. Apparently after killing a superhero you all go get some tail.

The art is quite solid, with Bart looking older than Inertia, but younger than the Rogues. I liked the use of the panel with Bart filling it and the flashback to his conversation with his grandmother in hazy colours. There were only one or two weak panels (the chase with Inertia and the opening panel with Val) which could have used a little more detail in the pencils. But the colours were bright and with high contrast, as one expects in a Flash book. The scene with Robin getting the news is probably one of the most painful done in comics in a while (provided you care about Robin), with no words or speech bubbles to clutter up the emotion portrayed in the art.

I'll close this review by stating that this comic book is somewhat average. But I give this book an extra half bullet, because I think Guggenheim and team did a really good job ending this series with something that could have been astoundingly emotional. If there had not been so many missteps with the Bart Allen character, be it the aging in Infinite Crisis, the move from the Titans to his solo career, to the cutting of his ties with his closest friends, to a weak beginning of this series, maybe it would have been possible to create a death with the impact of Barry’s for Bart. That being said, being a fan of Bart right from his days as Impulse, I really felt sorrow at the end of this book, which is yet another thing I don’t feel very often in comics these days. I’ve lost a character that I came to know really well, and like so many other fallen heroes, I will miss him in the DCU.

This will go down in my book as another wasted character. Conner Kent, Stephanie Brown, Jennie-Lynn Hayden and now Bart Allen. Wasted opportunities for interesting legacy heroes.

Poor Robin. DC just doesn’t want to give this kid a break.

Kevin Powers:

So I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to come out and rejoice, right? I am one of those Flash fans who has seemingly gotten what I asked for and Wally West has reassumed the mantle of the Flash and been brought back to New Earth in tact. Check out Justice League of America #10 for that development. All is right once more as the JLA now has a speedster and Wally, his wife and his twins are back, not to mention the resumption of The Flash Volume 2 with #231 in about a month or so. But in order to get Wally back into action a sacrifice was made, a sacrifice that will no doubt have a huge impact on the DC universe. After all, in “The Lightning Saga” the Legion of superheroes said someone had to die to bring back the person they were bringing back. Just when Bart Allen’s series was getting going, and just when I had actually warmed up to the man I believed did not deserve to be the Flash, his series comes to an end with this month’s issue.

By now the news has probably spread amongst comic book fans, Wally West is back and Tim Drake A.K.A. Robin takes another step closer to becoming Batman. Sure, I got what I wanted in terms of the Flash. My belief that Bart couldn’t handle the Rogues was essentially proven over the past few issues, but I can’t help but feel a little saddened by what has transpired in the realm of the speed force. The reason for a more solemn feeling is because of the way Marc Guggenheim completely turned this title around only for it to abruptly end. I held on through the De Meo and Bilson arc hoping and praying it would get better. But it didn’t, and even at the beginning of Guggenheim’s run I felt that Bart Allen was too close to emulating Barry. I figured why not just bring Barry back rather than have Bart live the same life?

Guggenheim took this title, which was basically lost after De Meo and Bilson, and began to create a fluid story and character arc that eventually sparked my interest in Bart Allen. I was beginning to accept Bart Allen as the Flash, but the series would have needed heavy promotion and possibly even the return of Geoff Johns to bring readers back. Marc Guggenheim did a fantastic job, however, especially with this issue. From start to finish I couldn’t put this issue down. The plot is heavily motivated by the action, the drama builds with each panel and each caption featuring Bart’s inner monologue. The artwork only adds to the quality of this issue as it is at the strongest it has been the whole series. But with Guggenheim’s help, DC has reaffirmed that Wally West, not Bart Allen, has one of the most dangerous groups of Rogues in all of comicdom. Bart Allen and Inertia were meddling with Wally’s rogues, and in the end they both learned just how dangerous they are.

Bart didn’t want to be the Flash, but now, in the face of unimaginable odds, he “mans up” and accepts fate, the future, and accepts the responsibility of being one of DC’s top heroes. He stares the Black Flash in the face, knowing full well what it means, and still does what needs to be down even when he’s powerless. It would appear that Guggenheim was given the short end of the stick in this deal: he saves the Flash from De Meo and Bilson’s butchering only to have DC decide to change the direction of the Flash and bring an end to the current series. By going back to the numbering where Volume 2 left off, it would appear as though DC would simply like to forget that Bart Allen ever became the Flash in the first place.

While I’m sure we haven’t seen the true end of Bart Allen. I do think we’ve seen the last of him on a regular basis. The reason I believe this is because of Robin’s appearance in this issue. If Bart dies only to return down the road, I don’t think the appearance of Robin or Jesse Quick A.K.A Liberty Belle would have been totally necessary. But the impact of such a development will only further Robin’s character down the dark road of the Bat.

While it’s nice to have Mark Waid return to helm The Flash. It ’s fantastic that the Flash I grew up with, the Flash I refer to as the “true” Flash, Wally West, is back, but it’s a tough price to pay. I don’t necessarily think Guggenheim needs to be off this character because he really did do a fantastic job bringing some respect back to a series that was nearly lost, but I can understand DC wanting to start fresh.

Guggenheim writes a fantastic conclusion to the saga of Bart Allen, an issue that is told magnificently, maybe even perfectly. A reluctant hero embraces his legacy and accepts fate, paying the ultimate sacrifice. I highly recommend this issue for those who dropped this title, for those who love good writing and good art, and for those like me who remember Bart Allen’s first appearance as Impulse in Zero Hour, vibrating through a wall to escape a dinosaur. Again, I commend Guggenheim for the way he turned this title around and brought it to a very satisfying, but sad conclusion. I know I gave him a bad rap, but Bart Allen deserves praise for what he did in this issue. This is my Pick of the Week.

Thom Young:

I’ve written in the past about how worthless it is to review only one chapter of a multi-issue story arc. Of course, I was referring to reviews of opening and middle chapters—and about reviewing them with regard to plot elements that might be addressed in subsequent chapters. (Reviews of the mechanics of a writer’s (or artist’s) craft are a completely different matter.)

Thus, I’m somewhat at a loss to know how I should review this final chapter of the life of Bart “The Flash” Allen. I mean, I’ve only read this final issue of Marc Guggenheim’s run on the title—so I’m picking up the last chapter of a “novel” without having read any of the preceding chapters, and that undoubtedly skews my view of this final chapter. Still, I believe I can make some pertinent observations that can be of value in contemplating this concluding chapter.

For one thing, I was here for the first two issues of this thirteen-issue limited series known as The Flash, the Fastest Man Alive—issues for which Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo wrote scripts that were riddled with writing errors (both at the sentence level and at the overall concept level).

Thus, I dropped this series after the second issue despite my longtime fondness for the Flash franchise (I used to trace Irv Novick’s Flash illustrations when I was a kid, especially if it was an issue that also starred Jay Garrick visiting Barry from Earth Two—such as issue #235 featuring Barry, Jay, and Hal Jordan against Vandal Savage).

Anyway, I want to point out that I didn’t drop the series because Bart Allen was the new Flash. I dropped it after the second issue because the writing was terrible—and I assume that’s why most other readers dropped the title as well. Had the writing been of a higher caliber on just a technical level, I believe Bart would have succeeded as the fourth Flash with a long and healthy run (rather than this unluckily numbered 13-issue limited series).

It’s a lesson that all publishers need to learn (not just comic book publishers): texts worth reading are usually best when written by people skilled in the craft of writing rather than by “stunt writers” who are brought in because of their celebrity or expertise in a tangential area to what they are supposed to be writing.

Now, before anyone starts pointing out that Bilson and DeMeo have lengthy résumés as writers (mostly together rather than separately), I want to point out that the only reason they were hired to write the launching of a new, ongoing Flash title was because they had developed and produced the Flash television series of the early 1990s——a series for which they are only officially credited as having written two episodes (though I understand they were also involved in re-writes of other scripts), and that was canceled after only one season.

Additionally, a lot of their work as writers (as opposed to either producers or directors) has been on either video games or direct-to-video films. They haven’t had any real successes as writers—either commercially or critically. In other words, with their track record, there was little reason for DC to have given them the title of one of their mainstay characters during a major re-launching of the Flash franchise.

What does all this have to do with why I think The Flash, the Fastest Man Alive #13 is only worth a rating of two and a half bullets? I don’t know—not yet, anyway.

Except, perhaps, that this last chapter in the life of Bart Allen is an indication that DC allowed bad writing to lead to the eventual death of their character. With that approach, it’s probably not a surprise that his death fails to mean something within a larger context (as it did for his grandfather, Barry Allen, during Crisis on Infinite Earths).

I guess my point is that this issue wasn’t very good but that it’s not entirely the fault of the creative team who inherited Bilson and DeMeo’s mess. Tony S. Daniel’s illustrations are passable, and it looks like he might greatly improve if he can get away from what looks to be the influence of Rob Liefeld.

Guggenheim’s résumé as a TV writer is a bit more impressive than Bilson and DeMeo’s, and his work on “police procedural” television shows indicates that he might have been able to do some interesting things with Bart Allen as a police forensic scientist—but he won’t be given the chance since DC decided the problem with the series was the presence of Bart Allen rather than their poor choice of writers when they launched the title.

Or maybe they do know that their choice of Bilson and DeMeo is what doomed this title. However, rather than work diligently to bring readers back to this iteration of the Flash, they decided to ask Mark Waid to bring back a past iteration of the character with the return of Wally West.

I don’t mind Wally West. He’ll always be one of my favorite characters—going back to the days when he wore the Gil Kane-designed Kid Flash costume. Still, after taking on mantle of the Flash, Wally’s civilian life has never interested me.

My ideal would be to have a writer who could craft a true forensic scientist procedural (akin to the original CSI television show) for Barry Allen (my childhood Flash)—which is why I had hoped that Bart’s series would eventually get better. In the end, though, Bart ends up dying in a scene that reminded me of the death of the Golden Age Superman in Infinite Crisis.

He died without powers at the hands of a brat (or, in this case, rogues) who beat him to death. His death was not “heroic” but senseless—essentially coming after the climax of the plot and providing a specious anti-climax within the denouement. Both Bart and the Golden Age Superman deserved better, and it’s unfortunate that this final issue of The Flash, the Fastest Man Alive brought to mind comparisons to the travesty that was Infinite Crisis.

Still, Dan Didio once said that “every crisis should result in the death of a Flash”—so it looks like Bart is just the delayed victim of Infinite Crisis and that he was sacrificed in order to bring back Wally. With that in mind, maybe it is appropriate that his death is as much a travesty as the death of the Golden Age Superman, but that doesn’t make for a good story or a worthwhile reading experience.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!