Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul continue to provide an entertaining and visually appealing story in the latest iteration of The Flash. As most comic book fans undoubtedly know, Barry Allen has returned from the dead and resumed his role as The Flash. He was the Scarlet Speedster of my youth, and I am glad to see him back--though I know Flash fans younger than me lament the demotion of Wally West, who is no longer The Flash (exactly) but can’t be relegated to being Kid Flash again, either. However, even if you are a diehard Wally West fan (and I loved him as Kid Flash myself), you should still be able to enjoy this series if you can get past Barry as The Flash.
I’d actually prefer to see DC return to another aspect from my childhood and once again have Jay Garrick be the Flash of Earth-Two, Barry Allen be the resurrected Flash of Earth-One, and Wally West be the second Flash of a third Earth (with Jay Garrick never having been the Flash on that Earth). With Marvel having their regular universe line of comics and their Ultimate universe line, I think the idea of having three separate-but-related lines might be worth exploring at DC--an “American Comics” line for Earth-Two, a “National Comics” line for Earth-One, and a “DC Prime” line in which Wally would be the Flash, Kyle Raynor would be Green Lantern, Dick Grayson would be Batman, et cetera.
Of course, that scenario isn’t likely to happen.
In the meantime, we have Barry Allen as The Flash in the only DC universe that has its own line of comics--the “New Earth” line, I guess they call it. Aside from rewriting Barry’s personal history by having the Reverse Flash murder Nora Allen (Barry’s mother), I have been enjoying the work that Johns has been doing with Barry Allen. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any significant thematic reason for killing Barry’s mom and having Henry Allen convicted for his wife’s death (and then dying in prison) other than Johns’s penchant for killing characters to evoke an emotional reaction in his audience:
- The impalement of Phantom Lady in Infinite Crisis #1
- The decapitation of Pantha in Infinite Crisis #4
- The pummeling to death of the Golden Age Superman in Infinite Crisis #&
- The heat-vision incineration of Kinetix in Legion of 3 Worlds #4
- And many other such deaths over the years that seem to have occurred for no other reason that Johns enjoys writing scenes in which characters are violently killed on panel
Before what? Before she’s killed?
Later, when the Reverse Rogues have apprehended him, Barry says, “You’re making a mistake. Why would I ever kill anyone?”
Commander Cold replies, “Sadly, once you hear the evidence I think you’ll understand.”
Is Barry destined to kill in the future because Iris is destined to die?
If Johns is planning to give us another violent death of a beloved character as a means of providing a layer to Barry’s characterization while evoking an emotional response from Flash fans, then I won’t continue to buy this series. However, there’s no guarantee that the scenario I fear is what Johns has in mind. In fact, I hope he is only attempting to misdirect readers with these apparent bits of heavy-handed foreshadowing.
In the meantime, I’m intrigued enough to see where Johns is planning to take this plot (and hoping it doesn’t end tragically for Iris and Barry). The pacing, dialog, and characterization are all highly competent, which has not always been the case with stories scripted by Johns in the past.
Additionally, Manapul’s illustrations are effective and distinct. The look is similar to what he was achieving in the Superboy stories that he and Johns did in Adventure Comics, and that Manapul referred to as “Americana”; it’s a look that helps to create the sense of Barry as a mid-western hero who is different from his eastern seaboard contemporaries in Metropolis and Gotham City.
The one qualm I have with Manapul’s work in this issue is on page ten and the depiction of the passing of time between panels four and five (the final two on the page). During her conversation with Barry, Iris learns that her husband isn’t currently working on clearing up the problem with the Reverse Rogues. Instead, he’s trying to prove a man who is currently in prison is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted: “I don’t want him spending a second more behind bars. I know what that’s like. Super-speed perception or not, the seconds stretch into days.”
As she contemplates this information in the fourth panel, a man sitting behind her rises from his table in the coffee shop while Iris says, “So. . . .” Then, in the fifth panel, we can see time has elapsed--at least a few minutes--as a woman walks into view and prepares to take a seat at the table that the man occupied a few minutes earlier just as Iris completes her sentence, “How can I help?”
The apparent effect that Manapul (and/or Johns) was going for is an indication of how long it took Iris to decide that she is willing to help Barry clear the supposed innocent man in prison. However, because the panels are consecutively positioned on the same page, there is no sense of time passing for us as we read them. In effect, Iris simply says, “So . . . how can I help?”--indicating her indecisiveness took no longer than one or two seconds at the most. If it weren’t for the change in occupants at the table behind her, we would have no indication that a few minutes rather than a few seconds are supposed to have passed between the two panels.
It can’t even be argued that the panels are showing us Barry’s perception of the passage of time (we are seeing Iris from Barry’s visual perspective) since those passing minutes are likely to seem more like hours to Barry--who mentioned in panel three that he possesses “super-speed perception.”
However, that two-panel sequence is my only real complaint with either the illustration or writing in this issue, so it’s clear that I’m enjoying this series. I just hope that the death of Nora Allen is the only death that Johns is planning to add to Barry’s personal life.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!