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Friday, May 08, 2009 

Flash's Rebirth blacks out

The webmaster of the Flash fansite Those Who Ride the Lightning has reviewed the second issue of Flash: Rebirth on his Speed Force blog, and I find nothing to be relieved by. Geoff Johns makes a supremely silly attempt to explain Barry's bowtie from the Silver Age, which is completely unnecessary from a modern-day perspective, but the real problem here is:
I’m disappointed to see that they have indeed retconned in that greatest of cliches, a tragic parental death to motivate the hero. It’s shown in more detail here, and even mentioned in last weekend’s Blackest Night #0 (alongside Hal Jordan and Bruce Wayne talking about how their tragic parental deaths motivated them). I do think it makes more sense for Barry’s father to have been wrongly convicted, with Barry determined to prove his innocence, than for him to actually be a murderer. Of course, then there’s the question: just who raised Barry Allen, if his mother was dead and his father was in prison?
I'm disappointed too. Because if they really have gone this far, and kept up what they were going with in the first issue of the mini, it means that those several appearances Henry and Nora Allen made back in the day, 2 or 3 of which I own in back issues, have been retconned and trampled on, including the time when Golden Glider tracked Barry and Iris to the Allen's home in Iowa where she endangered them with a radiation generator - that was where she let Barry know that she'd figured out his secret identity as the Flash. So is that now down the memory hole?

And Johns isn't doing much better with what suggestions he's dropping in about Albert Desmond, the sporadic crook who took up roles as both Mr. Element and Dr. Alchemy:
Given Dr. Alchemy’s cameo in issue #1, and the framed story about Mr. Element’s capture that keeps appearing in Iris’ house, it seems likely that this is intended to be Albert Desmond. When the good side of his personality was in control, he was a friend of Barry Allen’s (he and his wife even attended Barry and Iris’ wedding). It would certainly make sense for him to be a scientist as well. If it is him, I’m worried about his line from issue #1: “I wonder if you remember me — and if you’re still angry about what I did to her.” I have a horrible feeling that they’ve brought back Patty just to retroactively stuff her in the fridge. Let’s face it — she’d be at least the fourth character in this miniseries to be dragged out of limbo only to be summarily killed.
Or turned into a gold statue with the Philosopher's Stone? Or raped? I wouldn't put it past Johns after the premise he wrote up for Girder, that metallic villain from early in his run. This is after all the same writer who was willing to imply that the Turtle was a child molestor, contrived a story tying into Identity Crisis where Zatanna supposedly helped to "change" the Top's personality, and even implied that the Rogues were nastier than need be, and that the Top's influence in turn softened that before undoing it again. All replete with holes big enough for a herd of elephants to walk through.

One of the commentors even says:
I can deal with whomever ends up in the suit and his/her secret identity issues. But, let’s get on with it already. This Rebirth story feels like an unnecessary middle step before getting back to the “real” Flash book. This might be more of a reflection on how things have been repeatedly shaken up over the last three years. It makes me wonder if this relaunch will actually stick or if DC will get scared again about sales and throw everything out the window once more.
I think a decline in sales after a superficial press release that this has "sold out" at the retailer's department is certainly possible, especially after people begin to realize that this is the gazillionth book not worth the hype it got in the first place, and start to lose interest. In fact, they'll be doing the right thing by not legitimizing this latest forced darkening of another Silver Age hero whose background was better when it was brighter. Anyone who's really a Barry fan should simply say "no" to any attempt to make his background a horrible nightmare. It's no more creative than it would be to turn Superman's world into the exact same bleak affair that is Batman's. No matter what the outcome of Flash: Rebirth, it should be avoided already due to the cynical, mechanical approach to writing. This might even serve as a wakeup call for anyone who's not sure if Johns is reliable or not.

Update: this review from Comic Book Legacy surely nails the problems with this rendition even better, and notes that for a story about a guy who can move fast, it's pretty slow. And it suffers from a problem that quite a few comics of recent have: being padded and written for trades. It makes me think of how, in a way, Johns shares a few things in common with Brian Michael Bendis, and is just as overrated.

Update 2: The Weekly Crisis cites another problem with the book: nothing happens.

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