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Tuesday, June 30, 2009 

"Loving" Barry Allen to death

I found two interviews published in the Comics Buyer's Guide, one with Dan DiDio and the other with Geoff Johns, posted about a week ago, where the dishonesty and weird logic continue to confound. First, the one with DiDio:
CBG: So why Barry Allen, and why now?

Dan DiDio: When it comes to Flash, this is a highlight for me as part of DC Comics, the return of Barry Allen as The Flash. I know his death was one of the seminal stories told, in Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Barry Allen is truly one of my favorite characters. And Geoff [Johns] and I have been talking about this now for seven years it seems like, and the fact that we’re actually here at this spot, and we’ve got him coming out in his own book is an exciting moment.

One of the things that’s great about the series is that Geoff found a brilliant way to contemporize Barry, to make him extremely relevant to the universe, and more importantly, not at the expense of any other Flash characters. From that standpoint, I think that fans of The Flash, whatever incarnation that would be, should be excited about the Rebirth series.
Since this was put online a short time after the third issue went to press, I think it's apparent now that not many are. And wow, did Johns ever find a great way to contemporize Barry, with a ghastly, derivative backstory involving the death of his mother, and conviction of his father, and it makes little difference whether Henry Allen was guilty in the death of Nora Allen or not, Johns's premise is rock bottom, taking the backstory he wrote for Hunter Zolomon and foisting it on Barry Allen instead. And if he's relevant, why is he acting like he's not happy to be back in the world of the living?
CBG: And since he is one of your favorite characters, and you’re the king, you get to put him in a comic book.

DiDio: One would think it would be that simple, but unfortunately, it never is. It had to be the right moment, for the right reason and the right story, and that all came to this wonderful place and we found a way to make that work.
LOL, they sure did, and judging from sales, it shows.
CBG: What will happen to Wally West?

DiDio: Wally West will be seen primarily in Titans, but we’re going to be exploring Wally’s character a lot more. And we’ll be telling stories with Wally in a way where people who are fans of Wally when he first appeared as The Flash will enjoy. The Mike Baron days.
Judging from their recent output, and from how bad the Titans became, I have good reason to doubt they'll succeed. Especially with an EIC as bad as DiDio in charge. A botch is always likely.

Now, here's the interview with Geoff Johns. It's an expansion of a shorter interview I'd first found published in the Nashua Telegraph about a month ago, with some extra Q&As provided, such as:
CBG: Why do it? Why bring back Barry Allen, after a heroic death and successful replacement?

Geoff Johns: I think that’s what [Flash: Rebirth] is all about. The answers are all in there. But whenever I get on these characters, my goal has always been to kind of rebuild their world, their mythology – like with Green Lantern and JSA.

CBG: Right, right. Hal Jordan, Hawkman ...

Johns: Introduce them to a new audience. I love these characters; I think they have tremendous potential. I think there’s a bigger audience out there. I think JSA and Green Lantern both captured that, and I hope Flash will too.
There's a bigger audience out there alright, that even he's played a part in driving away! I've looked at some of the reviews out there, like this one for example, and it's clear that there aren't many answers to be found on why they'd do this, other than a desperate attempt to draw in older readers for the money.
CBG: With Bart back also, you have four people who have at one time or another called themselves Flash, all with the same powers. How will you distinguish them?

Johns: It’s the same thing as Green Lantern. You know, you’ve got Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, and Hal Jordan, all very different characters. Bart Allen, Jay Garrick, Wally West, and Barry Allen, all very different characters as well. And some of that differentiation’s gonna happen within the pages of Flash: Rebirth and beyond, and that’s something that’s – obviously, a clear focus is why I’m delving into Barry Allen’s past in this series, because he’s new to most readers. I think it’s important to explore him and what his attitude is and what he believes in and what he focuses on and what his priorities are compared to Wally West, Jay Garrick and Bart Allen. But they’re all very different characters but they all have the same moral code, just like the Green Lantern.
But no mention of how he's redone his past to look like his earlier creation, Hunter Zolomon, I see. What's really laughable is how he fails to consider that some readers could always read the older material from the Silver Age in reprints and archives, and then would surely be surprised to see how much things have changed under Johns.

Now, here's a part that really surprises me:
CBG: The rap on Barry Allen in the ‘80s was that he was boring. How’s your Barry going to disarm that charge?

Johns: Hopefully he already has. That’s like saying Kyle Rayner’s whiny. You know what I mean? From a stereotypical kind of worldview … you could do that to any character. You could throw any kind of claim at a character. Well, “Barry was a stiff” or “Hal Jordan was arrogant” or “Kyle Rayner was whiny” or “Guy Gardner was a jerk” – you could do that with any character. For me, that’s just someone that has a bias, or doesn’t want to give a character a chance. None of these characters are boring. Characters are only as boring as the writers make them.

CBG: “There are no boring characters, just boring writers.”

Johns: Yeah. It’s ridiculous.
Now that's amazing that he'd bring up an argument that I've made a few times myself, that you can't criticize the characters, only the writers.

But then who is he to make that argument if he's going to sully the Flash's world with the cruel and unpleasant elements that have tainted quite a bit of his work ever since he arrived on the scene a decade ago? And maybe he doesn't realize it, but he's actually told readers where to lay the blame - at Johns's very feet. And one of the complaints that can be made is how, in the words of the Speed Force blogmaster, Johns has rendered Barry Allen unrecognizable. Another is how, for someone who's said the series will have a lot of heart, he sure hasn't shown much to the memory of Barry's parents.

And speaking of cruelty, here's something I discovered about Rogues' Revenge that makes me feel ill:
As Inertia was being transferred to Iron Heights prison, an errant bolt of lightning rescued him from paralysis. The bolt was administered by Zoom, who sought to recruit Thaddeus Thawne as his own sidekick. Thawne complied, adopting the name Kid Zoom, along with a costume that was a reverse of the original Kid Flash garb worn by Wally West. But whereas Zoom instituted tragedy in a misguided attempt to test a hero's mettle, Kid Zoom saw tragedy as an end unto itself.

Proving himself irredeemable, Kid Zoom killed Weather Wizard's infant son. He also turned on his new mentor and reverted Zoom back to a wheelchair- bound Hunter Zolomon. In retaliation for being duped by Inertia, the Rogues exacted their own revenge in a combined attack - a bizarre echo to the way Bart Allen was killed months earlier. The Rogues left Thawne's corpse at the Keystone Police Station, with a note that read "Tell the Flash we're even."
Stay classy, Johns. That's all we need, for Thaddeus Thawne to be turned into a baby killer, as alleged justification for killing him off afterwards. Where is the outrage? I'd wondered what happened to little Josh Jackam over the years and vanished into limbo. Now, I find myself wishing he'd remained there, which would've been much safer. Josh has become another victim of the trend of bringing back a forgotten character only to see them bite the bullet. Of all the disturbing acts of violence and crudeness Johns has pulled to date, this has got to be the foulest yet.

In fact, while reading the synopses of Rogues' Revenge, I realized that in a way, Johns pulled a One More Day of his own: he undid almost everything he'd established years earlier, save for a few things, such as his unremitting use of cruelty and violence. It just shows how bankrupt he's become, and doesn't deserve to be working on mainstream comics.

More from the CBG interview:
CBG: So you’re saying there’s no editorial edict, you’re just following your story.

Johns: Yeah, there’s no editorial edict saying “you have to do this or that.” I’m just kinda exploring what I want to explore with The Flash.
Well of course there's no true mandate. That's because Johns has already established himself as one of DiDio's yes-men. He's like Brian Bendis, who wins the favor of Joe Quesada, simply because his whole approach - or lack thereof - is just what Quesada was looking for. Why couldn't it be the same with DiDio and Johns then?

Johns may have hit a low with Flash: Rebirth, but even before that, I'd say he really scraped bottom with Rogues' Revenge by killing off an infant, and staining a once-usable villain, making it almost impossible to revive and use Inertia again in the near future without that terrible storyline casting a black cloud over him, just like Dr. Light. Johns and DiDio may claim to love the Flash's world, but they're really just loving the Flashes and their allies to death.

Update: this review of Rogues' Revenge 3 from Speed Force makes a point similar to mine about Inertia:
As for Inertia — excuse me, Kid Zoom — where to start? When All-Flash #1 came out last year, and Wally West couldn’t bring himself to kill Inertia and so “did something even worse” by freezing him as a statue, many readers complained that this was a Bad Idea(tm). This mini-series has taken that and *ahem* run with it, with Inertia proving himself to be totally bat#!%$ homicidally insane from the moment he’s freed.

And then there’s the most messed-up moment of the issue, in which he deliberately kills a toddler just to end a hostage stand-off. That was the moment I knew Inertia was beyond redemption, and really beyond the point of being a usable villain. Much like Dr. Light and Identity Crisis, from that point on he’s useless. It was probably deliberate, so that anyone who had any sympathy left for Inertia (and yes, he has his fans) would still be satisfied when the Rogues finally killed him.
If Johns wanted to kill off Inertia, that's one thing. But turning him infanticidal is another. And to depict Inertia murdering youngsters was definitely uncalled for. How many years now will it take in order to wash things clean of the stench Johns has left?

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