Or – “When Editors Run The Roost…”

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Ever since the first issue of Final Crisis, DC has been abuzz with plans for the character that they obviously consider to be the original Flash, Barry Allen, indicating that he has a greater role in the world than anyone would ever have thought.  Having read Barry’s original series back in the day (I have a complete run from issue 175 to the end, and scattered issues before that, including a tattered copy of #123 with no cover) I can tell you this: I found him more interesting as Saint Barry, patron of fallen guys in red suits, than I ever really did as an active hero.  Dan Didio and DC disagree with me, but with this issue, it’s time to put their money where my…  actually, where my money is, and see if bringing back the last remaining deceased member of the League was actually a good idea.

Previously, on The Flash – Rebirth: Final Crisis did aFl2.jpg lot of things for the DC Universe:  Killed the Bat, wiped out the Martian Manhunter, turned Kirby’s work for the company in the 70’s into a weird little fetish cult, introduced the wonderfulness that is Lolita Canary, and irritated the hell out of Stephen Schleicher.  The last two did the most for me, but something that never worked (and never really seemed to mean much in the greater scheme of things) was the return of Barry Allen to the land of the living.  I’ve said for years that having a couple of actually dead heroes was one of DC’s selling points (i.e., their universe, unlike others, has real change and growth blah blah blah fishcakes) and that the dead Flash was more interesting.  Certainly having Wally officially take over the mantle of the Flash was nice, the first (and pretty much only) time that a sidekick has successfully taken his mentor’s place, thereby FULFILLING THE WHOLE POINT OF THE SIDEKICK FOR LIKE, THE FIRST TIME EVER!  Bucky and Dick, take notes.  Now that he’s back, though, Barry has a lot to get used to, but it’s okay, half his friends aren’t dead anymore either, and can guide him back to reality…

We open in a Central City police laboratory, where two crime scene investigators are going over a DNA sample from a recent crime.  One finds that it doesn’t match, and the other tells him to fake the results for the convictions.  “This is how Central City works,” the elder tech tells his young partner just as a strange man enters and murders them both.  Whomever it is takes a series of chemicals and sets them upon the shelf, waiting for a particular moment, just as lightning arcs through the window covering him or her with lightning-altered chemicals.  “I brought you back, Barry…  and it’s the worst thing I could do to you,” thinks the mysterious stranger as he/she/it leaps to super-speed life.  We see the world preparing for another “Flash Day,” this one made all the more special by the return of Mr. Allen, and we’re treated to an annoying sequence in which Jay garrick insists that “Barry Allen MADE me the Flash.”  Wally West likewise remembers what it was like to work with Big B, and Bart Allen (back from the dead and apparently a Teen Titan again, along with Robin and Wonder Girl) doesn’t trust his Grandpa’s resurrection.  I’m with him.

In Central City, Iris Allen and Joan Garrick discuss the return of Iris’ long-lost hubby, when she suddenly gets a call about a murder in Central City.  “I know Barry’s back,” says Captain Frye of the CCPD, “I need his help.”  Meanwhile, the man himself attends the Flash Museum, checking out what happened during the years that he was gone, and meets up with Hal Jordan.  Their cameraderie is nicely handled, but short-lived as Barry goes weirdly angsty and explains to his old pal that things aren’t right just yet.  “I can FEEL it…  The Speed Force wants me back.”  Barry begins vibrating oddly, as if unable to contain his speed, and tells Hal that he isn’t sure that things are right.  “You outran death,” says Mr. Jordan, as we cut to  a field in Iowa, where two kids find a blackened corpse wearing a Flash uniform lying in a field.  (Foreshadowing: your clue to quality literature.)  Barry leaps into action, telling Hal that he won’t be attending any parties or parades, and speeds off, thinking about the only real loose end in his life: the murder of his mother.  For those of you who don’t remember this bit from previous Barry Allen comics?  It’s a retcon, and we see him remembering the fateful day where his father was arrested for her death, and how he wanted, for the first time in his life, to run.  “I can still see that cop car in front of me,” grits Barry, “and I still can’t catch it.”  He is surprised when his chest symbol sparks to life and releases former Wally West villain Savitar, who was likewise sucked intto the Speed Force some years ago.  Barry heads off to catch him, and as soon as they touch, there is a speed force feedback of some sort.  Savitar dissolves into ashes, as we see all the Flashes, Jay and Iris West, Liberty Belle (the former Jessse Quick) and the smoking body in the Iowa field exhibiting strange Speed Force-backblast…

Hmm.  I don’t know how to take this issue.  The first issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth quickly won me over by making Hal relatable and likable, quickly.  This issue really overdoes it with the explanations of why Barry is “the one, true Flash,” with Jay and Wally kneeling at the altar of Saint Barry in a pretty annoying fashion, and a lot of odd sturm and drang about it all.  There are some nice continuity touches, such as the presence of Officer Fred Chyre (a Geoff Johns supporting character from his run on Wally’s Flash book) at the Allen house during the murder scene, and the use of Barry Allen’s actual police captain from the old book, but overall, I’m still not sold on this return.  Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I just felt too much pressure to love the return of the man in the big yellow boots (remember him, he found Curious George?) and Johns’ usual bordering-on-purple prose makes the full transition past the blue in Rainbow Raider’s costume.  Still, it’s a very pretty issue, with Ethan Van Sciver delivering the goods on all fronts, and there’s nothing inherently wrong going on, just a vague sense of ‘I’m not buying this.’  It’s still a strong enough issue that Flash: Rebirth #1 ranks 3 out of 5 stars.  If we can ease back on the hero worship and get inside that crewcut next time, I still might be swayed into the realm of the believers…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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28 Comments

  1. Matt
    April 1, 2009 at 10:20 pm — Reply

    Can someone answer me how Trickster was alive in the rogues scene? was he not killed in Countdown to final crisis? Am I missing something or is this a blatant continuity error?

  2. April 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm — Reply

    F’Continuity?

  3. April 1, 2009 at 10:36 pm — Reply

    I believe that was the second Trickster, actually… The teen version that Geoff Johns rolled out back in his run on Flash. James Jesse is dead, but this is the kid who tried to replace him.

  4. April 1, 2009 at 10:42 pm — Reply

    I still think the world is better off with Barry Allen dead…

  5. April 1, 2009 at 10:54 pm — Reply

    You know what would make an awesome DC issue. A story of a regular every day joe family where the mother or father of the family unit dies, and the daughter spends most of the issue proclaiming the parental unit will return real soon because that’s how it works here, and then having to break the news to her that it doesn’t work for regular people, only the superheroes and villains. At which point she has a heart wrenching break down designed to make every reader in the universe shed a tear for this poor whelp as everyone finally realizes bringing back dead heroes doesn’t do good, but rather does long term harm to everyone else in the DCU.

    Of course if this actually became a story (I’d be happy to write it DC lurkers, you know how to get a hold of me), DC would probably have the young’un grow up to hate all heroes and villains and bring her own brand of vigilante justice to the DCU by killing heroes and villains alike.

    It would probably last for 60 or so issues, before the guy upstairs called for her death (either because she’s getting too popular, or another universe reboot (probably called Final Final Crisis II: This Time We Mean It)), at which point Killemall (that would be her name by the way), Killemall would meet her father at the pearly gates and discover that he’s being doing a lot of things behind the scenes that have kept her from harm, and only those heroes and villains that are returned to the land of the living make it back because they aren’t worth jack in the afterlife, and heaven has not need for them – at which point Killemall has a flash back to the time when she her childhood was stripped from her, and the series ends with another tear jerking panel that causes the universe to shed a tear.

  6. The Dude
    April 1, 2009 at 11:12 pm — Reply

    I keep hearing people saying that Barry should stay dead, but the folks who are saying it are ones who have been reading comics 20+ years and already have some familiarity with Barry Allen, so they’re coming to game with some baggage. They’ve been reading Wally for all these years, now he’s being pushed aside to make room for a character that many of them find to be boring, and they’re not happy with it.

    Me? I started reading comics last year. I’ve never read Wally as the Flash, and I have absolutely no knowledge of Barry Allen, all I know about Barry is that he sacrificed himself to save the world.

    After reading this issue, my first impression is that I like Barry, I like him a lot. I like his black & white feelings towards crime and punishment. I think he’s a character that I would love to read month in, and month out. I agree that the hero worship in this issue was a little thick, but I think they were trying to tell people like me that this guy is special and deserves your respect. In that regard it worked…I’m hooked.

    I’m not trying to sound like a dick, I just want to offer a different opinion. I think a lot of the bitching about Barry’s return isn’t simply because Barry’s returning, it’s because things are changing…and if there’s one thing that comics fans hate, it’s change.

    So yeah, I think it was a good move by DC to revive Barry. Now a new generation of readers like myself can get to know Barry as more than just the “Saint of the DCU”.

  7. RussHagan
    April 1, 2009 at 11:16 pm — Reply

    I WANT to be excited about this series but the truth is I’m not. I’ve only ever read Wally Flash stories so I’ve no interest in him being ‘replaced’ (in whatever shape or form).
    With Green Lantern Rebirth, I had read plenty of Hal stories previously and so, even though I like Kyle, I was excited about his return.

  8. ZrrEnArrh/Jerard
    April 1, 2009 at 11:17 pm — Reply

    sadly i couldn’t get this book and its seem i wont be able to my comic shop shut down for good to day dc and marvel books are to aah i think john stuart would say clusterf****d i still find a way to pick up buffy, angel & spider man but am done wasting my money(at last and am no mathmagician around 200 and up a on a good mouth) for an industry that seem to care more about the money thay can charge for the books and not the characters in them this people need to stop thinking what shit they can bring up from the past to make money and start thinking of new fun stuff that will satisfy new and not just old consumers id rather spend my extra money on blu rays and video game or just put it in the bank thats got to be better than buying comic books that will just be ratconed ignored our disrepected every time these assholes want to make an extra buck

  9. April 1, 2009 at 11:20 pm — Reply

    Personally, I don’t mind change, providing the change isn’t going back a step. Stories should evolve, and not devolve into what has happened before. I hear great stories about by grandfather, who died before I was born. Do I want him to come back to life? Heck no. From all the stories “all those with baggage” are bringing to the picture, Grandpa sounds like a pretty super duper guy. I would hate for someone to bring him back only to discover he’s a really vanilla guy.

    barr allen is square man

  10. duckface
    April 2, 2009 at 12:04 am — Reply

    The Dude – you’ve never read Wally as the Flash? So why would you care about Flash at all then? Sure, we all have an opinion, and it’s great that you’re interested by Barry, but for many people that have been reading comics for over a year, bringing Barry back this way seems disrespectful to people that have been reading about Wally, which I’m sure far outnumber the amount of newbies. We only just got Wally back recently after Infinite Crisis, and now he’s apparently being pushed aside for no reason. To me, it just seems like another DC non-event meant to boost sales, a la the deaths of Superman and Batman.

    I don’t mind characters like Wally being replaced (though I’d prefer new replacements rather than characters like Barry), but when it’s done for no real reason I get pissed. In this case, I’m even more pissed because it just shows how DC has no idea what direction it’s going in. On the one hand, it’s pushing legacy characters, while on the other it’s bringing dead heroes back. Does DC want to capture the timelessness of Marvel’s characters or show an evolution in its characters? It can’t have both.

  11. The Dude
    April 2, 2009 at 12:17 am — Reply

    Stephen: But all the stories that have Barry being “vanilla” were written a long, long time ago. Back then a lot of characters were bland and boring. All a character like Barry Allen needs is to be updated for a current audience.

    What if I pulled out an issue of Batman from the 60’s? Anyone who read it would say Batman was the most bland character in comics, but unlike Barry Allen, Batman has been allowed to gradually be updated and grow into the dark avenger we have today. If Batman had died almost thirty years ago like Barry did, by your logic Batman should stay dead because he was written as a bland character 40/50 years ago, and then we would be missing out on arguably the best character in comics. Basically what I’m saying is that we shouldn’t judge a character by how he was written 40 years ago. If anyone can make Barry Allen acessible for modern readers it’s Geoff Johns. C’mon, the guy made Captain Cold cool (no pun intended).

    But I do agree with your point about stories should be moving forward, not backwards. I just don’t see Barry coming back as moving backwards, I see it as pushing the reset button like Brand New Day did with Spider-Man.

  12. The Dude
    April 2, 2009 at 12:20 am — Reply

    duckface: I care about Flash because of Geoff Johns. Also I started reading when Final Crisis began, so I knew Barry was coming back, so I have sat back and waited for Rebirth before I started reading Flash.

  13. The Dude
    April 2, 2009 at 12:25 am — Reply

    And for the record, I’m not trying to start an argument, I’m just trying to offer an alternative position. Please no one take offense.

  14. MaximusRift
    April 2, 2009 at 10:55 am — Reply

    Dude: Boy does that comment about BND hurt, but I digress.

    The thing that bother me about Barry coming back is the way the other Flash got treated. Jay should not have said that; Barry should have. Jay was the first Flash therefore the start of the legacy. Bart’s revival just got chucked to wayside thanks to Gram pa hogging the spotlight and now Wally has to choose between a costume change or early retirement. At least we should thank the Allspark that Wally didn’t have to sell the wife and kids to Neron to get Barry back.

    Then again, we could all be jumping the gun here. It is a limited series. Maybe when it’s done Barry will be back to being dead and all will be back to quo. it’s a possibility

  15. April 2, 2009 at 11:16 am — Reply

    What if I pulled out an issue of Batman from the 60’s? Anyone who read it would say Batman was the most bland character in comics, but unlike Barry Allen, Batman has been allowed to gradually be updated and grow into the dark avenger we have today.

    Actually, if you read a lot of the DC Comics from the sixties, you’ll see the same damn thing you see every month in Detective, Batman, etc. The only difference is, when they killed Bats, they called it an “imaginary story” and it lasted an issue. But I digress…

    we could all be jumping the gun here. It is a limited series. Maybe when it’s done Barry will be back to being dead and all will be back to quo. it’s a possibility

    There are hints and rumblings in this issue that Barry may not be back for good, with his remarks about “The Speed Force wants me back,” etc… I don’t know where it’s going, I just know how I feel about it. If it ends like you describe, I think I’d have little problem with all the hero worship this issue.

    I’m not trying to sound like a dick, I just want to offer a different opinion. I think a lot of the bitching about Barry’s return isn’t simply because Barry’s returning, it’s because things are changing…and if there’s one thing that comics fans hate, it’s change.

    Agreed. We are a superstitious and cowardly lot, on the whole. My main concern is NOT that Barry’s back. That’s fait accompli at this point. It’s what Barry’s return does to his death, and what his death represented. At one point during the grim and gritty 90’s, Barry, Hal, and Oliver Queen were all dead, leaving behind legacies, families, and unfinished business. They weren’t perfect stories, by any means, but they were something different, something that felt more real, more consequential, and something that showed that the passage of time does affect even comic heroes.

    Now, all three of them are back from the dead, the illusion of change has been snuffed out, and we, as comic readers, are seeing a lot of stories that harken back to the previous stories, and rewrite them with more 21st Century realism. Sometimes that’s a good thing (see Green Lantern: Rebirth), other times it’s not (see Project Superpowers.) The story of Barry’s death was, in some ways, a publicity stunt to boost sales, but it’s execution really meant something to me, and his death in the first Crisis (the original Crisis, the one what had consequences) was one of my first tastes of adult storytelling in comics. Now, he’s back, the first Crisis has had two less-impressive sequels, and the major difference between now and then is Black Canary shows a lot more thigh.

    So, yeah, I could easily love this story once it’s done, I’m just leery of this issue, based entirely on it’s own story, merits, and my own biases. Your mileage may vary.

  16. April 2, 2009 at 11:21 am — Reply

    And for the record, I’m not trying to start an argument, I’m just trying to offer an alternative position. Please no one take offense.

    Never apologize for alternative viewpoints, Dude… As long as you’re presenting your thoughts without attacking others, I’m on board. You make good points, and I’m glad you had the courage to voice ’em…

    That goes for all Faithful Spoilerites. If you see things a different way, I would love to hear your thoughts. I don’t review these things just to see my name on the byline. :) All I ask is that you treat each other (and to a lesser degree, myself, Stephen, and any other reviewer) with a modicum of respect, and don’t start hacking each other to bits over silly misunderstandings.

  17. Ricco
    April 2, 2009 at 2:29 pm — Reply

    Untill I read your review I thought the corpse was the Black Flash’ I kep wondering “how do you kill death?”
    I don’t know about you guys but I always read Flash for the rogues, not the hero and they had hardly any panel time in this.

    My cash is on Zoom (the original one) as the mystery bad guy.

  18. mosdef
    April 2, 2009 at 2:59 pm — Reply

    i completely agree with the dude. I have never read any The Flash comics. But i like Barry so far, they set him up really good. I cant wait to read more and more and its mostly because of Geoff Johns that im interested in The Flash Rebirth.

  19. Ricco
    April 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm — Reply

    I didn’t like him coming back, but I do look forward to his interaction with the rogues.
    His death in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was superb, specialy how he kept reappearing for a while asking for help while aging into dust before and after we knew he was dead. Like a distant echo the other heroes could do nothing but listen to, just like Bart said his return from the grave nullified his sacrifice.

    I thought it was a gutsy move to have Bart say what many fans think conserning St-Barry’s return, never thought it would make it’s way into a comic, much less the first issue of “Rebirth”.

  20. crood
    April 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm — Reply

    Since I don’t think they’ve been seen since his original series, which Crisis killed Barry’s mom and got his Dad sent to jail? Crisis On Infinite Earths? Zero Hour? Infinite Crisis? Final Crisis?

  21. ~wyntermute~
    April 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm — Reply

    I think I would buy the six-issue mini-origin of Killemall. That whole “it only works for supers, dear. Daddy isn’t coming back.” scene would be worth the cover price by itself. And, like, people love Deadpool… Killa (I’m sure she would get all sorts of wonderful fanboy nicknames) would be a frickin superstar. A _chick_ doing Deadpoolish things? The issues are walking off the racks right now… Lookit them suckers move!

    Oh… Right… Gotta remain topical.. Um.. I like the Wally, he’s been the Flash I’ve read the most… I have to agree with the point made about how Mr. West “grew up and took over the job”. Wonder Girl turned into Troia turned into Donna Troy. Speedy turned into Arsenal turned into Red Arrow (ugh). Aqualad… um…. Something about Tempest, I think.. Anyway, y’all get my point I hope. It’d be like getting demoted cuz the person who had your job & left decided they wanted it back.

  22. April 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm — Reply

    @Matthew: That’s not fair. My complete run doesn’t start until #234.

  23. April 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm — Reply

    @Matthew: That’s not fair. My complete run doesn’t start until #234.

    Membership has it’s priveleges. On their way to the back issue bins, every newly-purchased Gatekeeper comic crosses Matthew’s desk, which means any comic which needs to go into Matthew’s hold list on it’s way to Matthew’s collection gets easily pre-screened. (Also worth noting: I seem to recall y’all selling me some of the issues, back when your storefront was in Kraft Manor, I believe.)

    Since I don’t think they’ve been seen since his original series, which Crisis killed Barry’s mom and got his Dad sent to jail? Crisis On Infinite Earths? Zero Hour? Infinite Crisis? Final Crisis?

    Their deaths were never shown. Actually, Barry’s parents, Henry and Nora Allen, appeared regularly in the series back in the day, which is why this particular retcon bugs me so. Hell, at one point Henry was actually possessed by The Top and became a fat, sixtiesh supervillain in spandex. It’s true, folks… Check out back issues of Flash right around issue 300, if you don’t believe me.

  24. albert
    April 2, 2009 at 10:30 pm — Reply

    Good issue. Johns crafted a great script, while Van Sciver pencilled his usual awesomeness.

    I can empathize why the older fans would be so upset with Barry back because of his death in the first Crisis. And I am a Post-Crisis comic book reader. Although I know Barry’s sacrifice was special, it doesn’t change that powerful moment in the story. Death happens all the time in comics. We’re reading a fictional universe. We can suspend disbelief like nothing because they are just stories.

    What I don’t get is why people think Barry is a, in Stephen’s words, a ‘vanilla’ character. After flipping through old Flash showcases, I would agree to Stephen’s sentiment only because that was Barry during the time in Pre-Crisis DCU. But we’re not in the 60’s or 70’s or early 80’s anymore. Johns obvious won’t shell out stories and write the character in situations that would seem too silly. You can read those kinds of things in a Bendis book.

    I was convinced that Barry coming back over Wally’s career as the Flash to be a good thing for two reasons: one, he was the character who, arguably, initiated the Silver Age; two, his background as a police/forensic scientist is not only relevant now because of the influence of CSI, Dexter, and like, this allows more verisimilitude in the Flash sub-universe (i.e. Barry’s time traveling adventures versus Wally’s angsty family troubles).

    That’s not regression, but progression. And damn good story telling.

    By the way, I love the fact that all the ‘Saint Barry’ haters are reading and buying this book. That’s hilariously beyond masochistic. The nature of us comic book fans just cracks me up.

  25. EJ
    April 3, 2009 at 5:30 am — Reply

    I just love how several reviews that i’ve read today are filled with bitter and angry reviewers barely being able to hold back their disgust that Barry is taking back his place as The Flash. To hear the hypocrisy and contempt that these people have for a guy they never even read a comic book about is absolutelly hillarious and shows how full of crap most of these people are. If you love Wally that’s fine but please don’t try to pass off your reviews as anything more than a typical fanboy slanted review because it’s laughable to think you guys are fooling anyone.

  26. April 3, 2009 at 11:37 am — Reply

    Steaming pile of crap. If the next issue is like this I doubt I’ll finish the mini and that’s a shame because I’ve been waiting for this for twenty plus years. Is Sciver’s art always this bad? His figure work was odd and the faces almost uniformly malformed and unattractive. Plus, I kept waiting for that ‘new and cool visual design for showing super-speed’ almost every interview spoke of but I guess they’re saving it for next issue.

    And the story? Are we sure that it was Bart that came back because the attitude towards Grampa was not his. And Barry has a problem with Green Arrow? I agree that he should but if he never did before than it’s still mischaracterization.

    And finally, as I was opening it, I wondered how long it would take for Johns’ story to have gore. I think he beat even his record. Someone should tell him blood spattering doesn’t necessarily enhance a story tho’ I gotta admit that for once it wasn’t the worst part of an issue…

  27. April 4, 2009 at 1:08 am — Reply

    I just love how several reviews that i’ve read today are filled with bitter and angry reviewers barely being able to hold back their disgust that Barry is taking back his place as The Flash. To hear the hypocrisy and contempt that these people have for a guy they never even read a comic book about is absolutelly hillarious and shows how full of crap most of these people are. If you love Wally that’s fine but please don’t try to pass off your reviews as anything more than a typical fanboy slanted review because it’s laughable to think you guys are fooling anyone.

    Well, then… Let me restate a couple of important bits, just in case you’re referring to this review.

    I am not disgusted, I’m troubled. I have read Barry Allen comic books. Lots and lots of ’em. I also don’t see any hypocrisy in having an opinion about something, even if you’re just going on your own instincts and not basing it on facts. And I am pretty atypical, as fanboys go, if only because I was once seen with Vincent Furnier.

    Thanks for the feedback, EJ…

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