Or – “This MEANS Something…  This Is IMPORTANT.”


Barry Allen is back, and the signs that accompany him aren’t those of celebration…  Dark skies, lightning storms, strange maladies affecting the various speedsters of the DC Universe.  I’m getting a feeling that escaping the clutches of death many not have been as easy (or as final) as Mr. Allen might have us believe, and it’s quite obvious that staying alive (with respect to Barry Gibb) may not be alright, may not be okay, and we may not be able to look the other way forever.

Previously, on The Flash – Rebirth:  Darkseid’s final gambit was a big one, a crisis that was practically final, if you will, coming within FL2.jpginches of universal domination and costing the lives of hundreds, including the Batman and the Martian Manhunter.  During all the carnage, however, it became possible for the Speed Force to vomit out a soul long since thought lost, in the form of the second Flash.  Racing back to life, Barry assists his former kid sidekick in saving the world, but finds that when he slows down, nothing makes sense anymore.  The world has gone on without him, the Speed Force is constantly howling at his back, trying to reclaim him, and even his closest friends don’t understand why he’s so standoffish.  Worse than that, Barry’s return has played havoc with the powers of other speedsters, leaving Flash I, Flash III, Kid Flash II, Liberty Belle II, and other speed force types convulsing in a heap of lightning and blurred limbs.  If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, check your suspension of disbelief at the door, as the Black Flash, embodiment of super-speedster death, is found burning in a cornfield.  When Wally and Barry arrive to investigate, the power of the Black Flash infects Barry, leaving him in an ebon version of his usual threads, and a realization that everything he knows is wrong…

We open in Central City, in an empty warehouse filled with little wooden puppets…  As we zoom in on a Barry Allen puppet that might feel strangely as though is was turned into it’s current state from something else, offscreen voices argue.  One belongs to the puppet’s master, Abra Kadabra, but the other is unidentified.  “I warned you, magician…  There isn’t enough room in this century for the BOTH of us.”  Oh, crap…  Suddenly, I know exactly who this mystery villain is.  Someone yells “Abra Kadabra,” and a gout of flame fills the room, leaving the Flash puppet blackened with soot.  Elsewhere, at the JSA brownstone, Liberty Belle (the former Jesse Quick) and Hourman discuss her parents (Johnny Quick and the first Liberty Belle) and he warns her not to overtax herself after her speed-seizures in the previous issue.  A sudden explosion destroys statues of her parents, and Jesse sees her father again, crying out for Barry to save her.  Of course, Barry is in no position to save anyone, trapped in some sort of stasis cage as the members of the JLA and JSA clear the area around the Black Flash corpse and try to establish what has happened to him.  Wally and Jay Garrick have a plan to try and save their fellow Flash, by cutting off his link to the extradimensional Speed Force.  Kid Flash suddenly arrives, asking what Barry knows about Max Mercury.  “Why didn’t Max get out, too?” comes the heartbreaking question, and Barry can’t give him an answer.  There are also no answers for Iris West Allen, who wants to know why her husband won’t slow down and talk to her for a moment…

Barry remembers the day that they went on their first date, the day she gave him the red bow tie that became his signature, and is suddenly overcome with an energy surge from the Speed Force.  “RUN,” he tells his wife before bursting out of his cage and blazing away at top speed.  The Speed Force that has been trying to claim him has apparently realized that he’s not the ONLY speedster present.  “Jay…  Bart…  Wally…  I feel it reaching out.  It WANTS them,” thinks Barry, as he tries to escape.  The Leaguers try to corral him (for his own good, naturally) but Barry is too fast, evading their traps and racing away.  A sonic boom is the only trace left of the second Flash, as the Justice League is left in his wake…  all save one.  “I’m not going to let you do this,” says Superman, suddenly catching up to the Vizier of Velocity.  Barry tells him he doesn’t understand, that his resurrection is more sinister than it seems.  “It wasn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card, it was a wish off a monkey’s paw!” yells the Flash.  Superman tries to convince him that they don’t know that, and that he (Superman) is nearly as fast as Barry.  When reminded of the Superman/Flash races of years past, Barry grimly responds, “Those were for CHARITY, Clark,” and pulls away as though the rocketing Kryptonian were standing still.  The Flash’s sheer velocity breaks into the timestream, passing his own past selves, all of whom order him to keep running.  He remembers meeting Iris, the death of his mother (a curious recurring plot point in all this, and the hardest retcon to button in the whole series), repeating his mantra, “I’ll be alright as long as I remember [Iris’] name.”  Sadly, this singular memory starts to fade, leading to Barry breaking through to the other side of the Speed Force, where day destroys the night, and night divides the day.  Somewhere in a dimension of nothing but speed, he is greeted by Johnny Quick and Max Mercury.  Johnny yells at Barry (as seen in the Liberty Belle scene) to save Jesse, but when he touches the Flash, he disintegrates as Savitar did last time…  Max trires to tell him something (“It’s not you…  Professor!”  Foreshadowing: your key to quality literature.) but is consumed by energy.  Now, what Flash foe is fast enough to connect to the speed force, travels through time, is petty enough to have a grudge against Abra Kadabra for traveling through time, and wants Barry Allen dead?  “Do you not see what I’ve done?” comes a voice through the speed force energy field.  “I’ve shifted you into REVERSE.”  The mystery villain reveals himself to be Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, the man that Barry killed years ago after Thawne killed Iris Allen.  (Yes, I know that’s confusing…  Don’t expect me to explain how Eobard is the great-great-something of Barry’s evil twin brother, either.)

Hmm…  There are a couple of troubling bits of this issue, and a couple of things that I truly loved.  Barry’s completely out of character doom-and-gloom attitude is actually quite refreshing, and is working towards actually exorcising the spirit of ‘Saint Barry’ once and for all.  The moment where Barry finally cuts loose and leaves Superman in the dust has been a loooong time coming, and I like the family aspect of the Flashes coming up again.  Impulse/Kid Flash’s concern from his lost mentor and father figure was also nicely handled.  Now, here’s the bad part for me: Kid Flash is recently back from the dead.  Iris West is back from the dead.  Reverse-Flash is back from the dead.  Barry himself, likewise.  With a sizable number of the characters in the book easily escaping the realm of Pluto, I have a little problem thinking that Barry’s own resurrection is going to end up any way other than a bed of roses, which is too bad.  The best parts of the series have been the subtle hints that not everyone is SUPPOSED to come back, and a little part of me hopes that Barry’s resurrection IS temporary, that he ends the series dead again, with Wally in the role of Flash again.  Why?  Because as much as this series tries to turn Barry into something iconic and portentious, he’s just a guy.  He’s a guy who tried to do the right thing, and gave his life to do it.  That’s impressive.  A guy who almost gave his life, but then came back and lived happily ever after?  Not nearly as powerful.  And, frankly, I’m still not over my irritation with Barry-worship.  This issue features, of all things, the secret origin of the man’s #&$ing TIE.  It’s a puzzling issue, frought with doubt and darkness and portents of great evil, and I’m still interested in where it’s going, but so far this series just isn’t running on all cylinders for me.  (Also: if you write comics, please take this tiny suggestion…  NOT EVERY VILLAIN MUST BE A DARK MIRROR OF THE HERO.)  The protagonist of the book is echoing my thoughts, wondering WHY he needed to come back, and for this series to be a success will require that question to be answered in definitive fashion.  The art is beautiful throughout, as Ethan Van Sciver’s work always is, but the story still troubles me.  The Flash: Rebirth #3 earns a mixed blessing 2 out of 5 stars,  and though I like each issue a little more, I end up with more nagging unanswered questions after each one.


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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  1. Ricco
    June 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm — Reply

    Woohoo! I was right, from issue one I said it was the body of Black Flash and the big bad was the original Zoom. Next we’re gonna find out that his wand thingy can cut his ties to speed force so Barry can’t kill him by touching him, you’ll see.

  2. June 11, 2009 at 8:31 pm — Reply

    Could be, could be…

  3. websnap
    June 12, 2009 at 9:11 am — Reply

    I thought the best part was the race, that’s about it… Maybe this will read better as a trade.

  4. katzedecimal
    June 12, 2009 at 9:41 am — Reply

    What’s irking me is how little this guy actually resembles Barry Allen. St. Barry worship sure, but where is this saint that they worship? Barry was the quintessinal Good Guy, he was a cop who Used His Powers For Justice, to help the cops get the jobs done. Morally, he was a chessboard and was so clean the air smelled of roses when he left the men’s room. This guy, his paaaaaaaaarents are deeeeeeeeeeead, he’s been out there to beat up the Bad Guys because his paaaaaaaaaaaarents are deeeeeeeeeeead, he’s been secretly full of rage and revenge because his paaaaaaaarents are deeeeeead and how is he any different from any other modern super-thug i mean super-hero? Anyone reading this is going to think “What’s all the fuss about? How’s this guy so great that he warrents all this fanfare? Also, where’s his Flasharang and Flashmobile and does he have a Flashcave?”

    I was never a Flash fan and never liked Barry Allen, but I think Johns has gone down the wrong road with this one. In a world where all of the super-“heroes” seem to be super-thugs, where it’s getting harder to tell the capes from the villains, where everyone’s paaaaaaaaaarents are deeeeeeeeead, an Archie Andrews type who still has a moral compass (and Archie Andrews’ tie) would stand out even stronger than he did before. He could be confused by all the modern technology, and shocked by how grim’n’gritty all of his former cohorts have become. But no, Johns had to kit him out with all the modern pre-reqs and turn him into just another turn-of-the-century super-hero. Yawn. Nothing to see here, move along.

    Reverse-Flash, not confusing, it’s time travel. Any Doctor Who fan can follow it without a score-card. Considering that ol’ Eobard looked to be in middle to late middle age when he died, that gives him plenty of lifespan to putz around with. Plus, this IS post-several-crisises including post-Tom Welling Prime Punch and also post-Geoff Johns, who (to quote a friend) never met a retcon he didn’t like, Thawne could have A LOT of lifespan to putz around with.

  5. June 12, 2009 at 10:20 am — Reply

    That’s a good point, Katz. Moreover, it’s been so long since Barry was in a regular role that most readers don’t actually remember him.

    The confusing part about Thawne isn’t the time travel, so much as the previous time travel. A young Eobard Thawne came back in time, pretended to be Barry, fought Wally, and then embarked on a career fighting Barry further back in time. At some point, Barry killed him (after he killed Iris, who actually came back in time from further in the future than Thawne, and whose mind returned to the 30th century to inhabit another body) then he went on trial, then Barry went forward in time to father Don and Dawn, and they, in turn, fathered Impulse and XS. Thawne has appeared in the future of his past a number of times, but now he’s back and seemingly at least semi-aware of the history between the characters.

  6. Ricco
    June 12, 2009 at 11:02 am — Reply

    The simplest explanation is that new Zoom saved old Zoom from death in an attempt at creating further tragedy for the speedsters to make them better heroes. The current Zoom being able to vibrate through time makes this possible.

    St. Barry is refered to as such not because of who he was but because of how he died, during Crisis On Infinite Earths he sacrificed his life to stop the Anti-Monitor’s canon from destroying the matter universe by running himself to death around it. He then pops in from time to time during this crisis asking for help when he ran so fast he was going faster then light and time traveled while dying.

    Add the fact he stayed dead for over 20 years and was one of the few permanent death before “””Final””” Crisis and you get “St. Barry”, it has very little to do with his personality or character he just lucked out on his death.

    If you ask me Supergirl drew the real short straw during that time, she died a hero as well, saving Superman, but when the universe was reset she was erased from histroy and was eventually replaced by the current Supergirl.

  7. Katzedecimal
    June 12, 2009 at 2:14 pm — Reply

    Mmm, gotta disagree, Ricco, Barry was a very upstanding moral super-hero who was admired as such by his peers. Batman used to speak of him as his moral compass, before and after Barry died. Even Barry’s Rogues respected him. Wally’s spent the last 25 years trying to live up to the standard that Barry set as a man and as a super-hero. That doesn’t come from the spectacular death alone – the spectacular death just put the icing rose on. But now, thanks to Johns, readers who don’t remember pre-Crisis Barry will think it was JUST the death that created St. Barry.

    No arguments on Supergirl, she did get the broken end of the stick. However, her fate had hinged on the success of the Supergirl movie, and when it bombed, so did Kara Zor-El.

  8. Garylad
    June 22, 2009 at 11:29 pm — Reply

    Barry is back for good, but he will lose his powers, Wally will once again be ‘The Flash’.

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