By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
So you’re a superhero who’s been dead for several years. The world goes on, life goes on. Then suddenly, you’re back….What do you do?
If Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver have something to say about it, you’ll probably star in a 6-issue Rebirth miniseries. Hoping to recapture the success they found with Green Lantern: Rebirth in 2004, the duo launched The Flash: Rebirth in the aftermath of Barry Allen’s return to his role as The Flash in Final Crisis.
But The Flash: Rebirth is a completely different animal. The Barry Allen character, who unofficially started the silver age of comics with his first appearance as The Flash in 1956, had been dead for about 25 years. He was killed off in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even so, he remained a perennial fan favorite, and was occasionally seen in flashback and time travel stories. But Rebirth made it official: Barry was back, and this story served as his welcome home.
Unfortunately, Barry isn’t entirely convinced his return is a good thing. Having been trapped in the Speed Force (the energy source that other Flash characters have tapped into for their speed) for several years, he is convinced that he “wasn’t supposed” to come back. But unbeknownst to Barry, one of his enemies is plotting against him. As the Speed Force begins to behave erratically, Barry Allen must once again embrace his role as the scarlet speedster if he and his loved ones are to survive.
One of the great things about Geoff Johns’ writing is that he’s truly able to grasp the ins and outs of the characters he works with, and what they represent. In Rebirth, he’s able to add on to what readers know about Barry Allen, without tarnishing any of the history.
For readers who aren’t familiar with the character, Johns quickly points to Barry’s emotional soft spots. He spotlights his relationship with his beloved wife Iris, and adds a new heart-wrenching aspect to his backstory. This provide the reader with an emotional tether to Barry, drawing into the story line whether they know him or not.
The story’s biggest problem lies with the complexities involving the Speed Force, and how it ties into everything. What the Speed Force is and does, how it’s used, how it effects the characters, these are all things that Johns needs to explain within the context of the story. He does it, but the information is all a bit much to take in. I actually had to re-read several passages just so I could fully understand what was happening.
Also, while it doesn’t necessarily hurt the story, we end up with a LOT of speedsters in the picture at the end of the book. In addition to Barry Allen, we have Wally West (who took over as The Flash after Barry died), Kid Flash, Jay Garrick (the original Flash from the 1940’s who still his his powers), Wally’s daughter, in addition to two other returning characters. That’s SEVEN characters with super-speed powers. Johns did great character work with Barry here, but the idea that he’s been restored to his role as the DC Universe’s primary speedster comes out tarnished.
Van Sciver’s art hits the mark, as usual. He has the unenviable task of drawing both Barry Allen and Wally West in their Flash uniforms, which are basically identical. To his credit, there’s seldom confusion as to who is who, but Johns throws him a plot point at the end to help him out a bit.
Did DC Comics need to bring Barry Allen back? No. Still, amid the confusion (and perhaps redundancy) Johns and Van Sciver made me appreciate that he is back. Despite its flaws, The Flash: Rebirth is, at it’s core, a story about a man coming to grips with the circumstances life has dealt him, and appreciating the wonderful things he has.