Tag Archives: Wally West

A Teen Titans: Damian Knows Best Review – A Return to Glory?

TITLE: Teen Titans, Vol. 1: Damian Knows Best
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLERS: Jonboy Meyers, Diogenes Nieves, Khoi Pham
COLLECTS: Teen Titans #15Teen Titans Rebirth #1
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $16.99
RELEASED:
June 14, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The Teen Titans have had a pretty awesome run on television over the last decade and a half. The comics, on the other hand? They’ve been a mixed bag. But this new Teen Titans series under the DC Rebirth banner offered yet another fresh start for one of the most iconic and prolific superhero teams in all of comics. A chance to make the Teen Titans great again!

I wouldn’t call Damian Knows Best a great book. But these still manage to be the best Teen Titans comics we’ve gotten in several years. Since 2011 at the very least.

In the wake of his 13th birthday, Damian Wayne, a.k.a. Robin, summons his own team of young heroes to combat a threat from his past. Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul, has sent his own team of young assassins after the Boy Wonder. Their mission? Either bring Damian back into the League of Assassins or kill him. But as his new teammates are about to find out, Damian isn’t one to make things easy.

Damian should have been on the Teen Titans a long time ago. That last really good Teen Titans story I alluded to above? It sees Damian barge in and briefly anoint himself team leader. Why it took so long to get him back on the team is beyond me. Sticking a character as abrasive as Damian in a team environment is a natural source for tension and conflict. Making it a team of adolescents ups the ante even more. It’s an update this book has desperately needed since…well, 2011.

Perennial team members Starfire, Beast Boy, and Raven are back. I’ve lamented previously about how the series can’t move away from them, presumably because DC wants to match the cartoon show. Plus, they’re synonymous with the iconic Wolfman/Perez era. Swapping one or two of them out for newer characters might open the door for even more new possibilities. That’s what a relaunch is supposed to be about, after all. We at least get a little of that with the inclusion of Kid Flash.

However, Ben Percy does a commendable job turning up the teen angst with most of our heroes. The common theme among them is the feeling they don’t belong anywhere. Like so many young people, they feel isolated.. That commonality that makes them feel like they belong together, instead of being lumped together for no real reason (other than editorial mandate). The opening sequence with Beast Boy is one of the character’s best in quite some time. As he behaves in his typical animated and boisterous fashion, the narration captions highlight his inner turmoil, most notably over the “death” of Tim Drake. Throw in how wonderfully drawn and colored the whole thing is, and you’ve got a knock-out intro.

That’s one of the things DC has failed to do with Teen Titans for so many years: Really amp up the teen element effectively, making this book considerably different from Justice League and the other team books out there. Need an example? Look what Mark Waid is doing in Champions. All those characters feel like teenagers trying to find their way in the world and blaze a new trail that’s different from the previous generation’s. Teen Titans doesn’t have that rebellious streak to it. But having these characters feel young and a little less sure of themselves is damn sure a step in the right direction.

Most of the Demon’s Fist characters are forgettable. They’re led by Damian’s cousin Mara. Despite being fairly forgettable herself, she has a strong origin story. She trained alongside Damian growing up, competing with him but never quite besting him. Damian was intended to lead the Demon’s Fist, but Mara took over in his absence. If you subscribe to the idea that all of Batman’s villains represent a distorted mirror image of him, then Mara would be the equivalent for Robin.

Jonboy Meyers was supposed to be the regular artist for Teen Titans. He made it through issue #1 before leaving due to “creative differences.” That’s a damn shame. Meyers breathed so much new life into this series, giving us an Anime-inspired expressiveness, and thus a sense of fun the book has sorely lacked for a long time. Make no mistake about it, the guy knows his way around a superhero action sequence. I’ll specifically cite the Kid Flash pages from the Rebirth issue as evidence.

Diogenes Nieves has the unenviable job of tagging in for Meyers in issue #2. To his credit, the transition goes about as smooth as you could ask. He gives us a couple of gorgeous pages of a rainy rooftop scene between Damian and Talia al Ghul. Still, the little quirks in Meyers’ art are still sorely missed. The same, sadly, can be said for when Khoi Pham takes over on issues #3-5. Objectively, he’s a fine artist. When it’s time for our team to rise up in issue #5, Pham nails it. It’s just that Meyers has that certain flair. Starting with it and then taking it away doesn’t do the book any favors.

Thankfully, one constant in the book is colorist Jim Charalampidis, who brings a valuable consistency to the series despite the changing artists. These pages look a touch darker than I might have expected. But it’s still the beautiful blaze of color you’d hope to see from a superhero team book like this.

It’s been quite awhile since I picked up Teen Titans on a consistent basis. This new series changed that. Did Damian Knows Best make Teen Titans great again? No. But it made the series good again. That’s more than you can say for any other book to bear it’s name in the last several years. Now, here’s hoping things stay good for quite some time. These characters, and this series deserve at least that much.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

Advertisements

A Batman/The Flash: “The Button” Review – Take the Good with the Bad

TITLE: “The Button”
AUTHORS: Joshua Williamson, Tom King
PENCILLERS: Jason Fabok, Howard Porter
COLLECTS: Batman #2122The Flash #2122
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
TENTATIVE COLLECTION PRICE: $19.99
COLLECTION RELEASE: October 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I want to like what I’m seeing here. And I guess I do, for the most part. I just have to turn a certain part of my brain off. Namely, the part that registers guilt about a company cashing in on imagery and characters from a landmark story without their creator’s blessing.

After months without any leads relating to the mysterious button Batman discovered during the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, the Dark Knight gets a surprise visitor: The Reverse-Flash. But what’s his connection to the Button? Where does it come from? How does it connect to the apparent changes made to the timeline? And how does all of this somehow involve the world of Flashpoint?

“The Button” doesn’t give us any answers. But it does wet your appetite for the just-announced Doomsday Clock event in November. It also manages to tug at your heartstrings with some pre-New 52 imagery and characters. So it does what it’s supposed to do. We even catch a little glimpse of Dr. Manhattan at the end…sort of (shown below).

While we’ve known about the DC Universe/Watchmen stuff for about a year now (Has it really been that long?), I still feel dirty when I see the Watchmen imagery. It doesn’t do much good to complain about it, as what’s done is done. But considering what an achievement Watchmen was, and how revered it is to this day, without Alan Moore’s blessing there’s a certain lack of purity here. That’s only going to become more pronounced as we go forward.

Our inciting incident occurs when the button comes into contact with the Psycho-Pirate’s mask, causing the Reverse-Flash to materialize in the Batcave. After a fight, Batman and the Flash attempt to trace the button’s unique radiation to locate it’s source using Flash’s Cosmic Treadmill (Yup, that’s a thing.) After the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot came and went in the mid-’80s, the Psycho-Pirate was the one character who retained his pre-Crisis memories. I assume Reverse-Flash’s reemergence has something to do with that memory retention. There’s no other explanation…is there?

“The Button” definitely gives us the vibe that this New 52 continuity we’ve been in for the past several years is an injustice perpetrated by Dr. Manhattan. Several years have been from the timeline, forcefully robbing our characters of their memories and in some cases their very existence. We check back in with Johnny Thunder, who at one point cries, “We lost the Justice Society! It’s all my fault!” We also see Saturn Girl of the Legion of Superheroes, who’s screaming about a future only she knows about. As Batman and Flash make their way through the timestream, we see glimpses of events from Crisis on Infinite Earths, Identity Crisis, and other stories that have seemingly been out of bounds for the New 52.

Then there’s the big surprise in the final issue: Jay Garrick’s brief return. Jay comes back much the way Wally West did in Rebirth, but is unable to find a tether to reality the way he did. He’s seemingly jerked back into non-existence via some familiar blue energy.

There’s a surreal and almost meta element to seeing characters like Jay and Wally pine to come back. Jay has a line, “They took everything from me, Barry. I don’t know how. I don’t know why.” Odd as it may sound, it feels like he’s talking about DC itself, doesn’t it? I’ve enjoyed the DC Rebirth initiative as much as anybody. But it does entail the company eating some crow. Yes, we’re happy to see so many familiar elements back in our books. But who took them away to begin with? Would they have gone through with the reboot if they knew they’d be backtracking it just four years later?

Oddly enough, the emotional meat of the story isn’t so much the return of Jay, or the drama of what’s been lost. It comes in when our heroes accidentally find themselves in the Flashpoint universe, and they come across that reality’s Batman, Thomas Wayne. Thus, we get a reunion of sorts between father and son, each Batman in their own world.

We’ve seen stories where Bruce somehow gets to talk to his parents again. Whether they’re ghosts, visions, or what not. But Batman #22 gives us two unique moments that manage to really hit home. The first is when Bruce tells Thomas, “You’re a grandfather. I have a son.” For older fans, that’s a really strong, relatable moment. The second comes as the Flashpoint sequence is ending. In their final moments together, Thomas asks Bruce not to be Batman anymore, and to instead find happiness. That’s a really compelling use of the Flashpoint Batman. I wasn’t expecting it here, but it creates a hell of a potential conflict for down the road. Can Bruce continue his crusade now?

Jason Fabok handles the Batman side of things, and handles them quite well. You can’t deny quality when you see it. His work has a definite epic quality to it, and is very much worthy of what we see here. The Flash issues are pencilled by Howard Porter, who I have a lot of respect for. That being said, his style has never really been my cup of tea. As cool as the time stream sequence in The Flash #21 is, Porter’s work gives it a certain awkwardness. For instance, there’s a panel where we can almost see up Batman’s nose. Not necessarily what we’re supposed to be looking at, is it?

“The Button” is a fine bridge between DC Universe Rebirth #1 and Doomsday Clock. For some of us, there’s going to be a lot of Watchmen-related discomfort on the horizon. But it looks like we’ll be getting our share of feel-good moments too. Take the good with the bad, I guess…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Review of The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice – Teacher and Student(s)

The Flash: Lightning Strikes TwiceTITLE: The Flash, Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
PENCILLERS: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neil Googe, Felipe Watanabe. Cover by Karl Kerschl.
COLLECTS: The Flash #1-8
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: January 18, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Barry Allen got his powers from a bolt of lightning, and the Speed Force has always been somewhat electric in nature. So it’s natural that at certain points the Flash crackles with energy. But that doesn’t mean he should constantly look like a lightning rod in a storm. But that’s how our main artist draws him in this first volume of The Flash under the DC Rebirth banner. At certain points it’s cool, but it eventually becomes a distraction that drags the entire book down. Which is a shame. From a story standpoint, Lightning Strikes Twice is pretty good.

We open the book with the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1, this time seen from Barry’s point of view. A short time later, numerous citizens of Central City are struck by lightning bolts just like Barry was, and are imbued with the power of the Speed Force. Now our hero must not only mentor those who would use their powers for good, but corral those who abuse them. All the while, a mysterious killer calling himself Godspeed is killing off these new speedsters. Thankfully he’ll have help from not only Iris West, but a young man who’ll soon call himself the new Kid Flash.

The Flash: Rebirth #1, Carmine Di GiandomenicoThat classic Carmine Infantino Flash costume is so sleek and cool. Many consider it the best costume redesign in history. It’s one of those things I wish they wouldn’t tinker with. Granted, artistic tweaks are always gong to be part of he industry. But drawing lightning all over the Flash in every panel is overindulgent, not to mention redundant and annoying. We go over Barry’s origin at the beginning of the book, and the whole story is about people getting hit by Speed Force lightning. We get it. He’s electric. (Boogie woogie, woogie.)

I like the idea of Barry being a teacher or a mentor. It’s almost part and parcel to the superhero concept. Sidekicks, inspiring people to do good, etc. First he finds a new partner in fellow scientist August Heart. Then the Speed Force lightning storm gives him several new trainees. Of course, it all culminates in Wally West becoming the new Kid Flash. (That’s the New 52 Wally West, not the pre-Crisis one that just came back. Thank God that’s not confusing.) It all ties nicely together with the original Wally West’s return, and it’s cool to see the gratification Barry gets from it.

the-flash-8-dc-comics-rebirth-spoilers-new-kid-flash-5I can appreciate that when he got his powers, young Wally wasn’t immediately thrust into the Kid Flash role. We all knew that’s where he’d end up anyway. But Williamson does a fine job taking him from a kid who’s content to sit on the sidelines and help out occasionally, to a hero who realizes he can’t be on the sidelines. It gives him that much more depth.

As for the other Wally, the first issue in this collection, The Flash: Rebirth #1, gives us a little bit of follow up on the events of DC Universe: Rebirth #1. The reunion continues, as Wally tells Barry about Linda Park, and we see how they part ways. We also get a very brief corroboration between the Flash and Batman. But that plot thread is mostly dropped for the remainder of the book. It’s obviously a larger story for down the road. We do, however, get a very interesting reference to what happened to Barry in Crisis on Infinite Earths. That’s obviously out-of-sync with what they set up in the New 52. It’s a little reminder that they haven’t dropped that story. It’s just a slow build.

On paper, the identity of Godspeed shouldn’t be hard to figure out. But I’ll admit: They got me. The character’s motivations are believable, and they spend a good amount of time building them up. Godspeed represents Flash’s darker impulses. The ones he doesn’t allow himself to follow. The character asks some classic questions about why those impulses shouldn’t be followed. It more or less boils down to “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?” Or in this case, why doesn’t Barry just kill Zoom? They leave the door open for him to come back, and there’s potential for some more interesting stuff with him.

the-flash-6-carmine di diandomenicoI’ve avoided picking up The Flash on a monthly basis, largely because of Di Giandomenico. The whole lightning thing aside, he knows how to convey the speed and energy of a character like the Flash. The characters hit most of the right emotional notes, and I’m into the story. But the line work is so dark and heavy that it ends up weighing down the impact of the art. It’s almost like you have to look through all the senewy lines to register what’s going on. When Neil Googe tags in for issue #4, and Felipe Watanabe for issue #5, it’s a welcome break.

With the CW TV series still going strong, Wally West’s return, and Barry being linked to what’s sure to be DC’s next big event comic, It’s a pretty good time to be a Flash fan. If we could find an artist that fit the book a little better, it’d be downright amazing. But for now, we’ll have to settle for pretty good.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Teen Titans: Rebirth #1 Review – Make the Teen Titans Great Again!

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, 2016, cover, Jonboy MeyersTITLE: Teen Titans: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
PENCILLER: Jonboy Meyers
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: September 28, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Here’s a sad truth: It’s been almost 10 years since we had a really good Teen Titans book.

Geoff Johns’ last issue as a regular writer for the book was in the summer of 2007. The man has his critics. But he knew how to write the Teen Titans, and the book hasn’t been nearly as good since he left nearly a decade ago.

Benjamin Percy, Jonboy Meyers, and their cohorts are the newest team to take a crack at it. To their credit, their take is the most promising I’ve seen since the Johns run. This issue sees Robin assemble the team in his own unique, forcible manner. Our members are Beast Boy, Starfire, Raven, and the newly christened Kid Flash, Wally West (not that one). From a plot perspective, the issue doesn’t give us much more than that. But there are some hopeful indicators for the books future.

First and foremost, Jonboy Meyers gives the series a much-needed face lift. Teen Titans has desperately needed a fresh look and energy for years now. As much respect as I have for the likes of Brett Booth, Kenneth Rocafort, and Ian Churchill, they didn’t give us that. The energy here is similar to what we’d find in the pages of Gotham Academy, or what Babs Tarr gave us in Batgirl. There’s a sense of fun in these pages. It’s been far too long since we had a fun Teen Titans book.

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, 2016, Jonboy Meyers, Kid FlashDamian becoming a permanent fixture in this series is long overdue. They put him on the team for a few issues in 2011, and it worked out so well it became part of the inspiration for the Justice League vs. Teen Titans animated film. Part of what’s so great about the Damian character is if you add him to a story, he stirs the pot. He’s an agitator, which makes for for memorable chemistry with other characters.

For awhile now, I’ve been a proponent of removing most of the Marv Wolfman/George Perez characters, i.e. Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy, from this series. At least for awhile. I assume they’re there to tie-in with Teen Titans Go! But this series needs new blood to couple with its new look. Damian is back, and we’ve also got the new Kid Flash (shown left). Both characters offer a lot of fresh intrigue, and I’m longing for more of that. In a perfect world, I’d have swapped out Starfire and Raven for Supergirl and Emiko Queen (the latter Percy is still writing in Green Arrow), and kept Beast Boy. We can also toss Natasha Irons in there as as a techno-whiz. Notice that not only gives us an even male to female ratio, but it further diversifies the team.

Still, Percy and Meyers make the most of the characters they have by playing up the emotional isolationism so many teenagers feel. The first line in the book, from Beast Boy, is: “I’m alone…” Then we go to Starfire, who talks about how working makes her feel like she has “a place in this alien world.” In the next scene, Raven goes to a museum to “commune with my sadness.” Then we get some real-world commentary, as Wally gets mistaken for a thief, and says he can’t “outrun the assumption I’m up to no good.”

Teen Titans: Rebirth #1, 2016, Beast Boy, Jonboy MeyersThese elements were present to a lesser extent at the start of the Scott Lobdell/Brett Booth series, and again in the Will Pfiefer/Kenneth Rocafort series. But in Rebirth it feels like the thread that unites the characters. It makes them more than just teammates. A unifying factor like that is something you find in a lot of great superhero team books, and its a really good omen.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the restoration of hope to the DCU. This new Teen Titans book is barely established yet, but it’s already instilled me with a lot of hope that the series can be a hot commodity. It’s time to make the Teen Titans great again!

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A Titans #2 Review – The Path to Redemption

Titans #2, 2016, Brett BoothTITLE: Titans #2
AUTHOR: Dan Abnett
PENCILLER: Brett Booth
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: August 24, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

By God, I knew it! The dastardly villain responsible for making Wally West “disappear” from the timeline is none other than…Abra Kadabra? The guy with the top hat and the magic wand? I’ll say this much, I didn’t see that coming…

But indeed, in following up on the events of DC Universe Rebirth #1, Abra Kadabra is the first villain the Titans come up against. He hits them with a classic supervillain plot: Mirror opponents. In this case, the Titans fighting younger versions of themselves. Nightwing against Robin, Wally West against Kid Flash, etc. Though I may jest, this is actually quite fitting. We’re still re-establishing the idea that these characters were a team. So in effect, Dan Abnett is giving us a fight, and adding depth to the team at the same time.

Our penciller for the series thus far is Brett Booth. Objectively, there’s very little wrong with what we get here. Booth injects a nice energy into things. During action sequences his characters have a great sense of motion, Wally and Kid Flash in particular.

Titans #2, group shot, Brett BoothBut justified or not, I’ve got a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to Brett Booth and anything Teen Titans-related. The Teen Titans haven’t been good for years. That isn’t his fault. He didn’t write any of the material he’s worked on. But Booth was the penciller when things really started to go south: The New 52 reboot. He spent over a dozen issues on the interiors, and even more on cover duty. I’m sure everybody tried their best. But during that time the book was, by most accounts, bad . Booth drew some god awful costumes, too. From that horrible Red Robin look, to the seemingly TRON-inspired suits they wore in the “Culling” crossover. It’s been a dark time for DC’s younger heroes. So to see Booth attached to Titans didn’t fill me with confidence, despite the solid work he’s since done on books like The Flash and Nightwing.

Perhaps, like Wally West, he hopes to find redemption in these pages…

There’s an undeniable sentimental quality in seeing these characters together, especially after having them apart for so long. Abnett tugs at our heartstrings a little bit with Wally and Linda Park, and the question of whether she’ll remember him. We also have what appears to be a revelation from Roy Harper, which definitely catches Donna Troy off guard.

Titans #2, variant cover, Mike ChoiThere’s been confusion on my part regarding Bumblebee. The solicits have her entering the series at issue #3, but she was on the regular cover for issue #1, and the Mike Choi variants (lovely, by the way) for issues #1 and #2. I’d rather not tell you how long I spent looking at the Choi cover for this issue trying to figure out who that top left person was. Hopefully next issue will alleviate any future confusion.

I’m interested to see just how close the Titans get to uncovering the real mystery behind the DC Universe’s wonky timeline. But either way, this is a solid series for the time being. The band is back together, and it’s nice to hear them playing some familiar tunes.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

A DC Universe: Rebirth #1 Review – “How Could I Ever Forget You?”

DC Universe: Rebirth #1TITLE: DC Universe: Rebirth #1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLERS: Ethan Van Sciver, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $2.99
RELEASED: May 25, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Part of the idea behind the 2011 “New 52” reboot at DC Comics was to modernize and simplify the characters and continuity for new readers. They largely succeeded. A lot of great comics were sold, and new readers were given a fresh jumping-on point for the DC Universe.

But lets be honest. If you were a longtime DC Comics fan, you lost a lot more than you gained. The timeline of the DCU was condensed down to five or six years. As such, the characters lost a lot of their depth. Certain characters, relationships, marriages and families were altered, if not erased altogether. As such, this new DC Universe suffered from a lack of heart and emotional connection.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1 is DC’s attempt to remedy this problem by restoring some of these lost characters, and injecting some much needed love into the proceedings.

A LOT of big things happen in this issue. So lets touch on most of them individually…

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, 2016, Wally West, Barry Allen hugWally West returns, reunites with Barry Allen, warns of a new enemy. Most of us can relate to being forgotten about on some level. It’s heartbreaking. That’s the feeling Geoff Johns taps into when he shows us the plight of Wally West. Lost to time, left as mere kinetic energy in the Speed Force, he’s so desperate to be remembered. Even his former wife replies to his presence with a heart-wrenching: “I don’t know you.” So it’s a genuine tear-jerker when Barry suddenly does remember him, then wraps him in a hug and says: “How could I ever forget you?” After almost five years without Wally, this was every bit the epic reunion it was designed to be.

The explanation we get for the other Wally West, who’s set to become Kid Flash in upcoming issues, is a little corny. Something about them being cousins and both named after their great-grandfather. I’ll grant them that there was no easy way to get out of that scenario. There was bound to be confusion. At least Johns connected them. Hopefully that’ll be a unique meeting eventually.

I’m not clear on what Barry and Wally remember at this point. In this issue, Wally remembers his wife Linda Park, the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, his time with the Teen Titans, and other odds and ends. At least some of that seems to have been transferred to Barry. But Wally also says it’s becoming harder to remember his old life. I imagine more will be revealed in the new Titans series.

Per events in Justice League, also written by Johns, we learn there have apparently been three Jokers. I balked when I first saw this. Having three Jokers seemingly takes away the character’s unique evolution and versatility. Now, instead of one multidimensional Joker, we’ll have three one-dimensional Jokers. That, at least, is my takeaway from the revelation.

DC Universe: Rebirth #1, Jokers, Ethan Van SciverI am happy, however, that they didn’t give us any names. We didn’t find out The Joker’s real name is Jack Napier or anything like that. My love for The Killing Joke notwithstanding, I like my Joker somewhat de-humanized, conveying the idea that absolutely anyone could be behind that twisted grin. “One bad day” and what not. They may still do that, but hopefully they don’t.

It’s easy to make snap judgments about dramatic reveals like this. (Captain America, anyone?) But ultimately, it’s all about the story they’re telling. The true merit of this twist lies with what they do with it.

Wally reaches out to an elderly Johnny Thunder, who has been searching for the Justice Society. Justice Society got a little out of hand before the reboot. The team was split between two titles. If they’re bringing back the JSA, my hope is the team will be smaller. My question is, if the Society comes back does that mean the timeline gets adjusted so Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, and all those characters were indeed active during World War II?

Ted Kord, DC Universe Rebirth #1Partnerships are established between Ted Kord & Jaime Reyes and Ray Palmer & Ryan Choi. Dr. Fate reveals that Jamie’s Scarab is actually magic. I hadn’t realized how much I missed Ted until this issue. Gary Frank perfectly captures that boyish enthusiasm, which is part of what’s so great about Ted. This new partnership with Jaime should make for good comics.

Ray Palmer has a line about Jean Loring in his scene with Ryan Choi, which seems to indicate that Identity Crisis is out of continuity. I’m a big Brad Meltzer fan (mostly). But if we have to abandon Identity Crisis in favor of a more hopeful DC Comics, with some of our favorites back in the picture, I’m okay with that.

Aquaman proposes to Mera. Jackson Hyde returns to the DCU.  Well heavens to Betsy. Marriage is okay again! With the reboot, Superman, The Flash (both of them), and Aquaman all had their marriages retconned. Batwoman was also not allowed to marry her love interest. Arthur at least got to keep his relationship with Mera. This seems to be a very positive step away from the “heroes can’t be happy” approach DC seemingly had in place a few years ago.

Why Jackson Hyde wasn’t a part of the New 52 reboot is a mystery to me. They had spent all that time building him up in Brightest Day, and then he was just gone. Hopefully they can now capitalize on what for years has been a wasted opportunity.

And now, for the biggest reveal of them all…

Batman, WatchmenWatchmen characters are incorporated into the DCU. Dr. Manhattan implicated as the mysterious force manipulating time. Ah, here’s the kicker. I mean, c’mon. We couldn’t have a villain manipulating the time stream somehow. We had to drudge up Watchmen again, as the book and the characters continue to be profitable 30 years after its original publication.

I won’t lie, there’s a certain excitement at the prospect of a post-Watchmen Dr. Manhattan interacting with the DC Universe. Seeing Batman find the iconic Comedian button with the bloodstain, hidden in the Batcave, of all places, was a legit shocker. Even watching Pandora perish the way Rorschach did was kinda cool.

But here’s my big question: Will it be worth it in the end?

The last time DC pulled this crew out of retirement was for Before Watchmen, a line of prequel miniseries’ featuring all the classic characters. It gave us some good stuff, particularly Darwyn Cooke’s Before Watchmen: Minutemen story. But even with all the A-list talent involved, when you look at Before Watchmen cumulatively, you aren’t left with a feeling of justification. The sense that this was worth doing without Alan Moore and arguably taking some of the luster off Watchmen.

I’m really hoping they thought about that before making this move. Is this going to be worth bringing Watchmen out of retirement Especially when we presumably won’t be seeing Dr. Manhattan, and whoever else pops up, in the context of their own world.

DC Universe Rebirth #1, montage, Gary FrankThis oversized issue is divided into four chapters, plus an epilogue. For these various sections, Geoff Johns is working with three of his longtime collaborators. The MVP by far is Gary Frank, who draws chapter 2, and also assists with chapters 1 and 3. His art drips with pure humanity. When Wally bursts in on Johnny Thunder, we can feel the old man’s desperation, heartbreak, and fear. In the scene with Ted and Jaime, Ted’s enthusiasm is contagious. On the other hand, Jaime’s apprehension is palpable, and comes off very natural. Frank also draws the big reveal with Batman and the pin (shown above), and even drew the cover. What an amazing issue for him.

It’s very fitting to have Ethan Van Sciver on the pencil for chapter 1. As the artist on Green Lantern: Rebirth and The Flash: Rebirth, it creates a nice consistency. What’s more, having worked on those books, and contributed to projects like The Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night, his work inevitably conveys a sense of importance. He very much lives up to that, as its Van Sciver that gives us our first look at the returning Wally West.

In chapter 3, Ivan Reis gives us a gorgeous scene with Aquaman and Mera. But the scene with Wally and Linda, where he’s so sure she’ll remember him and he gets rejected…it’s amazing. Their faces, their body language, it’s just perfect. You can make an argument that this is the most important scene in the issue. The impact of Wally’s failure with Linda makes the scene where Barry saves him that much more impactful.

There’s a certain artistic symmetry to Phil Jimenez drawing the reunion between Barry and Wally. In Infinite Crisis, Jimenez drew Wally and his family disappearing into the Speed Force, as well as Barry briefly emerging from it. Now, he gives us an emotional sequence where Barry pulls Wally from the Speed Force. He was the perfect choice for this moment.

Aquaman and Mera proposalFinally, let’s talk about Geoff Johns for a moment. The guy gets his share of flack these days. He’s got a reputation as Mr. Retcon. And I’ll admit those early Justice League issues where pretty flawed. But by and large, he tells gripping and often emotional stories. In the case of DC Universe Rebirth #1, he and the team give us a much-needed break from the grim and largely joyless DC Comics we’ve come to know since The New 52 began. There’s a place for hope, love, and wonder in this universe. Most readers always knew that. Let’s hope DC never forgets again…

Image 1 from newsarama.com. Image Image 3 from pastemagazine.com. Image 3 from observer.com. Image 4 and 6 from observer.com. Image 5 from terrazero.com. 

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition/

A Review of The Flash: Rebirth – The Silver Age Icon Returns

The Flash: Rebirth, coverTITLE: The Flash: Rebirth
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Ethan Van Sciver
COLLECTS: The Flash: Rebirth #1-6
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
PRICE: $19.99
RELEASE DATE: April 28, 2010

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.

The Flash: Rebirth #2, Ethan Van Sciver, Barry AllenUnfortunately, 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.

The Flash: Rebirth, Flash Family, Ethan Van SciverAlso, 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.

RATING: 6.5/10