Posted by: Graeme McMillan on June 20, 2007
So, am I the only one who feels that DC has truly fucked up The Flash? Not the character necessarily – although I’ll get to that later – but I’m really referring to what was revealed this past weekend, that they’re actually cancelling the current book with today’s issue, and that the solicitations that they’ve released for the subsequent two issues (that fans and retailers have, you know, placed orders for and everything) were fake in order to throw fans off the scent, and will instead be replaced by a one-off special and then a relaunch of the previous series for the character complete with numbering that continues from 2006? I’m really rather surprised that there hasn’t been more uproar about DC admitting “Hey, we released fake solicits to fuck with the internet! Ha ha, aren’t we funny?” because, I don’t know, that just seems like a pretty crappy way to run a business and an easy way to piss off your retailer business partners.
(Of course, for all I know, retailers knew about all of this ahead of time and were just playing dumb, in which case, good show to both them and DC. Hibbs, is that the case?)
In the end that kind of thing, and all of the other extra-currricular things, surrounding the cancellation of the book are much more interesting than THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #13. It’s not that Marc Guggenheim’s writing is bad per se (If you want bad Flash stories, you can just go back and look at the first few issues of this series), but because the shocking end that everyone’s worked so hard to keep a secret was revealed last weekend at Heroes Con and Wizard World and then online (And again, what the fuck? They couldn’t have either kept it secret for another week, or else managed to make the book ship on time?), there’s absolutely no tension in the book – You go in knowing that Bart Allen is going to die, and everything before that happens feels like marking time. It’s a shame, kind of; Guggenheim did his best to try and genuinely sell the reader on the idea of Bart being a worthy successor to the name, but knowing his ultimate fate only makes scenes like his splash page “I am the Flash!!!” seem pointless and kind of melodramatic; you read them and think, “No, you’re not, dude. You couldn’t even make it to two years of your own book.”
Reading this final issue, which starts in “Bart Allen’s virtual reality childhood” in the future before flashing back to now with Bart knowing about his imminent death thanks to his time-travelling grandmother (who, due to the powers of artist Tony Daniel, looks roughly the same age as Bart’s girlfriend. Ah, artists who can’t quite manage to draw people, how I love you), is a strange experience, considering that I haven’t really been keeping up with the series normally. I know that there’s definitely meant to be an emotional core here, but I can only see it from a distance due to the insanely convoluted backstory that’s there – This particular book, with the generic “what it means to be a hero is tragedy” theme, the characters and situations that don’t get introduced but you’re supposed to buy into because everyone’s crying so obviously it has to be important, Daniel’s blocky and static artwork where everyone shares the same face and body, feels more like a mid-90s issue of any X-Men comic than a Flash comic (or, indeed, anything else); it’s a comic that would only really have resonance for comic fans, or maybe even fans of this particular comic. It’s really pretty Awful, and the needless death of the character – It doesn’t work as tragedy, I don’t think, because I honestly spent the issue wondering what was going on, and whether or not Mark Waid would be touching on any of this when he returns to the (old) series next month, instead of having any empathy for what was actually happening in the story – just kind of makes the whole thing seem even cheaper, instead of any kind of event.
Maybe even more confusing, in terms of DC’s knack of spoiling their own comics online before they’re released, is what isn’t in this comic – An announcement that fans should probably check out Justice League of America #10 for the next part of the story. The final part of “The Lightning Saga,” you see, ends with the triumphant return of the Flash. And his wife. And his two children, who now seem to be much older than they were when we last saw them. Yes, Wally West is back, which is… great? Maybe?
Here’s the thing; I’m glad that Wally’s back, ultimately. I didn’t understand why he disappeared at the end of Infinite Crisis, because the character fills a role that no-one else in DC’s world can fill in the same way: He’s the sidekick who grew up not only to replace his mentor, but surpass him, and who is regarded as a peer and equal not only by his Teen Titan buddies but also the peers of his mentor. The closest other character to that is Nightwing, but he didn’t replace Batman (well, not for long), so it’s not really the same thing. The disappearing of Wally was also clearly not understood by the creators at DC, because his disappearance in Infinite Crisis served no dramatic purpose, and afterwards various creators seemed to duck around the question of what had actually happened to him: Was he dead? Was he in the speed force? In another dimension living happily with his family? In the future? Various answers were given at various times, and it seemed as if no-one had any real idea what was actually going on, or why he had disappeared other than to make Infinite Crisis seem more important and give DC the chance to relaunch the Flash series again. So, in that thinking, I’m glad that he’s back.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #10 is an Awful ending to the JLA/JSA crossover. The return of Wally comes out of nowhere – well, kind of nowhere, in that lots of people have been expecting this particular misdirection due to the name of the storyline – and isn’t given any attempt at explanation in the story at all. The fact that we’re seeing an entirely different Legion of Super-Heroes from the ones who have their own series isn’t really given any attempt at explanation (There’s one line of dialogue which kind of suggests that they’re from Earth-2? Maybe?). Why this alternaretroLegion came back in time to resurrect a character that wasn’t definitively dead in the first place is given no attempt at explanation, either; instead, we’re given scenes that hint that the Legion had an ulterior motive, but, of course, that’s not explained either. It’s hard for me to say how truly sloppy this final chapter is, even compared with the earlier parts of this story. It’s truly fan-fiction that somehow got published by a real company, with all the entitlement and lack of logic or respect for the reader that that implies. I’m sure that this, as with the Flash and everything else right now, is (ahem) “counting down” towards something that will have glossy cardstock covers and arguably feature superheroes crying as they punch something, but goddamn if they’re not making it hard to care with the shitty comics that they’re putting out right now.