Thursday, August 23, 2007

Live Action: "Be My Baby"

“Be My Baby” (February 21, 1991)

Writer: Jule Selbo
Director: Bruce Bilson
Editor: Lawrence J. Gleason

Synopsis: One night on the streets of Central City, Barry Allen encounters Stacy Ann Doubec, a troubled young woman on the run with her baby, Lillian. Though Stacy is reluctant to reveal the reasons for her distress, Barry soon learns that the imperiled mother is being relentlessly pursued by Philip Moses, the child’s father, a cruel multi-millionaire who will let nothing stop him from stealing back his only heir.

Commentary: Could there be a nicer hero than Barry Allen? During the course of the series our impeccably polite, kind-hearted, and mild-mannered police scientist hero has taken in homeless teenagers, crotchety senior citizens, and a wide variety of beautiful damsels in distress. It's all a bit much, really. Unfortunately, this episode takes that trend to a new level when he returns home one evening to find a bassinet on his doorstep. In “Be My Baby,” the fastest man alive gets to spend quality time with a bouncing baby girl. As a result, there are endless scenes featuring Barry as babysitter. It’s odd to see guest star Bryan Cranston--now familiar to viewers for his roles in a number of high-profile sitcoms--as the story’s dastardly villain of the week, Philip Moses. Despite exhibiting a number of personal quirks, Moses is an uninspired antagonist and his malignant motivations simply aren’t convincing. This is an episode that never takes off and, sadly, never attempts to offer us the sort of twists that we’re so eagerly anticipating. If the synopsis seems skimpy it’s because the plot is too. Worst of all, “Be My Baby” is never particularly fun or funny, despite the intent of its script. After a few tantalizing hints of superhero style and comic book action earlier in the season, The Flash has seemingly plunged back into the realm of mundane drama.

High-Speed Highlight: Highlights? Watch as the scarlet speedster aims to entertain a dozen cranky toddlers simultaneously! Marvel as the crimson comet constructs a child’s crib from simple laboratory equipment! Thrill to the sights of the fastest man alive using his astonishing superpowers to make a run for baby food! That’s right, baby food.

Quotable: “One of your adventures before you became the Flash, eh Barry? ‘Dearest Barry: Be back in the morning. Please take care of Lilly. Love,’--or, rather, annoying, cute little drawing of a heart--‘Stacy.’ Are you sure you’re not the father?” --Tina McGee teases Barry Allen upon finding a basket, a baby, and a note on his doorstep

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Flash Facts: Quantum Tunneling

Has the speed of light been broken? A pair of German physicists claim to have done just that, reports the Scotsman. Using a process known as quantum tunneling, Dr. Gunter Nimtz and Dr. Alfons Stahlhofen of the University of Koblenz say they have accelerated microwave photons past the speed of light in defiance of Einstein's special theory of relativity, which states that an infinite amount of energy would be needed to accelerate any object beyond the speed of light. "In an experiment, microwave photons, energetic packets of light, appeared to travel 'instantaneously' between two prisms forming the halves of a cube placed a metre apart... When the prisms were placed together, photons fired at one edge passed straight through them, as expected. After they were moved apart, most of the photons reflected off the first prism they encountered and were picked up by a detector. But a few photons appeared to 'tunnel' through the gap separating them as if the prisms were still held together." Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of Toronto, isn't buying it, however. At New Scientist, Steinberg offers an explanation for the quantum tunneling effect, leaving Einsten's theory and the speed of light intact.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Birthday Card Game

Yesterday, The Aquaman Shrine featured a simple yet amusing item, " a birthday card that came with a built-in card game, with little punch-out cards featuring various members of the DCU, all by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez." The Flash is featured alongside Aquaman, Superman, Batman, Robin, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Green Lantern, Plastic Man, Batgirl, Captain Marvel, Hawman, and the Joker! What's more, Rob has offered a high-res sheet of the cards as a download. Whether you're at work or at home, whether you're involved in a project of vital importance or just looking for a way to pass the time, I'd say you should drop whatever it is you're doing, print out the birthday card game, and get playing!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Upcoming: The Flash #234

DC Comics has released a complete listing of their offerings for the month of November, including an entry for The Flash #234. Waid and Rogers's ongoing story will continue to focus on Jai and Iris, the scarlet speedster's superpowered twins. The issue's bizarre cover artwork by Manuel Garcia evokes memories of the once popular transformation stories of the Silver Age. Additionally, it looks as if Barry Allen, Wally West, and the Cosmic Treadmill will be play a prominent role in November's Booster Gold #4.

Written by Mark Waid and John Rogers; Art by Daniel Acuña and Doug Braithwaite; Cover by Manuel Garcia. The unstable powers of Wally West's growing children reach a terrifying new level! And in the backup feature, "The Fast Life," by Mark Waid, John Rogers, and Doug Braithwaite, the compelling tale of Wally's family's life on a Flash-friendly alien world continues. DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale November 21, 2007.

Update: It looks as if November is going to be a busy month for the world's fastest human. He's everywhere! I'm not sure how I could have missed this, but Wally West will also be teaming-up with the Doom Patrol in The Brave and the Bold #8, written by Mark Waid with art by George Pérez and Bob Wiacek. This sounds like an adventure that's not to be missed!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Sale: The Flash #231

On sale today from DC Comics is the landmark The Flash (v.2) #231, a return to the title's previous numbering as Wally West returns to Keystone City as the scarlet speedster. And he's not alone! These days, the Flash is sharing his superhero adventures with his entire family. Newsarama has posted a seven-page sneak peek at the issue, offering us a glimpse of the mighty West twins in action!

Written by Mark Waid; Art by Daniel Acuña; Covers by Doug Braithwaite and Acuña. Continuing the storyline so explosive we can't give anything away--and it's destined to be one of the most talked-about tales of 2007! DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale August 15, 2007.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Flash Forward

What can we expect to see in the pages of The Flash during Mark Waid's triumphant return to the title? Apparently, things will not be the same as they once were. Wizard has posted "Flash Forward," a brief look ahead to those story elements that the writer intends to explore during his new reign.

From getting ricocheted across time and space to arriving home too late to stop the brutal murder of his cousin, the past few years of Wally West’s life have been a far cry from his lighthearted ’90s heyday. Wizard tapped upcoming writer Mark Waid, who takes over with August’s Flash #231, to explain why the series will again be a runaway hit with fans... “I would rather chart new ground than to hit Speed Force stories again, or God forbid that we do any time travel,” promised the writer. “I don’t even want the book narrated by Wally.”

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mike Wieringo (1963-2007)

Mike Wieringo, the celebrated comic book artist who first earned widespread recognition because of his exceptional work on The Flash, has passed away. Readers who experienced Ringo's work on the scarlet speedster's title will surely never forget his vibrant, lively, downright charming interpretation of the characters. Obituaries have been posted at Newsarama and Comic Book Resources.

The comics industry lost a luminary this weekend--Mike Wieringo passed away Sunday of a sudden heart attack... Wieringo was born June 24, 1963 in Venice, Italy, and first caught the attention of comic book fans when he joined writer Mark Waid on DC's The Flash with issue #80 in 1993. Together, the two co-created the character Impulse, the future speedster brought back to the present. Wieringo (or, 'Ringo as he was better known by then) moved on to Robin at DC, and then moved to Marvel... He loved what he did.

Update: Mark Waid, Todd Dezago, and Karl Kesel have posted personal commentaries regarding the artist's passing in "Remembering Mike Wieringo" at Newsarama. Wieringo's family, writing at his official website, is asking that those wishing to honor his memory make their donations to the ASPCA or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Live Action: "Tina, Is That You?"

“Tina, Is That You?” (February 14, 1991)

Writer: David L. Newman
Story: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes, and David L. Newman
Director: William A. Fraker
Editor: Lawrence J. Gleason

Synopsis: Barry Allen is being tormented by recurring nightmares, dark dreams in which anxieties regarding his uncertain relationship with Tina McGee manifest themselves. When Tina tries to help him using a Star Labs experiment in bio-feedback, the content of Barry’s nightmares is accidentally transferred to her mind. Tina awakens as a different woman, a sinister version of herself, bitter and hell-bent on destroying Barry Allen. The Flash is thus forced to face-off against his friend and confidant as she threatens the city in her new role as the wicked leader of the all-girl Black Rose Gang!

Commentary: It’s difficult to take an adventure like this seriously. Everything in the unimaginatively titled “Tina, Is That You?” is a tad too ridiculous, from the over-the-top dream sequence that opens the episode to the scientifically absurd premise to the loose, sloppy characterization. The plot seems little more than a joke spun from the fact that The Flash’s writers have been prolonging the forced romantic tension between their lead characters for more than a dozen episodes. The angst that is implied to exist between Tina and Barry isn’t any more believable here than it was at the start of the series, however. Appropriately enough, this installment was first broadcast on Valentine’s Day. (This may explain the last-minute shift in the show’s broadcast order. A distinct reference to the events of this episode can be heard in “The Trickster,” an episode that was filmed later but broadcast prior to “Tina, Is That You?”) Amanda Pays is granted the opportunity to play Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde--both a good and an evil Dr. Tina McGee--and she does a decent job with both roles in spite of the script. Unfortunately, the Black Rose Gang she comes to lead is a weak, underdeveloped cliché. Guest stars Courtney Gebhart and Denise Dillard, who serve as Tina’s embittered henchwomen, aren’t given much to work with. It would have been nice to see their roles expanded, to see the Black Rose Gang take on further dimension. As it stands, this story is no stunning testament to feminism. This is also one of those tales in which the Central City police are implied to be embarrassingly inept. “Tina, Is That You?” is one of the sillier installments of the series, and that’s saying something in the wake of “The Trickster.”

High-Speed Highlight: Using the blade from an exhaust fan and a rod of scrap metal, the Flash creates a high-speed saw in order to slice his way out of a makeshift gas chamber engineered by Tina and the Black Rose Gang.

Quotable: “You need me. Together we can tear this city apart… Work with me and you never need worry about [the Flash] again... I can do anything I want to him. I can speed him up, I can slow him down. I can let him live, or I can make him die!” --Tina McGee takes leadership of the Black Rose Gang

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reviews: All Flash #1

Wally West and family are back! And so is Mark Waid, who has written his first story for the scarlet speedster since bringing an end to his legendary run on the series seven years ago. All Flash #1, a single-issue special, presents a narrative designed to link the end of the previous Flash series with a continuation of Wally West's series. There's plenty of nasty unfinished business for characters and readers alike after the events of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, in which Bart Allen was brutally killed by the Rogues. Here, Waid forces Wally to avenge his protege's death and prepares to move on. The celebrated writer is accompanied by a bevy of artists including Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Norm Rapmund, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, and Daniel Acuna. But is All Flash #1 the all-out event it's been billed as? Here's what folks are saying about the one-shot...
  • iF Magazine's Tony Whitt notes that the timing of this planned event works to negate some of its intended impact. "I think I’d be a bit more thrilled about Wally’s return and all that if I’d had more time to miss him, just as I’d have been far more wrecked about Bart Allen’s death if I’d had more time to get to like him as much as the editors at DC appear to want me to have done." The issue is awarded a B- grade.
  • Adam Chapman of ComiXtreme grants the issue three and a half exclamation points out of five, noting that there's intrigue in the fact that our hero finds himself in a unique position. "The big point of this issue is to put Wally West back inside the Flash costume and establish his new status quo. Wally is now unique in that both his predecessor and his successor have died, and he's once again taking up the legacy of the Flash."
  • Rokk Krinn, writing at Comic Book Revolution, commends Waid's ability to capture the emotions of the characters. His comments also acknowledge the way in which Waid has brought further dimension to what has come before. "All Flash #1 is a rather emotional read. Waid does a fine job tapping into the pain and anger inside of Wally’s heart due to the brutal murder of Bart. Waid pays further tribute to Bart by really building up the heroic nature of Bart and how he had truly evolved and grown into an impressive man."
  • Johannah Draper Carlson, one of the Savage Critics, wasn't impressed with the issue, despite Mark Waid's celebrated return. "I'm apparently part of the target audience--I remember Waid's first run fondly, I understand the appeal of the nostalgic hints--but there's nothing in this issue to bring me back for more." Then again, Carlson can appreciate the book's simple reason for being. "On the positive side, this doesn't seem necessary for those interested in trying the new Flash series. It gets the hero from where he was to where the writer wants him to be going forward. If you don't care how he got there, skip it and try the first issue of the relaunch."
  • Brian Cronin of Comics Should Be Good writes that All Flash #1 "is just about as triumphant as one would expect from a comic that is designed to bridge the gap between the end of the previous Flash series and the re-starting of the Wally West Flash series--which is not much." He ends the review by filing the issue under "Not Recommended."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

New Frontier Preview

Warner Bros. Animation has released a three-minute preview for the eagerly-anticipated Justice League: New Frontier animated movie. The brief video includes snippets of interviews with Paul Levitz, Dan DiDio, Darwyn Cooke, Gregory Novek, and Bruce Timm. There's also a glimpse of Neil Patrick Harris recording his voice work for Barry Allen as well as several scenes of the scarlet speedster in action.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Justice League Roll Call

Will the fastest man alive make his feature film debute in Justice League of America? Although there has been no word on the status of the Flash's own feature, Superhero Hype! has reported on a rumor that director George Miller is interested in helming the Justice League of America film in development at Warner Bros. The report also suggests that the line-up of heroes in that film will consist of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and the Flash.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Interview: Mark Waid

Will Mark Waid be leaving The Flash once again, so soon after bringing Wally West back to us? The internet has been awash with rumors, rumors that gained a boost from the San Diego Comic-Con announcement that Waid had been named Editor-in-Chief of BOOM! Studios. According to the writer himself, however, that is simply not the case. Newsarama has posted an interview with Waid regarding his new position and his work on DC's The Brave and the Bold and The Flash. He takes the opportunity to set the record straight regarding his dedication to the scarlet speedster.

"The deal with BOOM! is not exclusive... Like I said before, I enjoy working with those characters, so they knew I'd want to continue doing that. But second, it is important to remind people that I can still fulfill my other commitments and still work with other characters because we don't want this announcement to be about me leaving somewhere else, but instead the announcement should be about me joining BOOM! Studios. That's what the focus of this announcement should be about. I have every intention of fulfilling my commitment at DC, and I've been talking to Marvel about what I can do there. And I don't anticipate that any of that will change... Look, this was part of the deal from the beginning--that I keep doing these comics. I want to keep doing Brave and the Bold. I want to keep doing Flash. As far as how long, we'll see what happens, but I'm committed to them right now."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Spotlight on Infantino

Over at Comic Book Resources, Bill Reed continues counting down his 365 Reasons to Love Comics. The man behind reason number two hundred and seven is that elegant master illustrator, the artist who ushered in the Silver Age of comics, Carmine Infantino. Reed's column profiles Infantino's comic career and is supplemented with some classic images from Silver Age Flash comics.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Find the Flash: Comic-Con '07

As I noted yesterday, Kelson Vibber--the man behind Those Who Ride the Lightning--was on the floor at this year's Comic-Con International and reported on the event for Comics Should Be Good. As usual, Kelson ran into a few scarlet speedsters at the convention. Perhaps surprisingly, however, this year only Lady Flashes were to be found! Visit Kelson's blog to check out his Flash finds or to survey his complete photo album for Comic-Con '07.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Comic-Con '07

This weekend the 2007 Comic-Con International was held in San Diego, California. Our friend Kelson Vibber was on the scene to provide daily convention reports for Comics Should Be Good. Naturally, there was plenty of exciting news coming from DC Comics concerning our favorite superhero speedster, and more than a few tidbits focusing on his infamous arch-enemies emerged as well. Here's a quick look at those Comic-Con announcements relating to the Flash and his Rogues...

  • As reported by the Comics Continuum, Mark Waid has been named Editor-in-Chief for BOOM! Studios. Waid, who is no longer restricted by an exclusive contract with DC Comics, will replace publisher and co-owner Ross Richie on August 1st. The announcement follows rumors that Waid will soon leave The Flash.
  • Did the Pied Piper and the Trickster participate in the beating that lead to Bart Allen's death, despite their claims to the contrary in Countdown? Confused by the visual evidence presented in The Flash #13, a fan posed that question to Paul Dini during the DC Big Guns panel. According to Newsarama, Dini explained that "if that was indeed the case, it was a result of miscommunication between the writers." When asked how he felt about the fourth Flash's death, writer Geoff Johns answered with, "Next question."
  • There may be a reason for Geoff Johns's reluctance to discuss the death of Bart Allen. Comic Book Resources reports that a fan at Friday night's DC Nation panel asked, "How finished is Bart's story?" Dan Didio passed that question to Johns, who responded by exclaiming, "Don't spoil it!"
  • The Rogues Gallery appears prominently on early artwork released to promote Salvation Run, a seven-issue mini-series by Bill Willingham and Sean Chen that will launch in November. Willingham elaborates on the concept behind the mini-series in an interview with Newsarama. Based on the artwork, it seems a sure bet that we'll see the likes of Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Heat Wave, the Weather Wizard, and Abra Kadabra take a starring role alongside the other supervillains of the DC Universe.
  • Thursday night at Comic-Con Warner Bros. Animation confirmed the cast for the upcoming Justice League: The New Frontier animated feature. As Newsarama notes, Neil Patrick Harris will indeed be providing the voice of the Flash.
  • Stan Berkowitz, a writer for The Batman animated series, was on hand at Warner Bros. Animation's panel on Friday and spoke about the Flash's role on the series. According to Comic Book Resources, Berkowitz confirmed that, in keeping with their vision of a classic Justice League, the scarlet speedster appearing next season is intended to be Barry Allen. The writer added, "All you Wally West fans can pretend it's Wally." Additionally, The Batman episode featuring the Dark Knight's team-up with the the fastest man alive will also feature the Mirror Master, voiced by John Larroquette. "You wonder if Gotham's going to survive this guy," Alan Burnett said of the supervillain's guest appearance.
  • Wizard has posted a report on Mattel's convention presentation, including sneak peeks at the Justice Leage Unlimited set--which features an action figure of Gorilla Grodd--and next year's DC Universe line.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Live Action: "The Trickster"

“The Trickster” (February 7, 1991)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Danny Bilson
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: When private detective Megan Lockhart is abducted by James Jesse, a crazed criminal with a penchant for the theatrical, the Flash races to her rescue. The madman’s run-in with the scarlet speedster serves only to prompt a dangerous obsession, however. Jesse decides that in order to bring about his superhero rival’s downfall and recapture the lovely Lockhart he requires a new identity. Soon, Central City is being threatened by the perilous pranks of the Trickster!

Commentary: At long last, The Flash embraces its comic book heritage by bringing one of the crimson comet’s infamous Rogues to the screen! “The Trickster” is the first of a series of episodes produced after the network finally decided it was only fitting to feature costumed supervillains on the series. Interestingly, Bilson and DeMeo initially had hoped to present James Jesse as a fantasist whose shenanigans as a supervillain were nothing more than elaborate, internalized delusions. A hint of this remains in the finished script but, unfortunately, that intricate conception of the character was abandoned--primarily as both the studio and network refused it, deeming such a delusional adversary unworthy of our hero--in favor of a more traditional superhero scenario. Guest star Mark Hamill is marvelous, creating a vivid persona that would live on for years in his performances as the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series and beyond. (In addition to featuring in The Flash’s series finale, Hamill even reprised the role of James Jesse in an episode of the animated Justice League Unlimited.) Unfortunately, it’s easy to see why the Trickster was chosen as the first of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery to put in an appearance on the live action series. The character presented here bears a greater resemblance to Batman’s famous arch-nemesis than to his own comic book counterpart. Fortunately, Hamill is endlessly entertaining in acting out the Trickster’s eccentricities and there are just enough moments of outright macabre humor to balance out the episode’s general wackiness. Additionally, Joyce Hyser puts in an encore performance as the sassy Megan Lockhart, invigorating Barry Allen’s love life and fueling jealousy from Tina McGee. It’s satisfying to see our brave but bashful hero finally get the girl. There’s also a very funny subplot in which Officer Bellows becomes convinced that his partner, Officer Murphy, is the man behind the Flash’s mask. Hilarity ensues. “The Trickster” doesn’t feature The Flash's most stunning plot but it seems to represent a step in the right direction. The episode is entertaining, it features an unforgettable villain, and it serves up a healthy dose of comic book nostalgia.

High-Speed Highlight: During an overzealous effort to apprehend the Trickster, the Flash is unable to keep his footing at high speed as he slips and falls again and again on thousands of marbles sprayed across a Central City roadway.

Quotable: “That red costume, with that lightning bolt insignia signifying his dark power… There’s only one man who can stop the Flash! There’s only one man who can rescue my faithful companion, Megan Lockhart, from the Flash’s evil clutches--and I am that man!” --James Jesse finds a new purpose in life

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fast Math

Could the fastest man alive also be the world's greatest mathematician simply by virtue of his speed? Or is Johnny Quick trying to pull a fast one? "Complicated problems that normally would take months to solve are worked out by Johnny Quick in a twinkling!" Adam Barnett, writing at Comics Make No Sense, isn't willing to accept the Golden Age speedster's mathematical shenanigans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

June Sales

Diamond Comic Distributors have released their final North American sales estimates for the month of June. That data is now available at Comic Buyer's Guide. Predictably, DC Comics's execution of the fastest man alive seems to have paid off for the publisher. The highly-publicized death of Bart Allen helped to return The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive to the top twenty for its final issue. (One year ago, the relaunched title's debut issue reached seventh place.) The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 is eighteenth on the list of top-selling comics for the month with approximately 76,813 copies sold. On the sales chart, the scarlet speedster is surrounded by the Rogues who saw to his demise; The Flash is bracketed here by two issues of DC's Countdown.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer #4 ($2.99) Dark Horse - 102,366
11. Captain America #27 ($2.99) Marvel - 99,046
12. Avengers Initiative #3 ($2.99) Marvel - 92,282
13. X-Men: Endangered Species One-Shot ($3.99) Marvel - 87,919
14. World War Hulk: X-Men #1 ($2.99) Marvel - 85,020
15. World War Hulk: Front Line #1 ($2.99) Marvel - 84,334
16. Uncanny X-Men #487 ($2.99) Marvel - 81,430
17. Countdown #47 ($2.99) DC - 77,456
18. Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 ($2.99) DC - 76,813
19. Countdown #46 ($2.99) DC - 76,315

Monday, July 23, 2007

Countdown Continuity

In the pages of DC Comics's Countdown, the Trickster and the Pied Piper are embroiled in some wild misadventures. Countdown #42 saw the pair of Rogues ejected from an airplane at altitude whilst handcuffed to one another! When the cliffhanger continued in Countdown #41, however, a number of factors in their perilous predicament had changed. Drawing our attention to an embarrassing lack of continuity in the series' artwork, Funnybook Babylon's Downcounting: A Guide for the Perplexed invites you to play a game of "Spot the Differences" in comparing Carlos Magno's illustration of this suspenseful scenario with work from Dennis Calero.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Honored Dead

In honor of Bart Allen's death in the pages of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, Wizard has put together a list of the fifty greatest deaths in comic book history. Not surprisingly, you'll find the late, great Barry Allen near the top of the list. The Flash comes in at number two on the countdown chosen by the magazine's staff, losing first place to the man of steel--for whom, of course, death was only a temporary inconvenience. Barry's longtime foe Captain Boomerang--who died facing off against Jack Drake in Identity Crisis #5--also makes the list at number twenty-four.

For its first major crossover event, DC swore that its Crisis would have serious consequences. But not even the most jaded fan believed that the publisher would sacrifice longtime DC mainstay the Flash in the process. Deemed a wild card due to his ability to travel between alternate universes, the Anti-Monitor imprisons Allen in the antimatter universe of Qward. Freeing himself, he uses his super-speed to destroy the Monitor’s equipment, pushing his acceleration to unheard-of levels against power-draining antimatter. The exertion is too much, and Allen dies the quintessential hero’s death, sacrificing himself to save countless others.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On Sale: All-Flash #1

On sale today from DC Comics is All-Flash #1, the one-shot special featuring the return of Wally West. The transitional issue also heralds the return of Mark Waid as the series' writer, with art provided by no less than five illustrators: Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett, and Daniel Acuña. Wally and his family have returned to their reality of origin, but the scarlet speedster soon learns that his homecoming was prompted by the cold-blooded murder of his young protégé! A second preview of the issue has been released by DC and is available at Newsarama; ten pages of the thirty-two page special are now available for perusal online. Wizard has also made mention of the issue in the most recent installment of their Market Watch column.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Infinite Covers

DC Comics has gone variant cover crazy. Since the end of Infinite Crisis last year, we've seen no less than five issues of The Flash featuring variant cover artwork. Your copy of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 might feature the Black Flash or it might feature the Flash's empty costume. This week's All-Flash special is available in two varieties, with covers by Joshua Middleton and Bill Sienkiewicz respectively. Kelson Vibber has updated Those Who Ride the Lightning with a guide to those issues of the scarlet speedster's comic that were published with more than one cover. Additionally, Vibber's blog spotlights the holofoil-emblazoned centennial issue variants that DC Comics published back in 1995.

Update: ComicsPRO, a trade organization for direct-market comic book retailers, has released its first official position paper--and it just so happens to concern the use of variant covers to influence sales! Newsarama has posted the press release, and it's worth a read.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Upcoming: The Flash #233

DC Comics has revealed their solicitations for the month of October. Among them is The Flash #233. Mark Waid is joined on the issue by John Rogers. As Wally West's adventures in superhero parenthood continue, it seems as if readers will get some long-awaited answers concerning the West family's leave of absence from the DC Universe proper; the forthcoming issue will launch an all-new back-up feature--"The Fast Life"--chronicling the scarlet speedster's experiences during Infinite Crisis. Doug Braithwaite's cover for the issue also offers us our first glimpse of the costumes that will be worn by the fastest-father-alive's junior speedsters!

Written by Mark Waid & John Rogers; Art by Daniel Acuña and Doug Braithwaite; Cover by Doug Braithwaite. The Justice League steps up to take away the Flash's loved ones in the name of the law! Also in this issue: "The Fast Life" begins! This backup feature by Waid, Rogers (Blue Beetle) and Doug Braithwaite (Justice) picks up from Infinite Crisis and reveals the secrets behind the West Family’s otherworldly exile! DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale October 24, 2007.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Live Action: "Beat the Clock"

“Beat the Clock” (January 31, 1991)

Writer: Jim Trombetta
Director: Mario Azzopardi
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: Jazz musician Wayne Cotrell is playing his saxophone on death row, waiting as the clock counts down to his midnight execution. A last-minute phone call suggests to Barry Allen and Julio Mendez that the man is innocent, however, and that the tragic killing of his lover was staged! The two police scientists must move fast to unravel the mystery behind legendary jazz diva Linda Lake’s disappearance and save Cotrell from the electric chair.

Commentary: It is remarkable how diverse The Flash’s stories are. “Beat the Clock,” like many of its predecessors, is unique and distinctive in comparison to other episodes of the series. This was a television show that continually proved that it was capable of successfully combining superhero action with a variety of other dramatic genres. Interestingly, this installment nearly takes place in real-time; the episode opens less than an hour before jazz musician Wayne Cotrell’s appointment with the electric chair and counts down to the scheduled moment of his execution. In the realm of cinematography, the plot’s emphasis on time prompts a number of creative shots that draw our attention to a variety of clock faces; nearly every scene contains a clock, maintaining our focus on the passing of crucial moments. Despite this set-up, however, there are more than a few moments when the drama seems to be unfolding at an unnaturally slow pace. The episode’s guest stars--including Angela Bassett as jazz singer Linda Lake--offer up some fine performances. Ken Foree is particularly entertaining as Whisper, the villain’s menacing henchman. More importantly, however, the script grants both Alex Désert and Amanda Pays the opportunity to bring some dimension to Julio Mendez and Dr. Tina McGee. All too often these supporting characters are mere caricatures, supplementing John Wesley Shipp’s strong performance by offering shallow comic relief. For evidence, look no further than the disappointing “Shroud of Death.” Here, it’s a relief to watch the show’s co-stars acting as believable characters with something to contribute to an engrossing plot. Shirley Walker’s soundtrack is more important than ever in a story inspired and driven by jazz music. The score contributes a great deal to the tale’s unique tone. The episode carries its share of minor flaws but, with its emphasis on character and atmosphere, “Beat the Clock” is an entertaining and well-scripted drama.

High-Speed Highlight: As the prison executioner pulls on his lethal switch, the Flash arrives in the nick of time to speedily unravel a series of restraints, releasing an innocent man from the electric chair with barely an instant to spare!

Quotable: “You’ll never make it in time. I can do it. Listen! Listen! I can make it, because I’m…” --Barry Allen attempts to reveal his secret identity to his partner only to be interrupted

Special Thanks: Thanks, as always, go out to Kelson Vibber for the screen captures featured here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Reviews: The Flash #13

Bart Allen is dead, brutally murdered by the Flash's increasingly vicious Rogues Gallery. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 brings an abrupt end to the story of the fourth man to wear the crimson comet's costume. Though Marc Guggenheim's narrative voice is as strong as ever and Tony Daniel's art is clear and commendable, this sensational saga seems little more than a macabre publicity stunt staged by DC Comics. Thirteen just may be an unlucky number for The Flash. What are readers across the web saying about the grim final installment in this controversial comic series? In the case of The Flash #13, in the wake of the scarlet speedster's execution, the net is understandably awash with commentary...

  • All About Comics's Phil Mateer reacts to the issue's drama with droll sarcasm. "Gosh, my heart is overcome with the tragedy of Bart’s death--or would be, I guess, if this had any sense of poignancy or drama, and didn’t just seem like a soulless corporate reaction to the current lack of interest or sales to this version of the character."
  • Rokk Krin of Comic Book Revolution feels that this was an exhilarating story from Marc Guggenheim. "Near the end of the issue, the reader is frantically turning the pages, hoping against hope that Bart would survive this story." This reviewer, however, also poses the question that will forever linger in our minds: "Was it really necessary to kill Bart Allen?"
  • Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter feels that this was a downright unpleasant end to an unremarkable series. After summarizing the issue's macabre plot, Spurgeon asks, "Does any of that sound fun? It shouldn't. It wasn't! It was sort of like being dragged behind a boat for ten seconds after falling off your water skis. There's no permanent damage, but it's unpleasant as all hell while it's happening. The plot here practically defines dreary, as you're essentially watching someone get murdered, and the script work seems ten years behind Guggenheim's recent stint on Blade."
  • The Flash #13 shares a blog spotlight--along with Justice League of America #10--as the Book of the Week at Jimmy Olsen's Blues. The tongue-in-cheek review is written from the perspective of the fallen scarlet speedster himself: "To DC Executive Editor Dan DiDio: You've finally painted yourself into a corner. You spent all this energy and soaked up a year's worth of negative response and kept my book around, only to Black Flash me anyway. Good luck finding the next Flash, smart guy..."
  • Adam Chapman, writing at ComiXtreme, grants the story four out of five exclamation points, noting that the series has come to an unceremonious end just as it was evolving into something exceptional. "Ultimately, I still feel that it misses plenty of opportunities, and is an abrupt end to what Guggenheim was putting together on this book. Guggenheim deserves a massive amount of praise, because he took this book, which had become virtually unreadable and unenjoyable, and made it good again... It's a shame that the book is now ending."
  • Kenneth Gallant of Broken Frontier is left with the opinion that The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive was nothing more than a failed experiment. "The argument that the Flash is a generational character is debatable at best, and it became painfully obvious that Bart Allen wasn’t up to the task of replacing a character like Wally West."
  • Film Frontier Reviews's JediSheltie, like many other readers, "wouldn't have minded seeing Bart succeed as Flash." Unfortunately, the young speedster was never given a proper chance. "Bart always would have that headache inducing back story, but that hardly meant his character couldn't be compelling. Leaching him completely of the sense of humor and turning him into a such a stock character signaled bad things from the start. Bart has left us, the Flash is dead."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Death in the DC Universe

At his blog, Impulse co-creator and onetime Flash artist Mike Wieringo has posted a personal commentary regarding the death of Bart Allen in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13. While his response is not concerned with the events of that particular issue, however, it considers the overall shift in tone and content that has become evident in the comic book stories published by both DC and Marvel. Has the once lively, humorous, and impulsive Bart Allen become the victim of a dark publishing trend that demands death from its heroes and villains? If so, has this particular practice reached its gross limit, and can readers look forward to a return to more fun and hope-filled adventure? Wieringo's commentary is also accompanied by an all-new sketch of the fallen hero.

"...I suppose the difference for me is that–-[in] my own personal point of view–-the contrast between Marvel and DC has been for years that Marvel’s books were always darker in tone–-more supposedly based in the ‘real world'... and that DC’s offerings were brighter... more colorful and came from more of a place of hope and light. The heroes of the DCU stood for optimism and the promise of a brighter future in the face of forces that would bring darkness and destruction to the world. In essence, the DCU was, to me, the place for a more stark contrast between the forces of light/good and the forces of darkness/evil... DC comics were always more colorful and fun for me. Now Bart Allen joins the ever growing list of characters who are dying in the DCU..."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Interview: Marc Guggenheim

Newsarama has posted an interesting interview with "the writer who was handed the figurative gun and had the target pointed out to him"--Marc Guggenheim, who scripted five issues of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive, revitalizing a lackluster title, before unexpectedly executing the scarlet speedster himself. Guggenheim discusses the details of this unusual assignment and some of its far-reaching ramifications for the Flash, his Rogues Gallery, and the DC Universe at large.

"My job was to establish Bart as the Flash. It just so happened that my job was to establish him as the Flash and then kill him... My goal was that, if I was going to kill Bart, I was going to make sure that Bart died as a Flash. In fact, that’s the whole reason for page thirteen of issue #13, with Bart screaming “I am the Flash!” I really wanted to try to establish Bart as a legitimate Flash before we killed him. And I was very careful in all the interviews and all the message board postings I did to not lie--I repeatedly said that I was not bringing Wally back, and that’s true. I wasn’t going to do it. No one asked me if someone else was going to do it, though."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Show and Tell

With family visiting from out of town, I returned home one afternoon last week to discover that someone had gotten into my briefcase, crumpled up many of my notes, and made off with a notepad. When my four-year-old niece proudly presented me with this drawing, however, I simply had to forgive her. What we have here, in case you can't pick up on some of the trademark visuals, is a stunning crayon illustration of Superman racing the Flash. (One of her favorite episodes of Superman: The Animated Series--and, obviously, it is a fondness she shares with her uncle--is "Speed Demons.")

That's the man of steel on the right, see? His emblematic shield may appear as an awkard square but the costume is unmistakable. I'm not certain why the Flash appears here as a cyclops--we'll call it artistic license--but I think she's done a fine job of depicting the scarlet speedster. Once I finished admiring the work, I knew I had to post this to the blog. Might my niece have a future in illustrating for DC Comics? I'll just have to continue to supply her with a healthy dose of comic books for inspiration.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Upcoming: All Flash #1

DC Comics has released a six-page preview of All Flash #1, scheduled for release later this month. These panels offer us the first glimpse of Mark Waid's triumphant return to Flash comics. They also showcase some absolutely stunning artwork from Karl Kerschl. Personally, I would say that there's a grace and fluidity to Kerschl's art that connects beautifully with the scarlet speedster and his superpowers. It looks like this interim special is something to look forward to. Fans can find all six preview pages posted at Newsarama.

Scheduled to arrive in stores on July 18th, All-Flash #1 is written by Mark Waid with art by Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett and Daniel Acuña. This issue features covers by Joshua Middleton and Bill Sienkiewicz, which will arrive in stores in a split of approximately 50/50. This issue spotlights the aftermath of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Live Action: "Sight Unseen"

“Sight Unseen” (January 10, 1991)

Writer: John Vorhaus
Story: Gail Morgan Hickman & John Vorhaus
Director: Christopher Leitch
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: Star Labs is attacked by an invisible intruder who unleashes Project Pandora, a government-sponsored research project concerned with producing a lethal nerve toxin, and Tina McGee and her short-tempered supervisor are trapped in the ensuing quarantine lockdown! As a team of treacherous government operatives attempts to seize control of the situation, the Flash must locate and capture the unseen enemy behind this crisis before Pandora’s progeny can deliver death to Tina and the populace of Central City.

Commentary: This is a surprisingly suspenseful episode considering that it plays like The Flash’s first “bottle episode”--a restricted, self-contained story that takes place almost entirely on the show’s familiar standing sets. The scarlet speedster still has plenty to do, however, and the plot is multi-layered and moves along at a swift, entertaining pace. “Sight Unseen” also allows The Flash to revisit certain dominant themes as it considers the morality of the scientific research that produces chemical weapons. The episode’s invisible foe, Brian Gideon, isn’t some simple supervillain but a tortured and clearly conflicted soul who has decided upon desperate measures. One of the episode’s best scenes features the Flash attempting to talk him into saving the people of Central City rather than destroying them; as always, Barry Allen shines as an empathetic hero. (Watch for an immense reproduction of William Blake’s “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun,” one of the show’s many magnificent murals, on Gideon’s wall.) This tale’s true villain is Quinn, a sinister government agent played with unsubtle menace by George Dickerson. Unfortunately, and despite his novelty as a third-party antagonist, the character is less believable than the episode’s invisible man. Quinn is absurdly, implausibly immoral and the conflict generated by his presence is sometimes frustrating or tedious as a result. On the other hand, Amanda Pays delivers what might be her most impressive performance to date as Tina McGee struggles to survive inside the locked-down Star Labs facility. The episode is packed with drama and remains suspenseful until the final frames. At the very least, “Sight Unseen” resists certain formulaic constraints and helps the series continue to prove that it is capable of exploring a variety of genres and story formats.

High-Speed Highlight: After being injected with Project Pandora’s deadly nerve toxin the Flash begins to vibrate his body at high speed, accelerating his metabolism and thereby discovering that his own blood is the miracle cure that he has been seeking.

Quotable: “We spend our lives blaming others but we’re all responsible. I sold them my knowledge and tried to pretend that I wasn’t responsible. But the people of Costa Luca know the truth. They paid with their lives. Soon Central City will pay the price for harboring the death merchants of Star Labs. I will taint the waters, I will poison the well, and they will drink their own destruction.” --Brian Gideon struggles with his conscience, attempting to justify his drastic actions

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Flash Facts: Steam Power

This month in South Africa, a British team will attempt to break the world land speed record for steam driven vehicles. Wired has posted some statistics on the vehicle that just might accomplish that feat. The sleek car's tubular chassis supports four boilers that produce four megawatts of power. Theoretically, this should be enough to propel the car near 200mph. "The team behind the Inspiration and the British Steam Car challenge hopes to break the current, 101-year-old record of 127.659mph (1906). American Bob Barber hit 145.607mph in 1985 but it was a single run; the world record rules stipulate an average taken over two runs in opposite directions." Further details and specifications have been posted at the Steam Car Club of Great Britain's website.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Life in the Fast Lane

With The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 shocking readers everywhere, Wizard has posted a retrospective of Bart Allen's career as one of DC's most impulsive young heroes. This detailed summary follows Bart's biography, from Impulse to Kid Flash to the scarlet speedster himself, from the virtual reality environments of the 30th century to that fateful conflict with the Rogues.

Monday, June 25, 2007

May Sales

Diamond Comic Distributors have released their Direct Market sales charts for the month of May. Newsarama has posted a review of the data. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #12 is number fifty-five on the list of top selling comic titles, falling behind Marvel's Spider-Man but ahead of the latest installment of Amazons Attack. Will the much-hyped final issue of the series provide a boost in sales for DC?

50. Detective Comics #832 ($2.99) DC - 64.56
51. Supergirl #17 ($2.99) DC - 62.94
52. Ultimate Fantastic Four #41 ($2.99) Marvel - 62.30
53. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #20 ($2.99) Marvel - 62.29

54. Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1 ($3.99) Marvel - 60.50
55. Flash: Fastest Man Alive #12 ($2.99) DC - 59.67
56. Amazons Attack #2 of 6 ($2.99) DC - 59.35
57. Daredevil #97 ($2.99) Marvel - 58.91

58. Runaways #26 ($2.99) Marvel - 57.58
59. Nova #2 CWI ($2.99) Marvel - 55.58

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Interview: Mark Waid

It's incredible but true: Mark Waid is returning to The Flash! His work on the series is legendary. A lot has happened in the DC Universe since the acclaimed writer's departure from the title, however, and Bart Allen's stunning saga in the pages of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive has all but guaranteed that, despite a return to the previous volume's numbering, things will not be as they once were. Wizard has posted an interview with Waid regarding the various factors that brought him back, and he hints at the new directions he'll have the crimson comet pursue during his continuation of The Flash.

"I’m saving most of the new stuff for the first issue of the regular book... All I can do is be true and faithful to how I perceive the characters. All I can really do is try to make something interesting out of [the Flash's] new status quo and try to give you stuff that you’ve never seen before in a Flash book."

Interview: Tony Daniel

One would have to be the fastest blogger alive to keep up with all of the news and online content related to the release of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, a crucial chapter in the ongoing history of one of DC Comics's most significant superheroes. Yes, this has been quiet a week for fans of the scarlet speedster. Yesterday, Newsarama posted a new interview with artist Tony Daniel regarding his work on this landmark issue.

"Dan DiDio told me right away that this was a very important arc. That's why he wanted me to do it. He told me all the dirty details... 'We're going to keep it secret, we're going to have fake solicitation covers, and this is going to be one of the biggest and most well-kept secret in comics.' And it was. And I knew it was an honor to be asked to do something this important. It's also, probably, one of the most important issues from DC this year. And no one expected this either."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On Sale: The Flash #13

The countdown is over! On sale today from DC Comics is The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, the final installment of the year-old series. The Flash faces the Rogues in a strategic showdown that may well culminate with his own tragic demise! Is this the end of Bart Allen? By all accounts, this is one issue that you don't want to miss. DC has released a three-page preview of the issue which has been posted at Newsarama, Wizard, and elsewhere. Beware! Excitement is high and spoilers concerning the issue's plot and conclusion are everywhere online.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Upcoming: The Flash #232

We now know that vague yet intriguing solicitations for The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #14 and The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #15 were lies, components in a conspiracy so sinister in its intricacies that it was worthy of the Thinker himself! In their stead, the series will be returning to its previous numbering beginning with The Flash (v.2) #231 in August, Mark Waid's triumphant return to the title. Yesterday, DC Comics announced their solicitations for September. The line-up reveals a brief description and the Lovecraftian cover artwork for The Flash #232. Visit Newsarama, Wizard, or Comic Book Resources for the complete list of DC's comics shipping in September.

Written by Mark Waid; Art and Cover by Daniel Acuña. What alien menace lies beneath the Flash’s own home? And what’s his dark, dark family secret--the one that’s helping him keep the peace in Keystone? DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale September 19, 2007.

Upcoming: All Flash #1

In the wake of recent revelations concerning the future of the Flash's title, DC Comics has announced the line-up of artists that will contribute to All Flash #1, a one-shot special that will act as a transition between The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 and The Flash #231. Will it also feature a changing of the guard? Newsarama has posted the press release and some unfortunate artwork for the issue, though there's still not hint as to its contents beyond the simple declaration that the scarlet speester will be seeking some serious "Payback!"

Written by Mark Waid; Art by Karl Kerschl, Ian Churchill, Manuel Garcia, Joe Bennett and Daniel Acuña; Covers by Joshua Middleton and Bill Sienkiewicz. This issue spotlights the aftermath of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13. DC Universe. Color. On Sale July 18, 2007.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Final Fate of the Flash?

Things don't look good for our hero! Tony Daniel's final cover artwork for The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, revealed late last week, features the latest hero to wear the crimson comet's cowl in the arms of the Black Flash, the form assumed by Death when it comes to claim speedsters. Will Bart Allen soon join his grandfather? Is the fourth Flash facing a dead end? Kelson Vibber is quick to point out that this isn't the first time that the Flash's imminent doom has been proclaimed from the cover of a comic book and that we'd all be fools to believe that this evidence alone spells certain death for the fastest man alive. From the Silver Age to the Modern Age, from Barry Allen to Bart Allen, "Dead Flash Covers" chronicles DC Comics's long, proud history of titillating readers with the prospect of the beloved hero's demise.

While you're visting Mr. Vibber's blog, be sure and take a look at his recent commentary on the "Victimized Hero." Highly sexualized artistic representations of subjugated superheroines are all-too common in comics. The recent controversy over the cover for Marvel's Heroes for Hire #13 provides proof enough. Is there evidence to suggest that this sort of artistic victimization is limited to heroines, however, or has the scarlet speedster himself faced this sort of treatment on the cover of his own comic book?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

News Flash

Hold on to your winged tin hats, boys and girls! DC Comics promised us that the Flash would be facing some major changes with the arrival of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13, and they're about to deliver. It has been announced that The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive will end with its next installment. This isn't the end of the scarlet speedster's race, however, despite that ominous promotional poster featuring the Rogues victorious. The Flash (v.2) will relaunch this fall, resuming its original numbering. But wait, there's more! Perhaps most stunning of all is the revelation that the writer behind the Flash when he returns will be none other than Mark Waid himself. That's right--the one, the only Mark Waid! It all starts with All Flash #1, a one-shot special, in September. That DC Comics managed to keep this exciting change-up a secret is rather stunning. The conspiratorial cover-up was perpetrated in part with the false solicitations for The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #14 and #15! Even now, neither the publisher nor the writer is about to reveal who will be behind the mask when The Flash (v.2) #231 hits the shelves. Visit Newsarama for an interview with Waid regarding this stunning turn of events and the future of the fastest man alive.

Update: Newsarama reports that at Charlotte, North Carolina's Heroes Con, Dan DiDio reiterated the scarlet speedster's schedule for this summer. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 ships next week, ending the series. All-Flash #1, a one-shot exploring the Flash's long legacy, will ship in July. The Flash (v.2) #231 will be released in August. The true cover artwork for The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13--an image featuring a defeated Bart Allen in the arms of the Black Flash--was also revealed. "There are no hidden messages," DiDio quipped. "Don't read anything into it."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Live Action: "Ghost in the Machine"

“Ghost in the Machine” (December 13, 1990)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Bruce Bilson
Editor: Greg Wong

Synopsis: After twenty-five years in cryogenic sleep, the technological supervillain known as the Ghost has awakened to embrace a modernized world that he has long waited to dominate--a world dominated by the television! With this threat reborn, the man who once roamed Central City’s streets as the masked vigilante Nightshade emerges from retirement to challenge his arch-nemesis once again. Fortunately, the Central City of 1990 has its own masked protector: the Flash. Together, the two costumed crimefighters must locate the Ghost before he can use combined telecommunication systems to conquer the city.

Commentary: “Ghost in the Machine” is exciting and, at times, outright inspired. Indeed, it has been nearly twenty years since the episode first aired and still I find that this story is impossible to forget. It seems that every superhero series must tackle this standard plot--a story in which the central superhero teams-up with the hero of a previous generation to topple a common enemy. For The Flash, the resulting episode is so entertaining it prompts you to wonder why the series has squandered so much time toying with the stuff of clichéd police drama. “Ghost in the Machine” feels like The Flash’s first foray into true superhero adventure. It’s a playful romp that evokes countless comic book classics. Anthony Starke is brilliant as the Ghost. Based on sheer entertainment value, he is easily the show’s most successful villain to date. The Ghost acts as an anachronism, a human time capsule embodying all of the dreams, expectations, and limitations of his bygone era. His role as the story’s antagonist allows this episode to broach a variety of themes relating to history, technology, progress, and aging. It’s both entertaining and thought provoking to watch the Ghost interact with his friends and enemies, all aged more than two decades since he last saw them. That the obsessive Ghost carries out his crimes using the medium of television adds a layer of simulacra and simulation to the shenanigans that is both fascinating and funny. Jason Bernard also does a fine job as Dr. Desmond Powell, the retired superhero known to the Central City of the 1950’s as the Nightshade. “Ghost in the Machine” opens in black-and-white with a retro action sequence that captivates immediately. The action-lite climax is a bit of a letdown--this despite a clever scene in which the Ghost tortures the Flash in the virtual reality world of the airwaves--but it’s followed by a stirring moment shared between Nightshade and the Flash. Powell’s character successfully draws out previously unexplored characteristics in our hero. It’s easy to see why Nightshade was called back for another appearance later in the season. The episode also finishes with a tantalizing twist that slyly plays with audience expectations based on the show’s format and formula. “Ghost in the Machine” is a thoroughly entertaining installment that finally delivers all of the superhero style, adventure, and playfulness that we’ve long been expecting from this television series.

High-Speed Highlight: The Ghost squares off against his aged arch-nemesis, the Nightshade, sending his henchmen to seek out the scarlet speedster. Aiming to eliminate his mortal foe once and for all, the Ghost fires a gun at the trench-coated hero. In the next instant the disguise of the Nightshade’s costume collapses, however, and the high-tech rogue finds the Flash at his side!

Quotable: “Now we live in a future I predicted! The only reason we failed in the 50’s was the technology wasn’t up to my dreams. But failure now is impossible. I’m going to put a stranglehold on this city. The tools are here… At last technology has caught up with me!” --The Ghost revels in the technological advancements of the late twentieth century

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Flash Facts: Expansion Speed

According to New Scientist, a team of scientists has been able to successfully track matter moving through space at 99.999% the speed of light. It has been predicted that the collapse of a star and the subsequent formation of a black hole or neutron star could accelerate matter to nearly the speed of light--matter from the collapsing star would explode outward at super speed, accompanied by gamma rays and other radiation. Using a robotic infrared telescope in Chile dubbed the Rapid Eye Mount, that theory has now been proven. "Now, rapid follow-up measurements of two gamma-ray bursts have allowed a team of scientists to precisely measure the expansion speed of matter in these explosion to more than 99.999% the speed of light."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Smoking Speedster

In an installment of Point/Counterpoint that is both amusing and disquieting, Mark Engblom's Comic Coverage imagines the tobacco industry responding to Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada's decision to ban smoking in all of the company's comic titles. That imaginary response takes the form of a retro public relations campaign starring the most unlikely of superhero smokers, Jay Garrick!

Update: Kelson Vibber has followed-up by posting panels from three separate versions of Jay Garrick's origin story. Flash Comics #1 (1940) gave us the rousing endorsement of cigarettes seen above. In Secret Origins #9 (1986), Jay considers that he should quit smoking as he lights up. By the time of Flash Secret Files #1 (1997), the cigarette had been completely removed from the tale.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Comics You Should Own

I've been waiting patiently as Comic Book Resource's Greg Burgas has methodically worked his way through the alphabet in his regular column, Comics You Should Own. The series has progressed from 300 to Aquaman to Batman to Doom Patrol. When the series reached Marvel's Fantastic Four, I assumed that an essay extolling the triumphs and virtues of my all-time favorite comic book was soon to be posted. Today, however, I have discovered that the series has skipped from Firestorm directly to Vertigo's Flex Mentallo. Sacrilege! Is the fastest man alive's own title so unworthy? Hasn't the scarlet speedster offered readers some spectacular moments? Has the monarch of motion not proven himself?!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reviews: The Flash #12

"Full Throttle" continues in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #12, an issue that manages to keep the story moving swiftly as we fast approach that pivotal next installment. Marc Guggenheim and Tony Daniel even manage to throw in a few outright surprises, ideas or twists that we've never seen in the pages of the crimson comet's comic before. At the same time, however, the issue features many familiar faces, including the surprise return of a key figure from the Flash's past. What do the fanboys and fangirls have to say about The Flash #12?
  • Adam Chapman of ComiXtreme grants this issue four out of five exclamation points, explaining, "This title is on the up and up, getting better with each and every issue, in the hands of a writer who treats the core material and character with utmost respect, and also knows how to tell a rollickin' story at the same time." He adds that The Flash #12 is "Highly Recommended."
  • At About Heroes, Brent is also singing the praises of Marc Guggenheim, the writer who may have saved this title. "All Hail Marc Guggenheim! Hail! Hail! Guggenheim is the new master of the Flash, and as I've said before, is bringing this book back from the grave... Everyone definitely needs to be checking out the Flash now."
  • Rachelle Goguen, posting at Living Between Wednesdays, highlights some of the issue's more amusing moments with a series of page and panel scans. "I liked Mirror Master coming out of Flash's shiny earpiece... I liked the Rogues chatting about what they were going to do now that time had stopped... And the shocker ending? Yup, it looks bad for Bart. Almost as if he's going to be replaced... by someone who has been dead for quite some time..."
  • Comic Overload's Nick couldn't be more pleased with the team of Guggenheim and Daniel. "Good gosh I am really starting to love this title... Time traveling, the Speed Force used in a non-annoying way, Rogues taking on Bart, and, of course, Bart for the most part beating the crap out of them. MAN! Very good issue. Daniels’ artwork just is the cherry on Guggenheims’ masterful writing."
  • Rich of ComicByComic doesn't seem to be buying into DC's hype--or, for that matter, the idea of Bart Allen as the fastest man alive. "Big things are apparently afoot for the Flash starting with this issue. Unfortunately, I don’t think those things involve the return of Wally West."