Thursday, May 31, 2007

Live Action: "Shroud of Death"

“Shroud of Death” (November 29, 1990)

Writer: Michael Reaves
Story: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Director: Mario Azzopardi
Editor: Lawrence J. Gleason

Synopsis: Moments before being executed, fanatical survivalist Jefferson Zacharias vowed that he would send an angel of death to assassinate all those who had a hand in his sentencing. Now, years later, that ominous declaration is being carried out. Law enforcement officials in Central City are being eliminated by a skilled and determined assassin. Barry Allen must discover the killer’s identity before his commanding officer, Lieutenant Garfield, can be crossed off the hit list.

Commentary: In “Shroud of Death,” guest star Mike Genovese--playing Barry Allen’s now-familiar superior, the short-tempered but honorable Lieutenant Warren Garfield--is finally granted the opportunity to step away from the sideline and into the spotlight. Here, he’s more engaging than many of those supporting characters who played pivotal roles in previous installments. The plot concerning survivalist Jefferson Zacharias’s Warriors of Freedom is intriguing albeit awkward. In this case, there may be too much back story--much of this standard revenge drama has taken place before the episode’s opening scene. There is, however, plenty of excitement supplemented with a few somewhat predictable plot twists, and the Flash is able to perform in several amusing action sequences. The art direction remains brilliant, composer Shirley Walker continues to shine, and there are a number of scenes featuring top-notch cinematography. Unfortunately, this episode also bears a pair of downright annoying subplots. When Tina McGee announces that she has been offered a job in California, the typically-sensitive Barry struggles to say that he doesn’t want her to leave. Meanwhile, after catching a glimpse of several high-speed stunts, Julio Mendez begins to suspect that his partner may be the mysterious scarlet speedster who protects Central City. Both of these subplots rehash simplistic character dynamics that have been present since the show’s pilot without contributing anything new. They also impair our suspension of disbelief. It’s difficult to believe that Barry would be incapable of communicating his feelings to Tina--almost as difficult as it is to believe that there is any sort of romantic tension between them. The writers also risk rendering the already comic Julio into an outright fool by allowing him to continually deny the secret identity scam that should be obvious to him. This sort of cheap comedy and dry drama is all too familiar. During such scenes it feels as if The Flash is running in circles, and these subplots drag the episode down. Ultimately, “Shroud of Death” is an entertaining but rather unremarkable adventure.

High-Speed Highlight: Summoning an astonishing burst of super speed, the Flash leaps from a pressure-sensitive plate rigged to explode by Zacharias’s angel of death, then proceeds to outrun the subsequent fireball and ensuing shockwave.

Quotable: “Could you feel my head? Could you feel my head, please? Is it warm? Because I could have sworn that I just saw you working so fast that I couldn’t see your hand.” --Julio Mendez begins to suspect that his lab partner is hiding something

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Countdown Continues

The Flash is doomed! That's what DC Comics would have us believe. The publisher has released a Countdown teaser poster clearly intended to add fuel to the flames of speculation sparked by the ominous previews for The Flash # 13-15. The artwork--an homage to the classic cover for The Flash #174 by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson--features the scarlet speedster lying collapsed at the collective feet of his Rogues Gallery. Additionally, the somewhat essential descriptor "ALIVE" has crumbled from the fastest man's subtitle. Is the latest hero to wear the crimson costume facing his end? According to Newsarama, DC Comics has only this to say: "The Countdown continues in The Flash #13."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reviews: The Flash #11

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #11 adds another chapter to "Full Throttle," Marc Guggenheim's first story arc on the title. It's an exciting issue that presents a parade of familiar characters--including your favorites and mine, the Flash's famous Rogues Gallery in its full force--and thrilling plot twist after thrilling plot twist. This story also ends with a stunning cliffhanger; the plot is gripping until its final page. The Flash #11 also introduces Tony Daniel as the book's new regular penciller. The art is crisp, clean, and dynamic. Things are looking up for The Flash, and there's no telling what's going to happen next. Here's what comic book reviewers across the web are saying about the latest issue...
  • DCU Reviews sums up the state of the series in a single sentence: "After a terrible start, things have been getting better."
  • Adam Chapman at awards the issue four out of five exclamation points. "The Flash is one of those books that disappointed most fans when it came back One Year Later, however now it is also one of the most consistently improved books, month after month, thanks first to Guggenheim's arrival, and now bolstered by the arrival of Daniel. This is good stuff, and shouldn't be missed, especially with the Flash poised to play an important part in the future of the DCU."
  • Radio Free Metropolis's pleasantly surprised El Diablo Robotica comments, "Hey, that wasn’t half bad."
  • Kenneth Gallant of Broken Frontier is pleased with "the way writer Guggenheim crafts his plots, especially in this issue whereby the Rogues take front and centre stage. Do I smell a grand story arc brewing here?" He also feels that artist Tony Daniel "appears here for the first time with the confidence of a seasoned pro."
  • The Mercurialblonde is hailing the true return of our favorite hero after reading this issue. "The art on this book is fantastic. There's all kinds of speed hijinks. There's the romantic drama that we've come to expect from the character over the years. And the Rogues Gallery is back in force. Yes, if you are at all a fan of the Flash, now is the time to get back into reading him. The dark days are over, hallelujah hallelujah the Flash is back!"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

April Sales

Diamond Comic Distributors have released their monthly Direct Market sales charts and Market Share report for April, and Newsarama has posted a review of the data. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #11 comes in at number forty-nine on the list of top selling comic titles. The Flash is flanked here by two superheroes currently enjoying a boost from popular live-action adaptations; the monarch of motion is running a few paces behind our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and a few paces ahead of Painkiller Jane.

41. Detective Comics #831 ($2.99) DC - 100.0
42. Runaways #25 ($2.99) Marvel - 99.94
43. Superman #661 ($2.99) DC - 99.03
44. Amazons Attack #1 ($2.99) DC - 98.51
45. Punisher War Journal #6 ($2.99) Marvel - 95.05
46. Incredible Hulk #105 ($2.99) Marvel - 94.62
47. Supergirl #16 ($2.99) DC - 91.75
48. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #19 ($2.99) Marvel - 89.38
49. Flash: Fastest Man Alive #11 ($2.99) DC - 83.44
50. Painkiller Jane #0 ($0.25) Dynamite - 82.17

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Best of the Brave

With an all-new iteration of The Brave and the Bold on the comic store shelves, Wizard has asked writer Mark Waid to rank his top five favorite issues of the original team-up book. In a bit of an amusing coincidence, Waid's second favorite issue of The Brave and the Bold is the very issue featured here in last Friday's Classic Covers spotlight. Of The Brave and the Bold #53 (incorrectly cited at the Wizard website as #52), an issue featuring the Flash and the Atom, Waid raves, “It doesn’t have a particularly memorable plot but is one of the very best-drawn comics of all-time, period. This issue is by Alex Toth, one of the finest comics artist who ever lived but drew only one Brave and the Bold.” Visit Wizard online to learn of Waid's other choices.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Upcoming: The Flash #15

DC Comics has released previews of their solicitations for the month of August, including a cover and blurb for the next installment of the crimson comet's ongoing title. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #15 will continue the Marc Guggenheim story arc that has been billed as so exciting, so revolutionary, so highly anticipated... that the publisher has refrained from telling us a bloody thing about it. And, though striking, Doug Braithwaite's cover doesn't seem to give anything away. What's in store for Bart Allen this summer? Your guess is as good as mine, folks.

Written by Marc Guggenheim; Art by Tony S. Daniel and Art Thibert; Cover by Doug Braithwaite; Variant cover by Daniel 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.

Monday, May 21, 2007

On Sale: Showcase Presents

Remember, kids, that Showcase Presents: The Flash (Vol. 1) is now on sale from DC Comics. There's no better way to immerse yourself in the Silver Age. The Showcase volumes offer readers a convenient and economical way to experience the history of their favorite characters. With Showcase Presents: The Flash, you'll get over 500 pages of action, adventure, fun, plot twists, and unexpected silliness presented by some of the greatest legends in comics. For either the hardcore Flash fan or the curious newcomer, this volume is a must-buy.

Written by Robert Kanigher, John Broome and Gardner Fox; Art by Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella and various; Cover by Infantino and Giella. Over 500 pages of classic adventures are included in this value-priced volume! The Fastest Man Alive stars in these fantastic tales from late 1950s and into the 1960s! This collection features the Flash in battle against the Mirror Master, the Trickster, Captain Cold and many other villains! DC Universe. 512pg. B&W. Softcover. $16.99 US. On Sale May 16, 2007.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Live Action: "Child's Play"

“Child’s Play” (November 15, 1990)

Writers: Howard Chaykin & John Francis Moore
Story: Stephen Hattman & Gail Morgan Hickman
Director: Danny Bilson
Editor: Bill Zabala

Synopsis: Barry Allen finds himself playing caretaker to Terry Cohan, a homeless juvenile delinquent in possession of research that prompted the assassination of a respected local journalist. Desperate to cover-up those files is Beauregarde Lesko, a hippy radical who faked his own death in 1969 and is now preparing to unleash Blue Paradise, a hallucinogenic drug so addictive it could enslave all of Central City.

Commentary: For much of the episode, “Child’s Play” feels like two distinctly different stories that have been forced to come together. The central plot involving Barry’s efforts to guide and protect a homeless teen intertwines rather awkwardly with the story of Beauregarde Lesko’s efforts to create the ultimate hallucinogen. Guest star Jonathan Brandis is somewhat irritating as skateboarding bad boy Terry Cohan, though that may be because the character is a cliché, and there isn’t much fun in watching Barry Allen play foster father. It’s also worth noting that this is the second episode in a row that has featured our kind-hearted hero housing someone who stubbornly refuses to accept his help. Fortunately, the script does manage to create an interesting dynamic between Barry, Terry, and the Flash. Lesko’s retro cult of criminal hippies, potentially silly though it may be, represents the story’s most unique and engaging element. Unfortunately, it’s not properly developed or sufficiently explored. Lesko isn’t given enough of a back story to become a truly strong villain and his sinister scheme for domination is a bit too simplistic. Nevertheless, the sixties drug guru stands apart from all those antagonists that have preceded him. The episode’s climax--the point at which the two disparate storylines become one--is entirely anti-climactic, finishing with a ridiculous sequence in which the Flash subdues Lesko’s gang of hippies with some amplified high-speed guitar riffs. There’s also an amusing wink made towards the viewer when Barry and his dog Earl walk past a Central City movie house showing a double feature--Batman (1989) and Superman: The Movie (1978). “Child’s Play” is a reasonably entertaining episode that is ultimately held back because it fails to properly exploit either of its dual storylines.

High-Speed Highlight: During a Blue Paradise-induced drug trip, the Flash begins to move so quickly that his vibrating molecules allow him to pass through a solid wall!

Quotable: “The idea, Duvivier, is to make people die if they don’t get their Blue Paradise, not if they do. Now go and spread my gospel. I want everyone to share my dreams. And my nightmares.” --Beauregarde Lesko comments on his plot to drug the city

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Greater Flash Stories?

At his Newsarama blog, Grumpy Old Fan Tom Bondurant weighs in on the upcoming The Flash: The Greatest Stories Ever Told volume. In the process, he reveals some of his all-time favorite stories featuring the monarch of motion--choices that include The Flash (v.2) #54 and DC Special Series #11. Bondurant also addresses the "pure cotton-candy hype" that accompanied DC's mysterious solicitation for The Flash (v.3) #14. Could Bart Allen be about to "merge with the Speed Force more completely and become [Kingdom Come's] omni-Flash who wears only Jay’s helmet"?

The Flash Greatest Stories volume looks heavy on the Barry Allen stuff, with only two Jay Garrick stories and one Wally West--and the Wally story isn’t the one where he saves the flight attendant, so that hurts the book’s credibility right there. The previous Greatest Stories book was similarly Barry-centric, but that was understandable since it came out in 1991, right around the time of the Flash TV series. “Flash of Two Worlds” is reprinted, along with the Earth-Prime story “Flash — Fact or Fiction?”, I guess to get us used to the multiverse again. This book also reprints one of my favorite Flash stories, the 80-page “Flash Spectacular” issue of DC Special Series, so there’s that.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Super Friends on DVD

During an online chat with the Home Theater Forum, executives from Warner Home Video noted that two iterations of the Super Friends are on their way to DVD. Both 1984's Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and 1985's Super Friends: Galactica Guardians are destined for a DVD release later this year. The Flash was a member of the team during both series. Though the Warner Home Video representatives also indicated that Filmation's Aquaman and Batman series are being prepared for release as well, there's no word regarding the status of the scarlet speedster's own 1960's Filmation shorts. Visit the Home Theater Forum for the complete chat transcript.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Surf & Turf #1

Over at The Aquaman Shrine, Rob has posted cover artwork for the imaginary inaugural issue of the Aquaman team-up book Surf & Turf. As promised, the historic first issue features the king of the sea side-by-side with the fastest man alive! What could be more exciting than that?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Flash at McDonald's

The Superman Homepage is reporting that McDonald's in Argentina and Brazil are offering DC Comics toys with their kid's meals. The line-up of superheroes includes the scarlet speedster. The McDonald's Brazil website is also offering a selection of related downloads. I tell you, those kids in Brazil have all the luck! I suppose we can expect to see these popping up on eBay any time, then.

DC Comics fans in Argentina aren't the only ones who can collect DC Superheroes... McDonalds in Brazil are also running the same promotion where fans can collect eight different DC Superhero figures with the purchase of McDonalds Kid's Meals. The eight figures include: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Robin, Catwoman, Flash, and Batgirl.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

March Sales

Final North American sales estimates are available from Diamond Comic Distributors for the month of March, and Comic Buyers Guide has posted the data. The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive has dropped to number fifty-one on the list with issue ten, just behind the latest installment of Marvel's Daredevil and ahead of X-23 Target X. The issue also sold several thousand more copies than DC's Batman Confidential and Superman Confidential.

50. Daredevil #95 ($2.99) Marvel - 46,452
51. Flash: Fastest Man Alive #10 ($2.99) DC - 46,130
52. X-23 Target X #4 ($2.99) Marvel - 41,856
53. Ms. Marvel #13 ($2.99) Marvel - 40,834
54. Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears #2 ($2.99) Marvel - 40,198
55. Authority #2 ($2.99) DC - 39,884
56. Batman Confidential #4 ($2.99) DC - 38,733
57. X-Factor #17 ($2.99) Marvel - 38,065
58. New X-Men #36 ($2.99) Marvel - 37,002
59. Superman Confidential #4 ($2.99) DC - 36,777

Monday, May 07, 2007

Flash and Friends

Digest Comics has posted a look back at DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #2 from June of 1980, a 100-page digest featuring a line-up of six stories starring the scarlet speedster and all of his friends.

Meanwhile, it looks as if my proposed crossover with The Aquaman Shrine continues today with the posting of a rare Flash card game produced by Russell's Mfg. in 1977! Though Aquaman makes an appearance in the cards, the logic behind this merchandise baffles Rob, prompting him to wonder, "Who made this thing, Abra Kadabra?"

Friday, May 04, 2007

Classic Covers: The Flash (v.2) #66

Classic Covers: Note

As comic books regularly rely on the crossover as a tactic to offer readers excitement and unexpected twists, it's only fitting that comic blogs should occasionally join in the fun. I would like to think that today's installment of Classic Covers, then, could be considered our first true crossover with The Aquaman Shrine. I humbly offer it as a contribution to Rob's week-long Aquaman: Cover to Cover event--which, incidentally, continues today with the gorgeous cover to Aquaman #45.

I've thought long and hard about the qualifications that should regulate this blog's Classic Covers feature. Specifically, I wondered how recently a comic would have to have been published to qualify it as "current" rather than "classic." I figure a ten-year cut-off should settle things. Beginning with today's entry, I'll be posting the occasional cover from The Flash (v.2) on Fridays, tossing them into the mix with all of that wonderfully nostalgic art from Flash Comics, All-Flash, Comic Cavalcade, and The Flash (v.1). For a variety of reasons, there's no cover I'd rather start with than this memorable piece from July of 1992. It's one of my favorites, easily the funniest cover of the Wally West era, and there's nothing better than seeing your two favorite superheroes side-by-side. I've been waiting to post it for a long time. (Unfortunately, I haven't yet written an issue entry for it at the Crimson Lightning index. Soon, my finny friends.) When Rob initiated the Aquaman Shrine's Aquaman: Cover to Cover feature, I knew that the time had come.

Without further fanfare, then...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Live Action: "Sins of the Father"

“Sins of the Father” (November 8, 1990)

Writer: Stephen Hattman
Director: Jonathan Sanger
Editor: Lawrence J. Gleason

Synopsis: After escaping from a prison chain gang, brutal bank robber Johnny Ray Hix sets his sights on retrieving the long-hidden loot from his last great bank heist and plots revenge on the cop who put him away: Henry Allen. Barry must track down this elusive killer whilst simultaneously striving to protect his overly proud father, who may ultimately prove to be a danger to himself!

Commentary: M. Emmet Walsh and Priscilla Pointer return as Henry and Nora Allen in an episode that has more to do with Barry Allen’s irascible father than with our fleet-footed hero. This installment is disappointing because it is poorly plotted and paced. Unfortunately, it takes “Sins of the Father” entirely too long to find its footing and pick-up speed. The action and the drama finally gain some momentum when Barry and Henry engage in a long-overdue clash of ideologies, but this moment comes more than halfway into the episode, too late to save it. Henry Allen is an irritating and downright unlikable character. It doesn’t help that his crotchety quirks are sometimes played for drama and other times simply for laughs. Guest star Paul Koslo is a bit over-the-top as villain Johnny Ray Hix. Even sporting a sinister growl, however, it never seems as if this violent crook could convincingly present a threat to someone with Barry Allen’s powers. This episode is certain to let down any viewer anticipating comic book action and stupefying superheroics. “Sins of the Father” is more of a run-of-the-mill police drama than any episode of the series thus far. As a result, the Flash makes only a few scattered appearances in costume and the scenes involving the superhero seem to have been written as an afterthought. The same is true of Tina McGee, who makes her obligatory appearance in only a single awkward scene. Shirley Walker’s score is the most promising element in the episode, often striving to convince us that the story’s more fun than it really is. “Sins of the Father” may not be all bad but it is badly written and, more often than not, boring. It’s unlikely that anyone will finish the episode looking forward to a return appearance from Barry Allen’s beloved parents.

High-Speed Highlight: During a brief barroom brawl, the Flash taunts a frustrated thug by swiftly snatching away beer bottles, one-by-one, before they can be used as weapons.

Quotable: “One of the best men I’ve ever known is in a coffin and all I get from you is footprints and coroner’s reports. Well, let me tell you something: all the chemicals and all the microscopes in the world aren’t going to bring Pete back! He’s dead, Barry! Everybody in the whole damn world knows who killed him, and I have to sit here and listen to this?!” --Henry Allen vents rage on his son, once again voicing his disregard for the work of police scientists

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Batman & The Flash

The Comics Continuum has provided us with a better look at that new promotional image from Warner Bros. Animation featuring the Flash as he'll appear in The Batman. We'll catch our first glimpse of the scarlet speedster on the series this Saturday morning at 10:30am during "The Joining (Part 2)."

Warner Bros. Animation has provided The Continuum a look at two of the Justice League characters who will be appearing on Kids' WB!'s The Batman next season. As announced in February by Kids' WB!, the new season will focus on Batman's Justice League peers, including Superman, Aquaman and the Flash. The Continuum has also learned that Green Lantern will be appearing next season.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Flash! Crash! Smash!

After realizing that issues of Flash Comics, Crash Comics, and Smash Comics were being published concurrently in 1940, Kelson Vibber can't help but wonder how many newsstands decided to display the rhyming comic books next to each other.