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."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Textual Teasers

Desperate for spoilers regarding that much hyped and seemingly pivotal next installment of The Flash? Not satisfied with the hints that have already been dropped by DiDio, Guggenheim, and the DC Comics advertising department? Ever-vigilant Flash fan Kelson Vibber informs us that over at the Comic Bloc Forums, "Marc Guggenheim is posting one line (or exchange) of dialog from Flash #13 each day until the issue comes out." Thus far, three lines of dialogue from the issue have been posted. Will the great Barry Allen return? Will the Rogues succeed in ending the legacy of the fastest man alive? Will Bart endure another illogical lecture from his time-traveling grandmother? The countdown continues.

Update: Apparently, Tony Daniel has joined in on this action as well. Craig MacD points us to Daniel's blog, where the artist is posting panels and pages from The Flash #13, giving us a sneak peek at the upcoming issue's artwork as well as the process of pencilling a comic book.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Interview: Marc Guggenheim

Newsarama has posted a new interview with Marc Guggenheim. The writer behind the fastest man alive is busier than ever. Guggenheim is currently involved with scripting Wolverine, Blade, and Oni Press's Resurrection. He's also the co-creator of Eli Stone, a new legal drama for ABC. In addition to discussing his various comic book and television projects, Guggenheim drops some hints about what we can expect from The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13.

"Big stuff is coming up. Huge. However, it's been so huge we can't even solicit it outright without spoiling, so there's nothing I can tell you without doing the same. That having been said, some hints about The Flash #13: 1) Barry appears. Kinda. 2) The splash page is a homage to a classic Flash-related cover. 3) There are a lot of candles. 4) Bart says, "I. Am. The. Flash!!!!" 5) Inertia gets his comeuppance. 6) Everyone who thinks I've gotten Piper wrong should check this issue out. 7) Bart's relationship with Val takes a major step forward. 8) Bart puts a chokehold on his grandmother. No, really."

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Fastest Man... Alive?

How worried should we be after seeing Ryan Sook's Countdown promotion featuring the Flash in mortal peril? Fans are debating the scarlet speedster's future--and his past. Wizard is asking outright, "Will the Flash die?" Whatever the current mythology has in store for Bart Allen, DC Comics is generating hype and both the crimson comet and his infamous Rogues Gallery are destined to take the spotlight this summer. Newsarama has interrogated DC Universe Executive Editor Dan DiDio about the ominous teaser poster and the fate of the fastest man alive. Meanwhile, Wizard has interviewed writer Marc Guggenheim regarding the connections between The Flash and DC's current crossovers.