Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fast Talk: Time-Vibrations

Time-Vibrations: The Flash #203, featuring the unfortunately titled "Flash's Wife is a Two-Timer" by Robert Kanigher and Irv Novick, contains a plethora of pseudoscientific Fast Talk fodder. Rest assured this won't be the last time we visit this issue. The story, which introduced the idea that the scarlet speedster's soul mate was born in the distant year 2945 A.D., is both heart-wrenching and absurd and broaches a number of science-fictional dilemmas of the heart. One of the story's most amusing moments, however, has to be this transitional sequence which, to the uninitiated reader, looks as if it might contain history's most outlandish Dear John letter. Though Iris West Allen is eager to explain her temporal predicament to her loving husband, she is unexpectedly seized by time-vibrations and begins to slip away to the far-flung future. In true dramatic fashion, the plucky reporter has enough time to convey her dilemma to us in incomplete gasps laden with technobabble. "Time-vibrations becoming unstable... being drawn back to the future... Can't reach phone... Must leave Barry... note--!" Iris has put our beloved slowpoke police scientist through a lot over the years but you've got to give her credit; though she is being abducted from the timestream and is, by all appearances, becoming virtually intangible, she still has the presence of mind to contact her husband! Ah, bless. Luckily, these remarkable "time-vibrations" are remarkably slow going, allowing our considerate heroine more than enough time to take up pen and paper and scribble out a brief domestic memo. Imagine Barry Allen's reaction when he returns home to find this note scrawled upon his kitchen wall: "Darling-- Can't stop myself... irresistible force pulling me--1,000 years--future--Help me." Boy, if I had a dime for every time one of my girlfriends tried to get away with that old excuse!

Issue: The Flash #203 (February 1971)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flash Facts: Weather Balloons

"The U.S. Weather Bureau records air pressure, temperature, and humidity by sending a radiosonde device aloft in a balloon."

Illustration: "Observer about to release a balloon carrying a radiosonde, which records air pressure, temperature, and humidity."

Issue: The Flash #209 (September 1971)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Find the Flash: Dragon*Con

As Kelson Vibber has observed, there were scads of scarlet speedsters to be found at this year's Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Among the most impressive of the participating cosplayers was this collective of the complete Rogues Gallery! The accuracy of these vibrant costumes is amazing. Just look at Heat Wave's gas mask or the patches on Piper's cloak! The Rogues posed for numerous photos, including a rather grim recreation of the death of Bart Allen! But don't take my word for it. Visit Speed Force to see a collection of Flash related images from the convention or Dragon*Con's site for a mammoth listing of fan-submitted photo galleries.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wally West's Last Stand

Since I was old enough to first hold a comic book in my hands, I have always been a fan of the fastest man alive. This will surprise no one who reads Crimson Lightning. Because of the great consistency in themes, style, and characterization across generations, it makes little difference whether we're talking about Jay, Barry, Wally, or Bart. I love them all equally. I delight in the scarlet speedster's whirlwind adventures no matter who has donned the winged boots to carry on the legacy. I find this both comforting and reasonably reassuring for, as we all know, the crimson comet's title has been in upheaval for several years at DC Comics and The Flash: Rebirth signals a new changing of the guard.

As many readers have pointed out, The Flash: Rebirth has, quite unexpectedly, proven to be aggravatingly slow going. It wasn't until the release of The Flash: Rebirth #4, featuring what may be regarded as the series' pivotal plot twist, that things shifted into high gear. This is not to say that the mini-series has been uneventful! In fact, it's difficult to keep track of the epic developments. The one and only Barry Allen has been resurrected, brought miraculously back to life. His rebirth has been accompanied by the annihilation of one foe, the dreaded Black Flash, and the revitalization of another, the sinister Professor Zoom. The speed force and its newly revealed negative counterpart have been redefined. Speedsters including Wally, Jay, Bart, Johnny, Jesse, Max, Iris, and Jai have all been significantly impacted by these events. With so much happening, so much superheroic drama and such psuedoscientific upheaval, it would be easy to overlook those moments that resonant most evocatively on an emotional wavelength. I generally avoid posting reviews or commentary on recent releases here at Crimson Lightning but, on this occasion, I think that I'd like to share some thoughts.

When I finished reading The Flash: Rebirth #4, closed its glossy cover, and placed the comic down on my lap, an affecting and somewhat surprising personal revelation slowly dawned on me. It took a moment but, flipping through the issue one more time, I knew I was right. Page eight, I though to myself. Page eight. That's when it happened. That's when I suddenly sat up and took notice. That's the precise moment when my heart skipped a beat in my chest, as if I had been hit by an errant bolt of lightning from out of the blue, and I was wholly engrossed in the storytelling. That's the point at which Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver really had me, for the first time since the series began. Issue four, page eight. And what transpires on the dazzlingly-illustrated eighth page of The Flash: Rebirth #4? Wally West, his costume slashed, his crimson cowl carelessly discarded, determinedly charges headlong into the inescapable energy torrents of the speed force in order to save the lives of his missing friends. As he dashes forward at his most astonishing super-speeds, he chants a familiar and reassuring mantra, his tried-and-true secret for success and survival: "As long as I have Linda, I'll find my way back."

If I am to be honest about my emotional response to the storytelling in this mini-series, really and truly honest, for me, that was the moment. Forget the disintegration of Johnny Quick. Forget Eobard Thawne's maniacal outbursts. Disregard Jay and Bart's valiant, pulse-pounding battle with the Reverse Flash. Even amid the heroic struggles of the sainted Barry Allen, after four tantalizing, twist-filled issues, it was Wally West's romantic charge that left me a bit breathless.

So, what does all this mean? The Flash: Rebirth #4 confirmed something I have long known about myself and also forced me to reconsider an acceptance I had long since shrugged off. Firstly, I am an incorrigible romantic, and that clearly affects my taste in superhero stories. It's a real disappointment that Iris Allen's role thus far has been all-but peripheral. I trust that this oversight will be rectified in those installments that remain. After all, the legacy of the Flash is fueled by love, not extra-dimensional energies. Secondly, I'm not nearly as prepared as I thought I was to let Wally West and his family step aside. After all these years, I'm far more attached to this character than even I, an incurable fan of each of the scarlet speedsters, would have ever expected. It's going to take me a bit longer than I first thought to get used to having Barry Allen back in the spotlight. Fortunately, as the young hero would remind us if he were here, Wally's not likely to get lost in the shuffle...

"As long as I have Linda, I'll find my way back."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Upcoming: Blackest Night: The Flash #1

Blackest Night has fallen on the DC Universe and, I have to admit, it's pretty damn exciting. The War of Light mythology crafted by Geoff Johns has left me utterly engrossed in all things Green Lantern. (Of course, it's even better that Barry Allen has been playing such a significant role in the proceedings!) The dramatic crossover continues this December in Blackest Night: The Flash, one of a number of mini-series spinning out of the event and a direct follow-up to The Flash: Rebirth. Who is the mysterious, electrified figure depicted on Scott Kolins's black-and-white tribute cover? Considering the unexpected death that began The Flash: Rebirth, I'm wagering that the Black Flash will soon be resurrected in a manner that casts the specter of speedster death as a manifestation of the dreaded Black Lantern Corps. Readers will soon learn the truth, along with the identities of those deceased Rogues who are being resurrected as Black Lanterns! Flash fans already know that this mini-series will be worth it just for its creative team. Newsarama has DC's full December solicitations.

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and cover by Scott Kolins; Variant cover by Francis Manapul. The Flashes of Two Cities--Barry Allen and Wally West--battle the undead Rogues. Will the legendary speedsters be able to handle the Black Lantern Rogues' revenge? Plus, witness the resurrection of Barry's greatest enemy, the Reverse Flash, in this hyper-speed miniseries event reuniting the fan-favorite Flash creative team of Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins! On sale December 2. DC Universe. 1 of 3. 32 pg. FC. $2.99 US.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Flash Facts: Tunguska Event

"One of the greatest meteorite falls on Earth occurred on June 30, 1908 in Siberia. It has been estimated that about 40,000 tons of meteoric matter hit Earth at a speed of thirty miles per second."

Illustration: "The Siberia forest devastated by the blast from the meteorite of June 30, 1908."

Issue: The Flash #121 (June 1961)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fast Talk: Impossible Phenomena

Impossible Phenomena: And so, after countless misadventures filled with endless pseudoscientific shenanigans, Barry Allen begins to suspect that something might be just a little off kilter in his corner of the universe. After dealing with yet another disaster that seemingly defies the traditional laws of science, the fastest man alive is forced to face facts. "Stopping the menace that caused it will be much tougher because that menace is... ME!!!" Yes, our stalwart hero, like his faithful readers, has at last become aware of the fact that loopholes in logic seem to follow him around in his super-speed slipstream. "For the past several days, scientific laws have been going haywire all around me! It doesn't matter whether I'm Barry Allen or the Flash--I trigger off impossible phenomena! Can it be because scientists regard me as an 'impossible phenomenon'?" It seems that poor Barry has been taking our regular Fast Talk feature's gibes to heart. I love plot developments like this, in which a character is so rattled as to unabashedly question the very laws that govern the known universe, but what most amuses me about this particular development is the fact that the crimson comet is both self-centered and self-deprecating enough to reach the conclusion that he, personally, is the focal point of this apparent malfunction in the fabric of reality. Of course, when you're a costumed metahuman beloved by millions and burdened with righting all manner of crazy crimes committed using mad science, you're bound to take such things personally!

Issue: The Flash #246 (January 1977)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quick Quiz: Cast the Flash!

Hollywood executives, take note! Crimson Lighting has cast the Flash. Our most recent Quick Quiz poll posed a question that has been argued endlessly on the internet ever since the motion picture adaptation of The Flash first entered development hell so many years ago. Which actor should don the iconic crimson costume to play the fastest man alive in the upcoming Warner Bros. film?

The undisputed winner of this particular poll is Neil Patrick Harris, an actor who once voiced Barry Allen in the animated feature Justice League: The New Frontier. Harris received a whopping 40% of the vote, rendering this one of our most decisive polls ever. Seann William Scott, a performer certain to play up the scarlet speedster's sense of humor, earned 7% of the vote. Another 7% of readers looked to Tahmoh Penikett, recently seen on Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse. Joshua Jackson, an actor suggested early on in this casting survey, received support from 3% of the voters. Connor Trinneer also picked up 3% of the ballots. At least 7% of all respondents would like to see Ryan Gosling as the fastest man alive. Only a single vote, 1% of the total, was cast for the talented young Anton Yelchin. 5% of respondents favored Mark Valley, who was recently cast as DC Comics's own Human Target. Paul Walker of The Fast and the Furious fame, an actor instantly associated with speed in the minds of moviegoers, seized 9% of the total vote. At least 12% of all voters cast their ballot in the Other category. Fifty-four eager movie buffs participated in the poll.

It's easy to see why Neil Patrick Harris was this poll's champion, I think. Not only has Harris stepped into Barry Allen's boots once before, he possesses just the right mixture of confidence and nerdy charm to match the character's distinctive personality. As the poll progressed and Harris continued to collect the lion's share of the votes, I found myself imagining Neil Patrick Harris and Ryan Reynolds interacting on screen as Barry Allen and Hal Jordan. (The Brave and the Bold: The Movie? You've sold at least one ticket, Warner Bros.!) The team-up could be fantastically entertaining.

My personal favorite casting suggestion to emerge from this poll, however, was Craig MacD's choice of actor Colin Ferguson, the star of SyFy's Eureka. I'm a great fan of Eureka and I don't know why this particular connection never occurred to me. On screen, Ferguson is dashing, charismatic, and empathetic but also humble, possessing an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor. Swap out Sheriff Jack Carter's scientific naivety for a touch of scientific genius and the characterization is just about perfect. To my mind, Ferguson could very well be the ideal Barry Allen.

What do you think? Who would you like to see play the scarlet speedster on the silver screen? How did your favorite actor fare in this poll? As ever, I invite you to elaborate on your choice using the comment facility below.

Moving on... With the evil Eobard Thawne coming to dominate The Flash: Rebirth as he reclaims the title of the scarlet speedster's one true arch-nemesis, our next Quick Quiz question provides a simple yet appropriate follow-up to the first ever Crimson Lightning reader poll. Of all the evil speedsters to have challenged the fastest man alive, who is your favorite Reverse Flash?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Flash Facts: Homogenization of Milk

"Milk can be homogenized by high-frequency sound. 'Silent sound' in oscillating machine breaks up the fat globules in milk, causing the fat to mix with the rest of the milk."

Issue: The Flash #133 (December 1962)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fast Talk: Super-Speed Vibrations

Super-Speed Vibrations: You didn't think I'd allow our Super Powers Collection celebration to pass without featuring the Flash action figure's mini-comic in our weekly Fast Talk feature, did you? At thirteen pages, the Kenner mini-comic represents quite a compact superhero adventure and the resolution of that story calls, naturally enough, for some serious pseudoscientific shorthand. In the case of our beloved monarch of motion, nothing provides a little scientific wiggle room quite like some high-speed vibrations. Just look to the first ever Fast Talk feature on the subject of reverse-dimensional frequencies, for instance, or our last installment marveling at Gorilla's City's high-tech vibration recorders. Fortunately for the Justice League of America, the alien android Brainiac hasn't caught up to the tech savvy denizens of Gorilla City when it comes to resonance defenses. Though Brainiac's invisible rays--the powers of which are maddeningly vague, incidentally--have captured and incapacitated Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Hawkman, the Flash has a built-in counter. "Sorry, Brainy. I began vibrating at super-speed as soon as your beam hit me! Your beam only teleported me to your ship... it never made me unconscious!" It's just that simple... provided the supervillain isn't willing to ask any follow-up questions. This is one of Barry Allen's favorite tricks so, trust me, this isn't likely to be our last look at the crimson comet's capacity for oscillating out of trouble!

Issue: Super Powers Collection #4 (1984)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

On Sale: The Flash: Rebirth #4

While we're lost in 1984 celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Super Powers Collection, we wouldn't want to forget that the next installment of The Flash: Rebirth is now on sale! Professor Zoom has revealed himself to be the agent manipulating the powers of the speed force for his own murderous purposes. What are the Reverse Flash's sinister plans for the world's greatest speedsters? Barry, Wally, Jay, and Bart are about to find out. (Perhaps Zoom is inconsolably disgruntled that his own Super Powers action figure was never released in wave four?) Things are really ramping up as the epic mini-series begins is second half. Unconvinced? DC's The Source has an action-packed four-page preview of the issue.

Written by Geoff Johns; Art and covers by Ethan Van Sciver. Barry Allen left a legacy that thrived after his death. Now his return threatens it all. What secrets does Barry hold inside him about the fate of the Flash Family? What destiny awaits Wally and his twins? What murderous force targets Bart Allen? And what does it truly mean to be a speedster? DC Universe. 32pg. Color. $2.99 US. On Sale August 26, 2009.