Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Teen Titans #43

Titans East Part 1

Geoff Johns Writer
Tony S. Daniel Penciller
Jonathan Glapion Inker
Tanya and Richard Horie Colorist
Travis Lanham Letterer
Tony S. Daniel & The Hories Cover
Adam Schlagen Assistant Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

Tony S. Daniel is a very hit-or-miss artist for me. Sometimes, when he nails an image, it's the some of the best comic book art you'll ever see. But on a pretty regular basis, you'll see some of Daniel's art that just doesn't quite seem to meet his standards. Perhaps he's rushing, or just not putting as much love into it, or maybe he has the wrong inker. In any case, this cover is one of those Daniel images that lets me down a bit. Mainly I'm upset with his Inertia. Not only does he look too old, but his gloves are wrong! Why can't anyone get Inertia's gloves right?

Bart Allen isn't in this story, but his clone is, so I'm taking the opportunity to look in on Bart's former team. When we last left the Teen Titans, Deathstroke's son, Jericho, was essentially resurrected by Raven. Jericho is catching up with his sister, Rose, and Nightwing in New York. To Rose's surprise, Nightwing accepts them both.

We then head to Robin's secret lab underneath Titans Tower in San Francisco. Wonder Girl and Raven have discovered Tim's insane attempts to clone a new Superboy. Cassie, who went on her own insane path to resurrect Conner in 52, approves of Tim's methods. But Raven is not pleased. Despite Tim's heart-breaking pleas to bring their family back, Raven insists she can't just resurrect Conner. She explains that with Jericho, all she did was bring his body back — his soul never left this plane because it was hidden inside Deathstroke and then trapped on that computer disk. But Conner's soul has moved on.

Cassie still demands that Raven bring Conner's soul back, and Tim says the Titans are unifying and Conner will complete it. Suddenly, a voice asks, "What about me?" Robin and Raven are immediately knocked out by a speedster, who pauses in front of Cassie long enough to show he's dressed as Kid Flash. Wonder Girl knows this isn't Bart and she tries to attack, but misses. Inertia quickly changes his costume, noting that some people prefer Impulse.

Cassie still angrily insists that he's not Bart, so Inertia takes the time to recap his origin story while pummeling Wonder Girl. He says he was cloned from Bart in the 30th century, trained by Thaddeus Thawne to seek out Bart and replace him. Thad rationalizes his current attack, by saying his quest to destroy everything about Bart should also include his friends. Thad then jokes that he briefly considered following Bart's lead and calling himself Kid Zoom, but for now, he's sticking with Inertia.

Once Wonder Girl falls down, Inertia turns things over to Superboy's old evil clone, Match, whose body and mind has been breaking down over the past few years, essentially making him a Bizarro. Inertia admits that Match isn't much of a conversationalist anymore, but he says clones need to stick together. Match ominously lumbers toward Cassie, saying "I hate Wonder Girl."

At Belle Reve Prison, in Terrebone Parish, Louisiana, Cyborg and Miss Martian are interrogating Bombshell, who was revealed to be a spy last time. But as soon as Miss Martian probes Bombshell's mind and realizes she's working for Titans East, Risk and Batgirl break into the prison and savagely kill Bombshell. They cause a mass breakout in Belle Reve, overwhelming our heroes. And Kid Devil is also attacked by a member of Titans East in a Catholic church in Los Feliz, California.

We then cut to Robin, waking up to find he's been tied up in front of Batgirl and Deathstroke. Slade blames the Titans for taking away his family. He reveals that he's controlling Batgirl with chemicals, and warns that he will do the same to others if the Titans don't give him Jericho and Rose back. Speaking of whom, Jericho and Rose are startled to come across an ominous-looking Titans Tower made of wood in New York.

This was pretty fun. I don't care about half the characters here, but I do like the idea of Deathstroke battling the Teen Titans with a team of teenagers himself. And it was kind of nice to see Inertia prove how powerful a speedster can be when they want to. He took out Robin and Raven like it was nothing, before messing around with Wonder Girl and handing her off to Match. I do wish, however, that he would have left Robin conscious long enough to really drive home the guilt game for the Titans caring so much about Conner, but not Bart. Regardless, this does look like it'll be an interesting story.

Next time, we'll see Bart Allen return to the Smallville TV show.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #8

Speedquest Chapter 2: Double or Nothing

Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo – Writers
Ron Adrian & Art Thibert – Penciller
Art Thibert – Inker
Travis Lanham – Letterer
Richard & Tanya Horie – Colorists
Rachel Gluckstern – Associate Editor
Joan Hilty – Editor
Cover by Daniel Acuna

Our cover shows an evil red demon attacking a defenseless child in a green jumpsuit. Oh, wait. That's supposed to be Bart fighting Inertia. Then how come Bart looks like the spawn of Satan? I do like the Las Vegas lights in the background, but the characters in the foreground are awful.

Our story picks up with Bart excitedly (and stupidly) racing to Las Vegas to meet Val. Apparently Inertia had also told Bart that "Val" had rented out a penthouse and left a keycard with the concierge. And Bart doesn't find any of this suspicious. So he heads up to the massive, two-story penthouse and hears Val's voice calling him up to the hot tub on the roof garden. Surprisingly, Bart manages to keep his clothes on as he heads upstairs, only to discover that it was Inertia using his voice-changing device summoning him.

Bart almost begins fighting Inertia, but Thad convinces him to follow him out to the desert, where Val is being held hostage. Naturally, Val has a bomb strapped to her chest, and Inertia explains that he's created a "Lady or the Tiger" situation for Bart. He can push the green button on Val's bomb to defuse it, but once he does, he'll ignite a gigantic photon cannon that somehow targets the Speed Force. If Bart tries to disarm the cannon, Val's bomb will go off. And to make things interesting, Thad only gives him five seconds to decide.

Despite Val's protests, Bart decides to push the button, assuring her he can run faster than the speed of light. The cannon immediately fires, drawing all the electricity from Las Vegas to do so. Bart then leads the photon ray on a race around the world — literally. He eventually end up back where he started, guiding the ray to crash into the back of the cannon, destroying it. Inertia teleports away before Bart can catch him.

Bart takes Val to the hotel penthouse and helps turn on backup power for hospitals and emergency services until the rest of Las Vegas' lights come back on. He immediately returns to the penthouse to find Val stepping out of the shower, suggesting they enjoy their time together while they can. Bart sadly notes a temporary tone in Val's comment, and she says it'll be harder for them to be together now that he's living in Los Angeles. But Bart says he's always only a few seconds away from her. And then Bart and Val ... um ... have sex. As soon as they're done, the lights come back on and he decides to quickly check out the city to make sure there weren't too many accidents during the blackout. But he promises to hurry back to Val.

Meanwhile, Manfred Mota has finished slowly reassembling himself after Inertia blew him up. He realizes he was betrayed, but more importantly, he realizes how wrong he was to try to kill his daughter to restore his body. Seeking to make amends, he somehow tracks Val's atomic design to Las Vegas, riding on the power lines to the city.

In that brief moment of Bart's absence, Mota appears before his daughter, who has thankfully gotten dressed in a new outfit (don't ask me where the clothes came from). Val naturally panics when she sees her dad, and she even threatens to jump off the hotel's roof. But Mota manages to keep her calm and begins to apologize to her. Bart suddenly shows up, and Mota says he's said what he needed to say and will be on his way. Bart says Mota needs to go Iron Heights, but Mota refuses to return to prison. To make sure Bart doesn't follow him, he freezes the atoms around Bart, essentially trapping him in a cage.

Bart can't vibrate through the force field, but he does break out by creating a mini whirlwind. He easily catches up to Mota, and even though he can't touch the being of pure energy, Bart does figure out how to drag Mota in his slipstream, leading him to an electromagnet in a junkyard. Sure enough, this does the trick and traps Mota. And Bart notes that Iron Heights should have no problem setting up a magnetic cell for him.

Later, Bart takes Val to finally meet the Garricks, who urge the young man to return to Keystone City.  But Bart instead asks Jay to help Val get her old job back at S.T.A.R. Labs and says he's planning on staying in Los Angeles. Inspired by his grandpa Barry, Bart has decided to apply for a job on the L.A. police department's forensics team.

Elsewhere ... well, in Inertia's lab ... Thad vows that the Speed Force won't save Bart next time. Next time, Thad will have an army behind him. He orders Craydl to give him the locations for February 2007 of Abra Kadabra, Mirror Master, Heat Wave and Captain Cold.

This was the final issue of Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo. And you can tell they knew it heading in to this one. After seven issues of a sluggish, plodding pace, this one was a mad scramble to cram in all the ideas they had. After the first issue of this series came out, which sold extremely well, by the way, Bilson and DeMeo proudly announced they had a story for at least 12 issues. (In that same interview, they admitted to not having read any comics previously, which explains a lot, in my opinion.) But here's the thing: Bilson and DeMeo sucked. I don't know if their scripts were always late, but through eight issues, they never had the same art team twice. And their story itself was long, boring and frustrating. They took way too long to put Bart in the Flash costume and dragged out the Griffin storyline to an obscene length.

And then we got whiplash with this issue. After spending so much time teasing and building up Mota, Flash defeats in an astonishingly quick and anticlimactic battle. Don't get me wrong: I am not a fan of Mota at all. He was a boring and annoying villain they kept trying to hype up as some classic Flash arch enemy, which he was not. I'm just frustrated by the poor pacing of this series. And you know that Bilson and DeMeo would have spent four or five issues having Bart struggling to choose a career if they had the room.

Oh, and let me complain about the art once more. This issue was particularly lazy. As you saw from the one page I posted, Inertia's gloves routinely changed from panel to panel. All through the book. And there was one panel where Bart was supposed to be examining the bomb on Val's chest, but the artist straight up forgot to draw the bomb. I kind of get the feeling that just about everyone involved in this series had given up by this point. Sales were plummeting and DC had already put their new Flash plans into motion. Perhaps those plans were an overreaction to the struggles of this series, but that's a discussion for another day.

I will say I kind of enjoyed Inertia's interaction with Bart. Even though Bart is now older, taller and more powerful than Inertia, Thad is still much, much smarter than Bart. And it was nice to him smugly laying out his death trap that Bart blindly waltzed right into. Of course, I still crave the Inertia of Todd Dezago, who got a taste of what it's like to be in a family and struggled making sense of that with his years of being programmed as a villain. But I know I'll never get that Inertia again, so I have to make do with what little scraps of cleverness I can get.

Whew! What a tough stretch this has been! Let's check out the new ads:

Batman: Year One in a deluxe softcover edition.

Batman: Year 100 now in graphic novel format.

A two-page "comic" for the Nintendo Wii. (The art for this ad actually looks better than much of the art in this series.)

One magic word ... and a boy becomes the world's mightiest mortal! Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil.

The return of the greatest superhero team-up book ever! The Brave and the Bold by Mark Waid and George Pérez.

52 action figures.

The DC Nation page contains a clue about 52, which essentially says that the multiverse still exists after Infinite Crisis.

International Fight League.

Vinsanity by Carter. Body by milk. got milk? with Vince Carter. The 2006-07 season was actually Carter's final year as an All-Star, averaging 25.2 points per game for the New Jersey Nets.

Next time, we'll follow Inertia upholding his end of the bargain to Deathstroke in Teen Titans #43.

Friday, August 3, 2018

DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1

Father Christmas

Ian Boothby – Writer
Giuseppe Camuncoli – Penciller
Lorenzo Ruggiero – Inker
John J. Hill – Letterer
Hifi Design – Colorist
Rachel Gluckstern – Associate Editor
Joan Hilty – Editor
Cover by Howard Porter

Our cover shows each of the main characters in all seven of the stories in this issue. It is nice to see Bart standing next to Superman and Green Lantern. It's one of the few validations we've seen that he really is the Flash for the DC Universe, and not some awkward character on his own isolated title. Unfortunately, I can't say I'm a fan of this painted style. All the characters just look slightly off.

Bart's story begins with him feeling a little blue on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. Jay calls him on the phone, inviting him over to the Garrick household for the holiday, but Bart lamely says the snow in Keystone makes his artificial knee sore. Joan tries tempting the young adult with some homemade butter tarts, but Bart just runs over there to grab some tarts and immediately returns to his Hollywood apartment.

After Bart hangs up the phone, he tells himself Christmas just doesn't mean anything to him. He quickly reviews his previous Christmases, starting with him spending the holiday in a virtual reality program in the 30th century, as his mom and dad sadly looked on from the other side of a window. On Bart's next Christmas, he and Max Mercury battled the Mirror Master, who had trapped Max inside a shiny Christmas tree ornament. The next year, still as Impulse, Bart helped Wally take down Captain Cold, trapping him in a giant snowman. And most recently, as Kid Flash, Bart joined Superboy, Robin and Cyborg in defeating Insaniac — the Joker possessed by Brainiac and given the ability to make anything mechanical go crazy.

Bart becomes even more depressed by the memories of his old friends Max, Wally and Conner, so he heads out to try to find something to do. Bart visits the police station, asking if he can go on a ride-along or something, but he's told they're all booked up. As he walks home, Bart briefly considers using the Speed Force to travel two weeks into the future to skip the holiday season, but he realizes that's too risky a proposition.

Suddenly, Bart's hit in the side of the head with a snowball. Since this is Los Angeles, Bart assumes this snow must be the work of one of the many cold-related super villains. So he turns into the Flash and quickly tracks down the source of the snow — a small apartment with a huge hole blasted through the wall. As he approaches the dwelling, he's hit with a bolt of lightning, followed by a whirlwind. Believing this to be the work of the Weather Wizard, Bart angrily fights through the wind and prepares to attack.

But once Bart manages to get inside the apartment, he instead finds a middle-aged man with a young boy begging the Flash not to hurt his dad. Bart does snap the man's weather wand in half and demands a good explanation for the chaos. The man introduces himself as Rick Thompson, formerly Tweak, a tech consultant for the Rogues. He was never around for his son, but after his wife was killed by an OMAC he decided to go straight. Rick thought it'd be fun to give his son a white Christmas, so he tried to build his own weather wand, but he had a hard time controlling it.

Looking at his destroyed apartment, Rick realizes he and Jimmy are now essentially homeless, and he blames himself for being a deadbeat dad overcompensating for lost time. Bart tells Rick he's no more of a deadbeat dad than Saint Nicholas, who, according to some legends, had 10 kids and left them all to live the life of a hermit. And those legends say St. Nick, aka Santa Claus, spent his time delivering gifts to other children to make up for abandoning his own. Jimmy says his friend's brother told him there's no way Santa's fast enough to go around the whole world in one night, but Bart says he can do it in a minute.

Bart tells Rick that he saved a hotel from a fire last week, and he believes they'd allow Rick and Jimmy to stay there until they get back on their feet. But in the meantime, Bart believes a hotel is no place to spend Christmas, so he runs the two of them to Keystone to have turkey dinner with the Garricks. Jay and Joan give Bart a signed first edition of Mark Twain's "Following the Equator," which Jay picked up on one of his time-travel adventures where he saved the author from drowning in the Mississippi River. Jay then turns on the radio to find some Christmas carols, but instead finds a report of Murmur holding a choir hostage. So our tale ends with Bart and Jay battling one of Wally's old villains.

This was a nice story. Yeah, it's your typical holiday special story, but at least it wasn't overly cheesy. I do wonder, though, why Bart didn't rebuild Rick's apartment. I mean, two free weeks in a hotel is nice and all, but fixing their existing home is better and shouldn't be outside of Bart's skill set. But really, this was a quality story with much better art than we normally get on The Fastest Man Alive.

The most interesting part was Bart's flashbacks to previous Christmases. None of those things happened. Impulse did have a couple of memorable Christmases, one involving his time-traveling mother and another where Max literally took Bart to the North Pole to show him Santa didn't exist. However, these new adventures with Mirror Master, Captain Cold and especially the Joker/Brainiac hybrid look really fun, and I kind of wish they actually did happen. Or maybe they did? We are in a new post-Infinite Crisis continuity with lots of subtle and strategic changes to the past. So I guess the Insaniac adventure is now an untold, yet canonical story in the Teen Titans continuity.

Next time, we'll begin covering comics with a March publication date (even though they technically came out in January), starting with The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #8.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #7

Speediest Chapter 1: Angel City

Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo -- Writers
Ron Adrian -- Penciller, pages 1-10, 16-22
Art Thibert -- Artist, pages 11-15
Rob Lea & Alex Lei -- Inkers, pages 1-10, 16-22
Pat Brosseau -- Letterer
Richard & Tanya Horie -- Colorists
Rachel Gluckstern -- Assoc. Editor
Joan Hilty -- Editor
Cover by Daniel Acuna

Our cover shows Bart being pursued by the two new villains of the series, Mota and Inertia. I will admit to kind of liking calling them Force & Inertia. But beyond that, I do not like this cover. The bland background and the "blurred" effect don't work for me. And for some reason, Bart looks like he's 35 years old here. It's also worth noting that just seven issues in, Acuna is our third cover artist. And Thibert becomes our sixth penciller for this mess of a series.

Our story begins at the Flash Museum with a Flash Day celebration. Apparently word has gotten out that it was Griffin who caused the bridge to collapse and the Flash who stopped him, so Keystone has decided to show it's appreciation to the real hero of the day and present him with a medal. Jay and Joan Garrick are in attendance, but halfway through the parade, Bart still has yet to show up.

And that's because Bart has impulsively decided to move to Los Angeles without telling anyone or setting up a job or apartment in this new city. But Bart believes he now has his powers under control and can handle being by himself now, leaving Keystone in Jay's hands. Bart also acknowledges that Wally is still "out there" somewhere, but before beginning his search for him, Bart wants to "find himself" first. And this quest to inner peace apparently begins with a trip to the tourist destinations of Hollywood. But it turns out to be a good thing that Bart decided to take in the sights, since he stumbled across a live performance by the classic Flash villain, Abra Kadabra.

Abra Kadabra announces he'll make the condemned Hollywood Hotel disappear, but "accidentally" zaps the brand new jewelry store next door. As the building disappears, Bart throws on his Flash suit and rushes inside the store before it completely vanishes. The store reappears in the Swiss Alps, and Abra Kadabra also teleports himself there to direct his crew to empty the contents of the store and deposit them in his Swiss bank at the bottom of the hill.

Bart sees Kadabra's men heading toward building and he decides to empty the vault before they can. Instead of vibrating through the safe door, Bart types in thousands of number combinations at super speed to open the door. Once Kadabra and his men enter the building, they are shocked to find it completely empty. Bart locks Kadabra's men inside the vault, then gets right up in his face, saying the trick didn't fool him. Abra Kadabra tries to teleport Flash away, but he easily avoids the blasts from the magic wand. Bart then pulls out a small diamond he kept from the safe and uses it to cut a hole in a glass case covering a large diamond. Bart then uses that piece of glass to reflect Kadabra's teleportation blast back at him, causing the super villain to disappear. Our noble hero immediately takes off, letting the Swiss police clean up.

Bart runs back to Los Angeles, planning to find a place to live first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, Kadabra reappears in Cambodia, realizing that this Flash has gold eyes, which means Inertia was right. He now acknowledges that Inertia's plan might have some validity, and he plans to present this information to the Rogues.

We then cut to the Gila Canyon test site in Nevada, where Inertia has taken a break from prepping Mota's experiment to secretly meet with Deathstroke. Apparently Inertia has also lost his connection to the Speed Force, and he is relying on Deathstroke to provide him a drug called Velocity 9 to give him super speed. Inertia tells Deathstroke that Mota is currently analyzing his daughter's D.N.A., and he's about to head off to collect the final piece for the regeneration machine — the trigger. Deathstroke approves of Inertia's plan and reminds him to come out East to fulfill his end of their deal.

Once Deathstroke is gone, Inertia injects himself with the Velocity 9, blaming Bart for forcing him to "shoot up" like a back-alley junkie. He has Craydl reactivate the teleportal, which sends him back to his lab in the future. Craydl has developed a taste for classic rock for some reason, and Thad gives him a Rolling Stones CD with a promise to get some Pink Floyd on his next trip.

The next day, Bart is moving in to Casa La Brea Bungalow Court in Hollywood. He is trying to open the door to his apartment while balancing three boxes labeled "Bart's stuff." His neighbor, a pretty girl about his age, helps him open the door and quickly picks up on Bart's Midwest accent. She introduces herself as Roxanne Snow and says she's an aspiring actress working on her regional dialects. Bart thanks her by giving her a piece of Swiss chocolate.

Out in Nevada, Inertia finally begins the process of using Valerie Perez's genetic material to restore Manfred's Mota's body. Thad notes the coldness of Mota's willingness to sacrifice his daughter, but he admires their shared goal of seeking death for the speedsters. But when Inertia pushes the button to begin the process, the entire lab goes up in a massive blue explosion.

Meanwhile, Bart is sadly reading Val's goodbye letter for the thousandth time. He idiotically believes the letter to be genuine — despite all the clear warning signs around Val's sudden departure — and he decides that if Val really wants to talk to him then she'll give him a call.

Speaking of Val, she miraculously survived the explosion. She pulls herself out of the rubble and runs through the desert until she finds the highway. Val stops the first truck she sees, begging for a ride to the nearest town. The truck driver is eager to help her, but only if she lets him have his way with her first. But before the driver can do anything bad to Val, Inertia arrives, beats up the driver and ties him up. He explains to Val that he designed Mota's chamber to fail and Val's to protect her from the explosion. Inertia also reveals that Abra Kadabra has informed him that Bart has moved to Los Angeles, and he thinks it's time to reunite the two love birds.

Using a device that mimics Val's voice, Thad gives Bart a call, asking him to come to the Desert Star hotel in Las Vegas to talk. Bart doesn't ask any questions over the phone and agrees to race over there immediately.

I now see why Bilson and DeMeo dragged their feet so long on making Bart the Flash. They don't know how to write a good Flash action sequence. Everything about that Abra Kadabra scene was awful. So a super villain from the 64th century teleports a jewelry store to Switzerland. Pretty low brow for someone like Abra Kadabra, but whatever; he needs to fund some operation. Bart, as a superhero, has two main objectives here: 1) Take Abra Kadabra into custody, and 2) Return the jewelry store to Hollywood. And Bart failed on both those counts. What was the point of him removing all the diamonds? And where did he put them? Or why did he manually punch numbers into the safe combination? Or use a diamond to slice open a case of another diamond? All of these decisions were horribly stupid!

But Bart's worst decision was to move to Hollywood without telling anyone. He owes it to the Garricks to let them know what he's up to. Yes, a city as large as Los Angeles does need a superhero, but Bart shouldn't be going there at this time. Jay just barely got out of the hospital, and even though he healed quickly, this series has repeatedly told us that he's getting slower each day. Bart's not exactly leaving Keystone in good hands here. And Bart also owes it to Wally to try to find him and bring him home. Now's not the time for more "soul-searching." He's been doing that for a year now. Start acting like a hero for crying out loud!

The most interesting part of this issue was Inertia's interaction with Deathstroke. But I think the credit for that goes to Geoff Johns, who is building up a Titans East storyline, which we will be covering before too long. But really, this is a painful comic to read. It even fails on little, easy things, like Inertia's gloves. Even the cover had one fingerless glove and one full glove. So it was no surprise that this issue would switch between the two styles back and forth in this comic, even once on the same page. And the sense of time has always been all over the place this whole series. (How long ago did Mota kidnap Val?) And this issue struggled with that mightily. When Inertia pushed the button, the sun was just starting to rise. When Val pulled herself out of the rubble, it was the middle of the night with hundreds of stars in the sky. But on the very next page, when she found the highway, the sun was rising again. Are we to assume she spent the entire day under the rubble, then wandering through the desert all night? Or was this just a massively flawed book with too many errors for the two writers, two pencillers, two inkers, two colorists and two editors to catch?

There are two sides to every ghost story. It takes two to take back the castle. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin for Nintendo DS.

If there's one thing you learn when you are a kid ... it's to never go into the forest ... alone. Death Jr. for Nintendo DS and PSP.

Action Comics Annual by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner.

From the pages of 52: Who will be the next to wear ... the helmet of Fate?

DC Nation announces a survey to choose the greatest DC comic book cover of all time.

Next time, we'll get a special Christmas story in DCU Infinite Holiday Special #1.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #6

Lightning in a Bottle Part Six: Burning Bridges

Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo Writers
Ken Lashley & Andy Smith Pencillers
Art Thibert Inker
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Richard & Tanya Horie Colorists
Rachel Gluckstern Assoc. Editor
Joan Hilty Editor
Cover by Art Thibert

This is our first cover not drawn by Lashley, and I'm pretty happy about that. Bart doesn't look dark and evil. The background isn't a vague mess of chaos. And the scene depicted on the cover actually happens in the story inside. Yeah, the guys in the car do look a little goofy, but everything else is pretty nice. Ironically, the children Flash is carrying look remarkably like Wally West's twins — who we haven't met yet.

Our story picks up with the Griffin ignorantly performing experiments on Jay Garrick in a desperate attempt to stop his rapid aging. While Griffin fiddles with the computers, Jay vibrates free from his restraints (which are completely different from what they looked like last issue). However, Griffin spots this before Jay is completely free and hits him with a blast of green lightning. At that same moment, Bart is actually conducting some good old fashioned detective work.

Bart returns to S.T.A.R. Labs to get more information about the stolen equipment from Dr. McGee. He then quickly visits the Keystone Water and Power Central Station to track down the isolated spike in energy the Speed Force Spectrometer would cause. He finds the spot on the corner of Anderson Street and Fox Avenue (named for Flash creators Murphy Anderson and Gardner Fox). Bart carefully vibrates through the street, making sure not to stretch the matter into taffy again, then quietly sneaks into Griffin's underground lair.

With Jay unconscious, Griffin has begun rambling incoherently to himself, complaining about how the city doesn't love him anymore (even though there has been no evidence to suggest this). Looking at an old poster of the bridge between Keystone and Central City, Griffin gets an idea to do something big to make everyone forget the Flashes. Bart decides he's heard enough at this point and whips up a cloud of cement mix dust and ties Griffin to a pillar with some cables. He then spots Jay and accuses Griffin of killing him.

While Bart tends to Jay, Griffin uses his green lightning to easily escape, making sure to take down the pillar he was tied to on his way out. Bart whisks Jay away to safety before the tunnel caves in, but discovers that Jay's heart has stopped. He begins to cry, wishing he could save his mentor, when suddenly a surge of lightning sparks from Bart's fingertips, giving Jay's heart the necessary jolt to start beating again.

We then head over to the Gila Canyon test site in Nevada, where Valerie has been strapped to a chair that presumably will break down her genetic material to rebuild her father's body. Val is remarkably calm and curious in the face of death, asking the question we've all been asking: What does Inertia have to gain by assisting Mota? Inertia mostly just laughs Val off, and Mota says once he regains his body, he and Inertia will proceed with their plans to take down the Flash. But Inertia thinks to himself that he's not seeing Mota in his plans.

Later, Bart and Joan are at Keystone General Hospital, waiting to hear how Jay is doing. Dr. McGee is also there, presumably to tell the doctors what that Speed Force machine did to him. McGee tells Bart and Joan that Jay was exposed to high levels of radiation and he's been moved to the ICU, but he has stabilized and his pulse is good. Bart tells them how Jay's heart was stopped when he found them, but he somehow was able to utilize the Speed Force to save him. Bart then realizes he should probably be out looking for the Griffin now, since he is an unstable homicidal maniac, after all.

Speaking of Griffin, he is currently carrying out his insane plan to regain the city's respect by sabotaging the Keystone Bridge. He destroys one of the bridge's support pillars, causing it to collapse with dozens of cars still crossing it. Bart hears the collapse from the hospital and rushes over there to find Griffin saving some people from the catastrophe he obviously caused. Bart joins him in rescuing more people, including the kids we saw on the cover. Griffin sees this and immediately attacks the Flash for stealing his thunder.

As the two fight, Bart randomly feels compelled to tell Griffin that he's Bart. Griff calls him a liar, saying Bart was weak. Bart notes the word "was" and starts spinning like a top for some reason. And then ... I'll just admit I can't follow this art ... somehow both Flash and Griffin end up underwater. I don't know if Bart knocked him down there and then jumped in after him or if he dragged him down there for whatever reason. But the important thing is Bart and Griffin are fighting each other in the river and Bart starts drowning. In this moment of extreme distress, however, Bart suddenly remembers everything that happened after he took Superboy-Prime to the Speed Force.

Griffin almost gets away, but he's suddenly hit by a huge piece of the collapsing bridge. Bart manages to dig him out from under the rubble and drag him to shore. Griffin weakly asks Bart why he bothered saving him, saying he's already a dead man. Bart coldly says if he knew the answer to that question then he might have actually been the hero he wanted to be. Griff tells Bart he was always the smart one, and he apologizes as he dies. And Bart just sits there and watches him die, making no effort to take him to the hospital or use the Speed Force to jolt his heart or anything.

The next day, Bart and Joan are visiting Jay in the hospital, who is reading the newspaper with the headline "Flash: Back" next to another headline, "Griffin meets a tragic end," indicating that Keystone still did love him. Anyway, the good news is Jay is healing fast and Bart is ready to tell him what he remembered. When Superboy-Prime escaped, Bart, Wally, Barry and Max followed his path to another Earth with an alternate version of Jay, who was unable to prevent Prime from stealing the Monitor Armor and taking off. Wally said they need to return to Earth to warn everybody that Superboy-Prime is returning, but Max realized none of them are fast enough to catch him.

As the speedsters discussed their dilemma, they agreed it would be possible, but incredibly dangerous, for Wally to absorb the entire Speed Force and be fast enough to catch Superboy-Prime. So Bart offered to go instead, telling Wally he needed to take care of his wife and children. So Barry gave Bart his suit, saying it'll protect him. Bart said he'll be OK since he'll have all of them with him, and he made his journey back to Earth, arriving just barely before Superboy-Prime did, essentially making his warning worthless. After Bart finishes telling Jay this story, Jay cheesily proclaims Bart as the Flash — the fastest man alive.

And so we come to the end of Griffin. I feel like Bilson and DeMeo really thought they had a big, emotional climax in this issue. But they failed to establish Griffin as a likable character, let alone Bart's best friend. If Griffin actually started out as a halfway decent guy, then his downfall would have had some emotional stakes. Instead, all we got was watching a big jerk turn into a bigger insane jerk with super powers. Instead of the final battle being an Obi-Wan vs. Anakin scenario, it was a dull, anticlimactic affair muddled by confusing artwork.

It also really bugs me that Bart made a point of saving Griffin to show him what a real hero does, only to idly sit by and watch him die. I'm fine with Griffin dying, but Bart should have at least tried to  revive him. However, this death scene was much more palatable than the Griffin on the CW Flash show, wherein our "heroes" deliberately planned on causing his death. But that's a complaint for a different blog.

The most exciting part of this issue was Bart randomly remembering everything that he supposedly forgot. But we really didn't learn anything new. From Infinite Crisis and 52 we already knew that Bart was given Barry's suit to run back to warn everyone because he was the only one who could do it. So I guess the only new bit of information we gleaned from this flashback was Superboy-Prime stealing the Monitor Armor from an alternate Earth. But now I want to know more about Prime's escape and the fate of Wally and his family. And I can all but guarantee we won't be getting those answers in this series. So ultimately, what could have been an eye-popping reveal fell flat. Just like with everything else in this series. Let's check out the new ads:

Superman Returns on DVD and Blu-Ray.

A planet assaulted. Menacing villains rising. Powerful heroes uniting. Final Fantasy V on Game Boy Advance.

Every pack of Magic: The Gathering comes with 15 cards and endless possibilities.

Endless adventure, incredible worlds ... the Nintendo DS awaits. Children of Mana and Magical Starsign.

Buy Spider-Man or Spider-Man 2 and get a 28-page comic book.

The most explosive fighting game ever. DragonBall Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2.

Do you have what it takes to be a Time Spy? Time Spies books.

The DC Nation page features Dan DiDio teasing the upcoming Infinite Crisis Christmas Special.

Destroy All Humans! 2 for PlayStation 2 and X-box.

Evil knows no boundaries. Killzone Liberation for PSP.

Next in Flash #7, Bart goes West — toward a trap set by Mota and Inertia!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Year in Review: 2006

In the world of film, the year 2006 was filled with sequels, reboots and a few refreshing originals sprinkled in there. The Pirates of the Caribbean sequel, Dead Man's Chest, dominated the box office and became the third film in history to gross more than $1 billion. The Da Vinci Code came in at No. 2 with $758 million. Ice Age: The Meltdown beat out Pixar's Cars and the James Bond reboot, Casino Royale, pulled in a respectable $599 million.

There were only two superhero movies in 2006 — X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns. Both made some money — $459 million and $391 million, respectively — but both were rather disappointing in their own way. The Last Stand almost ended the X-Men film franchise, and Superman Returns failed to launch a new Superman film franchise.

On a personal note, on July 6, 2006, I began my two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Czech Republic. Not only did this service take me out of the country, but as a full-time proselytizer, I also refrained from partaking in pop culture of any kind — no music, movies, TV or even comic books. By some vast, cosmic coincidence, Bart Allen's story began fall apart right when I left the country.

Bart began 2006 by helping the Flash close out his series with a rather weak Vandal Savage story, while wrapping up one more Teen Titans adventure against Brother Blood. And then Infinite Crisis hit. And it was awesome. Until it ended.

The aftermath of Infinite Crisis was not kind to Bart. He got his own title, which should have been a great thing, but everything about it was all wrong. Bart was suddenly 20 years old and extremely reluctant to use his powers or act like a hero. The obnoxiously titled series was given two writers whose only claim to fame was a failed TV show from 15 years ago. (Did anyone seriously think that was going to work?) The ensuing story these guys told was painfully frustrating, matched with weak and inconsistent art. In short, it was a bad year for Bart.

Best Issue: Infinite Crisis #4

This is one the defining moments in Bart's life. With the unstoppable Superboy-Prime rampaging out of control and beginning to kill heroes, Bart joins Wally and Jay in pushing the villain into the Speed Force. But Jay is too old and slow and falls away. Then Wally is dragged away with his family, leaving Bart all alone. He knows he can't do it alone, but before he gets a chance to truly panic, he gets help from the other side. Barry, Johnny Quick and the long-lost Max Mercury reach out from the Speed Force to take Superboy-Prime to the other side.

Bart's actions were the epitome of true heroism. And the corresponding Teen Titans #32 made that moment even more poignant by showing Bart taking the time to deliver a final message to the original members of Young Justice — Robin, Superboy and Wonder Girl. Although I don't like what happened to Bart afterward, this moment is one of my all-time favorites.

Best Writer: Geoff Johns

Johns wins this award for the third consecutive year, but this time, it isn't by default. He legitimately wrote a touching, moving scene for Bart in Infinite Crisis #4 and Teen Titans #32. And Johns even added a heroic epilogue for the adult Bart coming back and scaring Superboy-Prime into space. Sadly, this award should have gone to the writers of Bart's solo series — Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo — but they demonstrated a fundamental lack of knowledge about Bart, as well as comic book story-telling in general.

Best Artist: Todd Nauck

Once again, this award should have gone to the artist on Bart's solo series, but Ken Lashley always required a whole team of inkers to help him make deadline, and was simply incapable of drawing more than two consecutive issues. And that might be more forgivable if the art itself was stellar. But Lashley's art was anything but. And don't get me started on his hideous covers! So this award goes to Nauck, who wins it for the fourth time, breaking the tie with Humberto Ramos for the most Best Artist awards on this blog. Nauck became the fill-in penciller for a handful of key Teen Titans issues, including the touching #32. I did briefly consider giving this award to Phil Jimenez, who did an amazing job on Infinite Crisis. But on much of that series, the art was handled by committee, and even though the "backup" artists did a remarkable job of keeping things consistent, I'm not exactly sure which one of them is responsible for Bart's dramatic journey into the Speed Force.

Best Supporting Character: Jay Garrick

Jay wins this award for the second time, mainly for this role in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive. Yeah, I do wish he was a bit sterner with Bart's apathy — especially when it came to confronting Griffin — but Jay was a consistent positive influence in Bart's life. And when he went missing, Bart showed he genuinely cared about the old man, displaying much more emotion and urgency than he did when his supposed girlfriend also went missing. And no, Val did not do enough in 2006 to even earn a consideration for this award.

Best Villain: Superboy-Prime

Superboy-Prime was basically the villain of the year for the entire DC Universe, but he was especially significant for Bart. There are only a few villains who have had as big an impact on Bart's life as Prime did (Inertia and Bedlam readily come to mind). And like all good Geoff Johns villains, Prime was a compelling character who didn't initially see himself as the villain. But he was delusional and far too emotional to responsibly wield the enormous power he possessed. And perhaps the thing I love best about his relationship with Bart is the pure terror Bart was able to strike in Prime's eyes. He's essentially invincible in every conceivable way, but when he saw Bart return from the Speed Force, he immediately ran away to outer space — the one place Bart couldn't follow.

Next time we'll enter the year 2007, where we'll see more Inertia, a return to Smallville and the conclusion of The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #5

Lightning in a Bottle Part Five: Missing in Action

Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo Writers
Ron Adrian Penciller
Alex Lei & Rob Lea Inkers
Pat Brosseau Letterer
Richard & Tanya Horie Colorists
Rachel Gluckstern Asst. Editor
Joan Hilty Editor
Cover by Ken Lashley

Our cover has absolutely nothing to do with our inside story. And it's not a particularly good cover, either. It really bugs me that people are taking pictures of the Flash, but none of the pictures line up with the image of the Flash right in front of them. But it bugs me even more to see a credit error on the cover. Sal Velluto, who drew part of last issue, did not draw any of this issue. You'll also note that Ron Adrian was not described as a guest penciller, essentially signaling the approaching end of Ken Lashley. And yes, this is our fifth different art for this five-issue-old series.

Our story picks up right where last issue left off, with Bart now dressed as the Flash, racing back up the skyscraper to continue his battle with the Griffin. Unfortunately, Bart runs a little too fast and zooms right past his former roommate and is soon airborne.

Bart flies so high in the sky he can see the Earth's curvature before finally beginning to fall. He hastily creates an air cushion to brace his fall in the middle of the Keystone Zoo, but it's still a pretty rough landing. When he comes to, he's so dazed that he mistakingly believes he's being attacked by Gorilla Grodd. But it's just an ordinary gorilla named Princess. Suddenly, Cyborg arrives and takes Bart away.

The former teammates return to Griffin's apartment, but find it empty. Bart wants to immediately begin searching for him, but Cyborg advises him to recover a bit first. Vic explains that he heard Bart had grown up while he was offline for the past year, and he decided to come visit the former Teen Titan in person. He visited Bart's apartment first, found he wasn't home, then went over to Griffin's, only to see Bart flailing wildly up in the sky.

Cyborg says Bart is having a hard time controlling the Speed Force, and Bart realizes that Vic has been talking to Jay. Vic admits this and says it's weird to see the formerly impulsive Bart so scared now. Bart recounts to Vic how he raced back to Earth to warn everyone of Superboy-Prime's escape, but claims he doesn't remember most of what happened before that. He says he was gone for less than one year, but somehow aged four years in that span. Bart admits he's scared, but says he feels like his old impulsive self whenever he's with Val. Cyborg gives Bart some clichéd advice about facing his fears then leaves.

Instead of heading out to search for the extremely dangerous and unstable Griffin, Bart heads off to what must be a very late night double date with the Garricks and Val. (The sense of time in this comic has always been screwy, and this is definitely one of those times, as Bart makes it clear that this is all happening on the same day.) Val was supposed to meet them at this restaurant, but she's running late, which is making Bart nervous. Jay and Joan, however, are thrilled to see Bart finally show some enthusiasm in something after a solid year of moping.

While they wait, Jay brings up the Griffin, and Bart casually admits that Griff almost killed him about an hour ago. Jay says Bart needs to give the city the hero it deserves. Bart says he doesn't want to let Jay, Max, Wally and Barry down, but then he suddenly bolts on the conversation by running off to find Val. Joan happily comments that this is the more impulsive Bart she remembers.

When Bart reaches Val's house, he finds it completely empty — like, there's not a single piece of furniture or scrap of clothing in the entire building. The only thing he can find is a note addressed to him saying, "Bart — Sorry, but I just can't make this work right now. I'm heading West to start over. — Val." Bart returns to the outdoor table with the Garricks and lies about Val, saying she got "tied up or something."

Jay can sense something is wrong, but before he can press Bart, Griffin zooms by in his sports car. Jay immediately takes off after him. Bart hesitates, but Joan urges him to go, reminding him of how dangerous Griffin is and that Bart is the fastest man alive. Bart quickly catches up to Jay running alongside Griff's car. When Griffin sees Bart, he mistakingly believes he's Wally and he criticizes him for being M.I.A. for a year. Griffin says the cops are pinned down at 5th and Main, and he's the only hero Keystone needs. He then hits Bart with a blast of green lightning and takes off.

Jay stops to help Bart up, who quickly recovers and tells Jay where Griffin is headed. The Flashes arrive at the police standoff before Griffin does, rushing right past Detectives Morillo and Chyre and into the building. Bart and Jay quickly disarm the three gunman and make them peacefully surrender to the police. Griffin arrives right as the suspects are taken into custody, and he loudly complains that this is his city and his crime to stop. All the police officers openly mock Griffin for whining like a 5-year-old. This isn't a good idea, though, since Griffin predictably lashes out in anger, knocking the Flashes down with his lightning and causing a police helicopter to crash. Griffin escapes while Bart and Jay deal with the crash, and they finally decide that it's way past time to bring Griffin in.

We then cut to Val waking up in a small, dark room. The last thing she remembers is her energy-based father touching her and causing her to black out. She begins banging on the door demanding to know what her father wants. A voice from the corner tells her Mota is out at the moment but should be back soon. Val recognizes the voice as Bart's, but when she turns around, she sees Bart's long lost evil clone. He introduces himself as Tad Thawne, aka Inertia.

Back in Keystone, Griffin stumbles across the perfect underground lair for himself — a conveniently abandoned subway station with running water and electricity. In another lucky stroke of convenience, this place also has a computer containing information about Jay Garrick and the machine he helped S.T.A.R. Labs build to measure increments of the Speed Force. Griff realizes that Jay looks a lot younger than he really is, and he theorizes that Jay and this machine might be able to help Griffin stop rapidly aging.

We find out that Val is being kept in the Gila Canyon Test Site, and her father assures her that she won't be kept her long enough for the residual radiation to affect her. Val demands to know why she's been kidnapped, and Mota explains that he currently lives between the membranes of the physical world, constantly struggling to not completely dissipate. But with Val's genetic material, he can be restored to what he was. Val doesn't believe such technology exists, but Mota says it does in the future, which is where Inertia comes in. Inertia says he and Mota both want to wipe the planet clean of all speedsters — except for him, naturally.

Later, we see that Griffin has done a much better job of stalking Jay than Jay and Bart have been at searching for him. Griffin figures out that Jay likes to take a walk every morning, crossing a metal bridge over the canal in the nature preserve. So Griffin sets up a simple trap for Jay and electrocutes him.

Meanwhile, Bart has headed over to S.T.A.R. Labs to ask Dr. McGee if she knows where Val is. McGee says she only received a vague email from her that mentioned a research project out West, but didn't provide any information beyond that. Bart brings up the fact that Val has said Mota's been stalking her, and McGee agrees it sounds suspicious, but says they can't really do anything about it since they don't have any evidence. She then tells Bart that the Speed Force Analyzer has been stolen, which is odd, since more valuable equipment was left untouched. Bart then gets a phone call from Joan, saying that Jay has been missing since this morning. So Bart immediately takes off in his Flash suit.

We see that Griffin has taken Jay to his underground lair and strapped him to the Speed Force Analyzer. Jay tries to explain that he's not connected to the Speed Force anymore, and only has super speed because he's a metahuman. Griff demands to know what's been keeping Jay young, and Jay says it must be a side effect of his previous connection to the Speed Force. But Griffin doesn't believe Jay, nor does he understand the machine he's stolen, so he turns it on, causing Jay a great deal of pain. Meanwhile, Bart quickly discovers the scorch marks on the bridge where Jay was kidnapped, and he vows to search this entire city to find him.

Well, I guess Bart's officially the Flash now, right? All it took was five issues. And even then, he's still extremely reluctant to do anything and completely lacks a sense of urgency. Of course, the same could be said of just about everyone in this comic. Let's start with Cyborg. During Infinite Crisis, he went out into space, was severely injured, and went offline for a year. When he wakes up and learns that Bart has grown up, he goes to quite a bit of effort to track down his former teammate. When he arrives in Keystone, he sees Bart flying wildly out of control. Cyborg pulls him out of a gorilla pen, learns that Bart was in the middle of a battle with a legitimate villain, but refuses to let Bart pursue that villain. And instead of helping him track down the extremely dangerous and unstable Griffin, Cyborg just gives Bart a quick pep talk and goes home. Seriously? There is a very powerful maniac with little regard for life out on the streets right now and you're just going to walk home?

But Bart and Jay are the same way. Instead of tracking down Griffin, they sit and talk about his relationship with Val, then choose to publicly embarrass Griffin instead of actually taking him into custody. And when Griffin gets away, they don't even bother going looking for him. And even though Bart claims to only be passionate about Val, when he sees she's been obviously kidnapped, he barely does anything to look for her. At least he expressed a tiny bit of emotion when he heard Jay has been kidnapped. But man, what a painful journey it's been to get Bart to that level.

I'm still not sure what I feel about Inertia's inclusion here. On one hand, it makes perfect sense to bring back Bart's greatest villain of all time for his new solo series. But on the other hand, this appearance really comes out of nowhere. We last saw Inertia at the gate of the Speed Force, torn between the lies and programming he'd been fed by President Thawne and the true joy he felt by being heroic and loved. He was unable to completely trust others and join a loving family, but he also had realized the Allen-Thawne feud was a ridiculous waste of time. So he ran off to who knows where or when. And now we see him here, choosing to work with the most obscure of former Flash villains in order to kill Bart because ... ?

All I know for sure is that this comic book series falls below DC's standards. It's quite embarrassing, really. Well, let's check out the new ads:

A hero will fly again. Batten Kaitos Origins for GameCube.

PSP theater presents Greatest Hits.

Wonka Sour! Nerds, SweetTarts Squeez and Laffy Taffy. (Wonka had a total of five ad pages in this comic.)

The New Frontier: The Absolute Edition.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut.

The DC Nation page teases a new series of Year One titles.

Well, that's it for the year 2006. Next time is our Year in Review.