Thursday, January 18, 2018

Wonder Woman #210

Stoned: Conclusion

Greg Rucka Script
Drew Johnson Pencils
Ray Snyder Inks
Richard & Tanya Horie Colors
Todd Klein Letters
Ivan Cohen Editor
Special thanks to Ron Randall
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston

Our cover by JG Jones shows Wonder Woman battling Medusa (or Medousa as she's referred to in this issue). If you look closely at her helmet, you'll see Wonder Woman has shielded her eyes from Medousa's gaze. This exact scene happens in the comic, and I appreciate that. And I do enjoy Jones' painted style as a change of pace every now and then. I am, however, a bit distracted by the advertisement right behind Wonder Woman that simply says "Hiss." A little on the nose, don't you think?

Our story begins with Ares setting up a death battle between Wonder Woman and Medousa at Yankee Stadium. He has used his powers to broadcast this fight on every television in the world, as well as keep everyone out of the stadium until the fight is complete. So in the buildup to the fight, Wonder Woman's friends — the JLA, JSA and Teen Titans — can only nervously sit around and wait.

And then the bulk of this issue is devoted to this big fight. Wonder Woman enters wearing that helmet protecting her eyes so she doesn't turn to stone by looking at Medousa. But Medousa eventually knocks off Wonder Woman's helmet. Luckily, Wonder Woman was wearing another blindfold underneath the helmet just in case. However, Medousa is able to remove that blindfold as well. So Wonder Woman grabs one of Medousa's severed snake heads and pours its venom into her eyes to blind herself. And then Wonder Woman brutally decapitates Medousa in front of the entire world.

I'm not sure why Wonder Woman couldn't simply keep her eyes closed — putting venom in her eyes seemed unnecessarily dramatic. But I'm sure Wonder Woman fans at the time were pleased with this extended fight sequence. For me personally, I'm sad that this is a comic with both Wonder Girl and Ares, but they don't interact with each other. Oh well. This isn't their story.

Next time, we'll go back to the future with Teen Titans #18.

Year in Review: 2004

I was still in high school in 2004, still in marching band, learning how to drive, doing all the normal high school stuff, basically. I wasn't reading comics yet, and I was still a little wary of the Teen Titans cartoon at this point. But I did still enjoy the Justice League show and the big superhero movies of the year.

Shrek 2 dominated the box office with over $900 million. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was second, followed by what are still two of the best superhero movies of all time, Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles. Spider-Man 2 won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and The Incredible won the Best Animated Film award. Million Dollar Baby was the big winner at the Oscars, winning for best picture, director, actress and supporting actor.

In addition to the great Spider-Man sequel, Marvel also produced Blade: Trinity and rebooted The Punisher. Neither of those enjoyed even half the success of Spider-Man 2. And DC sort of had its first movie since 1997 with Catwoman. That movie really has nothing to do with the DC character (so I've heard — I've never actually forced myself to sit through it). But even though DC has seemed to distance itself from that movie, I saw them excitedly promoting it on their DC in Demand pages in 2004.

Now that brings us to Bart Allen. This was the first complete year of Bart as Kid Flash, minus the one Thanksgiving special where he was still Impulse. As Kid Flash, Bart almost exclusively appeared in Teen Titans, making only a few quick cameos in The Flash, Action Comics and a few others. Bart did make his first appearance on TV, guest-starring on Smallville as a character who actually had very little in common with his comic book counterpart. For me personally, there was little to get excited about with this crop of comics. On the plus side, though, I do write faster when I'm angry.

Best Issue: Teen Titans/Legion Special

All the awards were tough to choose this year. Bart was relegated to a minor character in Teen Titans and a meaningless cameo in The Flash. Bart was featured on the cover of Teen Titans #5, but his transformation from Impulse to Kid Flash was really the focus of last year's Teen Titans #4. So I'm left with choosing between the Brother Blood issues (which were weird and stupid and didn't have Bart do anything in them), the Beast Boys and Girls arc (which was more enjoyable, but again didn't have Bart do anything) and the Legion crossover. The first part of the Legion story was poorly set up and the Superboy drama was underdeveloped. But the second part had Mark Waid, some really nice art, and a couple of nice Bart moments. He was reunited with both his cousin and his mom, providing a necessary reminder of who Bart is a person. And even though he had a boring role in the adventure (just running on a treadmill) and it was kind of cheesy how he needed to be motivated by name-calling, Bart's actions were essential to saving the day. In any case, it was much better than his usual role this year of rescuing bystanders off page.

Best Writer: Geoff Johns

Johns wins this award purely by default. I was frustrated by his continuity problems between The Flash, JSA and Teen Titans; and I was very frustrated by Johns completely forgetting about Max Mercury until the end of this year. But the worst of all was how he turned lovable, impulsive Bart Allen into a boring know-it-all. However, I will admit that Johns did some things I liked. The Beast Boys and Girls story was interesting, and the Titans of Tomorrow are intriguing.

Best Artist: Tom Grummett

As the main artist of Teen Titans, this was Mike McKone's award to lose. And, sadly, I could not justify giving it to him. And it's not just that I don't enjoy his style. His action sequences are too often muddy and confusing. This became readily apparent through the art of McKone's regular backup, Tom Grummett. Grummett's art gave me crisp, consistent characters and clear, exciting action scenes. His style really isn't that different from McKone's, which is why he makes such a great backup artist for him. But it's Grummett's storytelling ability that really makes him stand out so much.

Best Supporting Character: Beast Boy

This was an incredibly difficult award this year. Bart has completely abandoned his old girlfriend, Carol. His current guardian, Jay Garrick, was basically nonexistent. Wally spent most of his time yelling at Bart or pushing him away. And Superboy was too busy solving mysteries with Robin and building a romance with Wonder Girl to spend any time goofing off with Bart. Kid Flash really feels like the unnecessary "fourth wheel" on the Teen Titans. Sure, everybody's friendly with Bart, but no one's really his friend anymore. So I reluctantly gave the award to Beast Boy. The few scenes of Bart's frivolity this year almost always included Beast Boy, and I felt the two of them had a nice moment at the end of Beast Boys and Girls, discussing how being normal is overrated.

Best Villain: Deathstroke/Jericho

Slade Wilson and his creepy ghost son share this award for the second straight year. We began 2004 with Bart beating up Deathstroke while he was possessed by Jericho. Then they both came to cause big problems for everyone during the Brother Blood arc. And what really sets them apart from Brother Blood, the Zookeeper and the Fatal Five Hundred is their personal connection to Bart. Not only did they destroy Bart's knee, but Deathstroke later turned his daughter, Rose, into his psychotic slave. And apparently Bart is in love with Rose again, fondly remembering the 15 minutes he spent with her on the New Titans.

Well, that was a rough year for Bart. Frankly, it was a rough year for DC as a whole. Identity Crisis cast a dark shadow of rape, fear and ethical dilemmas over the whole DC Universe in 2004. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does create an environment difficult for a character like Bart to thrive in — even as Kid Flash. The year 2005 will be much of the same for Bart, and it will actually be his last full year as Kid Flash before undergoing more major changes in 2006.

Next time, we'll begin the new year with a quick cameo in Wonder Woman #210.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Teen Titans #17

Titans Tomorrow Part One: Big Brothers and Sisters

Geoff Johns Writer
Mike McKone Penciller
Marlo Alquiza Inker
Jeromy Cox Colorist
Comicraft Letters
Jeanine Schaefer Assistant Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

Our cover by Mike McKone shows our Teen Titans all grown up. Cassie is now Wonder Woman, Conner is Superman, Tim is Batman, Gar is more animalistic and apparently naked, Raven is darker and angrier, and we have a new Aquawoman. And in this future, when Bart became the Flash, he decided to forego the traditional Barry/Wally costume and simply modified his Kid Flash mask. This uniform does have a slightly odd feel to it, but it has the benefit of distinguishing this Bart from all other Flashes.

Our story begins in Gotham City, 10 years from now. Commissioner Gordon has come out of retirement to help Commissioner Montoya battle Joker's daughter, whom she says is even worse than her father. However, the police don't actually do anything, as the Tim Drake Batman arrives to battle Duela Dent for the last time. This was the battle the Karate Kid said he'd studied and memorized, but I'm not sure why. The fight itself isn't particularly noteworthy, and the ending is rather gruesome. Batman pulls out a gun and shoots Duela in the face, symbolically splattering her blood all over a portrait of Bruce Wayne.

After the fight, the Conner Superman calls Batman, saying their alarm signal has indicated someone has come to their island while they were all out and about. And apparently the tower's security system has been shutdown, even though it's programmed to only respond to their DNA. Batman is troubled by this, and he says they should all approach the island together.

We then check in on our Teen Titans at Titans Tower in San Francisco. Everyone instinctually feels like something's not right. Superboy suggests they're all dizzy from their time travel, but Bart says time travel never bothers him. Conner says that as a Flash, Bart is supposed to be able to handle time travel. Cyborg notes that the tower doesn't show any of the damage from their fight against the Persuader, but their biggest clue that they're not home yet is the statue out front. Instead of honoring the original Teen Titans, this statue is of themselves as they currently are. Against their better judgment, everyone heads inside to find a new area called the Hall of Mentors, which includes a statue of Max Mercury.

Bart explains that Max watched over him before Jay Garrick, and he taught Bart everything books couldn't, before disappearing into the Speed Force a while ago. Beast Boy draws attention to a statue of Ares, and Wonder Girl adamantly denies that the god of war is any kind of mentor to her. Cyborg points out a statue of Superman standing back-to-back with Lex Luthor. Bart asks Conner what this means, and Conner, in turn, asks Cyborg, but he remains silent. Raven notices the Batman statue has been mostly destroyed, leaving only its feet on the pedestal. Robin finally suggests a rational course of action — they should get out of here.

But before our heroes can leave, the future versions of themselves (the complete group from the cover) shows up. Batman announces them as the Titans, calls our heroes trespassers, and orders Superman to use his telekinesis to get the trespassers out of the building. As the Titans race out to meet the intruders, they speculate whether they're dealing with clones or synthetics. Flash tells his teammates that although time travel played havoc with their memories, his are still intact. He remembers their battle against the Fatal Five Hundred 10 years ago and how they all got sidetracked afterward.

Kid Flash is the first to recover from Superman's attack, and he charges straight at the future version of himself, saying he'll take the air away from the Titans. Flash tells Kid Flash that he'll steal his speed, and our young Bart trips and falls on his face when he gets too close to the Flash. Superboy and Robin are shocked that Flash was able to take down Kid Flash just by looking at him, so Starfire urges them to "look back."

A full fight breaks out, with everyone instinctually taking on their counterparts. The adult Gar Logan, now Animal Man, takes on both Beast Boy and Cyborg, shocking them by transforming into two separate bulls. Wonder Girl and Superboy try to simply talk to Wonder Girl and Superman, but Superman knocks them down with another telekinetic blast, mocking the "silly children" for their innocence. Raven battles her future self, now known as Dark Raven, and the two of them do ... something ... that knocks out both of them. Flash checks on the two Ravens, telling them they're just hurting themselves. Aquawoman agrees, saying her telepathy detects the same brainwaves in Robin and Batman, preemptively stopping their fight.

So everybody manages to calm down and head back inside, where our heroes tell their story to the future Titans. Beast Boy and Wonder Girl are impressed with how all the Titans defer to Batman on everything, and Kid Flash wonders where the future versions of Cyborg and Starfire are. Batman concludes that the less the time-travelers see of their future the better. He offers to let them stay in the tower for the night, while they work on sending them back home in the morning. Cyborg says that sounds acceptable, and they all go to bed.

Robin and Superboy are sharing a room, and Robin complains that the room doesn't have any computers. Tim and Conner talk about how weird this whole experience is, and Conner tells Tim that his future self is "totally hardcore." But Tim despises his future self, saying he'll never be Batman. Superboy then says he wants to talk to his future self about his Luthor DNA to find out if it's going to screw him up somehow. Tim thinks this is a bad idea, but Conner insists on this, referring to the troubling statue they saw earlier. So Tim lets Conner go, using the time alone to think more about what could ever cause him to become Batman.

Superboy quietly flies down the stairs, passing a portrait of a girl archer named Speedy, yet he can tell it's not Cissie King-Jones. Conner's super hearing picks up the Titans' conversation. Wonder Woman says they can't put their younger selves in the Phantom Zone, referring to problems caused by Brother Blood and Brainiac. Batman insists they do things his way, promising it won't hurt the kids, but will get the job done. Superboy then finds the Titans, down in a room with Deathstroke chained up and missing an arm. Batman tells Deathstroke to give them intel on Victor and the others, or Superman will burn off his other arm.

This is a pretty interesting comic. We're given a future version of the Teen Titans, showing most of them with more developed powers and a mysterious darkness shrouding everything. At first glance, this looks like this is what happens when our heroes give in to their darker desires. Cassie and Conner becoming corrupted by Ares and Luthor, respectively, Raven being consumed by her natural darkness, Beast Boy by his animal instincts, and who knows what's going on with Tim. However, Bart seems to have a level head. He erected a statue of Max Mercury (I'm shocked that Geoff Johns remembered him) and has seemed to continue living his life following Max's principles, even as his friends fall off the deep end around him.

This is the second time Bart has met a future version of himself. The first time was from a reality where Bart, still as Impulse, retreated to the future with Carol after Max's death. That was a harsh world ruled by President Thawne, forcing Impulse to beef up to survive the daily battles. This future Bart comes from a reality where he had already become Kid Flash, and essentially continued that same costume design. And although he's living in a dark time, he's not the only hero around and doesn't need to carry such a large burden. Therefore, he's not the muscle-bound hulk from before, but still has a relatively small runner's body. However, this future Bart still has demonstrated incredible control of his powers, stealing the younger Bart's speed just by looking at him. I'm looking forward to learning more about these future Titans. And as I'm writing this in 2018, the Titans of Tomorrow have returned once again to the DC Universe.

Well, we have already finished reviewing every Bart Allen comic that was published during 2004. Next time, we'll review the year and hand out some awards.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Smallville – "Run"

Director: David Barrett
Writer: Steven S. DeKnight

So this is something new for this blog — a live version of Bart Allen. He made his first appearance in the fifth episode of the fourth season of Smallville, an episode appropriately titled "Run." This debuted on October 20, 2004 — the same day Teen Titans #17 hit the stands. A word of warning: I never watched Smallville, so I definitely will be missing out on some of the context.

Our story begins in an almost secluded alleyway at 3 p.m., where a couple of shady-looking characters are up to no good. The leader, Mr. Hanison, is getting impatient waiting for some kid. But the kid, played by 18-year-old Kyle Gallner, quickly shows up. He's wearing a red sweater and a backpack with a yellow lightning bolt on it, and his blond hair is perpetually windswept. The kid says he' never late, and when he says he'll be somewhere, he'll be there "like a flash."

He pours out a pile of watches and jewelry, but Hanison is not impressed, offering only $200 for the loot. The kid protests that his stolen goods are worth ten times that amount, but Hanison says he's no longer in the nickel-and-dime business and encourages the kid to come back when he gets something big. The kid suggests he'll take the money and the stolen goods himself. Perceiving a threat, Hanison's goon pulls out a gun. But they're all distracted by a cat knocking over some trash. When the two men turn their heads back, the kid, the $200 and all the stolen goods are gone.

We are then introduced to the hero of our show, 27-year-old Tom Welling, who is (unconvincingly) playing a 17-year-old boy named Clark Kent. He may be an alien with super powers, but right now, all he wants to do is focus on his senior year of high school, hang out with his friends and play football. And we know that Clark is a farmer because he and his dad are both wearing flannel shirts. The two of them are exiting the Metropolis Day Center, where Jonathan has received even more medication to help him recover from his recent three-month coma.

Suddenly, a man driving a big truck loaded with a bunch of large pipes decides it's OK to drink some beer while on the job. He loses control of the truck, and as it careens toward Jonathan, Clark uses his super speed to essentially stop time and race to his father's rescue. But the kid in red actually reaches Jonathan first and saves his life before running away. Jonathan thanks his son, but Clark says he was saved by someone else, someone even faster than him. And Jonathan quickly notices that his savior also made off with his wallet.

The two Kents head back home and Jonathan prepares to call the credit card company to report it stolen. But Clark wants to find out who this fast kid is, so he asks his dad to instead let him have his friend Chloe find out where the thief is using the card. So Jonathan agrees, but he warns Clark to be careful. We're then introduced to a couple of unrelated subplots, one involving Clark's mom, Martha, spending too much time at her coffeeshop, and the other about ... is that Lana Lang? ... and some mysterious tattoo she suddenly got.

The main plot returns with Clark tracking down the fast kid in a hotel room in Metropolis. He breaks the chain lock on the door and has a look around, while the kid takes a shower. Clark sees the kid's loot, clothes, shoes, junk food, some comic books (but I can't tell what they are), the stolen watches and jewelry and a bunch of fake IDs. From Kansas, Jay Garrick; from New York, Wally West; and from California, Barry Allen.

The kid soon comes out of the shower and confronts Clark in his robe. Clark says he used his dad's credit card to pay for the room, but the kid denies it and turns on Clark for rifling through his backpack. Clark accuses him of stealing everything in the room, so the kid gets dressed at super speed, putting on a red hoodie this time, and demands that Clark prove it. Clark says he saw the kid save his dad from the truck earlier, but the kid claims that no one can see him when he's "doing his thing." Clark suggests he may not be the only kid who can move that fast, then goes through the fake IDs, asking what his name is. The kid angrily admits his name is Bart, then claims he'll be a thousand miles away before Clark can even blink. Clark wants to sit down and talk, but Bart races out the door, saying, "Smell ya later."

Clark follows Bart through the city, but he's unable to keep up when Bart runs across the river. So Clark heads home and tells his dad all about Bart. To Clark's surprise, Bart is waiting for him in his house, drinking orange juice. The two kids head out the barn, and Bart says he's amazed that Clark was able to keep up with him as long as he did. He's always wondered if there was someone else like him out there, and now he's finally found one. Clark asks Bart how he got his powers, and Bart says he was involved in a huge accident a couple of years ago with a bolt of lightning that caused his body to go into "overdrive." Clark asks if this happened in Smallville, Bart says no, but he doesn't say where he's from.

Bart asks Clark how he got his powers, and Clark simply says he was born this way. He then asks Bart why he's living on the streets and what happened to his parents. Bart gets a bit uncomfortable and vague at this point, essentially saying he didn't like the way his parents treated him after the accident and he didn't fit in anymore, so he ran away. Clark admits he ran away once, too, and Bart's shocked that he came back. He says the two of them should be out there, "tearing it up," but Clark frowns on Bart's life of thievery. Bart tries to justify his actions, saying he only steals from the rich. But he admits he took Jonathan's wallet to get a room because he was worried about his "friends" at Suicide Slum who short-changed him. Bart says living on the streets is dangerous, even for him, since he's a slow as everyone else when he's asleep.

After growing uncomfortable talking about himself, Bart quickly goes through Clark's things to turn the conversation on him. He sees Clark is studying Native American mythology, apparently has a crush on Lana, and has one of the most boring hobbies known to man — rock collecting. But the rock Bart finds is actually kryptonite, which instantly weakens Clark once Bart opens the lid of its lead box. Clark says he's allergic, so Bart puts the lid back on, seeming to be genuinely concerned by Clark's pain. But he quickly changes the topic again, saying the two of them should go out and have some fun, starting with a trip to Florida.

So Clark follows Bart to have some off-screen fun in Florida before returning to Clark's mom's coffeeshop in Smallville. Bart chides Clark for refusing a girl's number in Miami because Clark thinks its irresponsible to continually travel to Florida on a whim. Clark then chides Bart for stealing a cookie, and Bart retorts that he "doesn't do lines." Chloe then joins them, saying she thought Clark would still be in Metropolis playing detective. Clark says he'll leave this to the authorities, and Bart snaps back that he wouldn't have caught the thief anyway. Clark then introduces Chloe to Bart, who says that he's from the future and came back in time to tell Chloe that they're still in love a hundred years from now. Chloe laughs at this stupid flirting, and Bart ups his game by using his super speed to fetch Chloe's favorite flower, a tulip. Chloe asks how he did that, and Bart says it was a magic trick and offers to show her more.

Clark's mom calls him over to ask about their thief. Clark tells her about Bart and how it seems like he mostly just wants a friend right now. Martha hopes Clark will be able to talk some sense into him, but then she immediately tells Clark to ditch Bart with Chloe and head over to Lex Luthor's house. So Clark obediently visits his friend, Lex, who shows him a rare 14th-century manuscript he recently purchased from St. Petersburg. What interested Lex about the manuscript is the Kryptonian symbols on the border of the page. Apparently the page was found in Rasputin's monastery, and rumor had it that Rasputin would spend days at a time staring at the page, trying to unlock its mysteries. Clark scans it with his x-ray vision and sees its actually a map. Of course, Clark doesn't want to let Lex know he has powers, even though it's pretty obvious Lex does know, but he won't come out and say it. So every scene between these two includes a lot of awkward silences.

Lex abruptly sends Clark home, and he bumps right into Bart in the hallway. Bart says that Chloe shot him down, so he decided to check on Clark and is amazed that he knows Lex Luthor. Clark tells Bart he needs to leave, and when Lex comes out in the hall, Bart quickly runs away. Lex asks Clark who he was talking to, and Clark just awkwardly stares at Lex in silence for a few minutes. He then runs home to tell his dad about the map Lex found. Jonathan advises Clark to ignore the map, reminding him of the desire he expressed just a few hours ago to be a normal teenager. But Clark says Bart has reminded him that he's not normal and he can't keep running away from who he really is. Clark then tells his dad that he won't steal Lex's map, just sneak back into the mansion to get a better look at it and draw it on a piece of paper.

As Clark prepares for his act of trespassing, Bart catches up with him, itemizing Lex's wealth and concluding that there's no way anyone can be that rich by "playing it straight." He says he needs to step up his thieving game because he wants to live like Lex. Clark tries to excuse himself, and Bart offers to come along, but Clark insists its personal. He offers to hang with Bart as soon as he gets back, so Bart starts making plans for a midnight movie, which Clark agrees to, as long as Bart doesn't tell his dad. Bart then awkwardly thanks Clark for being his friend this afternoon and presents him a gift of an MP3 player. But Clark correctly suspects the gift was stolen, which brings up another debate about stealing. Bart insists that laws only apply to normal people and they shouldn't treat their powers like a curse. Clark says they should use their powers to help people, and Bart says he won't stay around for another lecture. Clark tells him that running away won't solve his problems, but Bart says he's running toward the life he wants. He angrily tells Clark that they're nothing alike and takes off.

So Clark proceeds with his plan to sneak into Lex's house and stare at the manuscript. But as he does so, Bart zips in, grabs the priceless page and leaves Clarks standing there stupidly as a security alarm goes off. Lex quickly enters the room with one armed guard and asks what happens. Clark says he was just coming by to say hello, and the alarm suddenly went off. It seems like Lex can tell Clark is lying, but he chooses to believe Clark, saying he knows a real friend would never lie to him. Lex also assures Clark that he's confident he'll get the manuscript back soon. Even though it's worth a fortune, it's so rare and so valuable, there really isn't anyone the thief can sell it to without being found out.

The next day, Bart visits Mr. Hanison again, offering him the manuscript, which rolls up real neatly for a 500-year-old document. A car suddenly approaches this almost-concealed alleyway, and as Bart's head is turned, Hanison's goon knocks him out with the butt of his gun. Lex steps out of the car, walks right past Hanison and examines the dangerous thief he had been told about. Upon seeing Bart's just a kid, Lex orders Hanison to let him go, but Hanison warns Lex that he has no idea what Bart is capable of. He then asks Lex for his "finder's fee," but Lex reveals he's called the police. So Hanison orders his goon to take care of Lex, but Lex actually beats the crap out of the big guy with a gun. However, Hanison sneaks up behind Lex and takes him down with one punch.

Bart finally wakes up by this point, and Hanison blames him for causing this mess. He pulls out a gun on the teen, saying it's time to find out if he's faster than a speeding bullet. Before he can pull the trigger, Clark rushes in, takes the gun away, and tosses Hanison up, through the roof. The criminal crashes down through the roof of an RV, sustaining injuries that surely should have killed him. Hanison's goon wakes up at this point, and Clark tells him he doesn't want to be here right now. So the guy obediently runs away. Clark then lectures Bart about his philosophy of victimless crimes, and heads to check on Lex.

But Bart suddenly pulls out the Kryptonite, and takes back the manuscript. Clark says the Kryptonite will kill him, telling Bart he's not a murderer. Bart shouts back, "You don't know who I am!" Clark says he's seen the good in Bart and tells him to stop running, or he'll end up alone. He says he knows this because deep inside, they're the same. Bart closes the lid on the Kryptonite, saying he wishes that was true, then takes off before Clark can recover.

Later, Clark tells his dad all about this, explaining that he stayed with Lex until the ambulance arrived, so he has no idea where Bart is now. Jonathan figures this is for the best, but Clark insists Bart isn't a bad kid. Jonathan argues that embracing your abilities and flaunting them are two completely different things. Clark admits he wishes he could act more like Bart sometimes, saying he spends so much time hiding his powers that he feels like he's two different people. Jonathan says that many normal people also feel the same way about their lives.

Clark then checks on Lex, who's been released from the hospital with only a slight bruise on his face. He shows Clark that someone returned the manuscript while he was in the hospital. This gives Clark another chance to look at the hidden map, but Lex quickly sends him away, saying he still has a bad headache. Lex also neglects to tell Clark that he has taken x-rays of the manuscript and has also discovered the map. So Clark heads home and begins drawing the map from memory. Bart shows up behind him, saying his drawing sucks. Clark asks Bart why he returned the manuscript, and Bart lamely says all that money would have slowed him down.

Bart then asks Clark how he found him in that not-at-all hidden alleyway, asking if Clark also has psychic powers. Clark explains that he spent all night in Suicide Slums trying to convince people he had a thousand of the MP3 players Bart gave him and was looking to fence them. Eventually, he was pointed in Hanison's direction. Bar is impressed with Clark channeling his inner criminal. Clark asks Bart what he's going to do now, and Bart says he'll continue exploring the world, searching for more people like them in hopes of starting a club or a league. He asks Clark to join him, but Clark asks Bart to stay. Bart says he has no reason to stay in Smallville. Clark meekly says, "You have me," but that apparently isn't good enough. Bart thanks Clark for being his friend, then says that if Clark can catch him, then he'll think about staying. The episode ends with the two of them racing down the street, but just like before, Clark can't keep up with Bart.

This show sucked. I am not a fan of sitcom television — especially on the CW. There's too much melodrama, very few sets that keep being recycled, cheap special effects, expository dialogue, grown adults trying to pass for teenagers, and a fair amount of padding to push the episode out to 44 minutes. But I'm not sure if this was a good or bad episode by Smallville's standards. This was the first episode I've watched from start to finish, and, as far as I can tell, this was the debut episode for both the director and the writer. All I know is I don't like this show.

Bart really was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I really liked Kyle Gallner. Unlike Tom Welling, Gallner actually looked like a high school student. And he seemed to have the necessary level of energy to play Bart. The problem, though, is in how Bart was written. Instead of the perpetually optimistic and happy Impulse of the comics, this Bart was perpetually angry and cynical. And when you fundamentally change a character's attitude and backstory — making him a pickpocket street urchin for some reason — you end up with a character that's barely recognizable. And it makes you wonder why they even bothered using that character's name. This version of Bart just as easily could have been Jay, Barry or Wally, and nothing would have changed. He is an original character created for this show.

I'm also trying to figure out what the point of this episode even was. I suppose that Kryptonian map will come into play later on, but we didn't need Bart Allen to bring that plot device to the show. Really, all he did was hang out with Clark for a couple of days, then left. He didn't seem to profoundly affect Clark in any way, nor did Clark really change Bart's attitude in any way. He end the episode just as he begins it — as a restless pickpocket with a heart of gold and a desire to find others like him. And ultimately, the only reason he does take off in the end is because his actor was only hired for one episode. Because, really, Bart, who's in desperate need of a friend and is too frightened to keep living on the streets, would want to stay at the Kent farm. He could use it a sort of base while continuing to search for superpowered individuals. That would have been a very different direction for the show, watching Clark and Bart slowly build up a Justice League or Teen Titans. And maybe it would have been better. Or not. The current slate of DC shows on the CW certainly aren't wanting for any superheroes, but I still don't think they're any better than this episode of Smallville was.

So if I can come away with one positive from this episode is that it clearly showed that Bart was faster than Clark. I always hate it when Superman is as fast or faster than the Flash. Even the recent Justice League movie did that. But this dumb Smallville episode, with its cheesy special effects and all, managed to nail that crucial detail. And I will say I am honestly intrigued to see the return of Bart Allen on this show.

Next time, we'll wrap up the year 2004 with Teen Titans #17.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Teen Titans/Legion Special

Superboy and the Legion Part Two

Writers: Mark Waid & Geoff Johns
Pencillers: Ivan Reis & Joe Prado
Inker: Marc Campos
Colors: Sno-Cone
Lettering: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Jeanine Schaefer
Editors: Bouncing Berganza & Wonder Wacker

When you want to draw a cover with 50 different characters on it, there's only a handful of artists you can confidently turn to. Phil Jimenez is one of those artists. He gave us a great action scene, showing almost all the Legionnaires and almost all the Teen Titans (I can't find Kid Flash for some reason) battling dozens of versions of the Fatal Five. And in the middle of all this is Superboy, torn between his identity on these two teams. This cover seems to imply there is an actual, physical force splitting Superboy into two separate people, but the "trauma" he's experiencing is completely psychological. And, quite frankly, probably a bit overblown.

Our story begins with all our heroes on the ground, battling the Fatal Five Hundred. Cosmic Boy tells Robin to order the Teen Titans to fall back, saying they can't possibly win in a direct fight. Robin's hopeful they can work together to save the day, but four versions of the Persuader open up more rifts in reality to bring in even more version of the Fatal Five. So Saturn Girl coordinates and evacuation with Umbra, who gives them a cloak of darkness, and Raven, who teleports all the heroes to the Legion's old headquarters in Metropolis.

Beast Boy initially mocks the Legion for hiding in a building shaped like a giant letter L, but then he's reminded that the Titans work in a giant T. The Legionnaires refer to the Teen Titans as Superboy's old, or previous, group, telling them that Superboy has become a valued member of their team over the past five months. Bart tells Conner he likes his longer hair, saying it looks just like his. Apparition asks what "Conner" means, and Superboy says it's nothing, just a name. Cassie is worried by this and asks if Superboy wants to stay with the Legion. Superboy stammers for a bit, and can't find a good way to answer the question, so he excuses himself to change out of his torn Superman costume.

Bart thinks "Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes" sounds familiar, and as he's wondering this, Brainiac 5 injects Bart with a shot in his shoulder. Bart yelps in pain and tells "Brainy" not to shoot him, reminding him that he's Bart Allen. Brainiac says he drinks to forget Bart, and he only gave Bart the same nanite injection he gave XS. Right on cue, Bart's cousin, Jenni, appears and gives him a big hug. She compliments his new "fibers," and Bart corrects her, calling them "threads."

Jenni hints that she knows Bart wants to visit his mom, but she urges him to be patient. Brainiac 5 then presents his plan to everybody. Basically, they're going to bounce vibrational signals from this building off what's left of Legion World to reset all the villains' vibrational frequencies and send them back to their respective parallel worlds. According to Brainiac, the only people capable of generating those vibrations are XS and Koko. Bart corrects Brainiac, saying he's Kid Flash and Koko was the name of his pet monkey. Brainiac assures Bart the insult was intentional, and explains that the nannies he injected into the two speedsters will harness their kinetic energy through a treadmill he's building with Gear and Invisible Kid. Raven calls Brainiac 5 an ass, and Beast Boy hopes he's not related to him.

Meanwhile, Superboy continues to struggle to decide which team he wants to be on, and Wonder Girl struggles with his inability to decide. Suddenly, the headquarters is invaded by the Fatal Five Hundred, so everybody has to fight off the villains and protect XS and Kid Flash on the treadmill. After a bit of running (and a lot of fighting surrounding them), Bart tells Jenni he needs to see his mom. She tells him they can't stop yet, but Bart insists he'll only be gone for a second. He then references his Uncle Jeven (for the first time ever), asking Jenni if she's still close to her dad. Jenni says she hasn't seen him in months, and admits she misses him. Bart says this may be his only chance to tell his mom he misses her. So Jenni relents, saying she'll speed up so Brainiac doesn't notice the momentary drop in vibration. She tells Bart to not abandon her, he asks if she really thinks he would, and she says she knows he won't.

Despite Jenni's efforts, however, Gear and Brainiac 5 do notice a slowdown in the kinetic energy. But there's not much they can really do about it, as villains keep pouring into their base. Bart eventually does find his mom in Central City, leading a team of officers protecting the Flash Museum. Oddly, her troops refer to her as "Miss Thawne." One would think she'd want to go by Mrs. Allen to strengthen her connection to the Flash family and distance herself from her dictator father. Anyway, Bart tells her he's helping the Legion right now and doesn't have long. He gives his mom a big hug, and she's thrilled to see he's Kid Flash now, saying Bart's father would have loved to see this. Bart takes off, telling his mom not to forget him, and she says, "No one will ever forget ... the Flash."

The fight at the Legion headquarters grows more intense. At one point, Wonder Girl is pinned down and about to be sliced in half by one of the Persuaders. But Superboy, dressed in his black T-shirt and jeans, saves her at the last second. Invisible Kid notes the speedsters' kinetic energy has only charged their machine to 99 percent, so he urges Kid Flash and XS to pick it up. Bart says they can't go any faster, so Jenni starts calling him Koko. This surge in anger is enough to push Bart over the top and charge the resonator cells to maximum capacity.

All the villains begin disappearing instantly, but there is a side effect. Destroying the Persuaders' axes is unleashing an energy that's severing our heroes' connection to the space-time continuum. Bart is shocked that Brainiac got something wrong. Invisible Kid defends him, saying that some other force is pounding against reality. He spots the last remaining Persuader from this reality, still battling Superboy, and tells Bart that his axe is the only thing now that send the Teen Titans back to the 21st century.

Superboy grabs the axe before Bart can, and holds it in a telekinetic shield as reality unravels around our heroes, placing them in a swirling rainbow vortex. Cosmic Boy explains that the Persuader is already caught in a temporal loop and is destined to return to the 21st century, but if they keep the loop open long enough to return to the 31st century, the impact on the time stream will be catastrophic. But Cyborg notes that if they do take the axe back to the 21st century and close the loop, then the Legion will be trapped in this space between dimensions. Cosmic Boy agrees, saying the decision will be made the instant Superboy drops his telekinetic shield, meaning he must decide if he's a Legionnaire or a Titan.

After considering this for a moment, Superboy realizes there's only one choice before him and Cosmic Boy was just testing him (which Cosmic Boy admits to). Superboy says the safest course is to take everybody back to the 21st century, where they can later find a way to get the Legion back to their time. Unfortunately, Superboy took too long to make this decision, as the Persuader was able to escape Starfire's grasp and fight Superboy for control of his axe. And this ruins everything.

The Teen Titans are sent in one direction, the Legionnaires in the other. The Titans quickly fly past some images of their near future before crash-landing in front of Titans Tower. However, they're pretty sure they're not quite home. The Legionnaires, meanwhile, all link hands to endure the rainbow storm together. But one of them isn't able to hold on, and she actually does make it back to the 31st century, only to find a completely different world with a completely different Legion of Super-Heroes. And this issue ends with a backup story by Mark Waid, setting up the new comic series for this new Legion.

This was a pretty fun issue with an epic, smash-em-up feel. We got some more of that explosive Ivan Reis art, plus the writing of Impulse creator Mark Waid. There was plenty of fun action for all the characters, and our little Bart Allen actually had a critical role to play. Yeah, the bit with him being called Koko was pretty cheesy, but it was better than Bart's usual role this year of merely pulling bystanders out of the way. It was a little odd that Brainiac 5 called Bart that, since Brainiac actually liked Bart the last time they met. Perhaps this was just Brainiac's way of playfully teasing an old friend in a stressful situation. And speaking of Koko, what happened to that monkey? Did it die?

A story like this really could have benefitted from a couple of mores issues. For example, Superboy's conflict of choosing between the two teams really fell flat because we didn't see any of the time he spent with the Legion. That could have been shown in an issue of Legion or Superboy (if that series was still going). And in Bart's case, I wish he had his own series to spend an issue to tell us more about his mom and even how his despotic grandfather fell from power. Regardless, I was thrilled to see Bart reunited with his cousin and his mom in the middle of a sprawling adventure.

Next time, we're going to review our first TV episode, "Run" from Smallville.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Teen Titans #16

Superboy and the Legion Part One

Geoff Johns Writer
Mike McKone Penciller
Marlo Alquiza Inker
Jeromy Cox Colorist
Comicraft Letters
Tom Palmer Jr. Associate Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

Our cover by Mike McKone shows the dangerous "man with the axe" Brainiac 5 warned us about last issue. He has apparently defeated Starfire, Beast Boy, Cyborg and Robin, leaving Wonder Girl, Kid Flash and Superboy to contend with him. Oddly, they are evoking the image of marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. I see no reason to imitate this pose in this context, and it almost feels a little insulting.

Our story begins on Friday at 5:49 p.m. at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Instead of joining the Teen Titans, Conner has asked Cassie out on a date at the Sea Lion Café. Cassie got all dressed up for the occasion, but Conner's wearing his regular Superboy outfit, claiming he doesn't have any other clothes in Titans Tower. Conner talks about life with the Kents, Cassie talks about her mom, and they both agree to take things slow. At one moment, Conner accidentally activates his X-ray vision and sees Cassie without her clothes. Suddenly, a big portal opens up right behind Conner and sucks him away. Half a second later, Conner reappears through an identical portal, wearing a full Superman outfit (with a Legion belt buckle) and he tells Cassie the future depends on them.

At Titans Tower, Bart has made dinner for everyone, saying it's his mom's recipe for Interlac pot pies. (I don't think Bart ever spent enough time with his mom for her to cook him anything, unless you count her trip to Max and Helen's home one Christmas.) Nobody likes Bart's cooking, although Starfire does try to be polite about it. Robin then walks through the door and Bart asks him where he's been the past five weeks. Raven tells Bart that Robin thinks he wants to be alone, and Robin becomes irritated with having his emotions read.

Cassie comes flying through the door, carrying Superboy, who apparently collapsed soon after reappearing through the portal. Cassie lays him on the ground and tells everyone what happened. Bart notices that besides the change in costume, Conner's hair has also grown longer. Beast Boy notices that Superboy was holding a bunch of Legion rings in his hand. Suddenly, a glowing axe swings through the air, narrowly missing Beast Boy's head. Robin theorizes that the axe was slicing through reality itself, and as usual, he is right.

The wielder of the axe steps through a new portal (similar to Superboy's) and threatens to slice off Superboy's head. A fight breaks out, with Raven initially trying to use her powers to shut down this intruder. But he somehow slices her soul-self (that's what she says, anyway), so Cyborg tries the more direct approach of punching the guy in the jaw. The villain mocks Cyborg's primitive metal and rips his hand off. Cyborg detonates his hand, but it has no effect on the axeman. Wonder Girl's lasso does seem to bother him, but he manages to slip her grip and escape back through his portal. Superboy has finally awoken by this point, and he warns everyone that they'll need one of his rings before they enter the portal.

Bart finally fulfills a long-time dream of his to actually wear a Legion Flight Ring, which he slides on right next to his costume ring (which is red now for some reason). Superboy tells everyone the rings will allow them to survive the vacuum of space. Cyborg regenerates a new hand and they all follow Superboy through the portal. After floating around in space for a little bit, they're soon greeted by the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Superboy asks Brainiac 5 where the axeman, the Persuader, has gone, saying they were just a few seconds behind him. Brainiac says the Persuader could have exploited that extra second into minutes to enable his escape. The Karate Kid is excited to meet Robin, telling him he's memorized Robin's final battle with the Joker's daughter. Beast Boy laughs at the name "Karate Kid" and makes the "wax on, wax off" joke. Chameleon says Superboy makes that joke all the time, but none of them know what it means. Bart realizes they're in the 31st century, and his first thought is that he can see his mom again.

Superboy explains to the Teen Titans that he's been stuck in the 31st century for five months. When they yanked him away from his date with Cassie, he became disoriented from the trip and couldn't remember exactly when he left. Until Saturn Girl probed his mind and found his memory of the date. So Brainiac 5 was able to send Superboy back in time to recruit more heroes to help with their current crisis. Although some members of the Legion were hoping he'd come back with the Justice League, or at least the Power Company.

To our heroes' surprise, they're not headed toward Earth. Bart says his mom lives in Central City (feels like an assumption on his part) and he asks where his cousin is. Superboy tells him that XS is with Mon-El leading the battle on Earth, but first they need to regroup with other Legionnaires at their satellite headquarters, Legion World. As they approach the satellite, Cosmic Boy tells them the Fatal Five has caused a wave of murder and destruction across the surface of the planet. But before he can elaborate, they learn the satellite has been breached, and it explodes right before they enter it.

The heroes all work together to slow down major pieces of the satellite from crashing into the Earth too hard, as well as preserve what's left of Legion World so the gravitational forces don't cause too much damage. As Cyborg and Superboy catch a large piece of debris, Superboy explains that the Persuader's axe can cut through anything, including the barriers between parallel realities, and he's been using that ability to recruit hundreds of alternate versions of the Fatal Five. So it isn't just five super villains they need to worry about, but five hundred.

This is an interesting premise. The Legion of Super-Heroes is a natural team for the Teen Titans to have a crossover with. And, frankly, it's been a while since we've seen those wacky heroes from the future. So I'm excited for this. I just wish it was set up a little better. Why did the Legion abduct Superboy against his will in the first place? And why did it take five months before anybody thought about probing his mind to see where he came from?

As for Bart, I am impressed that his first thoughts went to seeing his mother. He may have forgotten all his friends from Manchester, including Max, but he hasn't forgotten his mom. Bart last saw his mom in the 63rd century on an alien planet, where she stayed behind to make sure Bart and Carol could get back home. It is reasonable to assume that Meloni eventually found a way to get back to Earth and her own time. And it is reasonable to assume that Bart would know this and would be excited by the prospect of potentially seeing his mom again. Of course, this does raise a few more questions. The only reason Meloni had to stay separated from her son was because of her evil father, President Thawne. But that was before the Legion of Super-Heroes. It doesn't seem like Thawne is in power anymore, so why hasn't Meloni come back to Bart? Of course, these are issues that can only be resolved in a dedicated solo series, which Bart doesn't have anymore.

Next time, we'll conclude this story in Teen Titans/Legion #1.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Flash #214

The Secret of Barry Allen Part One

Geoff Johns Writer
Howard Porter Penciller
Livesay Inker
Pat Brosseau Letterer
James Sinclair Colorist
Joey Cavalieri Editor
Harvey Richards Asst. Editor

Our cover is by former Impulse artist Ethan Van Sciver, showing a shocked Wally West pouring over some papers, while the shadow of Barry Allen looms over him. Barry's Flash outfit has popped out of his ring, coincidentally forming the "shush" pose. It is a very interesting cover, but something about it just feels a little off. Is Barry's head too small?

Even though the cover doesn't say so, this issue is a tie-in to Identity Crisis. Our story begins with Wally recapping what has happened so far. After the Elongated Man's wife was murdered, Ralph Dibny led a small group of heroes to take down Doctor Light. Wally didn't see how Doctor Light could have committed the murder, but he trusted the Elongated Man's reputation as a detective, so he joined the raiding party. However, Doctor Light was prepared for this and hired Deathstroke to protect him. Deathstroke managed to hold off the heroes long enough for Doctor Light to escape, even stabbing Wally in the chest with his sword.

The JSA later ruled out Doctor Light as a suspect, and Wally later learned the troubling reason why Light was suspected in the first place. Years ago, Doctor Light raped Sue Dibny. He was so violent and vicious at the time, several members of the Justice League proposed the idea of having Zatanna magically wipe Light's memory and alter his personality so he wouldn't repeat those grotesque actions. A vote was held, with Barry Allen casting the deciding vote in favor of the mind wipe.

Naturally, Wally is quite upset by all this. Seeking answers, he checks in at Alcatraz Island, where the Teen Titans and Outsiders are interrogating prisoners. Wonder Girl is even using her lasso to electrocute Monsieur Mallah. Flash asks Roy and Dick why they're even bothering with them, and Dick explains that they believe Mallah and the Brain might know where Warp and Plasmus are, following their theory that Warp teleported into the Dibny home and Plasmus burned Sue. Wally says that angle feels a bit desperate, and Roy admits they are pretty desperate at this point.

Wally then pulls Dick aside, and Dick tells him how Roy is worried about Rose becoming Ravager, since she used to babysit his daughter. Wally tells Dick about Deathstroke's impressive fight, saying he's even more skilled and insane than ever. Wally then begins talking about his wife, Linda, who left him after their memories were erased. Dick says Linda should be safe, since Wally's public identity is a secret again. But Wally's still worried. He had previously honored Linda's request to be left alone, but now he's asking Nightwing's help in tracking her down. Dick considers this for a moment, then decides to call Oracle to see if she can help.

Wally then pays a visit to the Watchtower and immediately begins chewing out the JLA. He says he realizes that when they brought him to the Watchtower after his secret identity was erased, they were actually worried that what they did to Doctor Light was done to them. Black Canary says that might have been in the back of their minds, but they were more worried about Wally's well-being at that time. But Wally brushes this off and goes right into his next accusation: The JLA turned his uncle into a liar.

This comment definitely ruffles a few feathers (literally in Hawkman's case), but Green Arrow quickly defuses the situation by pulling Wally aside to speak in private. Oliver criticizes Wally for his holier-than-thou attitude and says he can see that Wally is actually feeling guilty for making his deal with the Spectre. After shouting for a bit more, Wally eventually accepts Oliver's diagnosis. Now that he's calmed down, Oliver suggests he go home to be with the ones he loves, leaving him with the words: "Nobody's perfect, kid. Not even the big guy."

So Wally heeds Oliver's advice and heads straight for the isolated home of his Aunt Iris. But Bart stops Wally from entering, asking if the killer has been found. Wally says they're still working on it, but Bart's worried about who the next target will be, since the Atom's ex-wife was also attacked (although she survived). Wally tries to assure Bart that everything's going to be OK, but Bart can tell he's not sure. He asks Wally where Linda is, and Wally can't answer that. He then heads inside, telling Bart to make sure nobody enters. Bart agrees, and Wally sees something in his face he's never noticed before that makes him believe Bart.

Iris is reading about Sue's murder in the newspaper, weeping over the loss. Wally gives her a hug, and she asks him if Doctor Light killed Sue. Wally says no, and Iris infers that Wally has been told about Doctor Light's past and Barry's involvement in the ordeal. She explains that Barry made that decision during a dark time in his life, when he believed that she was dead. Iris hints that she has more to tell Wally, but first says that Oliver Queen has something to give him.

So Wally heads to Star City to visit Green Arrow in his base. He tells Oliver he now realizes that when he mentioned the "big guy," he wasn't talking about Superman, but Barry. Oliver says Barry had the hardest time among them holding on to the lie. Wally turns the topic to Iris' message, and Oliver pulls out an envelope. He says he wanted to give it to Wally earlier, but he decided to get Iris' approval first. He says it's a letter Barry wrote to him after the business with Doctor Light. He warns Wally not to judge Barry too harsh, saying he was only trying to make the world a safer place.

We then see that Sue Dibny's murder has even affected the Rogues. Captain Cold abruptly calls off a bank heist in the middle of the job and orders his crew to send flowers to Ralph. Meanwhile, Wally heads to the Flash Museum to read Barry's letter under his statue.

This issue highlights one of the main problems with Identity Crisis — retconning. It really is unfair to readers to randomly tell them, "Oh, by the way, years ago your favorite characters faced an ethical dilemma and have been carrying a dark secret with them ever since and nobody bothered mentioning it until now." It's actually easier for me to handle reality being completely altered because of some grand, cosmic event like in Zero Hour or Genesis than something like this. And I do feel bad for Geoff Johns in this case, as he's forced to try to explain this massive change caused by Brad Meltzer.

But I do like seeing how this mystery murder has caused so much panic throughout the superhero community. And the ethical debate about these mind wipes is an interesting debate to have — I just wish it wasn't the result of a retcon. As for Bart's involvement, it is a little frustrating that Johns once again went out of his way to say that he likes Bart better as Kid Flash than Impulse, while simultaneously keeping him excluded from everything in this story.

Next time, we'll take a step away from Identity Crisis with Teen Titans #16.