Monday, October 15, 2018

Outsiders #50

You Killed the Outsiders!!!

Tony Bedard Writer
Matthew Clark & Ron Randall Pencillers
Art Thibert Inker
Guy Major Colorist
John J. Hill Letterer
Rachel Gluckstern Assoc. Editor
Joan Hilty Editor
Special thanks to Rich Birdsall

Our cover by Santiago Arcas shows the Outsiders putting their hands together in a circle under their new leader: Batman. This image is shot from a very weird perspective, and I'm not sure all the arms are coming in here from realistic angles. The lightning strike behind Batman does lend a moody feel to the whole piece, although that trick has been overdone.

Our story begins with Batman essentially dissolving the Outsiders to re-form them as a new team under his direction. He explains he felt this was necessary because of the recent turmoil after Infinite Crisis. Batman says Lex Luthor's Everyman Project tainted the public's trust in superheroes, which only worsened after the actions of Black Adam and the Amazons Attack event. Batman then says Bart Allen's murder was the last straw, forcing the world to take drastic actions toward superheroes and villains.

Batman explains that the JLA, JSA and even the Teen Titans are now subject to rigorous government scrutiny, effectively limiting their operations. So Batman has decided to make the Outsiders a team of outlaws to allow them to avoid this oversight. Everybody very quickly agrees to this, and they go off on their first mission, which is to visit a club for villains and try to make some friends. Of course, Batman's true purpose was to verify the rumors he'd heard about the Suicide Squad rounding up any and all metahumans. Turns out Batman was right. The Outsiders avoid capture, but are unable to prevent the Suicide Squad from taking away a handful of villains. On a side note, Captain Boomerang's son (and Bart's illegitimate half-brother) Owen is working with the Suicide Squad. But he doesn't do anything interesting in this issue. In fact, nobody does anything interesting here.

Most series make a big deal of their 50th issue. Like Teen Titans, which went with an extra-sized issue and brought back some big-name creators to honor the past while still looking ahead toward the future. But this issue was entirely a prologue for the new series Batman and the Outsiders. And it was quite dull. Also, how does Batman have time to run around with the Outsiders? Isn't he busy enough with Gotham, the JLA, and his secret identity? Oh well. Everybody likes Batman. And nobody likes Impulse.

Next time (if I can find it), we'll take a quick look at somebody who does like Impulse with Wonder Girl #1.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Teen Titans #50


Writers Sean McKeever; Geoff Johns; Marv Wolfman; Todd Dezago
Pencillers Randy Green; Mike McKone; George Pérez; Todd Nauck
Inkers Andy Lanning & Sandra Hope Pgs 1-3, 10-15, 20-33, 35-38; Marlo Alquiza Pgs 4-9; George Pérez Pgs 16-19; Lary Stucker Pg 34
Letterer Rob Leigh
Colorists Rod Reis, Tom Smith & David Curiel
Cover Alé Garza & Scott Williams w/Reis
Alternate Cover McKone & Lanning w/Reis
Assistant Editor Adam Schlagman
Editor Eddie Berganza

Our main cover shows the new roster of the Teen Titans: Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Devil, Ravager, Blue Beetle, Miss Martian and Supergirl. With the old holdovers Cyborg, Beast Boy and Raven now gone, the leader role has defaulted to Robin. And with the addition of Supergirl alone, this team isn't going to be hurting for power against just about any threat that comes its way. The cover itself is OK. Robin and Wonder Girl have kind of wonky faces, but everyone else looks good.

Our alternate cover shows the updated Titans of Tomorrow smashing through the glass wall that was the main cover. I like the symbolism of the new current team being replaced by frightening future versions of themselves. I also don't mind changing the Titans of Tomorrow. After their previous encounter with this team, our Teen Titans of the present day made significant changes that altered the Titans of Tomorrow. The future versions of Tim, Conner, Cassie and Bart look the same, but now they're joined by future versions of Kid Devil and Miss Martian, who has now embraced being a White Martian.

Our story begins at Titans Tower in San Francisco. Even though the Tower has its own dedicated hall of statues of fallen Titans, the team has bucked tradition a bit by erecting large golden statue of Superboy and Kid Flash out in front of the tower. Robin, Raven, Miss Martian, Beast Boy, Kid Devil, Ravager, Starfire, Cyborg, Wonder Girl, Supergirl and Wally West have all gathered for a brief ceremony to commemorate Bart Allen. Robin gives a brief speech, talking of how Bart embraced life, and how his exuberance impacted each of them in ways they'll never forget. Tim says today they're not mourning Bart's passing — they're celebrating his life.

Cassie compliments Tim on his speech, and Beast Boy tells Kid Devil and Ravager about the time Bart drove Robin's Batmobile. Gar happily brings in Cassie, Tim and Cyborg on the conversation, which leads us to the Geoff Johns/Mike McKone story called Friday Night Lights.

Instead of being a retelling of Bart's wacky adventure in the Batmobile (as detailed in Teen Titans #9), this story is about the time Bart coerced Robin into letting him fly one of the Batplanes. Wonder Girl and Beast Boy were also in the plane, and Beast Boy demanded to know why Robin let this happen. Cassie explained that Robin lost a bet with Bart that he'd be able to give orders to all the "old guys" by the end of the week, and Robin lost when Starfire burned a hole in Robin's cape after he told her to take monitor duty. Beast Boy sadly realized that he's now one of the "old guys," but Bart assured him he's "not that old." Robin was worried about returning the Batplane before Batman and the Justice League rescued Aquaman, but Bart assured him he won't put a mark on the plane and no one will ever know about their joyride. But as soon as he said that, Bart crashed through a "Welcome to Smallville" sign.

A depressed Conner Kent slowly departed from school, before suddenly being met by Krypto. The super dog tore at Conner's backpack in an attempt to warn him of the approaching Batplane. Conner reacted too slowly and was soon scooped up by his friends. Conner tried to protest, saying he wanted to take this weekend off, but Beast Boy told him they have tickets to Challengers Mountain (whatever that means). Bart told Conner to stop thinking and just start doing. He said they should enjoy being on the Titans, making new friends and going out to have some fun on a Friday night. Bart asked Conner if he thinks it'll ever get better than this, and after noticing the way Cassie is looking at him, Conner is forced to agree with Bart.

We then return to the present, cutting to Washington, D.C., where Wonder Woman is examining the damage caused by the Amazons Attack event. She spots the future version of Conner lurking in the shadows, and initially thinks its Superman. But then she's attacked from the opposite side by the future version of Cassie.

Back at the tower, our heroes have moved the party inside. Raven tells Starfire of Bart's repeated attempts to see her naked, and Starfire admits she brazenly stripped nude in front of Bart once, allowing him to stare at her for two solid minutes. Just as she was at Bart's funeral, Ravager has no interest in reminiscing about her fallen teammate. So Rose pulls Kid Devil away and invites him to go skinny dipping in the pool with her.

In Toronto, Martian Manhunter is searching for a serial murderer when he's approached by the future Cassie disguised as Wonder Woman. By the time J'onn realizes she's an imposter, he's attacked from behind by the future Kid Devil.

The party at the tower is now wrapping up, and Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy and Wally are saying their goodbyes. Robin welcomes Wally back to Earth, saying he didn't get a chance to say so at the funeral (because Wally wasn't at the funeral!). As the older heroes fly away in a random black jet one of them happened to have, Cyborg says they should visit Jericho and see how's doing, still possessing Match's body. Beast Boy comments on how odd it is now that none of the "old guard" are on the Titans anymore. But Cyborg is confident this current group will be great. Starfire asks Wally why he's flying back with them instead of just running home, and Wally says he just wanted to spend some more time with his old friends.

Wally begins talking about Bart, saying he initially believed Impulse was not Titans material. Young Justice was one thing, but the Teen Titans was serious business. And then on his first day on the job, Bart got his kneecap blown off. Wally doesn't know what went through Bart's mind as he endured the pain of having an artificial kneecap put in, but when he came out of that ordeal as Kid Flash with "all that bravado," Wally became even angrier with Bart. In his mind, Bart hadn't earned the right to be Kid Flash on the Teen Titans. But Wally gradually came to realize that he was actually excited for Bart to have this chance to prove himself. And in the end, Wally maintains he was right about Impulse not being Titans material. But Kid Flash was.

Starfire asks Wally if he thinks Barry Allen ever felt the same way toward him. Wally says he always wanted Barry's approval until he wrote a letter to him. And that leads us into the Marv Wolfman/George Pérez story called Dear Barry ...

This story is about the Teen Titans rescuing an apartment full of people from an exploding gas line. Wally was so impressed with his teammates' resolve to help others, he felt compelled to write to his mentor all about it. At one point in the mission, Wally was worried he wouldn't be able to save six elderly people all confined to their beds. But then he remembered some inspiring words from Barry, which gave Wally the courage to save those people. Barry responded with a brief letter, telling Wally that he has always been proud of him since the first day he put on his Kid Flash costume and he knows that his former sidekick will always do his best.

Back in the present, the Titans are now watching Bart's favorite TV show, Tiny Titans. Ravager finally returns from her "swim" with Kid Devil, and Cassie berates her for skipping out on their day of remembering Bart. Suddenly, Kid Flash walks through the door. Cassie and Tim excitedly jump up to greet Bart, and Cassie wraps him in a big hug. Tim asks if this is a time travel thing, but Supergirl sadly interjects to say her X-ray vision reveals that this isn't really Bart. She gently urges the imposter to come clean, so Miss Martian shape-shifts back to her normal form. Wonder Girl immediately tries to attack Megan, but Supergirl holds her back. Megan explains that she had heard Bart was a trickster, so she thought she could cheer them all up with a little trick of her own. Ravager finds this hilarious, but Robin manages to kindly explain to Miss Martian how that little stunt was wrong. Luckily, the awkward moment is interrupted by Kid Devil reporting a "situation" in Texas.

In Gotham City, Batman is investigating the scene of a murder in a dark alley when he's attacked by the future version of Conner. We quickly cut to Texas, where the Teen Titans team up with Blue Beetle to fight Lobo. It's kind of a jarring, random battle that ends abruptly, but an editor's note tells us to read the complete story in Blue Beetle #18. Suffice it to say, the day is saved, and Robin offers to let Blue Beetle come train with them and maybe earn a spot on the team. In Metropolis, Superman comes home to find Lois bound and gagged. Before he can free her, the future Cassie wraps her lasso around Superman's neck, and future Tim attacks him with a kryptonite ring.

Early the next morning, before dawn, Wonder Girl finds Robin sitting out in the fog in front of the statues of Bart and Conner. Tim admits he didn't sleep that night, and Cassie tries to assure him he can't blame himself for Bart's death. But Tim explains he's feeling guilty because he never took Bart seriously as a hero or a person. So Cassie cheers Tim up by reminding him how Bart really was an impulsive goofball, which leads us into our one-page story by Todd Dezago and Todd Nauck.

Cassie lists off several misadventures they had during Young Justice (none of these things actually happened in the series, but after Infinite Crisis, all things are possible). Professor Ivo Jr. once replaced most of the team with robots, and took Impulse almost a week to figure out something was wrong. On another occasion, Bart made a comic book about Young Justice and compromised all their secret identities. When Superboy confronted him with this, he showed Impulse a Superman comic that names his secret identity as Dirk Devlin, which Bart thought was accurate. Impulse also somehow turned the entire team into animals (himself a rabbit, Robin a robin, Wonder Girl a cheetah, Superboy a stag, and Secret a mouse), and then all into cavemen, and even had them all arrested for breaking speed limits. And Cassie closes with the story of the Justice League sending Young Justice as envoys to Gorilla City via pneumatic tubes, which they called "P Tubes." And poor Bart thought that meant something else, causing Young Justice's first international incident.

Cassie tells Tim that she didn't realize how much Bart had matured until she saw him as the Flash, so she tells Tim to not beat himself up over it. She then begins to cry, and says if Tim blames himself, then she'd have to, too. Tim goes down the long list of friends and family he's lost over the past couple of years: Stephanie, his dad, Conner and now Bart. He begins to cry, too, saying it isn't fair. Cassie wipes a tear off his cheek, then removes his mask. As she leans in for a kiss, Tim half-heartedly begins to protest, but ultimately agrees. However, before they can kiss, Tim hears something fast zooming across the water toward them.

Believing they're under attack, Tim puts his mask back on and prepares to fight. But it turns out the sound came from Wally, who looks like he just escaped a major fight. Wally vaguely says "They're alive, Robin!" Then tries to warn them that nothing is what it seems. But he's suddenly knocked out from behind. Robin and Wonder Girl turn and see the future versions of Bart and Conner standing before them, smugly saying, "Miss us?"

This was actually a really nice issue. There were a lot of positives with Bart's funeral in Countdown, but there weren't many personal stories. This issue gave us that opportunity. And by being an extra-sized issue, it had room to reminisce about Bart and still set up future storylines with Blue Beetle and the Titans of Tomorrow. And I really appreciated how they brought back the same old creative teams to provide flashbacks of untold tales from their original runs on the Teen Titans (or Young Justice). I will admit I'm being a bit greedy here, but I was let down by the Wolfman/Pérez story. Instead of having Wally (rudely) make a remembrance of Bart all about himself and some boring letter he wrote to Barry, I would have preferred to bring in Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo or Paul Pelletier to give us a wacky Wally/Bart adventure.

And I'm going to continue being greedy by complaining that the Dezago/Nauck story was only one page long. But that was such a beautiful, marvelous page! I miss Nauck's art so much, as well as that wonderful, goofy team of Young Justice! I feel like these stories (turning into animals, being replaced by robots, etc.) were the kind of stories Dezago wanted to tell, but wasn't allowed to. I was still very happy with what Peter David gave us, but Dezago's vision of Young Justice would have also been incredible.

So far, I'm pretty happy with McKeever and Green, and I'm genuinely intrigued to see what they do with this future version of Bart. In any case, it is nice to have some comics to review, even though Bart is technically dead.

Next time, we'll briefly see how Bart's death affected the Outsiders in their final issue of the series, Outsiders #50.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Countdown #42

Shock to the System

Paul Dini – Head Writer, with Sean McKeever & Tony Bedard
Carlos Magno – Pencils
Mark McKenna & Jay Leisten – Inks
Rod Resi – Colors
Ken Lopez – Letters

Our cover by Terry Dodson shows Mary Marvel and the Riddler drowning in a pool of Clayface. It is equal parts cartoony and pure grossness. Of course, this isn't nearly as gross as the story Dini has for Mary Marvel in this series, but that's a separate matter.

Our story begins with the death of Bart Allen. Heatwave hits him in the back, jokingly calling it a Flash-fire. As Bart begs for help, Captain Cold comes in with his own jokes, saying, "Don't ever say I never did nothin' for ya!" As Bart breaks free from the ice, he grabs the Trickster and weakly demands to know how he could let the Rogues do this to him. As Trickster struggles to answer, Weather Wizard blasts both Bart and James Jesse with a bolt of lightning.

If that seemed different from Bart's actual death, then that's because it was. The whole thing was a nightmare of the Trickster's, and he wakes up screaming. He finds that he's handcuffed to the Pied Piper and surrounded by Multiplex and Deadshot. (Trickster and Piper are now in their super villain outfits, which means that Multiplex and Deadshot changed their clothes while they were unconscious.) Deadshot tells the Rogues they're under arrest for the death of Bart Allen. He also explains that their handcuff is designed to kill both of them if they pull too hard on it or break it.

Even though Trickster and Piper are both haunted by the guilt of Bart's death, neither of them was willing to turn themselves in to face the consequences of their actions. And they're still not interested in paying that price now that they've been caught. Trickster removes a false tooth from his mouth and spits it up in the air. The tooth explodes in a burst of light, momentarily blinding Multiplex and Deadshot, giving Trickster and Piper the chance to burst through the door of their cell. Unfortunately, they find out the hard way that they were in an airplane and now they're falling toward the city a thousand feet below them.

I said Mary Marvel's story in Countdown was disgusting. The upcoming Trickster/Piper story is equally disgusting. I won't get into the gruesome details here — you can read that on your own if you dare. But in the meantime, I do find it interesting to see the ripple effects of Bart's death through the DC Universe. Despite Wally and Wonder Girl vowing to bring the Rogues to justice, it was the Suicide Squad that quickly and efficiently rounded them up before anybody else could. And only Trickster and Piper were "lucky" enough to get away. (It might have been better for them had they stayed in the Suicide Squad's custody, but that's a debate for another day.) Of course, I do find it highly unlikely that somebody could be completely unaware they're on an airplane flying above a city, let alone have the ability to open up the plane's cargo hatch simply by ramming his shoulder into it. Just another example of the sloppiness that is Countdown.

Next time, we'll continue mourning the loss of Bart in Teen Titans #50.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Countdown #43

The Funeral

Paul Dini – Head Writer, with Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Manuel Garcia w/David Lopez – Pencils
Jimmy Palmiotti w/Don Hillman – Inks
Pete Pantazis – Colors
Ken Lopez – Letters

Our cover by Terry Dodson shows the Teen Titans mourning Bart Allen, as his casket is lowered into his grave. I like that those who knew Bart best — Robin and Wonder Girl — are front and center, overcome with a bit more grief than their teammates. It makes sense to have Beast Boy, Raven and Cyborg in attendance, but Speedy's inclusion is kind of a mistake. Not only did she leave the Teen Titans after Infinite Crisis, but she didn't even appear in this issue. In any case, this is a beautiful cover with appropriate, mournful coloring.

Our story begins with Daily Planet photographer Jimmy Olsen covering the funeral of the Flash. He acknowledges that while Metropolis may have Superman, and Gotham has Batman, no other city can match the love Keystone has for the Flash with its museum, statues and street names. Both Keystone City and Central City have essentially shut down for the funeral — the only places left open are bars to give people a place to mourn. The funeral itself is held in a large football stadium and broadcast live on TV.

A large contingent of superheroes are in the stands — mostly JLA, JSA, Teen Titans and even some Doom Patrol members. Jay Garrick is the first to speak, with his wife, Joan, at his side. Jay says that since the Flash is dead, he'll reveal his secret identity — Bart Allen, grandson of Barry. Jay describes Bart as a fun-loving and impulsive young man, filled with a lust for life and a heart overflowing with joy. He says none of the other Flashes were as funny or sweet as Bart, and he admits that Bart was like a son to him and Joan. Jay says Bart displayed the true measure of a hero by rushing forward in our darkest hour without a single thought for his safety. He briefly hints about Bart's sacrifice during Infinite Crisis when he was still Kid Flash, and concludes by asking everyone to honor Bart's memory by allowing more joy and laughter into their lives.

During Jay's speech, Beast Boy, Robin, Wonder Girl and Nightwing were all visibly moved. Ravager, however, was not, idly scrolling on her cellphone with a look of sheer boredom. Hidden up in the rafters of the stadium are Donna Troy, Jason Todd and one of the Monitors. The Monitor wants to leave the funeral to begin searching for the Atom, but Donna and Jason insist on paying their respects.

Cyborg is the next to speak, saying he's had to bury many friends and heroes over the years, and he's sad to say it never gets easier. He says the Titans always grow up fast, but no one grew faster than Bart. It wasn't just his super speed pushing him, Cyborg says, but it was as if Bart was a runaway comet on a collision course with destiny. He thinks Bart clung so tightly to his childish behavior because unlike his teammates, he wanted to be a kid for however long as he could. Cyborg concludes by saying he wishes he could have been a better friend and mentor to Bart, but he was always moving faster and burning brighter than the rest of them.

As Wonder Girl gets up to speak, we see the Pied Piper and Trickster hiding in the audience in the upper decks. They're not wearing their super villain outfits, but still chose to wear color-corresponding civilian clothes (Piper is in a green hoodie and Trickster has an orange-and-blue baseball cap). Trickster is pretty nervous, saying everyone in the stadium hates them and they're sure to get caught. But Piper also insists upon paying his respects.

Cassie says Bart was like a little brother to her — a little brother who often drove her crazy and was always making jokes. She says she wish she could find something positive to say, but after having endured so much tragedy, she just can't be optimistic anymore. Cassie quickly gets worked up into a rage, vowing to make sure the men who killed her little brother will pay for this. She says they'll rot in hell, but that still won't be good enough. She prays to the gods that she's the first to find Bart's murderers, then tearfully embraces Robin, admitting that Bart deserved a better speech — just as he deserved more time to prove he would have been the greatest Flash ever.

Halfway through Cassie's speech, Piper agreed with Trickster, and the two immediately ran away from the stadium. As they walk through the parking lot, Trickster suggests they split up to increase their chances of avoiding being captured by revenge-seeking heroes. Piper says he wants to round up the other Rogues and dump them at Wonder Girl's feet. Trickster says they have blood on their hands and there's no redemption for this. Before they leave the parking lot, though, Trickster and Piper are ambushed by Multiplex and Deadshot of the Suicide Squad.

Meanwhile, Robin opens his speech with a quote from Mark Twain: "When we do not know a person — and also when we do ... we have to judge his size by the size and nature of his achievements, as compared with the achievements of others in his special line of business — there is no other way." Robin says he always told Bart that he'd have to live in the shadow of the Flash, because he always thought he'd have to live in Batman's shadow. But Robin says Bart proved him wrong. He says Bart used to be reckless and undisciplined, and it was Batman who first called him Impulse. Robin thought Bart would never take things seriously enough to be the Flash, but once again, Bart proved him wrong. Robin says he always underestimated his friend, but Bart never once said, "I told you so."

As Robin talks, we see Batman and Alfred sadly watching from the Batcave. Tim concludes his speech by presenting a DVD that Bart made shortly after getting shot in the knee. Robin says Bart couldn't stop thinking about the recent death of Donna Troy at the time, so he recorded a video and gave it to Robin with strict instructions to not watch it until his funeral. Robin inserts the disc and says that he and the rest of the Titans agreed that Bart's final message should be shared with the people of Keystone.

Kid Flash pops up on a massive screen behind Robin, saying that he knows the idea of this video is a little creepy, but he got the idea for it from a website. He says he's been thinking, and jokes that Wonder Girl always warns him that it's dangerous when he thinks. Bart says they're just crazy kids for putting on costumes and fighting maniacs, but he figures that Superman, Batman and the Flash can't be everywhere all the time. Bart addresses an offscreen Superboy, saying he also knows what it's like to follow in the footsteps of giants and that they can't run from that responsibility. He says after Deathstroke shot him, he was reminded of Donna and Omen being killed, and realized that he easily could have died, too. Or Arrowette, or Secret, or Robin or any of them. Bart acknowledges that the good guys don't always win, but that's the risk they take. He acknowledges how serious the older heroes are, especially Batman, whom he jokingly advises to lighten up every once in a while — a joke he immediately begs Robin not to share with Batman.

Bart concludes his video by saying that if some reason he should get killed by following the great Flash tradition of saving the universe from some crisis or Darkseid, he doesn't want anyone to forget how much fun he had being alive or how lucky he was to have such great friends. He asks them to tell Wally that even though he is a huge butthead, he was a great teacher and it's not his fault when bad things happen. Bart acknowledges Wonder Girl's pain after Donna's death, and says starting a new Teen Titans team is an awesome idea because they can't ever give up hope. Bart says he won't regret a single moment and if he's lucky, then someday he'll be the Flash like his grandfather. He doesn't think he'll ever be as good as Barry was, but says he owes it to the people of Keystone to at least try. Bart reiterates the great times he's having being a Titan, then tells Kon they need to throw more parties.

As soon as Bart's video ends, the argument between Jason, Donna and the Monitor resumes. Jason pushes back on the idea of entering the nanoverse to search for Ray Palmer, citing the speech Bart gave about confront problems head on. Instead of running away, Jason suggests enlisting the aid of the hundreds of heroes in the stadium below them. But the Monitor insists that the Atom is the only one who can help them, and Donna agrees with him. Jason asks how do they know the Atom isn't already dead, and the Monitor says if he is dead, then they all are.

Bart's coffin is then loaded into a hearse with only four pallbearers — Cyborg, Beast Boy, Wonder Girl and Robin. As Jimmy Olsen takes the final pictures of the night, he's reminded of Superman's adventures with Young Justice, and how Superman spoke of the responsibilities of the rising generation of superheroes. Jimmy is inspired by Bart's life and decides it's time for him to do something with the powers he's recently acquired. (Yeah ... Jimmy has powers now because ... Countdown.)

That was a touching tribute to Bart. I liked seeing how his death affected people who didn't even really know him. I thought all the speeches were nice, especially Robin and Wonder Girl's, which showed how emotionally drained those two are after having lost so many friends and loved ones. It was nice seeing a large gathering of superheroes at the funeral, but there were some glaring absences. The biggest one, of course, is Wally West and his family. I get that Paul Dini and company are busy telling their own story over here in Countdown, but I find it impossible to believe that they knew Bart had died but didn't know that Wally had returned. Other absences included Iris, Jesse, Cissie, Greta, Anita, Helen, Dr. Morlo and even Bart's stupid "girlfriend" who I hate, Val. They all needed to be there.

Of course, that's the problem with putting a character's funeral in a massive, company-wide series like this, which also unfortunately had a reputation of being rather sloppy. Yes, we did get to see the perspectives of some people we normally wouldn't see in the regular Flash series, but that came at the expense of omitting much of the Flash family from such a significant moment for them. Ditto for Young Justice. The writers did a good job of referencing some of the Young Justice characters, but the artists failed to show any closeups on the crowd beside the Teen Titans. Hey, instead of repeatedly showing the Titans, why not throw in just one panel of a few of those people I mentioned? Oh well. I guess it's natural to feel sad and frustrated at funerals.

Next time, we'll find out what happened to the Trickster and Pied Piper in Countdown #42.

Friday, October 5, 2018

All Flash #1

Justice, Like Lightning

Mark Waid – Writer
Karl Kerschl: 1-3, 10-16
Ian Churchill & Norm Rapmund: 4-6
Manuel Garcia: 7-9
Joe Bennett & Ruy Jose: 17-22
Daniel Acuna: 23-24
Pat Brosseau – Letterer
Stephane Peru, Tanya & Richard Horie & Acuna – Colorists
Rachel Gluckstern – Assoc. Editor
Joan Hilty – Editor
Josh Middleton – Cover
Variant Cover by Bill Sienkiewicz

This comic hasn't been digitized yet — probably because it is its own series, not falling in neatly with either The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive or the returning Flash series starring Wally — so I'm forced to pull an image from once again. The main cover is bleak, dreary and kind of ugly. I can't tell if that's supposed to be Wally or Bart — either way he doesn't look good. It could be Wally stricken by grief, or a dying Bart running off to the great beyond. Simply put, I don't like it. And sadly, the variant I own is just as bad.

Is that Wally? Is that Bart? Why does he look 100 years old? Why are both these covers so bad? I have the feeling that this issue was a last-minute decision, forcing everything — from the cover art to the art inside — to be incredibly rushed. And that's a real shame because this is actually a pretty significant issue that certainly deserved better artwork.

Our story begins with a furious Wally West running to Los Angeles. He can now utter his famous catchphrase: "My name is Wally West. I'm the Flash. The fastest man alive." But now he bitterly adds an addendum: "And I'm still too late." As he runs, Wally briefly recounts the history of Bart Allen, admitting that although he initially hated Impulse, he gradually learned to like Bart. A lot. Especially after watching him mature and become Kid Flash. Wally says when he decided to retire with his wife and kids, he had no hesitation about giving the Flash costume and identity to Bart. And Wally always figured he'd eventually come back to just check up on Bart — not to catch his killer.

One hour ago, Wally and his family returned to this world (as we saw last time). Wally says they had actually carved out a nice life for themselves (although he won't say exactly where). They had broached the subject of heading home, but when the sky began to "vomit lightning," Wally's first reaction was resentment. His second reaction was that the lightning wasn't actually lightning, but the familiar pull of the Speed Force seeking him out.

Wally actually scooped up his family and tried to evade the lightning. But it quickly caught up with him, and he soon found himself at the bottom of a crater, looking up into the shocked faces of Jay Garrick, Superman and Power Girl. Wally didn't know anything of the Legionnaires' little stunt, but he did feel a massive disruption in the Speed Force that drew him back. Despite the jarring nature of the whole ordeal, Wally is happy to see his wife and kids are alright and to be surrounded by friends. He introduces his children, Iris and Jai, to Superman, who awkwardly says when he last saw them, they were newborns, which wasn't that long ago. The Wests spend the next hour catching up with the super-hero community, until Batman calls in the bad news from Los Angeles.

Fifty-nine minutes ago, Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Weather Wizard, Abra Kadabra, Mirror Master, the Trickster and the Pied Piper are standing around in disbelief at the horrific action they just performed. Valerie Perez is crying over Bart's body, begging Iris Allen to help him. Iris tells Val that Bart is gone, then she tearfully turns to the Rogues and says, "You monsters ... you murdered my grandson." Weather Wizard is shocked to see how young Bart is, and he begins shouting that it wasn't supposed to go down like this. Captain Cold tells him to shut up and let him think. Heat Wave realizes they've just made themselves the most wanted men on Earth and the Justice League is going to spend every second of their lives hunting them down. Trickster puts the blame on Inertia, and Mirror Master seconds the call to attack the devious speedster.

Inertia's speed has returned, which enables him to easily dodge their attacks, but he still tries to talk his way out of this mess. He says he set the Flash up to lose his powers, but it was the Rogues who finished him off, so they all deserve credit for the act. But Abra Kadabra is unwilling to negotiate, and he deactivates Inertia's teleportation device on his wrist. He threatens to show Inertia what happens to little boys who lie, so Inertia quickly runs away. Frustrated they weren't able to use Inertia as a sacrificial lamb to save their hides, Mirror Master suggests they kill Val and Iris to eliminate the witnesses. Pied Piper stops him, though, pointing out that thousands of people saw them take over the Getty Center and cops are swarming around the outside of Trickster's forcefield. Piper asks Kadabra to teleport them away, and Kadabra complies.

Now — Inertia is in a full-on panic. He can't get back to Craydl, so he briefly considers asking for Deathstroke's help, before reasoning that Slade won't help him. News of Bart's death has already spread on the radio, and there are now reports of a rare tornado in Los Angeles. The tornado is, of course, coming from Wally, who is furiously moving in on his target.

Wally grabs Inertia by the scruff, and Thad initially thinks he's Bart. But looking into his weeping green eyes, Inertia realizes with horror that it's Wally, whom he thought was dead. Wally keeps racing forward with Inertia in his grasp, smashing him through barns and trains, carrying him across oceans and through cities. Inertia naturally tries to get away, but Wally is streamlining the Speed Force in a way he never has before, and he's actually able to take Inertia's speed away from him. As he does this, a sudden realization dawns upon Inertia. He says Bart lost his powers because Wally took them.

Wally is horrified to hear this and shouts out the word "NO!" but he's really not able to argue against Inertia's logic. Seeing how unnerved this revelation makes Wally, Inertia foolishly presses the issue by gleefully recounting the details of Bart's death, ending by saying, "He screamed like a little bitch." This puts Wally into an almost uncontrollable rage. He instantly devises 12 different ways to kill Inertia. He acknowledges he has never felt justified in taking a man's life, but he immediately tries to rationalize this by saying Inertia isn't a man. He's a sick, corrupt clone of Bart. An irredeemable sociopath with Bart's face. Ultimately, though, it's that face — that little piece of Bart — that persuades Wally to spare Inertia's life. But Wally chooses to do something he considers even worse than killing him.

One week later, the Wests are relaxing at their new home (Iris put all their things in storage, then helped get them this new place). Linda and the kids are having a water fight in the backyard, while Wally is having a serious conversation with his aunt inside. Iris tells Wally that Val stayed with Bart's body until arrangements could be made. Iris thinks Val is young enough that she'll be able to move on from this tragedy, and said she'll always consider her part of the family. (The odds we'll ever see Val again are about 0.5%.)

Wally asks Iris how she's doing, and she admits she's not great, talking about how horrible it was to watch those "animals" tear into Bart after he lost his powers. The reminder of Bart's powers stings Wally a bit, but he continues the conversation, asking if Iris was prepared for Bart's death. She says she knew from history that Bart died saving Los Angeles from an explosion, and that she told this to Bart, hoping they could somehow cheat fate. But Bart still dived right in to save others, which was always his ... impulse.

Wally kisses Iris' forehead, and she makes a small joke about this being the one time Bart had a plan. She then asks Wally what he did to Inertia. Wally thought she already knew, but Iris reminds him that time is surprisingly fluid, and every big crisis of this era bends it further. So Wally tells her, saying they'll never have to worry about Inertia again. He explains that he stole Inertia's speed, but that wasn't enough. And in that moment, Wally was so connected to the Speed Force, he realized he had the ability to completely take away all of Inertia's movement, permanently immobilizing him. Wally says Inertia is still conscious, still able to see, hear and think in real time, but is trapped for eternity in a frozen body. And since he's essentially a living statue, Wally placed Inertia in the Flash Museum, in the Bart Allen Memorial, right next to a statue of White Lightning. And right in front of Inertia is a statue of Bart as Impulse and Kid Flash, forcing Inertia to stare with eyes that take 100 years to blink at the ghost of the man he could never be.

Iris offers no commentary on this horrific fate for Inertia, and instead changes the subject to the rest of the Rogues. Wally says he hasn't been able to find any of them, but says the only way they'll stay out of his reach is if someone else finds them first. And little does he know, but that's exactly what happens. The Suicide Squad has tracked down Captain Cold in New York, Mirror Master in Glasgow, Abra Kadabra in Hong Kong, and Weather Wizard and Heat Wave in Louisiana.

Wally and Iris then have an awkward pause, as neither of them wants to start talking about the next topic that they both know they need to address. Wally finally breaks the silence by trying to apologize, but Iris cuts him off and bluntly asks him if he chose to come back. Wally admits he didn't. Iris asks if he had any control over the how or when or why of it all. Wally says no. So Iris tells him to be more like Bart. She reminds him of how he coined the term "single synapse theory" to describe how Bart would leap from instinct to action without all that messy "thinking" in between. Wally says that drove him insane, but Iris points out that Bart was able to live in the moment and he never dwelled on things that weren't his fault.

Iris takes Wally to the window to show him his family. She tells him in order to be a good family man, he needs to stop living inside his own head all the time. Wally doesn't have the heart to tell his aunt just how unique his twins are and what challenges they pose. But he does agree to try, and Iris assures him that he's not alone anymore. So Wally asks her for any last insider tips on what the future holds for the West family. Iris says, "Not really ... but it's going to be one hell of a ride." And the last two pages give us a sort of preview of the upcoming adventures in The Flash. Unfortunately, Wally's kids changed dramatically with that page turn. Instead of both having red hair and being about 12 or 13 years old, they're now about 8 or 9 and Jai has black hair. And they both have superpowers — with Jai able to become super muscular and Irey able to vibrate through objects.

It sure is nice to have Mark Waid writing the Flash again. Of course, this is the beginning of his infamously dreadful second run of the Flash, wherein Waid said all the promises that were initially made to him were rescinded before he even began — and he even admitted that he may have simply run out of stories to tell about Wally to begin with ... In short, it was a rough ride. But I still appreciated his presence in this issue. Even though this was largely a cleanup issue to bridge the gap between The Fastest Man Alive and The Flash #231, it was nice having Waid give us Wally's voice, thought process and sweet relationship with his aunt.

I really feel bad for Inertia. Written by Todd Dezago, he was a complex, conflicted character who seemed like he had a genuine shot at redemption. But when he was brought back to battle the adult Bart, Inertia was watered down to a generic irredeemable sociopath. He wasn't necessarily bland, but certainly not as rich and compelling as he once was. And his ultimate fate — ick! I'm glad Wally acknowledged this is a fate worse than death, because I can't imagine anything more horrible. (Of course, those who know Inertia's history will know that he won't stay in this statue status forever.) It's just a shame it had to end up that way. One interesting solution would have been to have Inertia try to take Bart's place once again — but that would have required him to have felt guilt about Bart's death.

Let's check out the new ads:

Experience everything.

No rules. No mercy. No rating. Pathfinder on DVD.

The fate of two civilizations is in your hands. Lair for PlayStation 3.

Passion. Adrenaline. Progression. Glory. AST Dew Tour. (On two separate pages.)

Mad About Hunger. An astonishing 8-page section of MAD Magazine teaming up with Ball Park hot dogs.

Talk to your friend. Something will stick.

DC Nation features a letter from Nick Napolitano, director of digital workflow. He lists his top 20 challenges and jokingly mentioned Dan DiDio's name 10 times on that list. I wonder though, was he entirely joking?

There's only one way to get your hands on a nanobot-swarm-cannon ... you gotta earn it. Alien Syndrome on Wii, PSP and SEGA.

Next time, we'll attend the funeral of Bart Allen in Countdown #43.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Justice of League of America #10

The Lightning Saga Final Chapter: The Villain is the Hero in His Own Story

Brad Meltzer Writer
Ed Benes Penciller
Sandra Hope Inker
Rob Leigh Letterer
Alex Sinclair Colorist
Michael Turner & Peter Steigerwald, Phil Jimenez & Rod Reis Covers
Adam Schlagman Asst. Editor
Eddie Berganza Editor

The main cover by Turner is the final piece of a connected image showing all the major characters involved in this crossover with the Justice Society of America. And Turner ended this image by drawing what he loves most — boobs, boobs and more boobs. I wish I could say the variant cover by Jimenez is much better ... but I really can't.

I got this image from Both Turner and Jimenez are great artists, but I don't get the fascination with breasts. Turner especially went nuts on Power Girl. I mean, there's a difference between having big boobs and having two beach balls taped to your chest.

It's kind of hard jumping right into the ending of a major crossover, but, suffice it to say, our story opens on the JLA and JSA having a hard time with a handful of time-traveling members of the Legion of Super-Heroes. These Legionnaires aren't being entirely truthful with our heroes of the present day, and have mysteriously scattered themselves all around the world — to Tokyo, Central City, Smallville, San Francisco, Gotham City and Keystone City. Jay Garrick confronts Dreamgirl in Keystone, and after a quick discussion on time travel and visions of the future, Dreamgirl suggests to Jay her job was just to distract the one person fast enough to stop the Legionnaires. Jay laughs at this, reminding her that he's not the fastest member on these teams. And as he speaks, Power Girl, Green Lantern, Red Tornado and Superman have caught up with other Legionnaires.

Superman quickly figures out that the Legionnaires are attempting to re-create a ritual to bring someone back from the dead. The ritual requires a group of people to wield lightning rods, but unfortunately one of those people will be struck by lightning and killed in the process. So Superman spreads the word, which leads to brief debate between Batman and Mr. Terrific on whether they should stop someone from trying to commit suicide. But everyone else is committed to stopping these heroes from the future.

Batman tracks down the Legionnaire in Gotham, and is shocked to see he's in a very familiar place. At the beginning of Crisis on Infinite Earths, a dying Barry Allen appeared before Batman to warn him of the upcoming threat. And now Batman is back in that same room. At the same time, Hal Jordan realizes that the Legionnaire he tracked down in Central City is in the same room where Barry was initially struck by lightning and doused in chemicals, turning him into the Flash.

Meanwhile, all the Legionnaires have activated forcefields around themselves to keep the well-meaning heroes away from them. Jay can't vibrate through them, and Black Canary's attempt to remotely deactivate the forcefields is thwarted by Brainiac 5's self-repairing design. We then see the final Legionnaire, the Karate Kid, is in Blue Valley. And he happens to be the lucky one struck by lightning — although he does survive.

All the Legionnaires immediately begin to teleport away, and our heroes learn of the blast in Blue Valley. Superman, Flash and Power Girl quickly race to the scene, finding a huge crater waiting for them. Green Lantern pieces things together, saying all the locations the Legionnaires were at — the lab, Titans Tower, Blue Valley, all had links to the person they were trying to bring back.

And we see lying at the bottom of the crater in Blue Valley are Wally West and his family. The twins, Jai and Irey, appear about 12 to 13 years old, with Irey having hit puberty before her brother and standing a few inches taller than him. The twins both have red hair and are wearing purple jumpsuits, matching their mom, Linda. Jay asks Wally if he's OK, and Wally struggles to spit out his catchphrase, "M-m-my name is Wally West. I-I'm the f- — I'm the fa- — I'm the fast- — I'm faster than anyone."

We see the Legionnaires all teleported to Superman's Fortress of Solitude to take a portal back to the future — all except for Karate Kid, who is forced to stay back in the present ... because Countdown. And Starman, who chose to stay back because he's insane.

Jay tells Wally they all knew he'd be back and they didn't have a funeral for him, even though he'd been missing for more than a year. With tears in his eyes, Wally says he held on. It was so hard, but he held on. Green Lantern and Red Arrow teleport to Blue Valley and reunite with their old friend and immediately offer him a spot on the JLA. Batman, however, is a bit disappointed, saying he was expecting someone else. And Starman wildly proclaims, "Flash is back. Worlds will die again!"

In the future, Brainiac 5 is surprised to learn that Wally West returned. But he doesn't really care. The important thing was that they got who they wanted. And we can just barely make out a face of someone inside the lightning rod.

I know Bart didn't bother asking for help during his last stand, but if he did, he would have found out that the JLA and JSA were much more concerned with a handful of Legionnaires potentially committing suicide than stopping the Rogues. I don't know if you call it irony or poetic justice, but at literally the same moment one Flash was dying, another Flash was returning to Earth. And this story is really interesting because even though it was ostensibly about bringing back Wally, it did briefly tease the possibility of bringing back Barry. But at the very end, we find out that Wally's return was just a coincidence, and the real target won't be revealed for about a year. (Spoiler: It was Bart!) I don't know if that was always the intention of this issue, but that's how it turned out, and I think it actually works — in a strange, comic book way. So how about that for poetic justice? The same day Bart was killed in one comic, the seed was planted for his return in another comic.

Next time, we'll see what Wally did immediately upon his return in All Flash #1.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13

Full Throttle: Conclusion

Marc Guggenheim – Writer
Tony Daniel – Penciller
Jonathan Glapion, Marlo Alquiza & Tony Daniel – Inkers
Pat Brosseau – Letterer
Tanya & Richard Horie – Colorists
Rachel Gluckstern – Associate Editor
Joan Hilty – Editor
Cover by Tony Daniel

The main cover shows a striking image of a dark, empty Flash suit. It is haunting and depressing. Yet I personally prefer the alternate cover, also drawn by Daniel.

I think I like this one more because it is the only issue of this series that makes it 100% clear that Bart is the Flash — not Wally or Barry. And although it might be a tad melodramatic, I do like the idea of the Black Flash mourning Bart's death. This whole scenario is so tragic that even the embodiment of death for speedsters can't help but cry. None of this was fair to Bart. He shouldn't have been forced to grow up. He shouldn't have been thrown into a terrible series initially written by two people who had never worked on a comic before. He shouldn't have been forced to try to make a name for himself a series that never had the same art team twice. And the great tragedy is that the only way to fix those awful mistakes is to kill him.

Our story begins in the year 2989, taking a rare look inside Bart's virtual reality world. On this particular VR adventure, Bart is a normal kid at school, losing miserably in a race on the track. He asks his grandpa Barry why he keeps losing, but Barry gently prods Bart into finding the answer himself. Bart says he has to slow down because his legs hurt — it's like they're just gone. Barry points out that Bart's legs are only "gone" because he lets them hurt, which he needs to stop. Bart's confused by this, so Barry slightly changes the topic by asking his grandson what he wants to be  when he grows up. Bart says he wants to be a hero, just like Barry. So Barry ends the lesson by saying "a hero is just someone who stands when their legs are gone."

We return to today in Los Angeles, with Valerie and Iris examining Inertia's machine. Val is trying to figure out a way to prevent the machine from transferring the Speed Force to Inertia and/or emit an energy discharge that destroys half the western seaboard. Unfortunately, Val is in way over her head — the machine operates on principles of quantum mechanics that are early theoretical today. Iris, however, still has hope, saying she has noticed some odd behavior in the timestream during her recent time-traveling, suggesting to her that history is in flux and they might still have a chance to save Bart. Iris hands Val a communicator and takes off, saying she's going to help her grandson buy Val the time she needs.

Bart, meanwhile, is staring down a being that only he can see — the Black Flash. The Rogues begin charging at Bart, but before they reach him, a small explosion knocks them all down. Bart sees the blast came from Iris, who is throwing a second grenade at the Rogues and firing off a few blasts of her tranquilizer gun for good measure. Bart tries to tell her to get away, but she says she and Val are here to help him. Iris pulls Bart behind a wall and tells him all about Inertia's machine.

Bart says he'll stall the Rogues by himself, telling Iris to stay behind the wall. Seeing she can't stop him, Iris abruptly changes her plan and tries to teleport Bart away, but he stops her by placing her in a chokehold he learned at the police academy. With his grandmother unconscious, Bart takes her communicator and begins talking to Val. Despite being overwhelmed (and having absolutely no business being able to understand this machine), Val claims she'll be able to deactivate it in 10 minutes. Val does, however, warn Bart that she has no idea how to give the Speed Force back to him. Bart's quite serene about this, though, saying all he cares about is making sure the west coast doesn't blow up.

All this time, Inertia has been standing idly by, watching the Rogues slowly pick themselves back up after Iris' grenades. Thad is a little too relaxed, though, as he doesn't notice the Pied Piper sneaking up behind him. Piper knocks Inertia out for betraying them, but he also admits that Inertia isn't the only guy here with a secret agenda. Bart, meanwhile, has made his move against the Rogues, leading them in a chase away from his grandma. Armed only with Iris' two remaining tranquilizer darts, Bart decides to use them on who he considers the two most dangerous Rogues — Weather Wizard and Mirror Master. The darts were designed for speedsters, though, so they only put the Rogues down for a couple of seconds.

Captain Cold, Heat Wave, Abra Kadabra and the Trickster are soon on top of Bart. For some reason, the Rogues abstain from using their weapons, making this a pure fist fight. Using his police training, the few tricks he's picked up from Robin, and his knowledge of anatomy from the San Francisco library, Bart manages to get in a few good hits. But at the end of the day, he's outnumbered and overwhelmed, and ends up locked in hold by Captain Cold. Piper drags Inertia over to the group and tells them if they want payback, they should get it on the guy who played them.

With Bart and Thad side by side on their knees, Abra Kadabra realizes that even though the Flash is a few years older, he is otherwise identical to Inertia — a detail that Kadabra is embarrassed to admit had eluded him. Pied Piper also has figured out that Inertia has lost his speed, and his machine was designed to give his speed back. Kadabra pulls out his wand and removes the needles from Inertia's wrist compartment, fully exposing the ruse.

Inertia begins shouting at the Rogues, telling them not to idiotically waste this chance they've waited for all their lives. He admits he lied about the machine, but says he delivered on his promise to give them the Flash and they should kill him now. Kadabra insists that Bart is a mere child — not the Flash. At this prodding, Bart manages to find an extra burst of energy and breaks free of Captain Cold, shouting, "I AM THE FLASH!!!"

Bart surprises the Rogues and even himself with this newfound fury. And it isn't directed at the Rogues — it's all aimed at Inertia. Bart begins pummeling Thad, consumed by an animal instinct, enraged at the thought of his own twisted reflection causing all this trouble. Inertia is too shocked to fight back, as are the Rogues, who watch the fight with awe and amusement. Bart spots the Black Flash out of the corner of his eye again, and for a moment, he believes the Black Flash could be here for the death of a different speedster — Inertia.

As Bart beats Inertia, we get a flashback of Iris telling Bart how he dies. Even though Bart had initially asked his grandma to tell him what happens so he can avoid it, he actually ended the conversation by saying he's OK with the idea of dying. As Bart remembers what he said, he instantly loses all hope. Inertia manages to land a decent kick on Bart's chin, and the Pied Piper notices a door has opened on the machine, emitting a spark of blue lightning. Thad and Bart immediately begin racing toward the door, while the Rogues slowly piece together that the machine could give the Flash his speed back.

Iris finally wakes up, but is unable to fully get up to her feet. From her hands and knees, she watches with horror as Bart does manage to tackle Inertia, but is hit in the back with blasts of fire, ice and lightning. Captain Cold loudly proclaims he's not going back to jail, and Pied Piper seems to be the only one upset with the idea of killing a defenseless young man.

The Rogues oddly give Bart some space to die in peace, and as he takes his final glance at the world, Bart sees swirling blue lightning shooting out of the machine. But it seems to be releasing the energy in a safe manner, indicating that Val was successfully able to prevent the explosion. Satisfied that thousands of lives have been saved, Bart allows himself to fall to the ground. Val is quickly by Bart's side, urging him to tap into the Speed Force to heal himself. Bart says he's tried, but it's not working. As Iris joins them, Bart begins says, "Wally. Wally, I'm so ... I'm sorry I was a jerk." It's not entirely clear which words he meant for Wally and which for Val, but she seems to think he's talking to her and tells him he wasn't a jerk. Bart says, "I think we would've worked out, y'know?" Val says they would, and Bart wipes a tear off Val's cheek, saying, "Don't know what it feels like, but ... I think I love ..."

And then Bart dies.

At Titans Tower, Robin gets a phone call that causes him to drop the phone and fall down to the ground. At the JSA headquarters, Jesse meets Jay in a dark room, and the two embrace with tears running down their cheeks. At the Flash Museum, the flag is lowered to half-mast and a large crowd shows up for a candlelight vigil. We get some final narration boxes from Bart: "My name is Bart Allen. I'm the fastest man alive. End of the day, you only need to know two things about me. I run fast ... and I help people." And our series ends with a quote from Sir Walter Scott: "And come he slow, or come he fast, it is but death who comes at last."

The End.

OK. I'll admit it. I got a little choked up at the end. This has been a mess of a series, and the last few years have been extremely frustrating for Bart, as each element of what made him Bart was stripped away bit by bit. Mark Waid famously said that Dan DiDio called him to let him know they were going to kill Bart, to which Waid replied that Bart had already been killed long ago. And I agree with that entirely. But this issue still made me sad. It's now official. Unable to be Impulse or Kid Flash anymore, Bart was thrust into the role of the Flash, and he failed. And now he's dead.

The opening scene was a bit jarring. We never did learn much about Bart's time in the virtual reality world. We know he had weird little alien friend named Dox, but that's about it. Apparently he also spent time talking to his family members — or representations of his family members. Either way, it was a pretty nice message to keep standing even when your legs are gone.

And it is fair to say Bart died heroically. Even without his powers, he still boldly took on the Rogues and Inertia, doing everything he could to prevent a massive explosion. Of course, the cynic in me wonders if there ever really was much of a threat of an explosion. Wouldn't Inertia, who is from the future, have carefully made sure his machine wouldn't have backfired on him? And how can Val, the former intern at S.T.A.R. Labs, be so sure the machine would have exploded, much less be able to somehow prevent that explosion? It was all rather convenient. I would have preferred to have Iris visit two different futures — one where Bart dies and another where he survives, but half of California is destroyed. That would have helped clear up a lot of things.

Ironically, I actually did appreciate Bart's conflicted nature in this issue. It felt realistic seeing him range from sad and depressed to unreasonably angry and final acceptance. He was just going through some of the stages of grief, including a brief bit of bargaining to have Inertia die in his place. I thought that was good, but the Rogues' ultimate decision to kill Bart felt a little forced. In most stories with the Rogues, they're portrayed as criminals with a code. People who rarely kill — if ever. Perhaps that's why Guggenheim threw in that small subplot of Captain Cold killing a random criminal over a petty grudge. He wanted to justify this ending as much as he could.

I am perpetually perplexed by Iris' complete lack of imagination. She can transport to any place on Earth at any time (presumably), yet is unable to come up with a halfway decent plan to save her grandson. I'm also quite perturbed with Val's presence in this story. I thought breaking up with her was the best thing Bart did. And besides all the vague "science" Val did to save the day, I think the only reason she was here was so we could have someone cry over Bart's dead body. Superman needed Lois Lane to cradle his corpse, so I guess Bart needed somebody, too.

Bart's final words were quite interesting. As we'll soon find out, Wally West actually returned to this world at the same time Bart was dying. Did Bart sense Wally's presence? Or was he just lamenting on the fact that he didn't spend any time trying to free Wally and his family from the Speed Force? Or that he and Wally were never particularly close? Were all his final words directed at Wally or Val? I think it could go either way. The only thing I wish is that Bart would have also mentioned Max Mercury.

I loved the final four pages. No speech bubbles, just reactions. Tim's was particularly heart-breaking. He's lost his dad, Conner and now Bart. And I think Bart's death hurts even more because Bart was around for a whole year but refused to spend any time with his old friend. When Tim was grieving Conner's death and insanely trying to resurrect him, Bart was being an idiot with Griffin. No wonder Tim goes crazy. It was also nice to see Jesse Chambers again. She's going by Liberty Belle now and has been absent from Bart's life for a long time. But it is fitting that she would mourn his death, as well.

So there we have it. The death of Bart. Did DC overreact to the rapid slide in sales of the first six issues? Possibly. But then again, it was kind of a mistake to make Bart the Flash in the first place. So we should really be looking at this as a chance for DC to push the reset button and undo that initial mistake. And, because this is an 11-year-old comic, we all know that Bart does come back to us — albeit in a strange, convoluted way — but he will be back.

Let's check out the ads of our series finale:

Ghost Rider on DVD and Blu-Ray.

He is not alone. Kyle XY on ABC Family.

Green Lantern: Wanted ... Hal Jordan.

A collection of classic Godzilla movies on DVD.

Here's a Countdown ad featuring the death of Bart Allen. It might be a little cliché, but I do like that the word "Alive" has crumbled. I have seen this image used as third alternate cover for this issue, which makes a lot of sense. As an ad, though, it tells us that even though Bart won't be featured in the Countdown series, the ramifications of his death will be played out in it.

The origin of the Emerald Archer! Year One: Green Arrow.

If she's going to marry Green Arrow ... she'll be kicking and screaming! Black Canary.

DC Nation is written by Richard Bruning this time, offering advice on how aspiring artists can show their portfolios to DC editors.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer The Video Game on Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider Anniversary on PlayStation 2.

As I said, Bart will return. And next time, we'll see that the seeds of his return were planted as soon as he died in Justice League of America #10.