Book Review – The Flash Season Zero

  • Title: The Flash Season Zero
  • Author: Andrew Kreisberg
  • Artist: Phil Hester, Marcus To
  • Line: CW DC Verse
  • Characters: Barry Allen (The Flash), Caitlin Snow, Felicity Smoak, Suicide Squad, Capt. Cold (Leonard Snart), Heatwave (Mick Rory)
  • Publication Date: 2015
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 04/23/2017

Based on the CW TV Series, The Flash Season Zero is a series of short stories set during Season 1 of The Flash. The first story takes place only nine months after Barry gets his powers, and has Barry and his friends at S.T.A.R. Labs facing off against a defunct circus who’s performers have been turned into Metas by the Particle Accelerator accident. The story of the performers: a strong man, a snake wrangling girl, and the ringmaster, is a good story. The powers – related to their places in the circus – are interesting, and the way that Barry and Caitlin work with the performers, especially the snake girl, works. This isn’t a black-and-white, us-verses-them, good guy/bad guy story. These “bad guys” have their own point-of-view and they were given a raw deal before the particle accelerator exploded. The only issue with this first story is that it’s set so early, it’s hard to remember things like who knows Barry is the Flash, and it’s weird to see Iris with Eddie. (Talk about your doomed relationships.)

In the second story, “Smoak Signals”, a mysterious Nemesis comes after Felicity. Barry rescues her from certain death, then helps her out, but the story just ends without revealing who is after Felicity or why. I’m thinking it might have been Bree (Bug-Eyed Bandit) but I wasn’t sure. Still, it’s great to see Felicity and she and Barry have great chemistry.

“King Shark”, a crossover with the Suicide Squad (Cap’t. Boomerang, DeadShot, Cupid) and a more traditional Amanda Walker, is a surprisingly sympathetic view of the character. It’s definitely a different story, but if you ever wanted to get an idea of what Jaws would be like from the POV of the shark, then this story is for you.

“Black Star” gives us a lot more background on Caitlin (as does the final story, “Melting Point”) and another, in the end, sympathetic “villain”. Caitlin’s involved in a secret military project that goes horribly wrong. The particle accelerator explosion doesn’t help matters at all. It’s also an interesting SF story of a human combined with machine that doesn’t fall into a lot of the known tropes.

After the darkness of the previous story, “A Day in the Life”, shows Barry trying to have a relaxing day off, when he ends-up rescuing people instead. However, Barry inspires a young boy that he rescued to rescue someone else. It’s a light and happy story that is perfectly placed in the collection.

“Ice and Fire” is background about Leonard Snart (Capt. Cold) and Mick Rory (Heatwave). I could hear Wentworth Miller as Snart. This shows how the two met, their opposing views on how to commit heists, and their friendship. It also shows Detective Joe West coming up against the two again and again and being unable to get enough evidence for an arrest and conviction of the two. It’s a character-driven piece that works.

The final story, returns us to character background on Caitlin, as we meet a professor and mentor of hers, as well as some of her classmates. It’s a classic “mad scientist” story, or science without compassion or consideration of consequences story. Not my favorite genre, to say the least, but it’s good to see Caitlin and Cisco together for the story and to get an idea of what makes Caitlin tick.

This is the second time I read this collection, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are in character especially considering the book is set before and during Season 1 of the The Flash. The stories are a bit longer than the ones in Season 1 of the similar Arrow TV Show tie-in. This allows them to develop plot and character more. I also felt the characterizations were more spot-on with the television series than the Arrow tie-in, and accurately portraying the characters is essential for a good tie-in. Recommended to fans of the TV show.

Flashpoint – Is there more to be revealed on the CW DC Shows?

I have now caught-up on the current seasons of all four DC CW shows. And I’ve noticed something. The Flash mentioned Flashpoint at the opening of the season, and Barry attempted to reverse Flashpoint. But his attempt failed. The Flash is now in an alternate reality – Cisco, as Vibe, is much more powerful than he was last year when he was first discovering his powers. In some ways it’s like that character has skipped ahead in time. And that’s not all – somehow, as a result of Barry messing with time – Cisco’s brother Dante is dead, killed by a drunk driver. Meanwhile, Caitlin is exhibiting cold powers – and she fears she is turning in to Killer Frost. And at the Central City Police Department a new guy is in charge of forensics and he’s a total, well, you know, to Barry. By the mid-season finale, we know a lot more about this guy who’s suddenly appeared from nowhere.

But it isn’t just The Flash that’s in a new reality. Arrow is also subtly changed. One thing I’ve noticed – last year on Legends of Tomorrow they visited future Star City – where they met future Green Arrow Connor Hawk (aka John Diggle Jr) and there was a skyscraper called Smoak Technologies. Due to Flashpoint, Diggle now has a son – John Jr, not a daughter, Sara. Felicity has also lost Palmer Tech – and in last night’s episode, Curtis mentioned he and Felicity were working on a start-up company (he mentions this as a cover for his Mr. Terrific duties to his husband) which Felicity seems to know nothing about. But easily, that could be the spark of an idea for her – especially if she pulls back from Team Arrow for other plot reasons. Flashpoint seems to be bringing the Arrow universe closer to the disaster we saw in last season’s Legends of Tomorrow. And let’s not forget – this season’s bad guys on Legends are the Triumvirate of Evil: Reverse Flash (from Season 1 of The Flash); Damien Darhk (from Season 4 of Arrow); and Malcolm Merlyn (aka “The Magician” in the comics, but he’s been hanging around Arrow since the beginning). I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think it’s all related to Flashpoint (which was a world-ending event in the comics and the animated movie).

I suspect since we also saw Damien Darhk in the Legends of Tomorrow last season; and he’s clearly working with the Reverse Flash this season, and later with Malcolm Merlyn. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. I think something is going on. I suspect time travel is most definitely involved. And I think the disappearance of Rip Hunter is also involved. I would love to see Rip return, maybe with his father, Booster Gold. I think the time paradoxes are only getting started and they will get more and more complex.  The four shows, but especially The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow, will have a bang-up complexly-related “super-crossover” feel by the end of this season. Maybe they will even change the “Supergirl is it’s own universe with no other Heroes” left over from last year when Supergirl was on CBS. Have I mentioned how that never made sense?

But I have to say, I love, just love, how all the DC shows are inter-related, just the way the comics are. Yes, you could just watch one or two of the shows – and you wouldn’t be lost. But when you watch all four, everything is connected. Also, just as is traditional for DC – all the Heroes know each other: they know each other’s real names; they know each others allies, friends and family; they know each other’s superpowers; and they work together when needed to overcome major threats (as in this year’s 4-part crossover event). That’s something that’s always been important in the DC Comics Universe. The heroes cooperate with each other. They don’t see each other as threats or rivals. When I first read Justice League International (later Justice League America / Justice League Europe) in the late 1980s and early 1990s – every hero, from the most powerful like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, to the ones who really had no powers at all, like Blue Beetle and Booster Gold were members of the Justice League. In between the two extremes were a lot of single power individuals such as Fire, Ice, Black Canary, Vixen – all of whom were female. There were many minorities in the League as well, including John Stewart – the Green Lantern at the time and an African American. And there were the magic users: Zatanna, Dr. Fate, etc. There was something for everyone, and a well-balanced League. Young Justice, the animated series, although it had a modern aesthetic and look, also reflected the width and breadth of the Justice League with many female and minority characters or both (Rocket and Bumblebee are both African American young women). The CW Shows have women and minorities on every show. And the women are not simply there as set dressing or to be rescued by the “male hero” – they are smart, educated, career-oriented women (reporter, scientist, computer expert), minorities have viable roles (engineer, army veteran), and Legends of Tomorrow has a balanced team of women and men with minorities on the team. Plus, you have to love a team of self-styled “screw-ups” who manage to be heroes, um, excuse me, Legends, anyway. The CW Network is doing a better job at this point of doing live action DC stories that Warner Brothers is doing with the films – though Suicide Squad was fun (though Arrow did a suicide squad storyline in it’s first or second season) and I have high hopes for Wonder Woman.

Felicity Smoak – Role Model for Modern Women and Girls

 

Felicty Smoak, the IT Girl on CW’s Arrow, is one of the most realistic portrayals of a woman who’s working in a traditionally male-dominated field, and the best portrayal of a “hacker”/IT Geek I’ve seen on television or in the popular media.

As a person, the fictional character of Felicity, is smart, nervous around the opposite sex, confident in her abilities, and talented.  She’s not perfect, but – unusual for the Super Hero / Comics genre – she’s not there simply to be rescued by Oliver Queen / The Arrow every week.

Unique to Felicity, unlike nearly every “Computer Geek” one sees on TV or in the movies – she isn’t entirely self-taught, and she doesn’t use her abilities like it was magic.  She has a college degree – from MIT, no less, one of the most difficult universities in the country to get in to and a university known for it’s rigorous curriculum.  You don’t party all the time and graduate from MIT – you just don’t.  I love that the writers and producers of Arrow gave Felicity a college degree.  In an era where having a university education is increasingly devalued, and even mocked – Arrow‘s heroine is college-educated.  I simply love that.  And she is a positive role-model for young girls that they can go to college or university, they can get an education, and they can succeed.

I also love that rather than using technology and computer science like magic (and ill-thought-out magic at that), in Arrow, Felicity explains what she’s doing.  Not only did she study computer science in school, but she went above and beyond and learned how to do additional things.  Felicity has practical skills alongside her education.  Yes, the way technology and Felicity’s skills are used to help Oliver sometimes bend credibility – but it is a superhero TV show.  I don’t expect the tech to be perfectly accurate.  But it’s nice to have the “techie” not be a geeky guy, nor someone who simply suddenly learned to hack for fun, but a beautiful, intelligent, young woman giving Oliver the advice and help he needs.  Oliver has few, if any, computer skills – Felicity backs him up with the skills she has.  Neither can do everything but they make for a good partnership.  John Diggle also helps, by providing not only military skills, knowledge, and experience – but often being the voice of reason between the three main characters.  If both Felicity and Diggle tell Oliver he’s wrong – he’ll re-think his plans.  And if Felicity criticizes Oliver – he will listen.

The other aspect of Felicity as hero is that what she does and who she is – is possible in the real world.  A young girl cannot grow-up to be Wonder Woman, or a Vampire Slayer, or any other super-human female hero.  A young girl cannot grow up to be Spiderman or Superman either.  And while it might be hard to study and get good grades and work hard to gain a scholarship to get into a university like MIT, it’s not impossible.  It’s difficult, yes, but not impossible.  And a young woman studying at MIT, make no mistake, is not going to find it easy to graduate either.  Top universities such as MIT have a rigorous curriculum, it is hard work.  No one gives you a college degree – you earn it.  University degrees are earned, step-by-step, day-by-day, class-by-class and there are no short cuts.  Not for a real degree. Later on in Arrow, Felicity remarks on how hard she worked simply to get a job in the IT department at Queen Consolidated.  And it is hard.  For women, a job in technology or science – any field dominated traditionally by men, it is incredibly hard to make it.  Women consistently also have to prove themselves and prove their abilities to others.  But it’s possible.  Which is why I think Felicity is a terrific heroine.  And why I think she’s one of the most inspirational women and role models for young girls.