Book Review- The Flash Book 1 (by Mark Waid)

  • Title: The Flash Book 1
  • Author: Mark Waid
  • Artist: Greg LaRocque
  • Line: early Modern Age
  • Characters: Wally West (The Flash)
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 05/23/2017

It is just fun to go back in time, so to speak, and read a collection from the 1990s, even with the occasional cringe-worthy moment (oh, Golden Glider… let’s just say the CW version is much better). The Flash Book One by Mark Waid, is a collection of a number of Flash stories, focusing on the early modern age Flash, Wally West. This was my Flash, simply because I started reading DC Comics in the mid-1980s, after Crisis on Infinite Earths and to me, Barry Allen’s sacrificial death was a fait accompli and Wally was the Flash and a full-fledged member of the Justice League (aka Justice League International, later Justice League America).

The first story has a far future Flash traveling back in time to gather past Flashes (Jay Garrick the Golden Age Flash, Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, and Wally West) to help against a world-ending disaster in the far future. However, this Flash, John Fox, fails to even meet the various other Flashes and even manages to really mess-up the life of a mobster’s girl by preventing her from talking to the Flash.

The rest of the book is various adventures of the Flash, Wally West. From seeing Wally get his powers in a million-to-one exact repeat of the accident that made Barry Allen the Flash to Wally becoming more comfortable in his own skin as the Flash, this is a fun and light introduction to the character. Note that in the story where Wally becomes Kid Flash – he doesn’t know Barry is the Flash, even though Barry is his uncle (or uncle to-be – at this point Iris and Barry are engaged). It is clear, later, that Wally knows the truth about Barry and is a little resentful of the former Flash’s deception. (Though Barry was merely trying to protect Wally and Iris.)

The book includes adventures between the Flash and various members of his Rogues Gallery, including a final story featuring The Trickster, who is always fun.

Overall, this is a fun and light book. Wally West is a happy-go-lightly character who, although is adventures are exciting, they are above all fun. This is not a grim, serious, gritty book – it’s the exact opposite of that. Most of these stories even carry the “Comics Code Approved” seal. Still, “light and fun” have always been associated with the Flash, and this book is that. It’s the perfect light reading.

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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.

Book Review – Flashpoint

  • Title: Flashpoint
  • Author: Geoff Johns
  • Artists: Andy Kubert, Sandra Hope, Alex Sinclair, Nick J. Napolitano, Jesse Delperdang
  • Line: Stand Alone Graphic Novel
  • Characters: The Flash (Barry Allen)
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 6/03/2016

I have seen the Warner Brothers Animated DC Universe film of this graphic novel (Review of the animated Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox film), so many of the “shocking” scenes were expected – and I was actually surprised how closely the animated film adapted the graphic novel. There were a few bits here and there that were in the novel but not the film (and the fate of Krypto the Super-dog was very upsetting), but overall, point for point it’s the same story.

That said, though – what a story! Flashpoint is a major twist in the DC Universe, especially post the modern age and just prior to Final Crisis and New 52. This tale, hovers between the two. Barry Allen here is a Classic Barry Allen with his classic red suit with lightening bolt motif. Surprisingly, one of my criticisms of the film – is actually how the book works, Barry literally wakes from having fallen asleep at his desk at the Central City police department, only to discover is mother is alive and the world’s gone to, well, things are not going well – at all. Barry has to figure out this new world, before confronting Professor Zoom, aka Reverse Flash – who blames Barry for the entire mess. In the end, Barry, being Barry runs back in time and stops himself from changing time.

But after his success – he visits Bruce Wayne, tells him everything, then delivers a letter. Bruce opens the letter then collapses. Barry helps him to his chair in the Batcave – and Bruce cries as he reads the letter written to him from the alternate-universe Batman, his father, Thomas Wayne. It’s a poignant and stirring moment.

Flashpoint is a ground-breaking comic for The Flash – it sets off a wave in the DC Universe, and the new Rebirth series starts where Flashpoint ends. I highly suspect Rebirth will Retcon away New 52 (good riddance I say), though popular new characters such as Cyborg and Harley Quinn will probably survive the transition.

The art in Flashpoint is amazing, especially the full-page splash pages. The confrontation between Barry and Reverse Flash looks amazing (tho’ I still do not quite buy Reverse Flash’s explanation – how would Barry saving his mother cause Kal-El’s rocket to land on Gotham City rather than a farm in Kansas? Why would Barry’s actions cause a deadly love triangle between Arthur Curry (Aquaman) his one-time wife, Meara, and Wonder Woman? And why would Diana have an affair with Arthur in the first place? Besides – a woman scorned causes a war? How “Face that Launched 1000 Ships” of her.) Still, even with those faults the story is incredible – and the art is even better (one area where the animated film falls way short).

I have to recommend Flashpoint – for one thing, it seems to be integral to the new Rebirth series that’s rebooting DC and bringing back the classic feel.

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.

The Flash Season 2 Review

  • Series: The Flash
  • Season: 2
  • Episodes: 24
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen 

The Flash continues to be a highly enjoyable series. Season 2 brings in Earth-2 from the very beginning. Jay Garrick’s, who’s Golden-Age helmet had come through the time portal at the end of last season arrives in person, to warn Barry Allen and the others about Zoom – an evil speedster from Earth-2, who having conquered that world, and has plans to do the same to Barry’s Earth. Not to mention Zoom wants to steal Barry’s speed so he can go even faster.

Barry, Cisco, and Dr. Wells (from Earth-2) do eventually travel to Earth-2 – to save Dr. Wells’ daughter, Jesse, who has been kidnapped. The two-part Earth-2 episode is marvelous. Everything has a golden look, and the architecture and even set design has a marvelous Art Deco quality. While on Earth-2, Barry meets his doppleganger, also a forensic scientist for the police, but one with no powers who is married to Iris West – a police detective. That version of Barry does not get on at all with Iris’s father, Joe, a jazz singer. And that Barry’s mother, Nora, is still alive. Our Barry is brought to tears when he hears an answering machine message from his mother. But Cisco’s doppleganger is the evil meta – Reverb. And Caitlin also has an evil meta doppleganger – Killer Frost. the entire two-part episode is extremely well done and well constructed. It looks beautiful, and the characterization is wonderful.

That isn’t the only two-parter. This box set, unlike last year, includes both parts of the “Legends of Today”/”Legends of Tomorrow” crossover which has Team Flash working with Team Arrow, and introduces Hawkgirl (Kendra) and Hawkman, as well as the villain – Vandal Savage. It’s a backdoor pilot for Legends of Tomorrow but it works. I’ve already reviewed Legends of Tomorrow, so I won’t repeat myself here, but suffice it to say the two-part story was fantastic – and had some impressive special effects. It also shows just how dangerous Barry’s time travelling can be – something which the series will come back to later.

Season two of The Flash, alters between Barry and Team Flash tracking down and defeating meta-humans, often sent from Earth-2 by Zoom, and increasingly complicated personal relationships. And it’s the nitty-gritty of how these characters care about each other that makes the show really work. Barry and Iris also grow much closer together. Caitlin also grows close to Jay Garrick, even creating Volocity 9 a speed drug to help cure him of his illness and get his speed back. But this Jay has a dark secret, and it’s revelation is devastating to Caitlin. Meanwhile, Cisco discovers he is also a metahuman, with the ability to see visions of the present, past, and even sometimes – the future, if events involve a metahuman – he takes the name, Vibe. Cisco’s fear of his own power and eventual acceptance of it becomes another them of the season.

Once it’s revealed who Zoom really is, the season focuses on him, and his need to take Barry’s speed. When he kidnaps Wally West, Joe’s long-lost son, Barry chooses to give up his speed to Zoom to save Wally. This gives Barry a few episodes as a normal guy. Wells then says he can re-create the experiment that made Barry a speedster – but when he does, Barry disappears utterly. Wally and Jesse are both knocked out by the backlash of the experiment as well. But Barry isn’t dead – he’s in a Speed Force limbo – where he talks to everyone important to him – then returns, with his speed.

The final confrontation between Barry and Zoom is – wow – very much a lot to take in. I covered it in a review of The Flash season finale. Overall, Season 2 of The Flash was excellent, even better than Season 1 of the Flash, which I enjoyed very much. I highly recommend this show, which is still appropriate for all ages. It’s very much a must see show.

The Flash Season 2 Finale Review

The season finale of The Flash ended in a shock in that Barry Allen, as we know him, no longer exists. Follow. Our Barry went into the Future then returned to slightly before he left. It was our Barry who ran in the opposite direction, stopping the magnetic ring of doom that would destroy the multi-verse, thus it was our Barry who was disintegrated in the Speed Force.

The Barry who destroyed Zoom and also ditched Iris was the second Barry, a copy, “created” by our Barry returning to the past before he left. It was this second Barry who traveled back to the Past to save Nora, Barry’s mother.  Second Barry rescued Young Barry and his father, as well as killing Reverse Flash outright and saving Nora.

But when Second Barry did that – you’ll notice that First Season Barry, who was watching disappeared. That is because First Season Barry – the one we’ve followed through two seasons of The Flash – no longer exists. As Zoom predicted Second Barry has now destroyed himself twice, as well as Zoom and Reverse Flash. This Second Barry is the only Speedster left, assuming he also didn’t wipe himself out of existence in a paradox.

Think about it – with Second Barry destroying Reverse Flash and saving Nora, that means young Barry was raised by Nora and Henry Allen. Nora never died. Henry was never accused of and found guilty of her murder. Young Barry was never sent to live with Joe West. Young Barry may have never even met Iris West, much less fallen in love with her. And, to make things worse – Young Barry would have never been driven to become a police officer – or with Joe West’s influence to not be a cop – to become a forensic analyst, a CSI. That Young Barry probably went to college, given his parents, but who knows what he studied – or if he even returned to Central City after college. There’s no reason to assume he’d become a CSI anyway. And he never became The Flash.

But it’s worse than that – because without Barry, What would have happened. Thrawn mentions Dr. Wells Particle Accelerator happening “15 years” later and he needs for it to happen earlier. Thrawn also rigged the explosion that created both the MetaHumans and The Flash. Did this never happen? Did it happen differently? Second Barry may have created Earth 2 where Barry has no powers, Caitlin and Cisco are “evil” – Killer Frost and Reverb, specifically, as well as giving rise to Zoom in the first place.

Also, don’t forget – in the finale of Season 1, Barry goes back in time to save his mother and stop Reverse Flash. Yet, in the house – he’s warned off, by himself. In Season 1, Barry heads the warning of, well, himself, and Nora dies.  Now, we have an alternate timeline, and a second Barry goes back in time, saves Nora, and Barry (our Barry) disappears.  What is going on?

I’ve seen the animated Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which I’ve also reviewed, but I haven’t read the 6-book Flashpoint (and World of Flashpoint) series from DC Comics. However, with DC’s new Rebirth maxi-series picking up from Flashpoint, and the fairly consistent dropping of Flashpoint hints and references in CW’s The Flash, one thing’s for sure, next season is going to be very interesting.

The Batman Season 5 Review

  • Series Title:  The Batman
  • Season:  5
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  2
  • Cast:  Rino Romano, Alastair Duncan, Danielle Judovits, Evan Sabara
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The previous season (4) finale introduced the Justice League to The Batman, so it’s fitting that the final season of The Batman features several team-ups. These team-ups also featured the partner superhero’s greatest villain. I enjoyed the team-up episodes very much. The opening two-part story features a team-up between Batman and Superman – verses Lex Luthor. Batman still doesn’t trust Superman – which complicates things, but in the end they both learn how to work together as a team. “Vertigo” features a team-up between Green Arrow and Batman. Initially,  Oliver Queen (the Green Arrow) thinks Bruce Wayne is responsible for the sudden rash of people getting sick in Gotham. Batman has to convince Ollie that Bruce can’t possibly be involved in Count Vertigo’s actions – which was fun, of course. “A Mirror Darkly” features a team-up between Batman and the Flash verses Mirror Master. “Ring Toss” sees Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan battling Sinestro. And “What Goes Up” features a team-up between The Batman and Hawkman.

As much as I enjoyed the team-up stories, and I did enjoy them – the solo Batman adventures, well, adventures of Batman, Robin, and sometimes Batgirl, were less enjoyable. They just very much seemed to be the same old thing. Even the two Joker episodes, “Joker Express” and “The Metal Face of Comedy”, though they had interesting ideas behind them, seemed to fall a bit flat. The Joker in The Batman just never had the wonderfully villainous, interesting, and perfect quality of Mark Hamill’s Joker from Batman: The Animated Series and the various follow-up movies.

The finale for Season 5, and of the series, “Lost Heroes”, is a team-up of the entire Justice League. One by one the super-powered members (Superman, Flash, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter) are kidnapped. It’s up to the non-super-powered members, Batman and Green Arrow to rescue the rest of the League and find-out what’s going on. And what’s going on is that the Joining are back thanks to Hugo Strange. It’s a good story, and I enjoyed very, very much how Batman and Green Arrow worked together. The Joining were an interesting extra-terrestrial villain in the final of last season and it was worth it to see them return.

However, there is one little problem with the Justice League as shown in this iteration. And that is – its an all-male League. No Wonder Woman. No Black Canary. No Hawkgirl. I seriously have a problem with this. The Justice League has always included female members. Wonder Woman is one of the original seven. Even the precursor to the Justice League of America, the Justice Society – included women. And Black Canary (Oliver Queen’s wife, girlfriend, or ex-wife depending on the timeline) was the second-in-charge of the late 1980s – early 1990s Justice League behind Batman. Since Batman tended to be busy – Black Canary ran the League. As much as I really liked the team-ups in the Batman, I felt there was something seriously wrong with not including any female superheroes – at all – in the Justice League. This series is from 2008 – there’s absolutely no excuse to completely exclude women (except Batgirl) from the series.