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The Flash (1987-2009) #12-14 – Velocity 9/Savage Vandalism/Wipe Out (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

Does anything date a mainstream superhero comic worse than the almost obligatory anti-drug issue?

In the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC made a rather conscious effort to engage with younger readers. Some of these worked, but quite a few were cringe-induncing in execution. On paper, introducing more diversity into the shared universe via New Guardians was a good idea; in practice, these diverse characters were little more than stereotypes. On paper, killing Barry Allen and replacing him with the younger Wally West was worth doing; in practice, it seemed like the company had no idea how to make him relatable.

Drugs are bad, m'kay?

Drugs are bad, m’kay?

Quite a few of the comics published around this time have dated poorly. They seem like awkward attempts to reengage with the cultural zietgeist, without understanding that zietgeist at all. Mike Baron had given fans a younger and more grounded version of the Flash, but immediately had the character win the lottery and move to the Hamptons. There was a sense that the comic wanted to dispel criticisms that DC was old-fashioned or stuffy, but had no idea of how to actually go about that.

This leads to stories like Velocity 9, the obligatory “winners don’t use drugs” story that tries to be timely and cutting edge, but simply doesn’t work.

Tripping himself up...

Tripping himself up…

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The Flash – Plastique (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

Plastique demonstrates that we are still in the early days of The Flash as a television show. We are still working through all the stock elements and trying to figure out what works, while also using fairly stock plot lines to help the show find its feet. Going Rogue was a massive step forwards for the show, but Plastique can’t quite maintain the forward momentum. It feels more like The Fastest Man Alive or Some Things You Can’t Outrun, episodes using a fairly episodic format with generic guest stars and familiar plots to help get things moving.

Plastique is a nice demonstration of what works and what doesn’t work about The Flash at this stage in its life-cycle. It is light and bubbly, and more than a little silly. It is very consciously a CW show, to the point where it seems to wryly winking at the audience. It is also endearingly earnest, embracing a lot of its core superhero tropes even as the characters within the narrative remain reluctant to latch on to “the Flash” as a superhero code name. The Flash is a show that is unashamed about its comic book roots; Plastique even teases the appearance of a psychic gorilla.

Boom!

Boom!

However, there are problems. The ensemble is uneven at best. The stand-out performers – whether part of the main cast or simply guest stars – skew older. The younger actors tend to be a bit more hit-and-miss. It is more exciting to watch actors like Jesse Martin, Clancy Brown and Tom Cavanagh interact than to spend any time with Kelly Frye or Carlos Valdes. While a lot of that is down to the quality of the casting, the writing is also to blame. The Flash is at its best when it seems to treat characters as adults, rather than young people doing young people stuff.

Plastique is a solid enough episode, but it is one that demonstrates where the strengths and weakness of the show lie. The Flash needs to start compensating and adjusting for that.

A flash of inspiration...

A flash of inspiration…

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The Flash (1987-2009) #9-11 – The Chunk/Chunk in the Void/Chunk Barges In (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

While writing The Flash, Mike Baron tended to avoid established villains.

While appearances from Vandal Savage bookend the run, most of the character’s iconic rogues are completely missing from the first year of the title. There is no Reverse-Flash, no Captain Cold, no Weather Wizard, no Heatwave, no Captain Boomerang, no Trickster. Instead, Baron tended to create his own antagonists for Wally West. To be fair, his creatures tended to pop up here and there over the years, but none of them really broke through into the character’s regular supporting cast.

It's the end of the world as we know it...

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

Perhaps Chunk came closest. Chester Runk is the most memorable and well-defined new character to appear during Baron’s run on the title. The character would never become a regular fixture of The Flash, but he would pop up time and again over the years. It is easy to see that might be the case. He is rather distinct from most of the other baddies to debut under Baron’s pen. He looks visually distinctive, has a nice character hook, and fits quite comfortably in the world of The Flash. He’s a nice adversary.

Sadly, his debut story is not a good story.

The big man...

The big man…

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The Flash – Going Rogue (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

One of the more endearing aspects of The Flash is the way that it embraces the stock superhero clichés. It is a television show that seems completely unashamed of its genre trappings, occasionally basking in its cheesiness. The dialogue is occasionally corny, the set-ups occasionally forced, the plot beats a little melodramatic – but that is a large part of the appeal. The Flash feels like something of a live action comic book.

Going Rogue is an episode that basks in its pulpy four-colour roots. Not only does the episode find a bright design for Leonard Snart that hues close to the character’s roots, not only does the show bask in various “cold” puns, not only does it lean heavily on the “save the innocent or catch the guilty” moral dilemma, it even throws in a nice crossover love triangle to keep things interesting. Going Rogue is silly and goofy, but in all the right ways. Endearing and charming, it is a demonstration of how well the show can work.

Chill out.

Chill out.

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The Flash (1987-2009) #7-8 – Red Trinity/Purple Haze (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

Red Trinity and Purple Haze are at least plotted a bit more tightly than Mike Baron’s earlier issues of The Flash.

Baron’s first two two-part stories on The Flash had seen Wally West literally running into trouble – encountering both Vandal Savage and the Kilg%re by chance while running across the country. Speed McGee was only slightly more subtle, revealing that Wally was now dating a woman whose husband just happened to be working on attempts to generate super-speed. Wally seemed to spend the first six months of The Flash randomly bumping into trouble that seemed tailor-made for him.

... And we're off!

… And we’re off!

While the plotting of Red Trinity is hardly elegant, it at least makes a bit more sense. Baron builds off the events of Speed McGee to present a story that flows relatively logically – well, according to comic book logic. Instead of conveniently crossing paths with a problem tailored to his abilities, Wally instead sets out specifically to find the problem at the heart of this issue. His encounter with the eponymous trio is as part of his attempts to help find a cure for the self-titled “Speed Demon”, Jerry McGee.

Inevitably, this brings him into conflict with more new opponents perfectly suited to do battle with The Flash.

Trio of terror?

Trio of terror?

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The Flash – Some Things You Can’t Outrun (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

The Flash is a show that can withstand a certain amount of cheese. After all, it is a television series about a character dressed in a red jumpsuit who can run faster than the speed of sound. There is going to be a certain amount of cheesiness baked into the premise by default. City of Heroes and Fastest Man Alive managed to skirt along the edge of the show’s threshold of cheesiness. Some Things You Can’t Outrun just jumps right on over that threshold.

Some Things You Can’t Outrun is the show’s first misfire. It’s the first time that the show has been written by anybody other than Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, and the first time it has been directed by anybody other than David Nutter. It feels like there’s something of a learning curve here, as Some Things You Can’t Outrun doesn’t work on multiple levels. The show seems to take forever to get going, is hampered by a fairly weak guest star, and weighed down by cringe-inducing dialogue.

Let's not pop the champagne that fast...

Let’s not pop the champagne that fast…

Balancing cheesiness and earnestness will by one of the biggest challenges to The Flash, as the show has to figure out how to strike the best balance between the inherent goofiness of the character and the demands of a prime-time network drama show. City of Heroes and Fastest Man Alive seemed to suggest that the show had already got a good grip on this delicate equilibrium. Unfortunately, Some Things You Can’t Outrun struggles to be light-hearted without being cheesy, and earnest without being angsty.

There is a sense that the show has hit its first speed bump.

A gas time...

A gas time…

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The Flash – Fastest Man Alive (Review)

So, I’m considering reviewing this season of The Flash, because the pilot looks interesting and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Scarlet Speedster. I’m also considering taking a storyline-by-storyline trek through the 1987-2009 Flash on-going series as a companion piece. If you are interested in reading either of these, please let me know in the comments.

In many ways, Fastest Man Alive plays like the second part of a pilot for The Flash. Like City of Heroes before it, Fastest Man Alive is written by Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, with Greg Berlanti credited on the story. It is also directed by David Nutter, one of television’s most respected pilot directors – even if his famous “hot streak” of pilots going straight to show was interrupted when CBS did not pick up The Doctor in 2011.

Fastest Man Alive is still about building the world around Barry Allen. City of Heroes established the basics, the ground rules of the world in which Barry operates. Fastest Man Alive exists to delineate them a bit further. It defines the ensemble better, clarifying the roles of Joe West and Iris West in the grand scheme of things; it gives Barry the confidence he needs to do what he does; it imposes limits on Barry’s ability; it clarifies that Harrison Wells is not entirely heroic.

CGI flames! My fatal weakness!

CGI flames! My fatal weakness!

Given the amount of attention and effort that Fastest Man Alive devotes to cementing the foundations of The Flash, it’s understandable that there really isn’t too much room for anything else. Fastest Man Alive is about settling the cast and the writers into a sustainable status quo for the next stretch of episodes – maybe even the entire first season. It makes sure that everybody knows where everything lies and that there’s a solid base upon which to build.

So, while Fastest Man Alive might not be an especially brilliant episode of television, it does a very good job of setting up what it needs to set up.

Born to run...

Born to run…

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