Friday, April 3, 2009

Flash: Rebirth #1

Welcome to my annotations for the first issue of Flash: Rebirth! Most of the links point to the appropriate article at the DC Database Project, a great DC Universe wiki, where a good number of the Flash articles happen to have been written by yours truly. Let's dive right in...

Page 1.
Panel 1. Keystone City, Kansas and Central City, Missouri lie across a river from each other (presumably the Missouri, although Mayfair Games's Atlas of the DC Universe lists it as the Mississippi, which does not border Kansas in the real world). We are likely looking at Central City from Keystone, given the smokestacks in the foreground. Both are key locations in the Flash mythos, as three Flashes have called Keystone home, and another operated in Central City.

The narrator on the first page is likely a character we will meet in the next few pages.

Panel 3. The Central City Police crime lab. This is where the second Flash, Barry Allen, received his powers in a lab accident. Notice that the cabinet on the left is nearly empty.

The narrator is going on about Barry's morality and how he saw a clear distinction between good and evil, guilt and innocence. Contrast this with the conversation between the two police scientists over the next few panels. The one on the left appears to share Barry's view (as well as taste in hairstyles!), while the one on the right is ready to blur that line to get the job done.

Page 2
Panel 3. "Blue Valley" is presumably Blue Valley, Nebraska, hometown of Wally West, Barry's sidekick who became the third Flash after his death.

Panel 4."This is how Central City works. You hurry up and get it done." Has the city taken on the personality of its hero?

A third character enters the lab. This is probably the narrator.

Page 3.
Panel 1. Ow. The lightning bolt spearhead looks like the insignia of the original Flash, Jay Garrick, as well as the one shared by the many members of the Marvel Family.

Page 4.
Panel 2. Remember the empty cabinet?

Panel 4. Ninhydrin is used to detect fingerprints. Not surprising that it's found in a crime lab.

Page 5.
Panel 2. 6:03. I'm not sure if this time has any significance to the Flash mythos. According to Mark Waid's The Life Story of the Flash, Barry's lab accident happened around 6:12 or so.

Pages 6-7.
Panel 1. Kaboom. Presumably, the narrator/lightning-spear-guy moved precisely the right chemicals onto the empty cabinet in order to duplicate Barry's accident. If so, this is at least the third time someone has gained superspeed this way, as Wally also received his powers in this manner. How did he know that the lightning would strike precisely at that moment? Is he a time traveler? Weather expert?

Page 8.
Panel 2. Here's the river again. It looks like we're seeing a different bridge than the one on Page 1.

Panel 3. Gorilla City, Africa. Home to a race of highly evolved gorillas. Barry Allen was the first human to learn of its existence, way back in The Flash #106. The gorilla in the cape is likely Nnamdi, the current ruler.

Panel 5. The Rogues. Here we see Captain Cold, the Trickster, Weather Wizard, Mirror Master, and Heat Wave. They were last seen starring in Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge.

Panel 6. The parade float on the left is an homage to the classic cover of The Flash #123, which contained the first meeting of Barry and Jay. The parade float in the middle is an homage to the cover of this very issue!

The reporter/narrator is Linda Park-West, Wally's wife.

Page 9.
Panel 1. The Flash Museum. According to the Linda's broadcast on the previous page, we're clearly in Central City. However, at one point (late in Geoff Johns's storied run on Wally's series, if I recall), the Museum was destroyed and rebuilt in Keystone. I suppose the Central City version was rebuilt eventually. You can never have too many Flash Museums, right?

Panel 2. Abra Kadabra, 64th century criminal whose technology is so advanced it looks like magic to us lowly 21st century residents. Turning people into puppets is one of his common M.O.s.

Panel 3. Hrm, who's that guy with the blond crewcut? Note that Barry's face will be obscured for a while, until the big reveal.

Panel 4. Doctor Alchemy. Al Desmond, who uses the Philosopher's Stone to transmute the elements. He also uses a ray gun to do the same thing as Mister Element. Who is he pretending to talk to? Based on the newspaper article he is reading, one would guess that his imaginary conversation partner is Barry. However, I can't imagine Al would expect Barry to forget him, unless he has some real self esteem issues. And who's "her"? I have one theory, which I'll come back to later.

Page 10.
Panel 2. The Justice Society of America. From the left, Hourman, Wildcat, Cyclone, Doctor Mid-Nite (and Charlie the owl!), Ma Hunkel, Mister Terrific, Jay, Green Lantern, Citizen Steel, Liberty Belle, Damage, and Stargirl. In addition to Jay, Liberty Belle is also very connected to the Flash mythos. Her real name is Jesse Chambers, and her father was the late Johnny Chambers, who was a speedster known as Johnny Quick. In the past, Jesse operated under the alias Jesse Quick. She and her father played important roles in the classic Mark Waid-penned storylines Terminal Velocity and Dead Heat, the latter featuring Johnny's final race.

Panel 3. Wildcat is referring to the post-Crisis on Inifinite Earths version of the classic "Flash of Two Worlds" storyline from the aforementioned The Flash #123. In the original story, Barry lived on Earth-1 and Jay lived on Earth-2, and Keystone was never frozen in time. However, the first Crisis erased these different Earths, and so Jay had operated on the same Earth as Barry. To accomodate their first meeting, a new version was published (I believe in Secret Origins #50, but I was introduced to it by The Life Story of the Flash), which is the version Wildcat and Jay talk about here.

Page 11.
Panel 1. Another homage to that The Flash #123 cover. It's an important issue in the history of the Flash, if you couldn't tell already! Notice that we still haven't seen Barry's face.

Jay certainly ran faster than the speed of sound many times in his Golden Age adventures. (Flash blogger Kelson Vibber discussed this very point in this excellent post.) Personally, I think his statements here are a metaphor for how Barry's appearance reinvigorated his life rather than a retcon.

Panel 4. Barry actually called Jay by his first name during their first meeting. From page 11, panel 4 (hrm, same as this panel...) of The Flash #123: "And I'd like to give you a hand, Jay! As long as I'm here, I'll join forces with you--and help solve the crimes!" How's that for a coincidence?

Hmm, they're talking about Wally. I wonder what he's up to...

Page 12.
Panel 1. Oh hey, it's Wally!

Panel 2. The Titans (plus Wally's kids.) From the left: Jai West, Iris West, Raven, Wally, Red Arrow, Donna Troy, Beast Boy, Nightwing, Cyborg, Starfire. Many of the Titans were sidekicks to the heroes of Barry's generation.

Notice the pinata the kids are playing with. As they say on the next page, it is of Gorilla Grodd, another Flash villain. He hails from Gorilla City, mentioned above.

I can't recall Iris being referred to as "Irey" before. My guess is that her namesake/great-aunt Iris Allen will be appearing more frequently since Barry's back, so this is an attempt to reduce confusion between the two characters.

Page 13.
Panel 4. Wally describes the twins' powers to Red Arrow. They are twins, despite the fact that "Irey" (I don't think I'll be able to get used to that!) looks older. They were born only about a year or so ago, comic book time, but aged very rapidly due to their inherited superspeed. The rapid aging was cured at the end of Tom Peyer's recent "Fast Money" arc.

Panel 5. Why does Wally look so bummed out about raising his kids?

"Bart" refers to Bart Allen, Barry's grandson from the 30th century. Whuhh? Quickie version: Iris (Barry's wife, not Irey) was born in the 30th century. She died, but her birth parents resurrected her. She brought Barry to the future with her, where they spent a month together before he went off and got himself killed. She got pregnant and bore twins (more twins?!). One of them was Don Allen, whose son was Bart. Iris brought Bart back to the present when he was aging too rapidly (sound familiar?) for Wally to fix. Bart spent a couple years as Impulse, and then changed his codename to Kid Flash.

Despite what Wally says here, he didn't spend that much time training Bart. Much of that was done by time-hopping speedster Max Mercury, and later Jay after Max's disappearance/possible death.

Page 14.
Panel 1. Hey, it's Bart! Fancy that, after those other characters were just talking about him! Bart actually was aged approximately 4 years from 16ish to 20ish (while chronologically being only 5ish -- see above rapid aging thing) during the events of Infinite Crisis. After sitting around depressed for a year, he eventually donned the red tights and operated as the Flash for a few months, before he got himself killed by the Rogues. Recently, he reappeared in the pages of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds. The exact nature of his resurrection/de-aging and subsequent return to the present remain unknown, although presumably we will find out in future issues of Lo3W.

Panel 2. The Teen Titans. The modern day versions of the folks we saw on the previous two pages. There's a few more of them, but apparently most are in Central City. From the left, Robin (does anyone not know who he is?), Bart, and Wonder Girl.

Panel 3. Why is Bart so pissy about his grandpa coming back?

Panel 6. My guess: he misses Max. While Barry may be his biological grandfather, Max actually played that role in Bart's life. They lived together in Manchester, Alabama for most of the run of the Impulse series, where Max posed as Bart's uncled and trained him to be a hero. Max's body was possessed by Jay's enemy Rival, and then the series was cancelled before everything could be resolved. It's since been shown that Max went to the Speed Force. I'll let Barry explain what that is when we get to it a few pages from now.

Page 15.
Panel 1. So much for character A mentioning character B in the last panel of one page, and then character B then appearing in the first panel of the next page. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. Here we have the aforementioned Iris West Allen, i.e. Barry's wife, not Irey. She looks a lot younger than she did in her last major appearances (in Bart's shortlived solo series Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.) I guess this makes sense, as presumably she'll be getting back together with Barry, and he's probably mid-30s-ish. Chronologically, however, Iris has a good 25-30 years on Barry. Even though it's only been a few years since Barry died for most of the characters, it's been a lot longer for Iris, as she spent all that time in the 30th century raising her twins.

Panel 2. Why does Iris have framed copies of the Central Citizen? She was a journalist for the Picture News, and presumably the two are competing newspapers. The top one refers to Murmur, a serial killer who Barry helped capture before he became the Flash, by testifying in his capacity as a police scientist at the trial. The second of course refers to Mister Element, mentioned above.

The older lady mixing a bowl of something is Joan Garrick, Jay's wife. She's been around since the very beginning, appearing as his girlfriend Joan Williams in Flash Comics #1. Although she and Jay are chronologically pushing 90, both of them are 50-60ish due to several magical encounters the JSA has had over the years. Plus however many years Keystone City spent frozen in time (what Wildcat and Jay were talking about a few pages back) probably didn't hurt. As far as I know, this is Iris's dog's first appearance.

Panel 5. According to Kelson's great site, Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning, Captain Darryl Frye was Barry's boss during the later issues of his series. It's good to see that he's still around these days. One would assume that the murder refers to the events in the opening scene of this issue. Shouldn't it be murders, unless one of the two scientists survived?

Page 16.
Panel 1. And here he is, the man of the hour, Barry Allen! We finally get to see his face.

Notice how practically every single person on the next few pages is talking on their cell phone, texting, or playing a handheld game. This sets us Barry's conversation on the next page nicely.

Panel 2. Dexter Myles is the curator of the Flash Museum and longtime friend of the Flashes.

Page 17.
Panel 1. Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of Sector 2814 and Barry's best friend. He's also a pilot, hence the jacket. The Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic police force, which is why Barry refers to him as a "cop". A few years ago, Hal got his own "Rebirth" treatment from the same creative team in Green Lantern: Rebirth. He had been turned into a villain, died saving Earth, and then became the Spectre for a while before finally being reborn and returned to his roots as a hero. That green glowy thing on his finger is his power ring, which lets him do all the cool stuff Green Lanterns do. We also get a glimpse at Barry's ring, where he keeps his costume. Inside the ring, the costume is miniaturized, but when the ring opens and the costume comes in contact with the air, it expands until it's Barry-sized.

Did Barry change shirts at superspeed? It was white on the previous page!

Panel 4. Hal is a notorious lady's man. His main squeeze over the years has been Carol Ferris, although currently he's also seeing a fellow Air Force pilot nicknamed "Cowgirl".

Barry wore bow ties in his Silver Age adventures. A lot. I wonder what he means by saying they "weren't my fault"?

Panel 6. Parallax is the embodiment of fear that possessed Hal during his villain days. He did some crazy stuff, like destroying the Green Lantern Corps and teaming up with Extant to try to remake history (Zero Hour).

Ollie refers to Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow. He's also great friends with Hal, but always butted heads with Barry. Idealogically, they were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Ollie was your typical left-wing political activist from the Pacific Northwest while Barry was the conservative family-values God-fearing Midwesterner. (For more on Ollie, flip back a few pages to Red Arrow's comments about his mentor -- that's him.)

The kid Hal refers to is the second Speedy, Mia Dearden. The first was Roy Harper, later known as Arsenal, and now as Red Arrow, who we've already met.

Page 18.

Panel 1. "The Brave and the Bold" refers of course to the team-up book. Specifically, there was a Hal/Barry team-up miniseries a few years back with the same title.

On this page, Barry describes the Speed Force, where all speedsters get their powers.

Panel 2. The images Barry and Hal zip by are covers from Wally's series. From the left, #16 , #6, #111 (featuring Savitar -- more on him later), #197, and #141 (featuring Black Flash -- more on him later too).

Notice how Barry's image is all distorted as he runs fast. I read in an interview where Ethan Van Sciver said he was coming up with new ways to draw speed for this series. This must be one of them!

Panel 3. Barry talks about his death. He had been captured by the Anti-Monitor, the big bad of Crisis on Infinite Earths. He escaped and ran crazy fast circles around an anti-matter cannon that was poised to destroy all reality, so fast that he merged with the Speed Force and died. But the cannon was destroyed, and all reality was saved. Yay Barry!

The statues in this exhibit are of villains incarcerated in Iron Heights prison, hence the big sign. From left, Girder, Murmur (mentioned above), Double Down, and Fallout. I'm not sure who the pink guy with the yellow shirt is.

Incidentally, Flash: Iron Heights, which introduced the prison and a few of these characters, was also a Johns/Van Sciver collaboration, and their only Flash-related one together prior to this. (Johns of course wrote a slew of Flash issues, and Van Sciver was the regular penciller on Impulse for a while.)

Page 19.
Panel 1. Hal talks about Barry's return in Final Crisis. Barry and Wally chased a god-killing bullet backwards through time, leading the Black Racer to Darkseid to stomp in his face, as Hal so eloquently put it.

Panel 4. Bart gets two statues! The red and white one is of his old costume as Impulse. At the end of All-Flash #1, Wally froze Inertia (Bart's evil clone who was the mastermind of his death) in time and placed him in this very room so that he would be forced to look at Bart's image for all eternity. Or, until he got unfrozen, which happened in Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge.

We also see a statue of Weather Wizard sporting Silver Age-era duds. The statue in the glass case in the background might be Tar Pit. In the bottom left there's a Grodd statue.

Panel 6. That's certainly not a smile! It's interesting how both recently resurrected speedsters, Barry and Bart, seem pretty unhappy.

Page 20.
Panel 1. Fallville, Iowa was Barry Allen's hometown. This scene has a very "Ma and Pa Kent find baby Superman's rocket" vibe to it.

Page 21.
Panel 1. Remember when I said more on the Black Flash later? The time has come. This is him. Or was, it looks like. Which is interesting, because the Black Flash is not a living being. He's the part of the Speed Force that represents Death. He appears right before a speedster is about to die ...

Panel 4. ... like the Grim Reaper. Nice timing, Hal!

The implications of Death dying are very interesting. Is that why Barry is alive? If the Death component of the Speed Force is no more, than what is to keep the dead speedsters from coming back? More on this later...

Page 22.
Panel 1. The yellow-clad statue hanging from the ceiling and appearing on the poster in the back is Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, my personal favorite super-villain. He was a crook from the 25th century who came back to Barry's era to wreak havoc for our favorite speedster. He killed Iris (before she got resurrected in the future...), and almost killed Barry's almost-second wife Fiona Webb before Barry killed him, which spawned the infamous "Trial of the Flash" storyline.

Panel 3. Check out Barry's shadow!

Look at all those villain statues... Okay, let's give this a shot:
Left of Barry/Hal, row 1, from left: Savitar, somebody with red boots, Weather Wizard, the Suit, Kobra, somebody with snakes for hands, perhaps a badly miscolored Speed Demon
row 2, from left: Replicant, Trickster, Razer, Kilg%re, Cobalt Blue
row 3, only visible one is Peek-a-Boo.

Right of Barry/Hal, row 1, from left (if you turn the page upside-down): someone with blue boots, Grodd (probably, although he's wearing more stuff than usual), Golden Glider, the Top, Doctor Alchemy, The Folded Man, Cicada
Row 2, from left: Pied Piper (maybe? based on green boots), the Turtle, a dude with a gun and blue suit, Tar Pit
Row 3, from left: Rainbow Raider, Magenta

Phew! If you know one of the ones I missed, let me know in the comments section and I'll update the list.

Panel 6. We get to see Hal use his ring! And to top it off, it's a nice cheesy Silver-Age-style big hand. Yay!

Page 23.
Panel 2. We get to see Barry's costume ring in action. "I can't be late" is a very interesting thing for Barry to say, as a running gag throughout his adventures was that he was always late for things (especially dates with Iris), creating the irony of the Fastest Man Alive never being on time.

Panel 3. Booomm. Presumably, Barry just hit the sound barrier.

Page 24.
Panel 1. We had to have a splash page of Barry running in costume, right?

Page 25.
Panel 1. Yay, Max gets a shout-out!

Panel 2. Cue the Lost flashback sound.

Page 26.
Panel 4. Hrm. Barry's mother, Nora Allen, was alive and well during his Silver Age adventures. Is this a retcon? Or did she get better? Or is this just some other blond kid named Barry with a crew cut and not Barry Allen at all?

Could Mama Allen be the "her" that Doctor Alchemy was referring to way back at the beginning? Kind of doubtful, since Al Desmond is approximately the same age as Barry and would have been a wee tyke at this point in time, but I figured I'd throw that out there. A few other major "her"s in Barry's life were his three big love interests: Iris, Fiona, and childhood sweetheart Daphne Dean.

There's a Keystone City policeman named Fred Chyre who was a regular in Johns's run on Wally's series. Presumably, this is not him, as we are in Fallville, not Keystone, and Fred Chyre is white, and the policeman carrying little Barry away in the next panel is black. Perhaps they're cousins?

Panel 7. Henry Allen, Barry's pops. He's a doctor, and apparently is in a lot of trouble right now.

Page 28.
Panel 1. Savitar. So if the Black Flash is dead, maybe Barry's not the only one to have escaped the Speed Force. Savitar was the big bad of Waid's Dead Heat storyline, which Barry recounts the story of nice and concisely in two sentences. He was a test pilot (hrm, like Hal) who reached incredible new speeds while flying, thus tapping into the Speed Force.

Panel 3. "He's guilty". It looks like the narrator from Page 1 had Barry down pretty well.

Page 29.

Panel 5. Barry touching Savitar clearly caused some disturbance in the Speed Force. Here we see three other Speed Force-wielders, Wally and the kids, have some sort of crazy reaction.

Page 7. Savitar turns to dust just like the Black Flash did when the kid touched him with the bat a few pages ago. Clearly, there's some sort of connection.

Page 30.
Panel 1. What the hell did you just do, Barry? I suppose we'll have to wait another month to find out. In the other panels, we see all the other major speedsters have the same reaction as Wally and the kids: Bart, Jay, and Jesse.

Please let me know if you have any theories, corrections, or see anything I missed in the comments section!