Sunday, May 20, 2007

Comic musings for 16 May

Spoilers ho!

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive 12 - I never really looked closely at the title of this comic before, but it certainly leads to the question, are there faster dead men?

I suppose that makes as good a lead-in as any to discussing this issue, where the Black Flash rears his ugly head. And whenever the Black Flash appears, a speedster dies. Given that Bart's clone, Inertia, has just stolen all the Speed Force and is attempting to run it through a machine, prompting the dire prediction that the machine can't handle it and will blow up with the power of ten atomic bombs, our hero being attacked by six of his rogues on the last panel (while being without the Speed Force) does not necessarily mean that Bart is the one going to die any time soon.

I should point out the solicitation for this issue from DC: "The dark force behind the Rogues' full frontal assault is revealed —and this issue's shocker ending will change the Flash forever!" Not like we haven't heard this before, but I'm not at all sure what the dark force referred to here is. Perhaps it is the Black Flash, but he doesn't really seem to be the force behind Inertia gathering up the rogues to attack Flash. And we've known about Inertia for a while now, so that doesn't feel right either. As for changing the Flash forever, the Flash has been a completely different character and story since his reintroduction. This past year has felt like a mini-series being written in order to re-introduce the old Flash as the new Flash in the very last panel of the last issue. There has been no real consistency in the story-telling or in the art, though it is refreshing to see Tony Daniel's pencils for the last couple of issues. So, in a year-long run where *everything* changes the Flash forever, the hype for this issue gets lost in the utter mediocrity of what has been going on.

This is not to say that the hype in any way reflects the actual contents of this issue. There is nothing here remotely hype-worthy. The biggest news from this issue is that the rogues are together and still can't beat the Flash (like we haven't seen that before) and that Abra Kadabra has a new macho look.

Just remember, the next issue is so big that DC is hiding the cover. I'm holding out for the end of this arc, myself, hoping for the return of Wally.

All Star Batman and Robin 5 - We get to meet the All Star Wonder Woman. Seriously, that's about al to recommend this comic. She's a bad-ass who hates men for the pathetic weaklings they all are, and especially Superman for his wanting to work within the system to bring the apparently rogue Batman to justice. And of course, her anger at male frailty just hides her own desire for the "despicable Superman" with whom she ends up in a passionate clench. It makes me wonder if this is the way Wonder Woman was going to be represented inthe All Star line when she was to have her own series. This Superman is not recognizably the All Star Superman being written by Grant Morrison, so I can't say that there really was going to be some sort of continuity between the titles. However, it's not like it really matters given the horrific record the titles have for punctuality. (I read a column this week that talks about comic shops trying to order these titles; All Star Batman went a *year* without a new issue. It's good stuff:

All of the interaction between Superman, Wonder Woman, Plastic Man (who is just as annoying as he was before he found out he had a child in the non-All Star Universe) and Green Lantern (who is curiously a non-entity) introduces the idea that people outside the immediate Batman family are not happy with his activities and that they are going to have to do something. That confrontation holds promise, if only we ever get to see it.

The rest of the issue is just annoying. Batman proves he is as crazy as we have been led to believe up to now, when he stops a mugging and leaves the would-be muggers to suffer nad perhaps die from their wounds. There's also a three-page interior monologue where Alfred remembers the origin of this All Star Batman. It's more than a trifle disturbing, not so much for the events that birthed Batman--they don't appear too terribly different from the ones we are familiar with. What's disturbing is the language Alfred uses to describe Batman: "And now my DEMON--my black-eyed, brilliant, willful ANGEL--has grown to manhood." And with that note ringing in our ears, Robin discovers Batman's armory, filled with all sorts of nasty pointed deadly weapons. The final scene is an ecstatic Robin pronouncing his judgment on the toys he has found: "Cool."

It's all very disturbing, and not just because it is a twist on the Batman we have had for so very long. These people are not sane, which may be writer Frank Miller's point after all, one he drove home repeatedly in The Dark Knight Returns. Jim Lee's art has its usual flawless beauty, which only exaggerates the disunion between the people and their godlike appearance. I don't know how this All Star Batman could exist as a long-tyerm character, when not even the "good guys" want him around, and if that's the case, I believe that some Elseworld story aong the line has gone down the same road before, just not with Miller's awful intensity.

There are possibilities here for a real study of the madness that is being a super-hero. But between the ridiculous schedule and Miller' over-the-top portrayal, we may never get to see that potential realized.

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