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Barry is back!

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Any comic publisher worth their salt knows that killing characters off and bringing dead characters back sells books. Collectors get excited, readers get excited and books are sold.

One of the most legendary deaths in comic history was that of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. He sacrificed his life to protect humanity in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8. It was a great death scene, well written, well drawn, full of pathos, heroism, and impact. It was an earth-shaking event, a major DC player taken off the board, and it affected DC Comics for decades to come.

But in comics, no death is sacrosanct. Historical impact be damned if there is money to be made. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Barry would eventually return. The question was not if, but when.

The “when” was last year in the recently completed Final Crisis series. Barry was brought back to life by literally outracing death. And DC is about to make a big deal out of Barry’s return.

But, this particular character’s return isn’t as much of a slam dunk as these epic returns usually are. The issue featuring Barry Allen’s death appeared on stands almost a quarter century ago. Even long term readers/collectors such as myself only have dim recollections of Barry as Flash.

For a whole generation of comic fans, the only Flash they knew was Wally West, Barry’s successor. The old school Flash fans will be happy Barry is back, but the trick is to get the younger fans excited as well.

This task is helped by the fact that even though Barry was gone, his presence was felt in the Flash mythos. Writers used the legacy Barry created as a prevalent theme throughout Wally’s tenure. In fact, the first time Wally wore the Flash uniform, he said he was doing so to honor Barry.
One of the writers who kept Barry alive while writing Wally’s adventures was Geoff Johns. And he is the man finally given the task of reintroducing him into the modern DC universe. And he is definitely up for the job.

Johns is the writer who managed to return Hal Jordan from the grave, redeem him as a character, re-establish him as Green Lantern, while not diminishing the then-current Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. This was thought of as an almost impossible feat to accomplish. But Johns not only made it happen but also made it a success.

With the “rebirth” of Green Lantern under belt, and his prior experience with the Flash franchise, it was a no-brainer that Johns would be in charge of reintroducing Barry to the DC Universe. And he is reunited on the project with his Green Lantern: Rebirth artist and frequent collaborator Ethan Van Sciver. Perhaps DC is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle a second time.

Previews for the first issue show the tact Johns and Van Sciver are taking. Barry is treated as a respected hero who has served as an inspiration to his contemporaries, his predecessors and those that have followed him. This is a unique position to place the character in, and one with a lot of potential for stories to blossom out of it.

Barry’s return will probably be a sales success. But putting it in the hands of Johns and Van Sciver almost guarantees that it will be a critical success. You can still make the argument that Barry really didn’t need to return. But at least his return is in good hands with an excellent chance of being done right. 

Also out this week:

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1:

Superman turned 70 last year, a milestone that DC pretty much ignored. So silent was DC on its most iconic character reaching seven decades that I began to doubt that this particular anniversary was anything to celebrate at all.

Enter this year and we find that 70 is a birthday to celebrate. Marvel is turning that magic number and is throwing a year long party to celebrate. This one-shot is part of the festivities and features a tale of World War II era Cap written by the always great James Robinson and drawn by superstar artist Marcos Martin.

Give kudos to Marvel on their impressive birthday and also for showing its archrival DC how to commemorate such a historical milestone. Hopefully, this inspires DC to start planning something big for Supes 75th birthday in 2013.

James Robinson & Joe Simon (W), Marcos Martin & Jack Kirby (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #1:

Critics of Grant Morrison have complained during his forays into mainstream comics that he is too much of a “Vertigo” writer. His plots, themes and idea are too esoteric for mainstream audiences and are better suited for the imprint he helped found with his work on Doom Patrol and Animal Man.

These critics should be happy because Morrison returns to Vertigo this week, and all comic fans should be happy because he is returning to Seaguy. Yes, the second of a planned trilogy of miniseries is finally here, and original artist Cameron Stewart is back as well. The first, quirky miniseries garnered a lot of fans. Perhaps this one will pick up a whole lot more.

Grant Morrison (W), Cameron Stewart (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Irredeemable #1:

What if Superman was evil? What if the most powerful creature on the planet—someone indestructible, unstoppable and incredibly strong—used his awesome powers for self-interest instead of the common good? What horrors could possibly ensue from that situation?

These questions are what Mark Waid will begin to explore this week in this series. He continues the examination of the dark side of heroism he began with Kingdom Come and Empire as one worlds greatest superhero slowly becomes its greatest—and most deadly—villain.

Such grim and gritty tales might appear to be a dime a dozen, but most times these stories aren’t done by a writer of Waid’s stature. Fans of superhero comics might find this series worthy of a look at the comic shop tomorrow.

Mark Waid (W), Peter Krause (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Pride & Prejudice #1:

Marvel enjoyed an unexpected success with its Marvel Illustrated adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. It defied expectations in the fact that it appealed to all audiences—men, children and even that illusive market, women.

Marvel is using its next Illustrated offering to directly target this female demographic by providing its version of one of literature’s greatest romances, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Will this series be as successful as Wizard of Oz? Or will women be turned off by the cloying Cosmopolitan like cover composition (the kind Dave Sim poke fun at bimonthly with Glamourpuss) and the pink and lime color scheme which seems a little bit stereotypical for the audience Marvel is trying to reach?

Nancy Butler (W), Hugo Petrus (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Dead Romeo #1:

The solicitation for this issue might have given aspiring comic book writers hope. Breaking into comics is extraordinarily hard for a writer with no connections, and here, we have a miniseries written by a DC-advertised “new writer”, Jesse Blaze Snider, getting a big push from the company. Could it be? Could a complete unknown get a writing job at one of the big two?

The answer is no. While Snider might be a new writer and not all that well known, he’s not a complete unknown. He is the son of Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider and appeared on the MTV reality series “Rock the Cradle.” None of this says he’s a bad writer or that this series will not be great. Just that to all of you who thought breaking into comics had just gotten easier—think again.

Jesse Blaze Snider (W), Ryan Benjamin (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Cars: The Rookie #1:

BOOM! Studios’ partnership with Disney continues as another Pixar film makes its way into comic books. This time, it’s the company’s 2006 hit, Cars hitting store shelves. Fans of that film should line up at comic stores now, because this prequel miniseries adds an important part to the film mythos.

Framed as an interview with Darrel Cartrip before the Dinoco 500, the miniseries will provide an origin for the star of the film, Lightning McQueen. We will see the cocky  McQueen’s rise from a short track racer, his days as “Bulldozer” McQueen (named because of the way he plows through the competition), and his path to racing superstardom. If you loved the movie and its characters, that makes this series a must have.

Alan J. Porter (W), Albert Carreres (A), BOOM! Studios, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Teen Titans Annual 2009 #1:

Having storylines crossover into annuals is nothing new, especially at DC. In the 1980s, the seven issue arc in All-Star Squadron that introduced Infinity Inc. began in the regular series (issue #21, to be exact) and ended in the series’ second annual. And the classic “The Judas Contract” storyline ended in the Tales of the New Teen Titans Annual #3.

DC is returning to this practice with its upcoming Teen Titans/Titans/Vigilante crossover, only this time the story is going to start in an annual. This Teen Titans annual acts as a “prelude” to the five-part “Deathtrap” storyline running through the aforementioned titles. Being as it is only a prelude, if you don’t pick up annuals, you could probably ignore it. But it probably would add something to the crossover for those of you who were interested.

Sean McKeever (W), Fernando Dagnino (A), DC Comics, $4.99. Annual.

Marvel Assistant-Sized Spectacular #1:

In 1983, for books cover-dated January 1984, Marvel employed a conceit they called “Assistant Editor’s Month.” The idea was that all the regular editors were at the San Diego Comic Con, so they left their books in the hands of their assistants. As is the case when the inmates are left to run the asylum, we get stories you typically wouldn’t see in a Marvel comic—I.E. David Letterman teaming up with the Avengers, Aunt May becoming a herald of Galactus, and Fred Hembeck drawing an issue of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man.

Of course, every assistant editor is involved with the everyday editing process, so the gimmick really didn’t hold water, but it gave us fans a month of fun stories. Well, Marvel is trying to rekindle the gimmick once again with a two-issue series which is devoted to B-list and under characters like D-Man and American Eagle, supposedly selected by Marvel assistants editors. The novelty of Assistant Editor month is lost, but at least some little known characters get their chance to shine.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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