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The Brightest Flash

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Barry Allen gets a new series as part of the year-long “Brightest Day” event. But will that be enough for the new Flash series to be a success?

You can’t blame fans for thinking that the “Brightest Day” crossover would bring with it a kinder, gentler DC Universe. After all, with Marvel starting a “Heroic Age” of its own at the same time, the trend seemed to move away from the grim and the gritty.

And the fact that one of the first titles to tie into Brightest Day would be the new Flash series starring a returned Barry Allen as the Scarlet Speedster would go to prove this. After all, he was the character who jump started the Silver Age, the simple era fans were hoping that the tone of the books would return to. He was also the character who faced off against bad guys like a boomerang expert and a telepathic gorilla, appeared on the covers of his books at separate times as both fat and with an enlarged cranium and would pass his spare time getting in foot races with Superman.

But any hope that fans might have had of DC lightening up was doused by an interview Geoff Johns gave to the DC blog, The Source:

“Brightest Day’ is about second chances. I think it’s been obvious from day one that there are major plans for the heroes and villains from Aquaman to take center stage in the DC Universe, among many others, post-Blackest Night. ‘Brightest Day’ is not a banner or a vague catch-all direction for the DC Universe, it is a story. Nor is ‘Brightest Day’ a sign that the DC Universe is going to be all about ‘light and brighty’ superheroes. Some second chances work out…some don’t.”

If fans need more proof that the new DC will be the same as the old DC, take a look at the miniseries’ that reestablished Barry Allen as the Flash. Final Crisis was chock full of death, from the New Gods to the Martian Manhunter to Batman (although, as we all know, he didn’t really die). And Flash: Rebirth featured Barry Allen killing other speedsters with his touch, Professor Zoom going back in time to kill Allen’s mother, and Zoom threatening to kill Wally West’s school-age children. You can’t get less “light and brighty” than that.

So, the return of Barry Allen as the star of a new Flash series will not bring a return to the style and tone of the Silver Age. But will his return to the Flash mean a return to success for the title?

Over the last five years, DC has made a mess of the Flash franchise. They cancelled the successful, long-running Wally West Flash series during Infinite Crisis and replaced it in 2006 with the ill-thought out and quite boring Flash: The Fastest Man Alive starting Bart Allen in the title role.

That version lasted only 13 issues before the powers that be killed off Bart Allen and brought back the Wally West series. Even though the return started off being written by legendary Flash scribe Mark Waid, this version was stillborn and lasted only 16 issues before it was trashed to make way for the return of Barry Allen.

The history was strewn with poorly thought out ideas which never got the chance to get any better. One imagines that this time around, with Johns at the helm, the newest Flash series will have plenty of time to find its feet. But how long will Johns stick around? Waid lasted only five issues when he brought back Wally, and Johns’ plate is pretty full.  Will he be in for the long haul?

I hope so. I think the concept Johns has come up, the Flashes as sort of a family, has a lot of potential. And Johns can write a great Flash. I am hopeful that this will be a return of one of DC’s greatest characters to a position of glory. But past experience makes me wary. DC hasn’t done right by the Flash in a long time.

Also out this week:

Black Widow #1:

Behold the power of Scarlett Johansson. The thought of Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive for 2006 appearing in skintight spandex as the Black Widow in Iron Man 2 has brought a lot of attention to both the movie and the character. And Marvel is hoping that attention translates over into the realm of comic books.

So, in an effort to make sure there is something for all those Black Widow fans who rush to their local comic book store immediately after they see the movie, Marvel is giving their longtime character (she is only three years younger than the company itself) her own ongoing series. She might not look all that much like Scar Jo, but she will be written by New York Times best-selling author Marjorie Liu and drawn by Daniel Acuña. Hopefully that will be enough to make the fans stick around.

Marjorie Liu (W), Daniel Acuña (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Angel: Barbary Coast #1:

With a character such as Angel, who is a nigh immortal vampire, all of history is a potential setting for your story. He is centuries old, so if you want to do a story set in World War II, the Antebellum South, or at the turn of the 20th Century, all you need is your imagination and knowledge of the time period.

This series takes place in the latter era—San Francisco in the early 1900s as a matter of fact. We will be joining an Angel who has recently regained his soul and is in the city by the bay looking for a cure. Judging by the time period, he might find an earthquake to complicate his search. And judging by the title, he might be making a trip to Africa to have a run-in with some pirates.

David Tischman (W), Franco Urru (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Hellcyon #1:

The best kind of futuristic science-fiction, in my opinion, is the kind inspired by our own world’s history. This series is a prime example of that. It deals with the evils of colonization, the cultivation of necessary natural resources from its new lands, and the practice of using slavery so the people in power do not have to get their hands dirty. It is essentially Pre-Revolutionary War America with jet bikes and robotic battle suits.

This miniseries focuses on Nika McKay who has returned to Hellcyon from a decade on Earth. After becoming accustomed to the true freedom of the colony’s home planet, he is unprepared for the indentured servitude the colony’s people must live with. As such, he becomes embroiled in a burgeoning revolution in his home colony. 
 
Lucas Marangon (W/A), Dark Horse Comics, $3.50. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Kill Shakespeare #1:

If William Shakespeare was alive today, he’d totally be writing for comics. His name would be mentioned in the same breath as Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. I mean, let’s face it, the guy has created some of the most legendary heroes and villains in the history of literature. All he has to do is put a cape on them and you’d have your next Vertigo hit.

If Shakespeare did live today and write comics, the comic book would probably look a lot like this one. This unique concept pits the Bard’s greatest heroes, like Hamlet and Othello, against his greatest villains, like Lady Macbeth and Richard III, to see which group decides the fate of a powerful wizard of their time. The wizard’s name? William Shakespeare.

Conor McCreery & Anthony Del Col (W), Andy Belanger (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Twelve-Issue Miniseries.

Cold Space #1:

Samuel L. Jackson is a comic book fan, and that fact makes it way cooler for anyone to be a comic book fan. When the modern day Shaft collects comics, it’s hard for anyone to argue that only geeks buy them. But up until now, Jackson was only a collector and an actor in comic book films. This week, he joins the ranks of comic book writers.

This science-fiction saga co-written by Jackson features an outlaw who looks a lot like Jackson caught between two sides in an interstellar civil war. All he wants to do is make a dishonest buck. But if forced to choose sides, he will. But if he does get involved, it’s going to be costly.

It’s a space western of the highest order, all brought to you in part by Hollywood’s biggest comic book fan.    

Samuel L. Jackson & Eric Calderon (W), Jeremy Rock (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Iron Man: Legacy #1:

Oh, look at this! A new Iron Man ongoing series! Just in time for the release of the next film. That makes me think, when was the last time Iron Man got a new ongoing series? Oh yeah, that’s right, back when the first Iron Man movie came out.

Yes, Invincible Iron Man started back in the summer of 2008 as an attempt to cash in on new readers brought in by the film. It featured an up and coming young critical darling of a writer by the name of Matt Fraction who became a major player in the industry. That former series is still going strong today. Will this one do as good? Well, it does have an up and coming young critical darling of a writer by the name of Fred Van Lente, so maybe lightning will strike twice. 

Fred Van Lente (W), Steve Kurth (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Wolfskin: Hundredth Dream #1:

Warren Ellis has to be one of the most creative and eclectic writers in comic books today. There doesn’t seem to be a genre he can’t do—superheroes (although they definitely aren’t his favorite), crime, science-fiction, horror, humor, steampunk, you name it, he can write it. And he can write it well, too.

Wolfskin is his foray into the fantasy/sword & sorcery genre. Written by Mike Wolfer from Ellis’ notes, the original 2006 miniseries was a mix of your typical, Conanesque barbarian with historical myths and legends. Response was so strong that fans demanded another series. And this is the series they demanded. But if you missed the character the first time around, consider this your second chance to jump on board.   

Warren Ellis & Mike Wolfer (W), Gianluca Pagliarani (A), Avatar Press, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Pantheon #1:

Michael Chiklis might have the respect of his peers by being one of the most underrated actors working in Hollywood today. But he holds a special place in the hearts of comic book fans for his spot-on performance of Ben Grimm in the Fantastic Four movies. That role would give Chiklis a whole bunch of geek cred that would follow him for years and years.

Chiklis is hoping that geek cred helps him out with this series, which was based on an idea by the actor. A black market artifacts dealer discovers items that will put him in contact with the pantheon of Greek gods. What does Zeus and his family members want with this guy and what does it mean to the world we live in?

Marc Andreyko (W), Stephen Molnar (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Irredeemable Special #1:

Mark Waid’s tale of a Superman-like hero gone bad has taken the comic world by storm. His smart deconstruction of the entire superhero genre has picked up a lot of fans and has brought a lot of readers to BOOM! Studios. And one of the ways Waid has kept people coming back is his metered release of information about the past of the world he has created.

But for those of you restless in anticipation to find out more about the Plutonian and his allies-turned-enemies, you are going to get some relief this week. This special features three stories done by Waid and Howard Chaykin, Paul Azaceta, and Diego Barreto respectively that reveal clues about the villain and his cohorts. You will get answers, clues and closure for your year of investment in the series, and a jump start on the second year.

Mark Waid (W), Various (A), BOOM! Studios, $3.99. Special.

Pilgrim #1:

There have been stories about the real-life use of the occult by both the Allied and the Axis powers during World War II. How much stock you put in these legends depends, I guess, on how much stock you put in the supernatural. But regardless, these tales make for some entertaining fiction, as is evidenced this week.

Actor Mark Ryan has spent 15 years constructing this tale, which blends those World War II tales with ones that are taken from the world’s headlines of today. Now, Ryan’s collaboration with comic book legend Mike Grell, which first appeared on the ComicMix website back in 2008, is getting adapted as a paper and staple graphic novel. If you are a fan of historical fiction, then maybe you should check this one out.

Mark Ryan (W), Mike Grell (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. One-Shot.

Doc Savage #1:

Doc Savage is no stranger to comic books. He has found a home away from the pulps ever since the 1940s and has graced companies from DC to Marvel, from Gold Key to Dark Horse. He makes his return to DC again as part of the company’s “First Wave” initiative. And he is in the hands of a man who has a unique connection to the character’s creator.

Paul Malmont wrote the best-selling The Chinatown Death-Cloud Peril, a mystery where the murder of H.P. Lovecraft is investigated by Shadow creator Walter Gibson and, you guessed it, Doc Savage creator Lester Dent. So even though this is an all-new version of the Man of Bronze, at least you know it will be written by someone with knowledge and respect for the character’s legacy.

Paul Malmont & Jason Starr (W), Howard Porter & Scott Hampton (A), DC Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

The Light #1:
 
You can create something new out of something old and still make it a valid piece of art. A mysterious fatal disease that no one understands is not a new basis for a story. Heck, that pretty much covers all of zombie fiction and you know how big that genre is. But this series provides a new spin on the idea.

The mysterious illness in this case causes people to burst into flame whenever they look at an electric light. As you can imagine, this can prove to be problematic considering there is an electric light at every street corner. A man tries to help his daughter escape the virus by blindfolding her and leading her out of town. However, the creator put a spin on this idea too as the girl has serious trust issue with her abusive father.

Nathan Edmondson (W), Brett Weldele (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Wire Hangers #1:

IDW is getting the reputation as the rock and roll comic book company. Last month, they brought us Eternal Descent, a series inspired by the band of the same name and written by the band’s creative mastermind, Llexi Leon. This week, they are bringing you another book done by another rock star, Life of Agony bassist/ Spoiler NYC frontman Alan Robert. Only this time, Robert is writing and drawing the series.

A series of abductions in New York City has piqued the interest of a female reporter by the name of Anna Davis. When she goes undercover and makes herself a target, she discovers the kidnappings are all part of a dangerous and deadly conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of the government. Now, she has to figure out who she can trust because her life depends on it.
 
Alan Robert (W/A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. 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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