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Across the DC Universe #36 - Part 1

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Welcome to Broken Frontier’s weekly issue by issue roundup of events from every corner of the DC Universe. This is where to come to catch up on what’s been happening with your favorite DC characters and how events in their books affect the DCU’s recent "Bigger Picture". We also point out any interesting continuity tidbits, link to suggested background trade paperback reading and examine any pertinent questions raised by events in the week’s releases.

Spoiler Warning: Read no further if you’ve not had your DC fix this week and don’t want to hear about key story elements.

The Flash: Rebirth #1

From the Rogues to the super-hero community, the DC Universe deals with Barry Allen’s shocking return from the dead with Bart Allen’s moodily conflicted reaction being the most perplexing. While an intense Barry catches up with Hal Jordan the charred corpse of the Black Flash, the Speed Force’s Grim Reaper, is found in Iowa. The villainous speedster Savitar later escapes from the Speed Force through Barry Allen’s body. However, he is accidentally killed by the hero when the Flash unknowingly draws on the powers of all the other DC speedsters to drain the villain of his lifeforce. And throughout it all a mystery villain lurks in the background claiming responsibility...

The Bigger Picture: Bart Allen/Kid Flash is back in the contemporary DCU, possibly with the Teen Titans again, following his yet to be fully-explained resurrection in the delayed Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds miniseries. Tim Drake is also at Titans’ Tower in his Robin identity. Whether this takes place prior to the "Battle for the Cowl" crossover in the Batman books or after it is, as yet, unclear.

Barry’s relationship to the Speed Force is drastically changed. Savitar calls him "the beginning and the end" and his return from the dead has, presumably, resulted in the demise of the Black Flash.

Continuity Corner: The recounting of the first meeting between the Golden and Silver Age Flashes is, of course, from The Flash #123 (Sep 1961) in the classic "The Flash of Two Worlds" tale.

Blue Valley, mentioned this issue, is the hometown of Wally West, the "current" Flash, and was the base of operations for the JSA’s Courtney Whitmore in Geoff Johns’s Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.(1999-2000) series back when Stargirl was known as the Star-Spangled Kid.

In the Flash Museum the exhibit devoted to Barry’s team-ups with Green Lantern Hal Jordan is titled "The Brave and the Bold". This is a direct knowing reference to the 1999 six-issue The Brave and the Bold miniseries that traced the history of their friendship.

Some of Bart’s resentment at Barry being back is no doubt down to the fact that his missing mentor and father figure, Max Mercury (based on the 1940s Golden Age hero Quicksilver) has not similarly returned from beyond. Max was last seen briefly in Infinite Crisis when the DC speedsters briefly emerged from the Speed Force to remove Superboy-Prime from the conflict.

Barry Allen touching Savitar and killing him reminds me of when Wally’s speed powers gave him a potential "death touch" back in Mike Baron’s Flash Annual #1 (1987) – a plot point that was never again followed up on as far as I can remember.

The Flash’s childhood is subjected to a major retcon as we learn that, as a boy, Barry returned home one afternoon to discover his father being arrested for the brutal murder of his mother. Barry’s parents were around during his Silver Age stories so this is a huge change if everything is as it seems and we don't have a parallel universe Barry running around! In fact in his death throes in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8 he can be seen regretting having to leave them behind. Note also that one of the policemen attending the murder is Chyre, an officer who was a major supporting character in Geoff Johns’s Flash run during the Wally West era.

The Black Flash was first seen in Flash #138 (June 1998) during the short Grant Morrison/Mark Millar run. Savitar and his speed cult first proved themselves a serious threat to Wally West in the "Dead Heat"  arc in Flash #s 108-111 (Dec 1995-Mar 1996).

Questions: What is the imprisoned Dr. Alchemy referring to when he wonders if the Flash will still be angry for "what I did to her"? Who really killed Barry Allen’s mother? What is the true nature of Barry’s connection to the Speed Force? How can death die and if, as implied in Final Crisis, the Black Racer and the Black Flash are the same being what does this mean for the New Gods? Is Barry now the Black Flash’s replacement? That would explain the Black Flash’s demise and go some way to explaining his killing of Savitar. Who is the mysterious manipulator who claims to be behind Barry’s return? And what relationship to Barry’s black and white view of morality does the manifestation of his new powers have? One is clearly implied when he identifies Savitar as a murderer and subconsciously "executes" him.

Justice Society of America #25

The JSA finally face down their former member turned implacable foe Black Adam and his consort Isis, who has been turned to the dark side by use of his power. To save Stargirl Billy Batson also allows himself to become a thrall to Black Adam’s dark power. The Flash and the ghost of Billy Batson’s father engineer the release of the wizard Shazam’s soul which had been trapped on the Rock of Finality after his "death". An enraged Shazam then punishes Black Adam and Isis by turning them into statues and strips Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel of their magical abilities for failing him.

The Bigger Picture: Mary Marvel’s corruption began back in Countdown/Countdown to Final Crisis and was caused by a combination of being tainted by Black Adam’s power and being possessed by the evil New God Desaad. Darkseid’s henchman was finally driven out of her during Final Crisis.

Black Adam and Isis’s story began in the weekly series 52 wherein Adam created his own short-lived Black Marvel Family. Her death in that book led to a grief-stricken Black Adam initiating World War III  against the rest of the DCU before eventually bringing about Isis’s return to life in Black Adam: The Dark Age.

Shazam died in the Day of Vengeance  miniseries when the Spectre and Eclipso went to war with DC’s magical characters which, in turn, led into Infinite Crisis. Freddy Freeman took on the mantle of the new Shazam after the recent The Trials of Shazam maxiseries. As Shazam says, Freddy’s magic is from "elsewhere", alluding to the fact that the ToS series confusingly indicated there were two sets of the same Gods in the DCU – the Gods of Myth and the Gods of Magic. The Zeus, Mercury, Hercules et al. that traditionally powered the Marvel Family are members of the Gods of Myth while Freddy Freeman is currently empowered by a different Zeus and co. who are part of the Gods of Magic.

Continuity Corner: Not relating directly to recent "Bigger Picture" DCU storylines, Billy Batson’s father has spiritual penance to pay for his actions in 1994’s The Power of Shazam! graphic novel.

On the way to the Rock of Finality Mr. Batson’s ghost takes Jay Garrick through the "liquid membrane between time and space". From here various under-dimensions can be accessed. On view is Limbo where the original JSA can be seen in what was supposedly their final fate in 1986’s Last Days of the Justice Society of America Special #1, Prometheus’s crooked house located in the Ghost Zone and Dr. Fate’s tower. Apparently the Gemworld, from the various 1980s Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld series, can also be accessed from here.

Questions: How will the returned Shazam react to learning his daughter Blaze is now the monarch of Hell after the Reign in Hell miniseries? What is the final task Billy’s father must perform before he can move on to the afterlife? How does Shazam intend on dealing with Freddy Freeman/the "new" Shazam? And were the "Gods of Magic" who empowered him in The Trials of Shazam really all they seemed? Who is the mysterious figure who appears at the issue’s end and indicates Black Adam and Isis will become his/her champions? Is he/she the same person who sits on the twisted throne on the Rock of Finality? What and where next for a de-powered Billy and Mary Batson?

Join us later this weekend when we’ll round up the rest of this week’s releases including the next round in the Battle for the Cowl, a Teen Titans double whammy and the latest on the Aberrant Six. See you then.

 

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