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Thursday, 15 March 2012 11:59
Shuffle Track #11 COMIC BOOKS.  Those episodic ersatz escapes from the drudges of modern life. They can entertain, enrage, even inform. On the best days they are art and on the worst, they are still one helluva way to pass the time. They’re portholes that afford you a glimpse onto foreign vistas; they can serve as  the potholes that wake you up out of your road hypnosis when you drift into life’s slow lane. Genre makes no difference; today’s offerings are slices from three different flavors of pie, but come on, PIE IS ALL GOOD! I used to think that one type of comic was better than another-that if you were an avid reader of one type of comic that you were somehow better than someone who didn’t subscribe to your taste in rendered reads. Enough with the elitism, all of comicdom is fair game and it’s a sweet sanctuary made for all of us. When it’s all said and done, it’s all about the fun- You’re in the MIXX! Read more...
Published in Creator Owned Indie
Monday, 27 February 2012 11:18
 Monsters, robots, dinosaurs and zombies…well that’s where it starts. Each week Rob Richardson, our ROBotiX brings you the sci-fi, horror and macabre of comics, movies and TV with the style. He will also be doing con coverage, movie reviews and even classic sci-fi movie reviews from the beginning of the genre to present. Join us here for his preview/review column Circuit Breakers and also his more focused topical column ROBotiX of course……firing up the generators…tachyons accelerating…configuring…broadcasting in 3..2..1.. *Begin Transmission* Plotting the Downfall of the Brave and the Bold !!!SPOILER ALERT ON A MASS SCALE!!! Who do you turn to when the world’s most powerful heroes go rogue? Who would have a contingency plan to stop them? Who would trust them the least? Read more...
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 09:59
DC Comics Rule! A String Was Broken, Comics Are Coming Back Welcome back to the Chain, my monthly fix of stats and all things numbers. January might be the cold mid-winter for most of us, but in comic book land it is sizzling hot. Like I said in the header DC Comics are ruling the market, including breaking more records, and comic book gains from last year are jaw dropping. It's not all sunshine and rainbows though, because for every winner there has to be a loser and in this case the losses are starting to pile up. Before I get into that though, let’s start with DC Comics. I like a lot of older fans was dismayed when news came out that DC was going to reboot. I am on record saying that the gamble was huge and if it failed it had the potential to ruin the whole industry. I went so far as to say I thought it was a slap in the face to long time fans and collectors.I wrote about my worries that the glut of new books could affect the Indy books, and that if DC didn't deliver it could cause fringe fans to abdicate comics for good. Today I gladly eat crow on most of what I wrote. I still think it was a slap in the face to die hard fans, but the rest of my fears and opinions have been squashed like that bug that hit the windshield. The fact is DC has done something that no one else has been able to do since January of 2005, and that’s have all ten of the top selling books. DC is also making headway in market shares. Marvel Comics still leads in retail market share, taking home 35.17% of the retail compared to DC's 33.55%, but DC has taken over the unit market share with 39.86 % of the market compared to Marvel's 37.51%.      Marvels higher price keeps them in the game when it comes to the retail market, but looking at comparisons even that won't last long. It is too early to be panicking for Marvel but they do need to consider the possibility of lowering price to keep up with DC. Also the unit market share is eye popping, that just over 2% difference is something to make note of considering it puts Marvel at its lowest share of the market in a long while. The bright spot for Marvel are the summer movies which help sales at least for single issue books, but have in the recent past pushed numbers for multiple lines especially in the case of the Avengers movie. This will only be a stop gap as far as market shares go but it will help. Finally Avengers vs. X-Men should increase initial numbers in April depending on the story and consumer interest, but DC had their own wild card with Watchmen.      The Indies continue to hold their own and have a couple of small gains. Once again the DC Comics reboot did have an impact on Indy sales, or put a better way there is only so much money to go around. After the shock of the reboot wore off though the Indies have regained their losses and in the case of Image  Comics have managed to continue some gains although small. There have been rumblings that this would be the year of the creator owned comic, but it is too early to tell if this will become fact or fiction. It is also hard to do a comparison between December and January as December is always inflated by the holiday season and January is always slow guessed it, folks spent so much during the holiday season. The industry as a whole has a lot to celebrate. January 2011 to January 2012 show gains in comics and graphic novels with a total combined gain of 27.47%! Looking at the individual month to month sales though show a smaller increase and in the case of graphic novels a loss of 2.51%. I'm starting to sound like a broken record here, but with no less than 8 major movies coming out over the summer I believe we will see a stronger gain in both categories. Finally the moment you have been waiting for....January Top 20!  I'm not doing a comparison list this month, that will start with January vs. February and keep it all in the same calendar year. Like I said before DC took the top 10 but Marvel came back with 8 of the next ten. 1:         Justice League #5 2:         Batman #5 3:         Action Comics #5 4:         Detective Comics #5 5:         Green Lantern #5 6:         Batman the Dark Knight #5 7:         Superman #5 8:         Flash #5 9:         Batman & Robin #5 10:       Aquaman #5 11:       Uncanny X-Men #5 12:       Uncanny X-Men #4 13:       Wolverine and X-Men #4 14:       Wolverine #300 15:       Avengers X-Sanction #2 16:       Wonder Woman #5 17:       Amazing Spider-Man #667 18:       Avengers #21 19:       Teen Titans #5 20:       Amazing Spider-Man #678   Looking over that list I believe that may have been the most 5's I have ever typed, and it looks like next months list will be brought to us by the number 6 (you know the reference just admit it). Marvel is selling books but unless it has an X or a Spider in it they aren't selling well are they?  Will next month be more of the same? Can DC keep the pace it has set? Can Marvel find a way into the top twenty? All these questions and more will be answered next month, all you need to do is pull the Chain.   Read more...
Published in Breaking News
Monday, 09 January 2012 11:33
 Happy New Year, Bleederz! And welcome to 2012 (seriously, where are the flying cars already?!) and PART 2 of The Bleedie Awards where I look back at the year 2011 and give out an entirely imaginary trophy to all the comic book related stuff that I personally enjoyed over the last 12 months! Last week I gave out awards for Best New Character, Best Team and WTF Moment of the Year, but this week it’s time for BIG MONEY awards! I hope you are all wearing tuxedos and evening gowns while reading this. I’m in a gorgeous strapless Vera Wang number while writing it, y’know. How’s THAT for a creepy mental picture to start another wacky year with the Bleeder?! Read more...
Published in Pop Culture
Friday, 06 January 2012 13:55
A Books of Dreams: DC’s Omnibus’ – Geoff Johns’ Flash Volume 1 Om-ni-bus: A printed anthology of the works of one author or of writings on related subjects. Ok, I have been looking for a way to celebrate number 20. With reboots and Fear mongering dominating the comic year and a fistful of fantastic indie books I had a plethora of topics. Not the least of which was my current disdain for what some people are trying to tell me is Superman. Instead I decided to do what I enjoy the most. At eXPress News I am at home in the uber-deep examinations and review corner as anywhere else. But as this was my 20th Damm Lucky and the end of the year I needed BIGGER! I took it literally and read two omnibus’ to breakdown and review sure (Let’s be honest the material is great that’s WHY it’s in an omnibus!) but also to relive the glory of greatness and for me it also was an excuse to read a piece of work I knew far too little about. That work was the early Geoff Johns’ Flash run. More on this in a minute. First I want to talk about why do an in-depth breakdown of work already regarded as classic? Why rehash the past? We breakdown Shakespeare’s Othello, and Bukowski’s poems, Lucas original trilogy and Heinlein‘s Harsh Mistress on regular basis from different perspectives in order to gain a deeper understanding of their actual relevance. I believe both of these to be worthy or comic book equivalents of those individual works in their respective fields. It is good to see what makes a classic –classic; it is good to see the test of time measured by an expansion on the familiar by understanding past stories in a modern context. Volume one is here The Geoff Johns The Flash Omnibus; Volume 2 The New Teen Titans Omnibus Volume 1 may take me a year to breakdown but will be forthcoming. There is also a distinct difference in reading a collection of this size complete and all at once (relatively.) In the strictest sense it is not how the stories were intended to be read. In the spirit of the, dare I say, legendary runs in these collections it is really the only appropriate way to get the scope and perspective necessary to fully appreciate them.  There are other omnibus’ (omnibi?) more obvious like anything Kirby or Adams but these runs were special too. They are fun. It is fascinating and a little intimidating to think about breaking them down. Here at eXPress we do it a little different and of course this is no eXception. So I decided to do an in-depth breakdown from my not ever humble enough perspective.  So it’s a way to celebrate 20 great issues that you the reader have blessed me with. Thank You. Now let’s get this Christmas tree and turkey carcass in the incinerator. Geoff Johns’ The Flash Omnibus Art By: Scott Kolins/Doug Hazelwood/Angel Unzueta/Ethan Van Sciver Prentis Rollins/James Sinclair/Chris Chuckry/Jose Marzan Jr./Tom McCraw Letters by: Gaspar Saladino/John Costanza Collection Cover (below): Scott Kolins Interior Covers: Brian Bolland/Ethan Van Sciver/Angel Unzueta/Jae Lee & Jose Villarrubia/Scott Kolins   Collecting: The Flash 164-176 The Flash: Iron Heights #1 The Flash Secret Files #3 The Flash: Our Worlds At War #1 Carmine Infantino is “Mr. Flash” to me. He always will be. Those Silver Age Barry Allen books were the childhood definition and therefore my most treasured definitions of the character. While this run on the character explored every aspect of the Scarlet Speedster it had been ages since I actually wanted to read them again and while researching an article on the Silver Age ordered the Johns Flash Omnibus not realizing what it was. I was glad and I read it immediately. Because I keep forgetting one important thing - that thing is a person actually, Wally West. It is the same Wally west I adored as Kid Flash. Wally West is the super hero I forget that I love so much. As an avid reader of nearly every era of Teen Titans/Outsiders/Young Justice etc. Wally was an ever present joy during the darkest of their times. Whether in the Judas Contract lightening the load with quips and buffoonery or helping Jinx in the cartoon version Wally West delighted and entertained. There were definitive guidelines to his personality…as a kid. I admit I had not read a ton of individual Flash featuring Wally as the Scarlet Speedster but the few I had read did not seem like my Wally. He seemed like a Barry Allen wannabe (literally for a while) and perhaps a little less dangerous feeling. I had always imagined him the cocky introspective smart guy with a chip humorously set on his shoulder. As such I missed the first part of the Johns run. I got to the party late but let me say this. I think Murmur is one of the best original characters in a decade with the Sentry and the Red Lantern Corp’s Atrocitus (also a Geoff Johns co-creation) also in that conversation. The point being I was on board for the big debut of Murmur but had no idea about the Cold/Mirror Master/Flash adventure to a revenge thirsty ghost from Wally’s past or the kooky cult with the Flash Logo shaped knives, the psycho and newly dead ex-girlfriends with or without Weather Wizard/Flash’s  baby. I read these for the first time here save issue #167 and #171 which I had read in individual form from the news stand (grocery store) and they had no context whatsoever. So I was of course treated like on few occasions I can remember to read this omnibus. The experience of a run in its entirety unhindered by month long waits and multiple collections was a great way to get most of this the first time, I realize now the whole run is one story. It is the Rogues' story not the Flash's however.Very Cool. Volume 2 of this Omnibus comes out in the spring. I of course need one of those. I believe that is Wally's story.   Rogue Unions - The Flash #164-169: Wonderland Talk about starting with a Bang! Pow! Zap! The debut of Johns on Flash is like breathing in a breath of pure Speed Force as Wally – strong and confident – and lost in a mirror world of power stealing proportions! Yeah I did just use bang pow zap reference…sue me. But I was astounded at what a difference in storytelling and what a difference the feel, pace and vitality was immediately evident as special. From the first page of Johns’ Flash run (a falling Flash through an abyss symbolic of death and rebirth a grave no a rabbit hole! A Carroll quote hangs in Black and white midway between a skull canopy on a single panel dripping disorienting dread across corrupt cops and a fistful of spilling playing cards effaced with familiar specters from Wally’s life. But what grabs your eye and shows you the door is how SLOW the panel is. The Flash is going slow. The reader knows this long before the Flash or even the reader themselves realize it. It is the first page. Angel Unzueta draws motion and the lack thereof with a rarely seen dexterity. He cuts deep emotional strokes to the faces and imagery steeped in classic superhero lore. Then Wally starts talking like Wally West for the first time I recognize in that costume. “I’m The Flash! I’m the fastest man alive.” As he is getting the crap kicked out of him by the corrupt cops of a Keystone who have never heard of any Flash he refuses to allow even the cops to abuse him. We all find out… no Speed Force. Wally goes to jail. Now only his Rogues can help him get home. In just a few issues the team of Johns and Unzueta give life to the retread idea of being  trapped in a mirror world, the idea of Rogue/Hero familiarity and why Wally is the Flash without the Speed Force. Known uses of Flash’s powers get fresh new applications. All of this is inside the Wally I knew from Titans only he is older. Even his passionate romance to Linda, once a wooden story cliché’ necessary for the DC formula is exciting and feels real from the start. Then Johns begins his tale. One that pays homage to the Titans Wally in ways no one suspects. This story is about what the heart of the DC Universe has always been. It is also one of the most recent reminders that there is nothing wrong with the characters that a great team and a fantastic tale told deftly illustrated can’t fix. The heart idea I mentioned is this – there are good guys and bad guys but heroes are special whether they have powers or not. Batman is the will, Clark is the virtue and Flash (any but especially Wally) is the heart of the pre- New 52 DCU. In the exploration of the Rogues Mirror Master and Captain Cold we see in a way never before thought possible the fleshed out personalities of scientific geniuses and sociopathic misfits. They are real and even believably menacing yet there is an explanation as to why for years they were considered mere go to villains when needing to bridge arcs. (I always preferred Captain Cold to Mr. Freeze, Icicle, and Killer Frost etc.) The symbolic reflections (pun totally intended) in issues like Grimm’s  fear of change (#169) and their  implications - that acceptance of who we are is a rational and courageous course -  is not just delivered in the dialogue that still holds up today. This story moves like the hero itself. Even when the hero has no super speed it clips along at a deliberate and ever increasing acceleration. These may be some of the technical details, along with the plotting that feels like it was lived out on the side in reality and some of the most anatomically convincing, visually appealing representations of The Flash and his abilities.      In the pre-DCNU canon the acquisition of the Rogue’s weapons and use by Wally is one of the most special.  Wally doesn’t rehash old fights to win, he uses the weapons in ways the Rogues (who are NOT a stupid bunch…mostly) never dreamed, Wally is smart, we forget that sometimes because he is so affable, cocky, or personable depending on the era but he has a common sense Barry never had and an education Jay never did. Nowhere is this more vividly displayed than in Wonderland. Nowhere more so than when he has his Rogue’s Gallery’s weapons in lieu of super speed. In the long and lauded history of the Flash Johns’ run is full of some of its best moments and most ingenious uses of already known powers. This is fantastic comic storytelling. This is how decades old characters find vitality and relevance. This is where rubber meets road and goes on a road trip across your mind as well as the alternate Universes.     But you know what? These villain and hero lines are a little blurry but not in who is villain and who is hero but more like “if things were different we would watch the game together but they are not so I am going to have to kill you/apprehend you” way. It’s relevant to the entire dynamic OF heroes and villains. There are other relationships too long ignored and that is between the Rogues themselves. The casual tone and familiar retorts lend to the acknowledgement they have been fighting Flash forever and know each other like Hal and Ollie or Bruce and Clark. And Wally? Well He has Kyle I guess but more than any of the Flashes he is his own man. Wonderland is where Wally truly comes of age in my opinion. Wally (or any Flash) is not a savage fear machine like Bruce or a shining preachy white knight like Clark. He is going cut you some slack because he knows about living an everyday life. He is going to pay for it every time too. He is OK with that. That is the beauty of Johns writing – Wally is just a guy, he just happens to run really fast.  ________________________________________________________ SPECIAL FOCUS: THE ART OF WONDERLAND But to give credit to Johns alone for this fantastic story would be simply a grievous error. Angel Unzueta and Doug Hazelwood are the true stars of the first part of the Geoff Johns Flash run. Well, and the greatest assembly of cover, inkers and color artists I have ever seen in consecutive issues. While Unzueta has the lead in this run he is preceded by Brian Bolland covers. He is colored by one of the best in the business in McCraw. Gaspar is the letterer. Yet still it is Angel Unzueta that makes me believe this is Wally, that sells me on the real life snark of Snart and that keeps me coming back page after glorious page. The Pencils: Proportion. In one word it sums up the clear intent and brilliance of the penciling of Unzueta. When I think Flash this is how I will envision him from now on. Like Adams’ Batman before him, the physical proportioning in every panel is astounding. The relative sizes of the anatomy to the backgrounds, the anatomies to the cars and fore objects, and the very proportions of the anatomies themselves are exquisite to the very last panel. Unzueta understands that a lean fluid flash can also be muscular and intimidating. It is a powerful and “fast looking” Flash while standing still. The details are explicitly showcased ON FLASH HIMSELF and less so on the environments and backgrounds but not a single shortcut is taken in that regard either. It is simply a matter of a classic art idea that the focus of the story should be the most appealing aspect of the story to look at. It makes all the difference. The clean smooth edges of the objects are so cogent and so cohesive it literally creates a tension in the reader’s subconscious. It is as if there is so much order that the anticipation of chaos is desirable. It puts the reader in the perfect mindset for straightforward superhero stories. So when the writer throws a curve ball it is instantly believable.     The poses and positions of Unzueta range from the classic to the avant garde and this instantly gives the story credibility as Wally obviously would have learned some techniques and mannerisms from Barry and picked up his own. This also lends validity that this is still Wally because we have seen Wally in these states of action and rest. Unzueta did a lot of reading of those Infantino issues, or at least it seems so to me, because it feels like that era, it reads like a sharp knife and it sticks with you like super glue for the eye's memory. From the police station in the opening scene to the unreal feat of making Plunder’s ridiculous costume work like it was tailor made for the modern age he never falters. I went through every image in every panel for two days in this story alone and I was astounded to see just how much it was actually Unzueta’s visuals that sell the Johns tale. These pencils are the artistic DNA of these stories bringing ephemeral and elusive uses of Flash’s powers, the characterizations through position and stance to life. In the modern age of Flash it a definitive work of artistic integrity and master craftsmanship. It is as important to the Flash’s legacy as the early work on the Garrick Flash by Fox and Lampert or the Barry Allen Infantino/Kanigher/Broome work. More importantly the art could stand alone as fine art from even the stodgiest and most jaded of critics because of the fantastic mix of artistic expression and technical skill. Wonderland’s pencils are to behold, to be held and to be noted as classic. The Inks: There is no “classic” status on this run without the astounding inks of Doug Hazelwood. Inherently, organically and fluidly he understands Unzueta’s mind’s eye. It is bold and dark in the recesses and technically intricate in the lighter tones. His work on the figure of Flash is by far the best ink work in the modern era of Flash. I don’t care who is penciling Flash, Hazelwood should ink him/her. With his understanding of the Flash Hazelwood has done what is ESSENTIAL for a good Flash inker. He has lifted Flash off of the page to make just The Flash a pop-up book illusion that stands him up in the speed force visually. Separated from the world, not quite to the readers eye the perfectly inked edges and perfectly shaded muscle definitions leave Flash suspended between page and reader and when seen in the context of the plot deliver the powers and abilities on an India ink platter. From the Unzueta pencils springs a fully defined cylindrical hero standing in a stark dimensional relational disparity against all conventional and classical thought (not to mention the classic tone of the pencils in places.)He makes it look natural, inviting and credible. He makes it look like the only logical approach. Hazelwood’s is the perfect team player. He deftly watches the tone of the story while dexterously juggling the huge responsibility of enhancing those beautiful pencils in just the right places. If there is an inking error in this story I missed it. I poured over the final issue again and again. There are many opportunities to overdo it. There are many opportunities to not be bold. Hazelwood hits it right every time. Take for instance his decision to inverse inks in the second panel of page 43 (well duh buy this thing) where he makes the background work as a moving foreground. It is so subtle it flows right on by but it is the pivotal panel on the page BECAUSE of the inks. Yet it is merely an enhancement of the tone of the existing story. The work here demonstrates its exquisiteness by loudly blaring its supporting role without ever letting you know it’s doing it.     The Colors/Letters: How do you make “Flash Red” more believable and less ridiculous? You up the  amperage  on the ridiculous till it makes complete sense. That is what Tom McCraw has done in Wonderland. By toning down the environments – muting them flat but still appealing to the eye . Then you intensify all the “Flash Red” and “Flash Yellow” (like cabs and lightning for instance) and it lends even more speed and liquidity to an already beautifully rendered speedster. It is inverted genius and the simplicity of it is easy to catch on to. Again lifting the work’s inference of speed more than its direct display the previously misused gaudy scarlet, Stryper-esque yellow are utilized in perfect context to the heart of the story. His colors deliver the mood. When it comes to Wally West, inflection is everything. More than any of the major Justice Leaguers it is not what Wally says but HOW he says it. In comics Gaspar (Saladino) is one of the finest and one of its most overlooked as great. This is some of his best work though Detective #182 is my personal favorite issues of his I have seen. He letters by hand and with Wally he nails Johns’ script in tone and inference. The monologue letters are bold and friendly, the shouts powerful and visually stunning (often enhanced by McCraw’s colors) and the quiet times bleak and stark. It is world class crafted.   _________________________________________________________________ Old Flings and New Robes - The Flash #170– 173: Blood Will Run In one of the most excitingly original takes on a Flash villain ever the Flash cult storyline Blood Will Run brings clarity to what it is like to be the Flash. Johns wields his fanboy muscles with making the old villains, girlfriends and rescue victims relevant and fresh as the day they debuted without changing their characterization. This run is about the past and perspectives on it like the first but segue to the next set of life lessons – that of fanaticism and scorned faded love – as smooth as any run I have ever read, including what I consider the standard for those types of transitions - the Contagion/Legacy/Cataclysm/No Man’s Land Batman run. There is no “set up issue” of dormancy between the two stories and no feeling of beginning or end. Just like Wally’s (or anyone’s really) life it is a continual line of running transitions.     Upon retrieving Keystone and returning to the real universe with Linda, Flash is called to the scene of an armed assault scene from his date with Linda at the hockey game. Before he agrees and goes to the scene he notices Captain Cold in his civilian identity Leonard Snart also attending the game. Flash arrives on the scene of the hailing bullets and quickly subdues the first gunner …and runs into his old flame Julie and her tough as nails partner. Chyre. A mirror opposite of the Chyre we were introduced to in Wonderland who was a jerk. Johns’ manages to use the same character (initially one dimensional) twice and by the second appearance’s end he is a fully fleshed out character BECAUSE of the earlier revulsion painted in me.  The introduction…or re-introduction…of these characters is palpably awkward. It is a tense everyday situation that is instantly relatable in a “deal with it now” way. Reluctantly, I let go of the Wonderland story and replace satisfaction with anticipation. And that is what Johns’ greatest gift is. He delivers but then he creates an anticipation to get on with it. He doesn’t leave you in a state of satiated after-tale ecstasy. Instead he leads you along with a carrot you aren’t aware you are looking at. In this case the anticipation of the Linda. Wally, Julie exchange I was already dreading for Wally. Add to this scene the return of the nutjob (former nutjob?) Magenta who is also an ex-girlfriend and there are Springer moments abounding – DURING a gunfight. The subtle foreshadowing and characterization in spades are noteworthy. The spin on the rescued victims of The Flash in relation to new villain Cicada’s cult and the mysterious knife wound to the chest that rips the Speed Force cement the writing as innovative and again defining. It gives Wally a cool way to change into Flash.     Also of note is the compression. The plot advances at a snap finger rhythm and every panel displays a relevant progression. It is entirely inviting to read a story so compressed. I remember fondly not needing 8 panels to gesture to someone. Kolins has a great example of this. The primary difference in the art of this story versus Wonderland is the Kolins art is lighter, what I mean by that is this. Where Unzueta’s pencils are fleet of foot so to speak they are heavy, realistically dense and deadly serious in tone. Kolins manages to bring a familiar light heartedness more complex than Kid Flash and just short of a Spider-Man frivolity. The letters and inks are again exquisite with Hazelwood again finding the pulse of the Flash in the pencils. However this time he lets Kolins pencils stay more two dimensional because the real depth comes from this runs colorist James Sinclair, who takes the earlier muted background concepts and does something wonderful he makes the whole thing fun. From Jesse Quick to flying metal the colors in this arc are the superstars. In fact it saves the art which is fantastic but less dynamic when compared to Wonderland and really noticeable when read in sequence. Breathe - The Flash #174 - Moving Right Along Wally and Linda move down town. This is the breath, the downtime we were expecting after Wonderland. This is for we the readers benefit; you see we need to see more Wally and less Flash. We need to see her parents and their reaction to his being a superhero we need to see him scolded for unpacking the house in 2 seconds. But most of all we needed the glimpse into the personal life of the Pied Piper. We watch him allegedly kill his parents. Then the breath of fresh air is over. Tar Pit, hockey and Captain Cold show up to blow the tranquil issue all to smithereens and I finally get it. Johns’ is flexing his muscles and paying homage at the same time. He is demonstrating the self-contained comic story technique and paying homage to the Silver Age format of such all at once. He does it beautifully, deftly and as well as anyone in the modern era. The same art team only this time with John Costanza on letters (a fine job too!) delivers a good old-fashioned one shot superhero story in the traditional DC style and makes it feel as relevant as a 12 issue run. Now they are showing off and we are all to be the benefactors! Kolins’ issues get progressively better and 174 (we are only 11 issues in to this run?) is my personal favorite of his work as demonstrated by the panorama pencils below.      What Lovely Weather We Are Having - The Flash #175 – 176: Birth Right Bad choices have long arms. Just ask Wally West. A poor decision and human misdeed from a younger brash inconsiderate jerk of a Wally leads to a consequence much later as there is a baby with lightning in his eyes (Yikes!) and it seems he may be Wally’s son. But there are other players here too. One very angry newly befriended Weather Wizard has arrived on the scene to clarify the matter. Now Chyre, his new partner, Linda, Wally and Weather Wizard participate in a collateral damage Battle Royale for the Weather Wizard’s son. But the intricate set-ups inside the straightforward tale leave the groundwork for and introduce a most mysterious benefactor and “teacher “to the Rogues. But this is a tale of lessons and Weather Wizard is not the only one learning. Chyre is learning to get along with his new partner who happens to be the unlikable brass. Now linked at the hip the life-long beat cop isn’t too thrilled.  What is going on with Detective Marillo (his partner’s name) he gets beat to heck but miraculously heals so h emus learn why. Linda continues to learn of Wally’s past but also of his value to both the city and herself. Wally as ever continues to learn that people are people. Even super-villains. Johns again and again pays homage to the past with references and over the top uses of the powers set – both hero and villain. The fact that Flash can’t take the wand anymore is  proof of the familiarity they have with one another and the constant glaring reasons the rogues never win front and center, the new  “teacher” to Mark Mardon uses his alpha level powers with alpha level skill, truly becoming an A-List threat on par with Marvel’s X-woman Storm. But the again what sets it apart is the “least of these” elements. The baby.     The art team continues its consistent and beautiful breakneck plotting and with each issue the storytelling gets better and better. Weather Wizard for the first time in decades to this point was an actual menace.  This largely due to the art team, but especially Kolins’ pencils which by the last issue of this run has found his own place in the Flash canon and full stride as Flash’s penciler. Weather Wizard is gritty, smart and childish. These things readily demonstrated in his facial features. The art in this arc in fact revolves around expressions, and exclamations. Piper Dreams - The Flash: Iron Heights #1 This is the single most standout of The Flash I have ever read. It is true genius in every area. If there is a flawless issue in this omnibus this is it. From the first page bloodbath to the ending screams Iron Heights is a character defining issue over and over. You see Iron Heights is the prison where Flash’s Rougues are kept. It is not a very nice place. This is where we meet Murmur. Only he isn’t Murmur yet. He is a psychopathic killer apprehended by a younger Chyre and sent to Iron Heights by Barry Allen’s testimony. That’s right, Barry Allen in his first ever court testimony sends the demented Murmur up the river.     In the present day Wally and Jay race to stop a runaway train and meet up with Wally’s friend and ex-rogue (is he?) - Pied Piper. Weather Wizard meets the new warden of Iron Heights’ “mask” wing for super criminals The Pipeline. It’s even less pleasant than it sounds. The warden’s name is Gregory Wolfe this is his first appearance and he seems to be a metahuman. You do NOT want to be welcomed by him. Ask Mark Mardon about that. Wally on the other hand is called into break into the prison which goes into lockdown because a deadly virus – Frenzy -  has been loosed therein and headed to town. A disease is a great Flash villain.  Upon breaking in with Pied Piper (all the way there immersed in relationship talk) Flash finds out about The Pipeline. This is as inhumane as it gets super-villain or not. We get introduced to Girder, Fallout, and then Murmur steals piper’s sound gun. Flash takes the full brunt in the chest. Piper gets gets blindsided again by a skin peeling con man Double Down and then we get the mastermind, the revelation and the fear as Wally races to save himself from the virus too. Murmur is its creator. His blood is abnormal and also immune to everything. The virus and the antidote from the same man becomes the plan. But can Jay save Wally in time? Of course he can. But will he ever get over the unmasking of Murmur, the unknown assault of the warden or the knowing look the warden gave Piper? In the end, Murmur makes it official and joins The Rogues.     John’s once again goes to great length to show the weak humanity that is the Rogues, the hidden villain and manages to put Barry, Jay and Bart all in there as well. It has heart, it has action, it has horror. This is the first book in the run that did not feel reminiscent of the Silver Age but of The Dark Knight Returns only for The Flash. This is in part due to the dark tone of the setting played on carefully with the all too light Wally dialogue (even when dying) as a contrast. He takes the single issue containment story technique he used in moving right along and applied it to a more morose tale. But it is Van Sciver’s introduction to Johns’ Flash as an interior artist that turns Iron Heights into a dark and menacing classic. The choice to leave the opening sequences in black and white was so perfect a choice it makes the appearance of color welcomed. Then as all vibrancy drains from them before your eyes inside the Heights you mourn their passing. Sinclair outdoes himself again and again. In The Flash’s canon Iron Heights may be its most pivotal moment.       Golden Titans and Black Racers: Flash - Our Worlds at War#1 This is an issue in the Our Worlds at War mega event and is really out of context here. It is a slap in the face to the smooth story of the Flash as the preceding tales and though necessary to be called an omnibus, there is really little significance here to the rest of the work. The gold Cyborg and parademon throw down was cool. There is an edge and an attitude to this book that I suppose fits the tone of the crossover and even with all the jerky out of placeness to the continuous read Johns and company make it interesting. How? They focus on the Black Racer and the philosophical concept of child death and mortality versus morality in a poignant life lesson that I found profound. Touche’ Mr. Johns. It is fascinating to see the team of artists here try to find The previous Flash feel here. They do not manage it very well because it can’t be done in the context of that story. There is something special about the previous issues and it is rare to capture that specialty in a mundane overwrought crossover. What saves this issue and keeps it somewhat consistent to this run is simply that it shines. Literally. It is a garish, metallic shiny ball of fun to look at pages. But not  the relevant masterwork of its predecessors in the Johns run. Rogues- The Flash Secret Files #3 The conclusion to the omnibus is both a wrap-up and a cliffhanger. It was the most compressed Flash tale yet in this run and it focuses on the point of view (mostly) from a new Rogue specialist fresh out of the F.B.I. academy with a bum leg – Hunter Zolomon. Yep kiddies, it is Zoom. He has a limp but knows where to find Murmur who has gone on a killing spree. But we now know The Rogues are organized and we now know who runs them. The Thinker!! While Zolomon and Flash chase Murmur the rest of the Rogues including Magenta, Girder and Weather Wizard further the plan of Thinker and rescue Murmur. Wait for the next omnibus!! It is as good an end as it was a beginning and Kolins pencils are raging cool mixed with restrained technique and the inks again are amazing. I’m done here. The art speaks for itself.     So there you have it, the DAMM breakdown of the Johns’ Flash volume 1. I hope you had fun reading this and that you relived the glory of this run with me. If you have not read this run I encourage you to do so in this format. It was insightful and fun. It made the Flash cool again if but for a little while. (I hate the rugby helmet wearing version.) if the DCNU erased this part of continuity then they are truly foolish. All in All I am Lucky eXpect eXcellence. We are eXPress News on ©2012 | DAMM     Read more...
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 16:47
Bleederz! Welcome! It’s Week 4 and the final week of The New 52!! Both rotten tomatoes and multi-colored confetti has been pelted. Before I wrap up my final thoughts on this history making month in comics let me throw my last two reviews out to you guys! It’s two big ones! There will be blood! First off we got Batman: The Dark Knight (I think it should be just called “The Dark Knight” but WHATEVER) co-written by Paul Jenkins and art and co-written by David Finch. Read more...
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