Flash: Rebirth #1 review

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Flash: Rebirth #1 sees the first story focused on Barry Allen — the Silver Age Flash — since his return in Final Crisis.  Barry had died over two decades earlier during the first Crisis, so people were eagerly awaiting his return (albeit with some trepidation from the fans of Wally West, his successor, who feared their Flash would be replaced).  Since Barry was such an iconic character and has been gone for so long, Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver face a fairly daunting task — how to update the character and make him relevant, and to justify even bringing him back in the first place.  Rebirth is our first look at how it’s going to happen.

 

There will be spoilers in this review, so you’re warned!

 

The issue sets up a variety of conflicts; the endless Barry vs Wally vs Jay vs Bart arguments which continuously plague Flash fandom, Barry’s feelings on his mysterious return, a mystery villain, and the death of a speedster.  Bart Allen is also back after his untimely death at the hands of the Rogues, and he isn’t terribly thrilled about Barry’s return, even though Barry is his grandfather (he may well be resentful that his mentor Max Mercury hasn’t returned from the Speed Force like Barry has).  Wally seems a bit uncomfortable even though he idolized Barry and spent years trying to be like him, so Johns is setting up conflict between the various generations of speedsters.

 

Meanwhile, Barry has conflicting feelings on his return, as can be expected.  He likes the faster pace of the modern world, and seems to have adapted very quickly, as one might expect from a speedster.  Though his most famous look is of a somewhat dowdy man in a bow tie and crewcut, Van Sciver manages to make him look like Barry Allen but still modernize his appearance so he doesn’t seem out of touch.  However, Barry seems concerned about the Speed Force attempting to draw him back inside and the things he missed while gone; his sense of duty is still strong, and he blows off the parties and parades in his honour so he can go back to work as the Flash.  We see a reason for this from his past, which I’ll touch on in the next paragraph.

 

There is one apparent retcon to Barry’s past, which is very problematic if taken at face value.  We see a flashback to his childhood, in which he discovers his mother murdered, and his father is arrested.  This is completely at odds with what we saw of Barry’s family life in previous stories — in fact, both his parents outlived him.  The narration seems to imply this incident was largely responsible for him becoming the Flash, when of course this didn’t exist in previous continuity and had nothing to do with his motivation.  Now, it is entirely possible that things are not as they seem, and I’m sincerely hoping that’s the case, but Johns has certainly put plenty of retcons into the Flash universe before, mostly in the Rogues’ histories. 

 

There are two reasons I find this apparent retcon problematic: his parents appeared in plenty of old Flash stories and even played a prominent role in a particular one, so does this mean they didn’t happen or have been significantly altered?  I like the story centered around Henry Allen, so I’d be very disappointed if it’s now been wiped from history (Johns even referenced that story a few years ago during his run on the Flash series).  And the second reason it’s problematic is that it significantly darkens Barry’s history, which frankly I don’t think was needed.  Barry came from light-hearted ordinary origins, had a happy family, and still chose to become a superhero anyway.  He doesn’t need the angst of seeing his mother’s bloody corpse and his father arrested for her murder.  Let’s hope this is some kind of false memory, perhaps related to the second Zoom, whose own father murdered his mother.

 

The art from Van Sciver is very good.  Not only does everyone look visually distinctive and detailed, he puts in many subtle touches which enhance the story and make it a treat for Flash fans.  The museum scenes in particular are filled with images of all the Flashes, mementoes from Flash history, and tons of Rogues (including some fairly obscure ones).  My one complaint is that Iris Allen looks far too young for a woman her age, but she was also depicted that way first in Final Crisis, so Van Sciver probably isn’t responsible for the change.

 

Overall I thought this was a fairly good issue, and a nice start, but was quite dismayed by the apparent retcon to Barry’s history.  On a personal level, I’d like to see more Rogues, though this is of course Barry’s story.  However, most of the well-known Rogues got their start against Barry, so they’re closely tied in with him and do deserve some spotlight.  They all mourned in a way when Barry died, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react to seeing him alive again, and knowing there is now a whole team of speedsters active in their city.

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8 Responses to “Flash: Rebirth #1 review”

  1. Speed Reading - Flash: Rebirth #1 Review Round-Up « Speed Force Says:

    […] dillonmania (a.k.a. Lia) – “a fairly good issue, and a nice start, but was quite dismayed by the apparent retcon to Barry’s history” […]

  2. gokitalo Says:

    Finally read it and I agree, it’s a pretty nice start. That retcon IS troubling, like you say: I don’t know much about Barry’s parents, but seeing history being mucked around with like that always makes me worry. I do hope it’s a fake-out, especially since one the great things about Barry is that he didn’t become a hero out of tragedy. In fact, I think you may have hit the nail on the head with your Zoom theory.

    I think my favorite part of the issue was Barry’s conversation with Hal (very fitting, seeing as Hal is the other Rebirth guy). Sure, it was a bit expository in some places, but it just flowed so naturally on the whole. I was worried the last-minute change in colorists would affect the artwork, but I think Alex Sinclair did a fine job. Oh, and speaking of the art, Van Sciver was just fantastic. He even made Savitar look cool! I also loved the detail he gave to that close-up shot of the Black Flash’s face. Barry’s updated look was nicely done, as well.

  3. gokitalo Says:

    Oh, and the fact that the SpeedForce didn’t refer to this blog by name is telling us something :b

  4. dillonmania Says:

    You aren’t really surprised about the blog’s name, are you? 😉

    Johns has given an interview since the issue came out…with IGN, I think…and suggests that we know nothing about Barry’s origins/family life. This worries me that the retcon will stand as is, but we’ll see, I guess.

    Yeah, I liked the scene with Hal.

  5. gokitalo Says:

    Just read that interview myself and yeah, from the sounds of it, the retcon may not be a red herring after all. Then again, we’ve got four issues to go, so I guess anything could happen…

    Spiff, David and I have talked about possibly changing the blog’s name before, but we could never really agree on one we’re all wild about. I mean, we can get a lot of humorous mileage of the name (I even based a whole ratings system off it), but it also limits us in a couple of ways.

    Any suggestions? You can list ’em here or in the email I just sent to everyone, up to you.

  6. SmartRemarks » Flash: The Return—nothing to run around over Says:

    […] care about the revival. It’s no surprise that the critical reaction, to judge by other reviews so far, is decidedly mixed. A bad first issue doesn’t always doom a book, and I’m sure […]

  7. spiffyithaca Says:

    So I read it a few weeks ago finally, and finally got to checking out the blog again. I enjoyed the first issue and am excited to see what happens next (if I ever do), but finding out that about the retcon pisses me off, and I’m usually an easy guy to fling a retcon over, so that tells you something. I hope Johns is fucking with us.

  8. dillonmania Says:

    Yeah, the second issue reinforced the retcon, and even stated that Barry’s dad died in prison. Let’s hope for a time-travel/mucked-up memory out…

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