|REMEMBER, KIDS: NOSTALGIA KILLS!|
|Equals at Last!|
That's why I think Geoff Johns' Barry Allen never quite gelled for me. I had all these preconceptions going in about what Barry Allen's return would mean, and the reality didn't line up. I expected we'd get a gentle, smiling hero of the old school variety, the kind who's not motivated by guilt or greed and loves what he does. Instead, Johns locked Barry's return into a new arc where Zoom changed history and killed his mother. Barry suddenly seemed like oh-so-many other obssessive superheroes who can't let go of the past.
It was The Return of Barry Allen all over again, only this time I was playing the role of Wally West. I kept falling back on Will Rogers' adage, "Things ain't what they used to be, and probably never was." Maybe I had unrealistic expectations about what the Silver Age would look like filtered through a modern consciousness. But I couldn't shake this feeling that Barry Allen came across like a poor man's Bruce Wayne. In spite of the fact that I had a paid subscription to the Flash, I left several issues unread and never picked up Flashpoint. I moved from excitment to disappointment to apathy.
Enter the DC relaunch. I picked up more comics in the month of October than I have in years, and was pretty impressed. So I entered Manapul and Baccullato's Flash #1 with cautious optimism. I went in thinking maybe--just maybe-- they'd tap into something the character had lacking, which makes it sound kind of like a vitamin deficiency. Barry had struck me as a character who could use an extra cup of coffee, at any rate.
So no one was more surprised than me when I came away feeling like I'd plugged into everything the industry has been missing.
If that sounds like hyperbole, well maybe. But I tend to think that every comic should make you feel that way. When I put down $3 for an issue, you owe me something I can't get anywhere else. A voice, if you will. So now get back to that vague platitude: a return to Silver Age glory. Only now it doesn't seem so empty.
If there's one character who embodies the Silver Age more than any other, it's Barry Allen. He is, after all, the guy who kicked the whole thing off in Showcase #4. And we're talking about more than a template, an aesthetic or a sensibility. Barry Allen very well might have saved the mainstream superhero from extinction. So what exactly made Barry so special?
That iconic image of the Flash bursting out of a film reel is about so much more than a guy who runs fast. Only you or I would even call it running. Barry would see that description as crude, like telling the Buddha he's just sitting under a tree. This is a man whose entire world is defined by motion. This is the hero who's living life in 4D.
When we talk about getting back to Silver Age basics, I think we mean that you have to constantly sell this idea that the Flash doesn't look at the world the same way we do. It's more than throwing out some wavy motion lines and calling it a day. You need to convince readers the Flash is different at the celluar level.
That's why I think The Flash benefits so much from having the artist and colorist as co-writers. They seem less likely to draw crude distinctions between word and art, right down to the lettering. Manapul and Buccellato know it's all connected, and that puts them more in tune with Barry's worldview.
|Is this what it was like to be a kid when SHOWCASE #4 hit stands?|