Best Shots: Flash Rebirth, New Mutants, WW3 Ill. & More
Dan DiDio: 25 Answers, 1 Question
The Flash: Rebirth #2
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Ethan Van Sciver
Published by DC Comics
Review by THE Rev. O.J. Flow
One thing that's been fun to follow is the discussions, debates, and flat out unseemly arguments that have come from the heralded return of the Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen, to the modern DC Universe. I am not here to make a claim on one Scarlet Speedster over the other. Having nothing to do with preference (I have great admiration and respect for Jay Garrick, Barry and Wally West to one degree or another), I will let you know that I was born when Barry had over a decade of service under his belt (early 1970s), and my comic book readership happened to take it to the next level, post-Crisis, when Wally graduated from the minor leagues of the New Teen Titans to the big leagues. So maybe you could say that I'm a cross-generational fan of the Flash character. But one thing keeps coming up recently by the folks who have been against this return of Barry Allen is the idea that he's been so long removed from the DCU that an entire generation has no connection to him, so why bother?
Couple of points on that: 1. That notion didn't stop me from becoming completely enamored of Jay Garrick when I started getting into the JLA/JSA team-ups of the Seventies and Eighties when I regularly read the first volume of Justice League of America. Jay was decades removed from his own feature book at the time, and yet I know I was not alone in thinking how cool it was to see this elder statesman sharing time with Barry. 2. Barry Allen's death didn't deter television producers at CBS from doing a live-action show on Barry Allen in 1990 even though Wally West was running things full speed ahead for almost four years at that time. Not that it was a ratings smash (competing against The Cosby Show and The Simpsons will level the mightiest of superheroes), but how many Flash fans then actually spurned the show because it "wasn't their Flash"? Regardless of how strongly or not The Flash: Rebirth finishes, I think DC Comics for decades has been successful in establishing the concept that the universe has room for more than one Flash.
I was one of the people who found last month's debut issue to be more funeral than homecoming, so I was pleased that Flash: Rebirth #2 to be a much more uplifting bit of superhero storytelling. DC clearly hopes that Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver can make lightning strike twice coming off the success of 2004's Green Lantern: Rebirth, though two issues into it I'm not ready to declare this new book a winner or loser yet. Johns in particular has been rocking some other good material lately with two limited series that stemmed from Final Crisis, Legion of Three Worlds and Rogue's Revenge, which makes the somewhat grave and leaden tone found in this series all the more surprising, especially considering the proven track record Johns has in the Flash universe. Like I said before, issue #2 is markedly more upbeat than it's predecessor, but there remains a bleak tone to Barry Allen's return that could be the book and character's undoing if things don't pick up soon.
The pacing in Johns script is perfectly suitable for the overall "Rebirth" concept, and plenty of effective material is covered from the past up until the present day. Between the mystery of the lab assailant who emerged in the first issue, the force behind Barry's potential descent into darkness, and the cold case involving the murder of his own mother, Johns & Co. have many irons in the fire. And Van Sciver is more than up to the task of capturing the superspeed action of Barry Allen, Wally West and the assorted heroes and villains, his detail-oriented style always a feast for the eyes. But just as recently as a week ago, we saw how Johns (with the artistry of George Perez) could make a Scarlet Speedster's return from the dead a fun, joyous affair in Legion of Three Worlds with Bart Allen's rousing comeback. That whole scenario only served to underscore the more dire tone found throughout much of "Dead Run." Where things do pick up noticeably are the the flashback scenes providing more details to Barry Allen's life leading up to the legendary accident at the Central City Police Department laboratory that made him the most inspirational hero of the Silver Age. Some much needed levity is used when we see what got Barry wearing bowties and the latent charm he had with his eventual wife, Iris. It was a tad disappointing to see her portrayed as a poor man's Lois Lane (Linda Park and Vicki Vale, anyone?), but at least even she was aware of that back in the day.
As I suggested before, should the powers that be at DC deem Barry Allen the forerunner of the Flash family, the more the merrier, I say. With three more chapters to go, though, I hope that The Flash: Rebirth has what it takes to make its lead character relevant again. Unlike the speedy trial of one Sam Scudder, the jury's still out on this one.
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Diogenes Neves
Review by Brian Andersen
Yay! The original New Mutants are back and it’s never been a better time to be a fan of Marvel’s Merry Mutants.
Overall I would declare this all new New Mutants title a rousing success, with the best thing about this premier issue resting not so much on seeing most of the old gang together again bashing heads and taking names - although that was indeed quite super - but on the issue’s heavy emphasis on characterization. Every character had their moment, a scene or two, a line of dialogue or two that was interesting enough, and quiet enough, to really draw the readers in. From Sam’s chat with Cyclops, to Illyanna’s revealing conversation with Beast, to Amara visiting the blinded Empath, each moment was note prefect.
The issue embraced continuity and was able to welcome and respect the long time New Mutant fans of old (man are we getting old) while also allowing the story to be open and inviting enough to not scare away any new, non-classic, New Mutant fans. So job well done, writer Zeb Wells. A gold star for you. The art by Diogenes Neves was also pretty good, although it seems the inks or the colors washed out some of his usually dynamic pencils. At times the panels looked a bit frozen, like the energy of the work was diluted by the finishing touches. Aside from this nit-pickyness, Neves bid a fine job.
My only complaint? When did Bobby Da Costa undergo the same skin whiting procedure as Michael Jackson? I remember Bobby being a beautiful, dark skinned, Brazil boy. This Bobby seems to be a white washed, pale version of his former self? C’mon Marvel bring us back the real Bobby! Brown is beautiful!
Written & Illustrated by lots of people
Edited by Peter Kuper & Kevin Pyle
Published by World War 3 Illustrated/Top Shelf
Reviewed by Michael C Lorah
For twenty-nine years now, World War 3 Illustrated has been providing cartoonists with an outlet to express their outrage about the political, social and economic woes of the world. Editors Peter Kuper (one of the magazine’s co-founders) and Kevin Pyle take an unusual tack in this issue, focusing entirely on silent comics.
Kuper, an experiences silent comics veteran, is the perfect man to lead this project, and his eye for conveying information visually is evident throughout each of these shorts. Among the highlights, David Yazbek’s “Steps of Another Man’s House” deals with raising children, the freedom of dreams and the rat race of adulthood, and how different choices don’t always lead to different results. Andy Singer’s economic satire “Middle Manage” is darkly humorous, as is Terry LaBan’s buy-out focused one-pager “The Crisis,” a moebius-strip of American financial markets.
Readers will have no trouble deciphering the overall intent of each cartoonist. Each strip deals with its subject in a fairly broad manner, though several cartoonists – notably Sabrina Jones, Peter Kuper and Ryan Inzana suggest some challenging ideas that readers can chew over for hours after flipping past the pages. As with any book featuring over two dozen contributors, a handful may not be to a particular reader’s taste, but the overall quality of the cartooning is virtually undeniable.
There are a ton of reasons to love World War 3 Illustrated #39. It’s extremely left leaning, angry, funny and – best of all – top to bottom beautifully drawn, featuring everything from Kevin Pyle’s effectively saccharine tribute to the power of communication and sharing to Santiago Cohen’s brutal attack on attitudes toward immigrants. Essentially, it’s like every other issue of the magazine published in the last thirty years: a powerful document of its times and the frustrations faced by citizens of the world today. World War 3 Illustrated remains the preeminent political and social comics magazine in America today.
Oh, and it’s 120 pages for only $5. Find me another comic that offers that type of value.
Superman: World of New Krypton #3 (DC Comics; review by Rev. O.J. Flow) Even mindful of the quality creative talent involved, I was certain that yanking the Man of Steel longterm out of Metropolis -- heck, Earth for that matter -- was a recipe for disaster, but I love to have my belief systems challenged. Exceeding my wildest expectations, World of Krypton has become appointment comic book reading for me. All odds against him, Kal-El is managing to make things work at his more native locale, and probably the biggest surprise in this is how he has managed to effectively work with General Zod. I guess you could say that Superman is doing a good job bringing truth, justice and the American way to New Krypton. As I got halfway through this third issue, I found myself getting more and more eager for a throw-down between Superman and his chief rival, Commander Gor. With a dozen more issues to go I was sure that we'd all have to wait a little longer, so you can imagine how thrilled I was with what we got by issue's end. Between Greg Rucka, James Robinson and Pete Woods, I'm not sure who to thank for the subtle allusion to Batman's influence on Superman and his ability to handle an opponent, but it was quite inspired. I found myself cheering right alongside Kal's Military Guild comrades. But really, did anyone truly believe that such excellent stories could happen with Superman out of costume and anything but unique in terms of super-abilities? All of the sudden I feel like General Zod or Alura Zor-El with how much I've been proven wrong of late.
Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #5 (of 5) (Radical; review by Jeff Marsick): This series has had its ups and downs and it finishes dully on its lowest low. Sam and her resistance forces are on the ropes from the Alliance Marines, just a love tap away from being kayoed when one of the most ridiculous, cliché, and unbelievable side-switches occurs and conveniently turns the tide and brings victory to the underdogs. Laughable still is when a Battlestar-like ship augers into the planet and our handy traitor emerges, relatively unscathed, and receives immediate absolution for his actions that caused the deaths of so many. The dialogue is hackneyed and groan-inducing, with Gunnery Sergeant Harman the model from which to build off of. The last four pages are uncomfortably awkward and likely to raise your cholesterol from the amount of cheese thickly spread. Mr. Hutomo’s artwork is the lone shining point of this series, although his battle sequences have a tendency to get too muddled and hard to follow, and his faces are clearly his weakest points. Still, I would love to see him team up with Ashley Wood to do a story of robots and machines, or even see him take on mech-heavy titles like Robotech, Warhammer, or (even better!) Transformers. To date, this is Radical’s most disappointing title. Save your money and buy something else.
In Case You Missed It . . .
Mr. Stuffins #1 of 3
Writers: Andrew Cosby & Johana Stokes
Penciller: Axel Medellin Machain
Review by Mike Mullins
The concept isn’t new, but Cosby and Stokes provide an interesting and mostly entertaining take on military/spy technology falling into the hands of a regular family. While the story depicted in issue one never feels as if it is breaking new ground, it doesn’t feel like an overused concept either. The writing is serviceable or better throughout with interesting twists, clever dialogue, and intriguing concepts.
This issue begins with a scientist on the run trying to prevent his super spy artificial intelligence program from being sold on the black market. The disc with the program is hidden inside a child’s stuffed bear resembling Teddy Ruxpin. The stuffed bear is soon thereafter purchased by Zach Taylor.
The first half of the issue is tethered to blandness by an opening that takes a few too many pages to deliver the setup, but once the super spy program activates, Mr. Stuffins, both character and comic, takes-off. The issue shines as Mr. Stuffins receives his orders, provides an assessment of the effectiveness of a foam bullet, and protects his ward from school bullies.
Just as the story picks up once Mr. Stuffins comes online, so does the art. Machain’s humans are rendered skillfully enough, but don’t really come alive on the page. His depiction of Mr. Stuffins, on the other hand, is expressive and engaging, making Machain’s art more than adequate for the book. The real regret, artistically, is the limited palette used throughout the book, especially in the backgrounds where most every locale has nearly the same drab walls and furniture. I am sure there was a purpose to having most of the backgrounds colored in neutral tones, but the end result sometimes makes the book feel a bit monotonous and melancholy.
The issue ends with a promise of much more action to come and there are enough positives in this issue to make me want to return for issue two.
The Best Shots Movie Review
Director: J.J. Abrams
Cinematography: Daniel Mindel
Screenplay: Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
Editing: Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood
Review by David Pepose
J.J. Abrams' reboot to the Star Trek franchise pushes the property into the 21st century, giving it more than enough character, action, and smarts to let viewers boldly go where no man has gone before. With inspired casting and a high concept to kill for, this is a film that is so good that after the credits, I immediately went back in to see it again. Believe me, it was worth it.
The film starts off with a hauntingly beautiful opening, illustrating the rise and fall of Captain George Kirk, as he assumes command only to take on the time-traveling leviathan helmed by the villainous Nero. In the end, George sacrifices his life so that his family might live, with a largely wordless but visually effective display of daring heroism. The scene ends on a poignant note, as George lives just long enough to hear his son be born -- and on the altar of interstellar sacrifice, James Tiberius Kirk gets a whole new lease on life.
George Kirk's sacrifice only opens up to a muscular, streamlined first act, as we are introduced to the two main players of the film: Kirk and Spock. With his lack of a father figure, young Kirk displays a rebelliousness and cocky attitude that makes him an instantly compelling figure; meanwhile, Spock carries an edge to his stoicism that belies the conflict of his mixed heritage, as he lashes out on a pack of Vulcan bullies.
In their attempts to transcend their imperfect home lives, Kirk and Spock both make their way into Starfleet, eventually butting heads over Kirk's cheating on Spock's impossible-to-beat Kobayashi-Maru test. Yet Kirk's expulsion is interrupted by a Starfleet emergency, as the young cadets are divided up onto their respective ships. Starting with Bones' clever and comedic plan to smuggle the blacklisted Kirk aboard the Enterprise, the plot moves quickly toward Kirk and Sulu's interstellar HALO drop on the stratosphere of the planet Vulcan. The stakes are high, and by the end of the sequence -- Kirk and Sulu falling to the surface, sans parachute -- even with these licensed characters, you are on the edge of your seat.
The film rests on the shoulders of some spectacular performances. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto make their respective characters larger than life, giving nuance and charisma to these iconic roles. When we first see him as an adult, Kirk is a "genius level repeat offender" in Iowa, as he flirts with the unattainable cadet Uhura. When a Starfleet thug tries to step in, it's clear what Kirk's talent is: sheer grit. "Maybe you can't count, but there's four of us, and only one of you!" The Starfleet musclehead says. Kirk replies, "So get some more guys and then it'll be a fair fight."
Quinto, meanwhile, takes a level of subtlety to his role that transcends his increasingly cartoonish role as Sylar in Heroes. It's clear that during his adolescence Spock has sublimated his human emotions into a calculating style of stealth passive-aggressiveness: when he declines the Science Academy's offer of admission when they snub his human mother, Spock's goodbye -- "Live long and prosper" -- is serrated. Yet you know that Spock is still the smartest man in the room, even as you know that his temper will eventually become his undoing.
Star Trek's supporting cast is also perfectly cast: Karl Urban plays wingman perfectly as Leonard "Bones" McCoy, and John Cho mixes swashbuckling with a hint of the awkwardness from "Harold and Kumar" as his all-too-brief turn as Hikaru Sulu. Zoe Saldana seems brainy and competent, making her a very likeable member of the cast. Simon Pegg gives the film a nice comedic shot in the arm as Montgomery Scott, chewing the scenery in just about every scene he is in. "Are you from the future?" Scotty asks. "Do they still have sandwiches there?" Surprisingly, a completely unrecognizable Eric Bana pulls a convincing villain, and even Anton Chekhov pulls a one-note yet surprisingly likeable enthusiasm as Pavel Chekov.
The technical work in this film is superb. Cinematographer Daniel Mindel and editors Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon give the film an unorthodox yet strangely organic look, as they experiment with shifting angles and lens flares. But the real heroes of this film are writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who make this film structurally sound and far more bearable than the over-the-top, sometimes-unrelatable Transformers film. And J.J. Abrams deserves the most praise, simply for putting together this team of artists and making the decision to streamline and energize the ailing first generation of the Star Trek franchise.
While I can't say enough good things about this film, it is a jewel with a few small but noticeable flaws. While Orci and Kurtzman give some smooth exposition all throughout the first act, the second act of the film starts off with a massive info-dump by the return of a seminal member of the original Star Trek cast. After the perfection of the first act, it's a little disappointing that Kirk is more or less given the answers to his problem -- but while I may feel the scene is a bit clunky and self-indulgent, there will certainly be fans who welcome the cameo of this sci-fi luminary. The other problem, is the Kirk-Spock-Uhura love triangle: it's interesting in the fact that it ends unconventionally, but it also downgrades Uhura -- a surprisingly charismatic character in her own right -- into more of a romantic object rather than an indispensible member of the Enterprise.
But these minor quibbles aside, Star Trek has been a shining star in what has currently been a disappointing year for genre films. If you don't know the previous films or television shows, don't worry: this is a film that will make Kirk and Company relevant to a whole new generation of sci-fi enthusiasts. If J.J. Abrams made this potent of a franchise into a television show, there's no telling how powerful he might become -- after seeing this film twice in a row, I'm already drooling for the next three sequels. Oh Captain, my Captain! With the release of this enthusiastic, smart movie, I'd be willing to follow Kirk to the ends of the universe.