The Good: Moments of character, Great artwork, Decent villain.
The Bad: Exceedingly technical and filled with jargon, Character development ends in favor of plot progression, Requires a LOT of outside knowledge.
The Basics: Returning Barry Allen to life and existence in the DC Universe, The Flash: Rebirth is hardly one of Geoff Johns’ most inspired stories.
As my Flash Year continues, I am actually quite pleased with most of the new books I have been getting in. The Flash has an interesting legacy, I am learning, and with my latest reading selection, I have come to realize that I am actually a fan of Wally West. There are several speedsters in the DC Universe and Wally West has held the mantle since the mid-1980s when Barry Allen’s Flash appeared to be killed while trying to save the final universes in Crisis On Infinite Earths (reviewed here!). I was not a huge fan of that crossover, but I respected the fact that DC would kill off one of its flagship characters. Of course, in comic books, few characters truly stay dead. The demise of Barry Allen was undone in The Flash: Rebirth.
The Flash: Rebirth follows up on the physical return of Barry Allen at the climax of Final Crisis (reviewed here!). Penned by Geoff Johns, I sat down expecting a story that was intriguing, intense and made sense out of Barry Allen’s return. Unfortunately, this is one of John’s less compelling works and while DC’s instinct to use John might well have been based on his success with Green Lantern: Rebirth (reviewed here!), that might well have been the book’s undoing. The Flash: Rebirth has some troubling structural and character similarities to Green Lantern: Rebirth that robbed me, as a somewhat seasoned DC Universe reader, of some of the joy or intrigue of the story.
Barry Allen has returned from the Speed Force and is unsure why, so he begins to slowly get his life back in order. But when the forensic police officers in Keystone City are murdered, Allen is asked to help investigate. He is not given much of an opportunity because a villain that uses the Speed Force resurfaces and when he comes into contact with Allen, he is abruptly killed. When the body of the Black Flash is found, Allen becomes concerned, especially because the death of Savitar comes with an odd side effect; the other speedsters on Earth are all temporarily immobilized.
Much to his horror, the death of another speedster reveals Barry Allen to be a new incarnation of the Black Flash. Fleeing from the potential of hurting those he loves more, Barry Allen runs himself into the Speed Force again. There, he confronts his ultimate villain and in the process fights to reclaim his life on Earth!
The Flash: Rebirth lost me in the middle and almost lost me for good. The two fundamental problems with the book is that it is too familiar and far too technical. The problem of familiarity comes when Barry Allen transforms into the Black Flash. This reads as strikingly similar to Hal Jordan being transformed into Parallax and the question of the character’s identity and powers gets problematically murky. At that point, I felt like I was simply reading a retread of Green Lantern: Rebirth.
Much of the rest of the book was muddied by excessive jargon. More than simply a story about the return of Barry Allen, The Flash: Rebirth is an expose on every speedster in the DC Universe. As a result of their inclusion, which is vital to the plot of the book, the book devotes an inordinate amount of time to explaining not only each of their powers and genealogies, but the exact nature of the Speed Force. And, unfortunately, by the end of the book, it is not entirely clear what much of the jargon was actually trying to say.
And to cut off the argument before it comes up, I am not a neophyte to the DC Universe. Enjoying The Flash: Rebirth is, in many ways, dependent upon having read several other volumes. Readers who have not read Crisis On Infinite Earths, Final Crisis, some of the Flash books and even some Green Lantern books are likely to be more confused than anything by the sheer number of allusions in The Flash: Rebirth. As one who has read many of those other books, I still found The Flash: Rebirth to be remarkably incomprehensible in its jargon.
Another problem with The Flash: Rebirth is that the book is light on character. Barry Allen is back. Okay, why should we care? Sure, it’s always cool to see old heroes, but Barry Allen is not presented as a particularly compelling character in The Flash: Rebirth. In fact, Eobard Thawne is given a few moments with more genuine attempts at characterization than Barry Allen is. The exception to this is when Allen makes observations on the world around him. Seeing how things have changed in just twenty years through Allen’s eyes is engaging.
The book recovers at the end, which pretty much reaffirms my feeling that some of the villains in The Flash are actually more interesting than the heroes, but it is a long way to get to the satisfying conclusion. That said, Geoff Johns cleverly foreshadows both the Blackest Night Saga and the Flashpoint Saga in The Flash: Rebirth.
The artwork throughout The Flash: Rebirth is homogenously good. The book has strong lines and vibrant colors that make it enjoyable to read. Ironically, many of the panels do not have the strongest sense of movement to them, but the book is still very readable and enjoyable from an artistic front.
Ultimately, though, The Flash: Rebirth gives us exactly what the title promises. Barry Allen returns. As one who is intrigued by Wally West’s character, I am definitely of the camp that wonders why Allen is so important as to resurrect. Hopefully, in the rest of my Flash year, I shall discover the answer. I certainly did not learn what was so incredible about Barry Allen from The Flash: Rebirth.
For other Flash books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Return Of Barry Allen
The Secret Of Barry Allen
For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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