Monday, June 25, 2012

The Flash: Wonderland Gives Geoff Johns A Mediocre Start.

The Good: Moments of concept, Moments of artwork
The Bad: Very overdone plot, Concept gets old, especially in the second half, Low on character development, Some really terrible artwork.
The Basics: The Flash: Wonderland may kick off Geoff Johns’ work on The Flash, but it is not as audacious as serious readers and fans might hope.

As my Flash Year progresses, I have to say I am actually enjoying reading the graphic novels I am able to get in, perhaps more than I thought I would. Like so many things, though, they cannot all be winners. That’s the conclusion I’m at withThe Flash: Wonderland. The Flash: Wonderland is not bad and it is notable because it began Geoff Johns’ run on the publication, which many credit as a rebirth of the character. Ironically, I’ve enjoyed many of Johns’ later Flash books, but The Flash: Wonderland just did not pop for me. In fact, the more I have written about The Flash: Wonderland, the less I find I enjoyed it (I’ve already re-rated the book four times!).

The Flash: Wonderland suffers because it presents such a “done” idea that genre fans are likely to be utterly unimpressed by it. Johns has the basic plot idea for an alternate universe storyline, which he presents in The Flash: Wonderland, but the book lacks a resounding theme or set of themes to make the work actually resonate beyond the plot events and the initial novelty of the concept. As a result, The Flash: Wonderland is more style than substance and the style is about forty years old.

Wally West finds himself in jail, his world turned askew and cut off completely from the Speed Force. Discovering himself in a Keystone City filled with corrupt cops - including Barry Allen, no super powers and villains running amuck, Wally West thinks he has hit an all-new low. So, when Leonard Snart shows up, knowing exactly who he is supposed to be, the two strike up an unlikely alliance. It does not take long before they realize that they have been transported to one of the Mirror Master’s crazy alternate universes and, with Mirror Master – who is also trapped – Captain Cold and Wally West work to escape.

Unfortunately for them, getting out of one alternate universe leads them to the discovery that Keystone City has been removed from reality in the real world. This necessitates the trio to travel into another alternate universe, one where the residents of Keystone City are being used as puppets by someone from Wally West’s past!

The Flash: Wonderland, sadly, is a troublingly disappointing graphic novel in the final analysis. The trip from one “Elseworlds” type scenario to another makes The Flash: Wonderland almost entirely plot-driven and the plot is not terribly complex. Wally West wants to get home. That makes sense and the way the world has changed around him initially is entirely unnerving. Conversely, the second trip, which finds him at the mercy of Brother Grimm, is not even compelling.

The second half of The Flash: Wonderland seems to hinge on understanding a story that occurred when Wally West was Kid Flash and while usually, I love stories about consequences, the Brother Grimm story falls flat. Instead of developing as a true character-driven exploration of the consequences of what heroes say and do, the latter half of The Flash: Wonderland is packed with plot exposition. Fans deserve better than that.

Unfortunately, with The Flash: Wonderland, the whole idea of twists on the established universe is treated like a novelty, when is a pretty well-established conceit in science fiction and fantasy. The best alternate universe scenarios expose something important about the characters involved. The Flash: Wonderland, alas, does not do that. Instead, it is novelty for the sake of “novelty.”

Unfortunately for the endurance of The Flash: Wonderland within the overall pantheon of Flash literature, The Flash: Wonderland was written as Geoff Johns was still getting his start. As a result, the artwork in The Flash: Wonderland does not illustrate that DC Comics was really investing in Johns yet. Captain Cold, especially, is frequently presented with a disproportionately large face size relative to his head size. As a result, it often looks like a different face was stuck over the artwork for Captain Cold and it simply does not work.

Not all of the artwork in The Flash: Wonderland is bad; the latter sections that feature Linda Park are actually pretty good. But it’s a long way to get there and the payoff is not significant enough. Between that and a lack of a compelling villain or an equally significant character aspect in the hero, The Flash: Wonderland is pretty easy to pass by.

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Born To Run
The Return Of Barry Allen
Terminal Velocity
Dead Heat
Race Against Time
Emergency Stop
The Human Race
Blood Will Run
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Flash: Rebirth
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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