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If you only read one new DC comic on Aug. 31, it HAS to be …

Flashpoint #5

Flashpoint #5. Because that’s the only DC Comic coming out that day.

Here’s what the solicitation text, released today by DC on their Source blog, says:”The war between the Amazons and the Atlantians has arrived. The battles between Diana of Themsycira and Emperor Aquaman will tear this world apart – unless The Flash can fix it! IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of its impact on the DC Universe, FLASHPOINT #5 is the only title that DC Comics is currently soliciting to arrive in stores on August 31.”

I plan to be reading it, as the first issue really hooked me in what was probably the first Barry Allen story I ever really cared about, except for maybe the Crisis on Infinite Earths issue where he died. I’ll talk some more about it in our What Are You Reading? feature this weekend, but this particular first issue was a winner in my book.

But I wonder what could possibly happen in the final issue that has DC pushing everything else off the schedule?

Grumpy Old Fan | Road to nowhere, highway to Hell

Flashpoint #1

Even at 34 pages, the first issue of Flashpoint feels like it’s missing something.

This is not exactly a surprise. The very premise of Flashpoint is that lots of things are missing, including Superman, the Justice League, and a generally-peaceful world. Mainly, the world of Flashpoint is short on hope — and so is issue #1.

To be sure, while the story itself is fairly bleak, it’s told in compelling fashion by writer Geoff Johns, penciller Andy Kubert, inker Sandra Hope, and colorist Alex Sinclair. Barry Allen wakes up in a world that would have made George Bailey jump off that bridge without a second thought, and by the end of Flashpoint #1 he has little reason to think his old life will ever return. Nevertheless, under Geoff Johns, Barry has literally become an avatar of hope, unironically intoning the Blue Lantern motto “all will be well.” Never mind the reset button implied in most alternate-reality scenarios — by itself, Johns’ history with the character all but promises Barry’s ultimate triumph. If Flashpoint lives up to that promise, and subsequent issues have as much excitement as this first issue has nihilism, it could be one of the great big-event miniseries.

That’s a big “if,” though. The first issue necessarily comes with a good bit of exposition, and Flashpoint risks its readers being lost in a myriad of apocalyptic scenarios and changed characters. Flashpoint might also become nothing more than a framework for all those tie-in miniseries and one-shots. However, Johns wisely keeps the focus on Barry and just a couple of significant allies. Maintaining that focus is the key to this miniseries, and it’ll be the measure of Flashpoint’s success.

SPOILERS FOLLOW

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Flashpoint #1

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15 this week, I’d immediately go for Flashpoint #1 (DC Comics, $3.99) – I am very, very unsure about the number of tie-ins DC are pushing out for the new crossover event, but with Geoff Johns in charge, I’m suspecting that the main book will be worth a look at least. I’d also grab the relaunched GI Joe #1 (IDW, $3.99), if only to follow up on the “Cobra Civil War” storyline that I admit has completely caught my attention unexpectedly. Curiosity would also get me to pick up both Moriarty #1 (Image, $2.99) and Total Recall #1 (Dynamite, $1.99), two new launches that will hopefully take familiar ideas and characters in directions I wouldn’t expect…

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Grumpy Old Fan | Who’s got room for Professor Zoom?

Flashpoint: Reverse-Flash #1

While it might not be much, Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day will bring our first real glimpse at the world of Flashpoint. I’ve been looking at the looming alternate-universe epic as little more than a fun way to spend the summer — which would be fine, by the way — but apparently that is just crazy talk. Everything will change, as it always does; as it did with Brightest Day and Blackest Night and Final Crisis, etc., etc.

Naturally, there are different degrees of “change,” from wholesale reorganization to continuity tweaks. 1985′s Crisis On Infinite Earths gave DC carte blanche to rework characters from the ground up. 1994′s Zero Hour, 2005-06′s Infinite Crisis and 52, and 2008-09′s Final Crisis also allowed DC to tinker with the timeline, mostly on a small scale. More esoteric devices like Hypertime, Super-punches, and plot-specific time travel have produced and/or explained certain changes.

However, in practical terms, the post-COIE changes haven’t upset too many apple carts.  Oh, Zero Hour tried to clean up Hawkman’s history, and it also facilitated a new Legion of Super-Heroes timeline, both of which were big deals.  More recently, though, Infinite Crisis gave Clark Kent a “secret Superboy” career and restored certain aspects of Batman’s and Wonder Woman’s histories, but those developments stayed in the background. Accordingly, a change that doesn’t affect a title’s regular storytelling practice doesn’t seem like much of a change.

And therein lies the real puzzle of Flashpoint: what room is there, across DC’s superhero line, for the kind of change which excites more than it frustrates?  Of the 55 DCU/superhero-line titles DC will publish in July (as the big event reaches its midpoint), 17 are part of Flashpoint, and many of the rest are dealing with their own ongoing arcs. Today we’ll look at who might be flexible, and speculate a little on what might happen.

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What Are You Reading?

Gingerbread Girl

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Emily Stackhouse, creator of the award-winning minicomic Brazilianoir and her latest, Miner’s Mutiny.

To see what Emily and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Hellboy

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy on Wednesday based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on what we call our “Splurge” item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

If I had $15:

I’d get Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish ($3.50) to see Hellboy fight some giant robots in space, Salt Water Taffy, Volume 4: Caldera’s Revenge ($5.99) to see Jack and Benny sign aboard a spooky ship in search of a Moby Dick-like whale, and Sweets #5 (2.99) to see Kody Chamberlain wrap up his delicious New Orleans murder mystery.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Lincoln’s log: lessons from Legacies

DC Universe: Legacies #3 -- the JLA by Garcia-Lopez and Gibbons

There’s a weird little sequence in the middle of DC Universe: Legacies #3 when the narration’s timeline goes all hazy and oblique, in order to move the story from sometime in the Eisenhower/Kennedy years right into the “X years ago” of modern continuity. Because Legacies tracks some sixty-five years of costumed crimefighting, this sequence bridges the gap between the Justice Society’s retirement and Superman’s debut.

“Hazy and oblique” are also good words for describing DC’s approach to long-term continuity. The history of the DC Universe is well-settled up to the early 1950s, but past then it becomes elastic. This is something we’ve come to expect: fudging the calendar keeps our heroes both as experienced and as youthful as they need to be. However, each passing year also widens the gap between the end of the Golden Age (early ‘50s) and the beginning of the Silver (thought to be 12-15 years ago). Through reader-identification character Paul Lincoln,* DCUL’s writer (and longtime DC favorite) Len Wein aims to put a human face on all those four-color adventures.

That sounds like the premise of 1994′s Marvels and its spiritual descendant Astro City. Really, though, any halfway-entertaining super-survey needs a narrator with a recognizable point of view. Even 1986′s History of the DC Universe, which was basically a series of George Pérez pinups arranged in chronological order, took its florid prose ostensibly from Harbinger’s meditations on the nature of heroism.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Into the hundred-issue woods

Green Lantern vol. 2 #100

News of The Flash’s cancellation has led to speculation that the title, whenever it returns, will pick up its original numbering. Considering that Wonder Woman was renumbered last year to reflect the accumulation of all its various incarnations, and Adventure Comics resumed its original numbering as well, Flash might not be the last title DC renumbers.

Today I’ll look at Flash and several other DC titles which could get this treatment in the next several years.

* * *

First, though, let’s consider Wonder Woman. Last year, the 45th issue of WW Vol. 3 was dubbed issue #600, thereby implicitly treating the current series and its predecessor as direct continuations of the original 1942 series. The math was pretty straightforward: Vol. 1 went to issue #329, and vol. 2 went to #226, so that left the 600th issue to vol. 3′s 45th. (329+226+45 = 600.) Volume 2 did have two irregularly-numbered issues, #0 (part of 1994′s “Zero Month,” which the rest of us called August), and #1,000,000 (for DC One Million, naturally).

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Grumpy Old Fan | That flash of green: DC Comics Solicitations for June 2011

Dear Jack Black: you can be Green Lantern only if you are Arkiss Chummuck. Or G'Nort.

With the Green Lantern movie coming out in the middle of the month, June looms big for DC’s superhero line. Since writer/executive Geoff Johns has become so identified with GL, you’d expect it would be a big month for him too — and indeed, between GL-related items and the Flashpoint event, Johns’ influence is felt all around the June solicitations.

Away we go –!

* * *

MORE LIKE “CASHPOINT,” AMIRITE?

Sometimes I think Flashpoint should completely interrupt DC’s superhero line for three to five months. After all, if all of DC history is changed (again), but the ongoing books can still tell current, normal-timeline stories, aren’t readers just waiting for the reset button to be pushed? Still, whatever suspense might be gained from such a setup is probably outweighed by the aggravation it would cause; not just to readers who’d have to wait out those months, but to DC’s professionals themselves, who’d either have to arrange things logistically to avoid disruptions, or risk leaving an ongoing arc hanging. In any case, obviously none of the regular DC books are going on a break to accommodate and/or reflect Flashpoint — except for The Flash, which is eminently appropriate.

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Grumpy Old Fan | The earnestness of being important

The Flash #163

As we all know by now, DC’s big summer event Flashpoint includes the main five-issue miniseries, fifteen three-issue miniseries, and an as-yet-undisclosed number of one-shots. My first reaction to this format was along the lines of oh good, just five issues. I take it this is a minority opinion.

To be sure, it makes Greater Flashpoint about 90% ancillary, and that is a proportion more suited for profit than for narrative. There is also the notion that DC is diverting resources to all those tie-ins which could just as easily have been used on projects aimed outside the insular superhero readership.* It’s usually the case with these kinds of events that you buy the titles you want and you leave the rest on the shelf; but here, the sheer magnitude of tie-ins suggests that DC is doubling down on Flashpoint in a very specific, market-targeting way which will be hard to ignore.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Boxing days

"They left out the critical issue #350!"

The Flash vol. 1 #227

What could be worse than a slide show about a stamp collection? Probably a blog post about a comic-book collection….

Among other things, the Vast Bondurant Comic-Book Library now includes over 11,000 single issues spread over 23 long boxes and 15 short boxes. My goal — which seems to recede in the distance the more I consider this project — is to separate all of the newer issues and shorter-run series from the old warhorses like Detective Comics and Fantastic Four. That means bringing the Gotham Centrals and Hourmans out of those big boxes with all the Green Lanterns and Incredible Hulks, into smaller boxes which won’t strain my aging vertebrae.

That scintillating introduction should tell you just how thrilling the past couple of days have been for me (not least because the project is far from over). This is the paper equivalent of defragmenting a hard drive, and it is not the most engaging of topics. Nevertheless, the process has forced me to examine how I use this library. After all, books are for reading, not for taking up space — and the way we read comic books, especially superhero comics, is changing dramatically.

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What Are You Reading?

Deadpool Team-Up #886

Hello and welcome to a special “birthday bash” edition of our weekly “What Are You Reading” feature, where the Robot 6 crew talks about what books we’ve read recently. Usually we invite a special guest to share what they’ve been reading, but since today isn’t just an ordinary day for us, we thought we’d invite a whole bunch of special guests to help us out — our friends and colleagues from Comic Book Resources, Spinoff and Comics Should Be Good!

To see what everyone has been reading, click below …

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Grumpy Old Fan | Keep your enemies closer

The Flash vol. 1 #174, November 1967

I was watching this year’s South Carolina/Alabama football game when a moment from 1978′s Superman popped into my head. As South Carolina’s upset bid gradually became a certainty, the shots of coach Steve Spurrier reminded me of Lex Luthor’s classic line:

You were great in your day, Superman. But it just stands to reason, when it came time to cash in your chips, this old … diseased … maniac would be your banker.

See, there are just some people you never count out, no matter how great the odds against them. Regardless of incarnation, Luthor is one of my favorite villains, especially when he can create a perpetual air of menace. If Superman represents humanity’s best impulses (plus the power to back them up), Luthor naturally represents its worst: self-centeredness, ego, avarice, and an overwhelming superiority complex. Twisted though it may be, Luthor’s enduring motivation is spot-on: but for Superman, he’d be the unquestioned ruler of the Earth. Just the news that Luthor is loose should be enough to clear the streets of Metropolis, sending its citizens into well-stocked shelters. Luthor is scary because only Superman can stop him; and Superman is … well, Superman in no small part because only he can stop the likes of Luthor.

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McCarthy’s Flash redesigns, new Judge Dredd story

Brendan McCarthy's Flash

If you’re a fan of Brendan McCarthy or the short-lived DC series Solo, do I have the post for you … The Strangeness of Brendan McCarthy has posted two sketchbook ideas “generated when Brendan was working out material for his issue of DC Comics’ SOLO,” both featuring redesigns of the Flash.

And if that’s not enough, they’ve also posted info and images on a new Judge Dredd story that will appear in 2000AD Prog 1712, which goes on sale this week in the U.K. “In a new story called Dr. WHAT? Judge Dredd tracks down a time-travelling Doctor who rides a Mega-City Portaloo along the timewaves, altering history and changing the future in a potentially catastrophic way,” the blog says.

Grumpy Old Fan | TV superheroes, David E. Kelley, and the new “Wonder Woman”

Wonder Woman #288

Wonder Woman #288

I’ve read Wonder Woman regularly since the George Pérez days, and I watched the first few years of “Ally McBeal,” so naturally I feel somewhat qualified* to talk about David E. Kelley heading up a Wonder Woman TV series. The history of live-action small-screen superhero adaptations is a spotty one, characterized for the most part by budgetary issues and a general failure to embrace the source material fully. Also, at its worst “Ally McBeal” could be rather grating, so I’m a little … let’s say uncertain about Mr. Kelley’s handle on the Amazing Amazon.

That last probably isn’t entirely fair to Mr. Kelley, who (from what I have heard) has a range beyond quirky, flighty professionals with odd romantic histories. I have friends who really enjoyed “The Practice” (including sequels and spinoffs), “Picket Fences,” and Kelley’s time on “L.A. Law.” Still, given the apparent need to make Wonder Woman interesting — beyond being a diplomat, warrior, and princess sent by the gods of a lost civilization to teach peace to Patriarch’s World, that is — my first thought is that of course Mr. Kelley’s Diana will be quirky, flighty, and unlucky in love.

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