Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Flash v. 2 #1 - "Happy Birthday Wally"

"I can feel the heart sloshing around on my back. What am I doing?!"

Writer: Mike Baron
Artists: Jackson Guice & Larry Mahlstedt

There's something very stilted about the way Jackson Guice draws Flash when he's in his costume. He does just fine with Wall West in civvies and he doesn't do a bad job with the other costumed characters, but his Flash always looks uncomfortably posed.

Mike Baron sets up his central idea pretty quickly: Wally struggles at being a hero and is living in Barry Allen's shadow.

Interesting in that this is a first issue, but there's very little in the way of an origin story or a synopsis for new readers. It seems to assume you know who Barry Allen is, that he died, that Wally West used to be his sidekick, that until recently Wally was still going by the name Kid Flash, and that he's a member of the Teen Titans. All of this comes out in passing, but none of it is laid out for the reader.

I'm not sure that this assumption is a bad thing in and of itself, although it suggests to me that bringing in new readers either wasn't a priority or, if it was a priority, it wasn't something that was being carried out in any kind of methodical manner.

Baron adds a number of light science-fictional touches. Wally's superspeed is tied into his super metabolism, so him having to eat and sleep a lot becomes a recurring motif. The idea is: having superpowers has a real world cost.

Baron comes up with another neat idea related to Flash's powers: Wally is sometimes moving too fast to fully take things in. His double-take at Vandal Savange is pretty neatly staged.

More bits of "reality": Flash doesn't have an income, so he can't afford to be a complete altruist. He offers his services to a hospital trying to deliver a heart for transplant in exchange for health coverage.

Baron is explicit with this theme. He has Wally tell us that Barry "died owing thousands of dollars in legal bills... He left me his costumes. And a picture of what a hero should be."

What a hero should be and what Wally is actually able to do is the conflict here. While delivering the heart, he passes by an accident, leaves a man to die in the snow, and leaves Vandal Savage to the police. Baron is focusing on the idea that Wally has to make choices, has to sacrifice: he only has a certain amount of energy and choosing to spend it one way rather than another has consequences.

But Baron's approach isn't operatic: there's much more of an "all in a day's work" feel to the action here.

Finally, this ends on an interesting note: Wally wins the lottery. It isn't unprecedented for a super-hero comic to deal with economics in this way (there's that Fantastic Four story where the team goes bankrupt), but the lottery is a pretty bizarre touch. It's like a wish fulfillment fantasy put on top of another wish fulfillment fantasy that Baron has been poking with a stick.

We'll see how it goes.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Wow! That post takes me back. When I was twelve (and even at thirty-four) it struck me that having the "super-metabolism" to go with the "super-speed" was a clever conceit. I miss those, heady, initially inspired Post-Crisis days...