Comic Review – The Flash #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

More DC reviews! It feels genuinely great to be picking up a large number of DC Comics again, and hopefully the quality and momentum will continue past all of these first issues in the new post-Rebirth era. Speaking of momentum, this week I picked up The Flash #1 from the same creative as the The Flash: Rebirth issue with Joshua Williamson on writing duties, art from Carmine Di Giandomenico, colours by Ivan Plascencia and letters from Steve Wands (with the cover by Karl Kerschel). The Flash: Rebirth indicated that at least part of the ongoing Rebirth story will be taking place in the pages of The Flash, but typically the character is one of the more unique and interesting in superhero comics, so that is reason enough to check it out!

The Flash

Cover art by Karl Kerschl

Despite being the fastest man alive, Barry Allen can’t be everywhere at once. He speeds around Central City saving lives, but ends up late to a crime scene for his day job as a forensic scientist. He tries to solve a murder case, but ends up being late to meet Iris West and her nephew Wally. And before that is finished, a series of incidents crop up in the city, so he rushes off and tries to deal with a burning building full of people and a besieged STAR Labs transport at the same time. But is he is fast enough to do both? Probably not, as that wouldn’t be particularly satisfying drama. But who is The Black Hole? And what is happening to Barry’s friend, Detective Heart?

Following on from The Flash: Rebirth, Williamson continues to write a Barry Allen here with a great deal of heart, desperately trying to help as many people as he can despite being stretched to his limits. In fact, he’s even called on this flaw by Iris, albeit from the perspective of him always being late and absent minded. And she doesn’t even know he is The Flash  (I think, I’m struggling to keep the New 52 and pre-New 52 timelines straight in my head, especially now as they start to meld them together). The characterisations and the strong supporting cast are handed deftly by Williamson, leading into what will hopefully be an interesting and dynamic story. The ongoing Rebirth narrative takes a back seat in this first issue, paid lip service to in the opening pages as a concern that Barry and Wally (old Wally West) will both be addressing over time, with the help of Batman (a team up I particularly enjoyed in The Flash: Rebirth). Which works for me, as I think that plot and this book will both be served best by a slow unravelling of the mystery rather than as a focus.

The Flash 2

Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico, colours by Ivan Plascencia, letters by Steve Wands

You can’t really have a good Flash book without being able to describe the art as kinetic and dynamic, and unsurprisingly those are two words I can comfortably apply here to Di Giandomenico’s slightly heavy line-work and expressive action and motion. Scenes where we see the comic book hero actually saving lives and fighting crime (shock!) are really excellent here, with Barry somehow managing to battle all the major elements in some form or another in the process. But it’s the scenes where The Flash speeds in and out of a burning building, with multiple shots of him in the same panel running around and saving people, that really stand out in this issue. This is all highlighted by the vibrancy of Plascencia’s colours (especially in the burning building), with even the calmer dialogue-driven scenes boasting a bright palette that is in keeping with the tone of both this book and the character himself.

Heart. Kinetic. Dynamic. Those are things I expect from The Flash and this creative team delivers on all three. Another DC ongoing that I’m happy to be sticking with. Pick this up at your local comic book shop or digital comics platform now!

Score: 8 Speedsters out of 10

Comic Review – DC Universe Rebirth (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Then he reviews one every other week.

DC Rebirth has finally started. After months of vagueness, speculation and secrecy, spoilers for the one shot DC Universe Rebirth went online this week before the issue hit the stands. Regardless, I somehow managed to avoid these spoilers despite existing on the internet (no mean feat these days), and as someone whose pull list of DC Comics has whittled down to two books as of late, I was eager to see what was in store for this relaunch/reboot/totallynotareboot/shot in the arm from DC. I’m going to give it a quick review, trying to avoid spoilers where I can while still commenting on the reveals contained in the issue.

Rebirth was written by Geoff Johns, the long time Justice League writer responsible for ‘rebirthing’ both The Flash and Green Lantern in the past, to great success.  Joining him on the book are several artists: Gary Frank, Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Phil Jimenez, Brad Anderson, Jason Wright, Joe Prado, Matt Santorelli, Hi-Fi and Gabe Eltaeb, with letters from Nick J Napolitano.

Rebirth cover

Cover by Gary Frank & Brad Anderson

Five years ago, following what transpired in the Flashpoint event when Barry Allen attempted to save his mother’s life and had to deal with the consequences of meddling with the time line, the DC Universe was changed. This resulted in a modern DC Universe referred to as ‘The New 52’ until recently, despite the number of books no longer being the 52 that launched when this reboot first happened. The time frame of the superhero universe as we knew it had been shrunk to 5 years, legacies were lost, relationships and friendships were weakened and characters were forgotten. This isn’t a unique criticism from me, rather it forms the backbone of Rebirth, and the resurgence of all of this seems to be what will occupy the DC Universe for the foreseeable future.

The damage done to the timeline wasn’t caused by the Flash’s jaunt into the past to save his mother it seems. Instead it was a mysterious figure from outside of time that interfered when everything was being put back together. A long lost character, aware of the damage done, struggles to return to the world and to contact those he once knew, who have all since forgotten him. If he can’t make it though, he’ll at least try to get a message through that the world is wrong and in danger, even if it kills him. Meanwhile, throughout the issue the identity of the culprit who put the universe back together wrong is slowly teased, until it is made clear by the end. More on that in a bit.

Throughout Rebirth there is a definite feel of making amends and of course-correcting. Adventure, fun and romance are all injected into the universe, along with touching base with characters and concepts that have been missing over the past 5 years. But rather than totally erasing the New 52 universe and acting like the old reality never left, DC is trying to have its cake and eat it too by melding the two together. There is a risk of trying to serve too many masters here, and they could wind up not satisfying anyone, but DC clearly feels like the risk is worth it.

As for the gamble? We’ll see if it pays off. Rebirth is at its heart, a very enjoyable and lengthy comic. There are emotional beats that absolutely land. Of the two big reveals? The first absolutely worked for me and paid off in a big way later. As for the big twist at the end? Not so much. Trying my best to avoid spoilers in case you too have managed to dodge them up until now. The person behind the curtain as it were (or people in a way) involves melding another comics property into continuity that as yet is unconnected with the DC Universe. And honestly? I don’t think works. I don’t think every story needs to be a part of the universe (or multiverse) and while it serves here as a convenient explanation for the world we now have, in my opinion it severely undercuts the impact of that other story and world from which these characters have been taken. Ultimately though, if the stories to come are interesting it doesn’t really matter.

But enough of that. Let’s talk about the art. In the past, especially when dealing with events, DC has drawn in multiple artists into a single book in a manner that feels jarring. From page to page, the flow of art has suffered from inconsistent and often nonsensical changes between pencils and sometimes colours too. Rebirth avoids this by having discrete chapters completely drawn by a single art team, allowing for a compartmentalised yet complete flow. There is a kinetic and vibrant feel throughout the book that benefits from being framed around the particular narrator of Rebirth. This vibrancy is key to the overall tonal shift of bringing a sense of wonder and adventure back into the book, where big and fun superhero art is pushed to the forefront. And the colour palette across the chapters is consistently bright, adding to the sense of optimism as things move forward.

Rebirth splash

Art from Ivan Reis, Joe Prado & Hi-Fi

As a single issue, I really enjoyed DC Universe Rebirth. It looked great, and it seems to be forcing, however haphazardly, legacy and fun back into the DC Comics universe. I may not be hugely keen on the mechanisms they are using, but I am fascinated to see the effect that Rebirth will have on the line. As such, I’m not going to give the issue a score as in this situation I don’t think it would be conducive to the overall discussion about the comic and Rebirth at large. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the issue and what you hope will come out of Rebirth, so please comment on the article or get in touch via twitter @lost_lighthouse or @spacecowboyface to let us know what you thought. Kit and I plan on checking out the majority of the new series in the wake of Rebirth, so watch this space for what we think of a lot of the new #1s over the coming months.

Adam

Adam’s Top 5 TV Shows of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. Adam will kick off with his favourite 5 TV shows of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year, starting with TV. Yes I still find time for TV. You’ll notice that not only are all five of my picks American shows, all but one of them are comic book based TV shows. Big whup, wanna fight about it?

5. True Detective – Season 2

True Detective s2

My number 5 is the only pick that isn’t a comic book TV show, and is also potentially the most controversial choice. If you believe everything you read on the internet, the torrent of articles online about what a failure True Detective Season 2 was is pretty damning. Yet everyone I actually spoke to in person enjoyed it, maybe not as much as the first season but enjoyed it nonetheless. It seems that Season Two’s main crime was not being Season One. Sure, it was convoluted and confusing, the dialogue was overwrought and the characters hugely broken and brooding… but as for the first point, having a TV show demand your full attention and you still might not get it on the first viewing isn’t the worst problem a series can have. In fact, it can be more rewarding. And if you say that Season One wasn’t confusing and convoluted you’re a liar.

As for the second issue, as I see it overwrought dialogue and larger than life brooding characters was exactly what the show was aiming for. The writing wasn’t bad. It was specific. True Detective Season Two starred a new cast of characters in an entirely separate story from the previous season, setting the format of the show as an anthology series with an internal ethos but not a set style. The style of the second season was a brooding LA noir, and the dialogue bled that style all over.

Season Two starred Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch as Detectives Ray Velcoro, Ani Bezzerides and Officer Paul Woodrugh, brought in to investigate the murder of a man found with his eyes burned out and his body dumped out on a bench. Vince Vaughan played the man’s criminal partner Frank Semyon, now left in the lurch, and Kelly Reilly starred as his wife Jordan Semyon. As the plot developed, conspiracies reared their ugly heads, dirty cops were stabbed in the back by even dirtier cops, and criminals basically did what criminals tend to do. Also there was a guy in a raven mask.

As with the first season, the performances of the main players were really the strongest aspect of the show. I enjoyed Vince Vaughan (regardless of what everyone else seems to think, I thought he was decent) and Kitsch, but it was Farrell and McAdams as Velcoro and Bezzerides that really blew me away. While the latter generated a chaotic stress and snarkiness that constantly felt on the brink of breaking point, Velcoro was just a depressing mess of a man with a hair trigger. The tag line ‘We get the world we deserve’ drew me in, and the end of the first episode with the detectives surrounding the body, having all driven there independently drunk and blearily staring at each other for the first time, hooked me. Did I enjoy True Detective Season Two as much as the first season? Was it as good? Who gives a shit. It was it’s own beast and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Favourite part – The ridiculous shoot out and carnage with everyone at the end of ‘Down Will Come’, the other ridiculous shoot out with Woodrugh at the end of ‘Black Maps and Motel Rooms’, and the slow motion glass smash from Frank in the same episode… but my actual favourite part of every episode was the haunting intro  ‘Nevermind’ by Leonard Cohen.

4. The Flash

The flash

The CW’s Arrow show may have started off shaky, but a few episodes in it found it’s feet after the main character became less of a murdering Batman-clone with a bow and arrow. Despite how well the first season ended, I don’t think anyone predicted how good the sophomore season would be. Good job it was too, because the success of Arrow (which I enjoy a great deal) is the only reason we have the unbridled superhero fun fare that is The Flash. Arrow may be dark and gritty like most of the DC live action output these days (but nowhere near as gritty as the cinematic universe, which is mind bogglingly not connected to the TV universe), but one thing it isn’t afraid to do is embrace the extended DC universe. The Flash takes this and multiplies it by time travel and multiverses.

Grant Gustin was introduced in Arrow as Barry Allen, and I think the original idea was to have an episode of that show be the backdoor pilot for The Flash. Instead, they decided to have the accident that imbued Barry with the speed force powers of The Flash occur at the end of his appearance on Arrow, then repeated the scene in The Flash pilot. Over the first season and the half of the second we have had so far, the glee with which the showrunners have included the wackiest elements of The Flash’s rogues gallery without hesitation has been just brilliant to watch, from Weather Wizard and Mark Hamill reprising his role as The Trickster, to god damn Gorilla Grodd and briefly King Shark. But the willingness to go for broke on some of the more out-there stuff, while the show still maintains it’s audience, really impresses me. The concept of time travel is introduced incredibly early on, until eventually Barry manages to achieve it himself, and in the second season we have Earth-2 and parallel versions of villains and other characters. It’s pretty insane, but it works.

Also the cross-overs with Arrow just make it seem like everyone is having a great time making these shows, which always comes across on screen and sells both Flash and Arrow that much better. This year we had Vandal Savage, Hawkgirl and Hawkman. So happy.

Favourite part: There is a lot to choose from, but I’d probably go with Episode 15 ‘Out of Time’, when after seeing an image of himself running beside him, Barry later accidentally travels back in time, giving him the chance at a do over when things didn’t turn out so well, risking paradoxes at the same time.

Minor complaint: A bit picky of me, but there is a moment in season one where a character mentions a singularity, and Danielle Panabaker’s character Caitin Snow, a scientist, says words to the effect of “A singularity, what’s that?”. Bullshit she doesn’t know. I get that you felt the need to have someone ask the question for the exposition, but there was a  journalist and a cop in the room at the same time. Either of them would have been fine.

3. Agents of SHIELD

AoS3

I’ve gone on about how much I like SHIELD on the podcast. Everyone gave it a harder time than it deserved when it started. At worst, it was average. Then it got good. Then Winter Soldier happened and it got great. For me, it’s stayed at that level since and of all the weekly shows I watch this is the one I look forward to the most.

Season two brought in the concept of Inhumans, powered individuals that Marvel are essentially trying to use to replace the mutants (at least on screen, possibly in the comics) due to not having the rights to those characters. While still trying to deal with Hydra, Coulson has to deal with rebuilding SHIELD and these new Inhumans, whether they are threats or potential allies. The season introduced some great new characters, in particular Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, but also brings some huge changes to the original cast too, some through emotional depth and some through physical change. The added growth in all the characters that started in the first season was really fleshed out in the second (and more so so far in the third), in particular for Skye, who Coulson spent a lot of the time telling everyone how special she was and important early on in season one, while the show only really started to show us why later. That has led to a really strong father-daughter relationship from Clark Gregg and Chloe Bennet that has been really enjoyable to watch.

Season three so far has brought in Inhumans into a Secret Warriors plotline, as well as other worlds and Powers Boothe. All great stuff.

Favourite part: This scene in Season 2 Episode 19 ‘The Dirty Half Dozen’ where Skye straight up John Wick’s a bunch of Hydra goons in a brilliant single take tracking shot.

 

2. Daredevil

Daredevil

Daredevil marked the first of the announced Marvel and Netflix collaboration shows – 13 episode series dropped onto the streaming service in one go ready to be binge-watched. Putting aside the issues that many have with this model, some of which I agree with (in the rush to avoid spoilers, burning through the series in days compresses the enjoyment), after a shall we say ‘poorly received’ movie, I think there was a certain level of apprehension with how Daredevil would turn out, and what that would mean for the series to come. We really shouldn’t have worried.

Daredevil drastically shifted tone from the rest of the MCU, taking it to a dark, brutal and bloody place that it hasn’t gone to yet and set the stage for what is to come with the rest of the Netflix shows. Charlie Cox played the Man Without Fear brilliantly, with Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll as his friends Foggy Nelson and Karen Page effectively playing his drinking buddies and grounding him when he became too dark and driven, Vondie Curtis-Hall as the driven journalist Ben Urich, and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple, a nurse who fixes up Matt Murdock when he is cut up and beaten within an inch of his life. But as good as they all were, Vincent D’Onofrio really stole the show as Wilson ‘Kingpin’ Fisk, a tortured leviathan of a man who took the whole 13 episodes to realise that his methods for ‘saving’ Hell’s Kitchen actually made him a monster, all while providing a mirror for Cox’s Matt Murdock to ask if he was really any different.

The connecting threads between everything in the MCU are always icing on the cake, and its difficult to know whether it is better to go overt like the crossovers between movies, the show altering changes that SHIELD has in response to the films, or to take a more subtle approach. I think the Daredevil writers made the right call in keeping it subtle, instead using the ‘Battle of New York’ from the first Avengers film as a reason for a now affluent and gentrified Hell’s Kitchen being run down and struggling again, but not having any overt cameos or camera winks.

Due to the critical and fan response to Daredevil, a second season has already gone into production and we’ll be getting that in 2016 along with Luke Cage. This time they’re bringing in Élodie Yung as Electra and Jon Bernthal as The Punisher, one of my favourite Marvel characters. I really couldn’t be more excited about this.

Favourite part: Pretty much the same as everyone’s. Daredevil had some amazing action sequences, but I don’t think they ever topped the hallway fight at the end of episode 2 ‘Cut Man’. Brutal.

 

1. Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

I’ll admit, Jessica Jones may only be number one because of how recently it came out, in that same whole-season-dump-at-once model as Daredevil, but I’m halfway through revisiting it already and think it is a superb piece of TV. After the first Marvel show from Netflix was such a success, I was very much looking forward to the next one. This second show just came out last month, proving that Daredevil wasn’t just a fluke and pushing the dark, more adult MCU even further than the violence and brutality of Daredevil. Instead of being a dark action show though, thematically and stylistically Jessica Jones is a brooding and intense noir, telling the tale of an alcoholic private investigator with super strength who, after an abortive attempt to become a superhero than ends very badly, is washed-up and struggling to make enough to pay for her cheap whiskey.

The show centers around Jessica, played by Krysten Ritter, clashing with the man who was responsible for her fall from grace. Kilgrave, played chillingly by David Tennant, has the ability to control anyone just by giving them a command. Anything from telling you to throw a drink in your own face to jumping off the top of a building, the victim is compelled to do whatever he says. This terrifying power provides the show with some incredibly dark and weighty subject matter, with consent and compulsion at the forefront. It’s all handled brilliantly, and Ritter and Tennant are just excellent to watch.

The supporting cast is largely great too (I found the upstairs neighbours a little dull), in particular Rachael Taylor as Trish Walker, Jessica’s best friend, Carrie-Ann Moss as Jeri Hogarth, a well respected lawyer who trades favours with Jessica, Eka Darville as Malcolm, the tragic junkie neighbour, and Mike Coulter as Luke Cage, a bartender who she’s been following for a case. Coulter is especially exciting, as Luke Cage is the star of the next Netflix series coming (after Daredevil Season 2) and I thought he was great here.

Favourite part: Jessica not giving a bag of dicks what her neighbour thinks. In fact basically all of Jessica’s dialogue.

What were your favourite TV shows of this year? Let us know!

Adam

Honourable mention goes to: Doctor Who, which I felt was a huge improvement over last year partially due to the inclusion of two parters that have been sorely missing over the last couple of series, but more to do with Peter Capaldi really settling in to the role and delivering some superb performances; Rick and Morty, a show I burned through in about 24 hours after being told about it. Incredibly funny, inventive and very, very bleak; Parks and Recreation, which I only started watching last year but has become one of my favourite shows, and its final season somehow delivered a satisfying ending for an entire cast of brilliant characters while maintaining the heart-warming and sincere yet funny edge the show always had without seeming cheesy or unearned; Archer, which continues to be hilarious even this far in, and I can’t wait for season 7 in the new year; and Agent Carter, which was basically a joy to watch, Hayley Atwell owned the screen (and I’m glad they keep bringing her in as Peggy at different ages in the MCU) in an excellent period piece where the world was even more embarrassingly unequal than it is now. Plus she beat the shit out of a lot of people. Bring on season 2.