The Revolution has enjoyed the first two issues of Flash: Rebirth. Of course, I have to admit that this title has failed to live up to my lofty expectations. Hopefully, Johns will pick up the pacing and deliver a riveting read with Flash: Rebirth #3. Let’s do this review.
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a scene at Abra Kadabra’s lair. We focus on Abra Kadabra’s marionettes of Jay, Barry and Wally. Someone from off panel says “I warned you magician. There isn’t room in this century for both of us.” Another person from off panel says “AAARGGH!” We then hear “ABRA KADABRA!” A jet of flame bursts across the panel and burns the marionette of Barry.
We slide over to the JSA brownstone with Liberty Belle (Jesse Chambers) standing in front of the statues of her parents, Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle. Hourman enters the room. Jesse wonders why they made a statute of her parents together since they were separated for almost her entire life. Hourman comments that Johnny and Belle were the quintessential couple of the All Star Squadron and that they wanted to capture the positive aspect of them.
Jesse says that she spent the first part of her career trying to be her dad when she operated as Jesse Quick. Then when she lost her access to the Speed Force, she tried to be her mother as Liberty Belle. Jesse wonders what her father would think of her now being Liberty Belle since it was her father who raised her as a child.
Hourman replies that if Jesse being Liberty Belle has brought her closer to her mother then it is a good thing. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning blasts the two statutes to pieces. A ball of lightning crackles in front of Jesse. We see Johnny Quick reach out and say “My daughter, Barry. Please, whatever you do. Don’t hurt my daughter. Tell Jesse I love her.” Jesse screams out “Dad!”
We shift to the Justice League of America and the Justice Society of America in Fallville, Iowa and working to contain the crime scene. Barry has been placed inside of some special glass container to help contain and drain away the Speed Force from Barry. The container also prevents Barry from sucking away the Speed Force from Jay and Wally thereby killing them.
Barry thinks how he recognizes some of the JSA’ers and JLA’ers and does not recognize some of the newer ones. Wally is standing next to the container. Barry thinks about how Wally is taller and broader than he was when Barry “died.” Barry says that Wally looks good in the Flash uniform. That being the Flash fits Wally. Barry says that he is not needed here.
Jay then zips over to the container. Barry thinks while Wally has gotten older since Barry “died” that Jay has gotten younger and more vibrant. That Jay is training the next generation of heroes with the JSA. That Jay has become rejuvenated.
Jay explains that the black aura surrounding Barry is made up of “dead fuel cells.” However, they are still burning through the Speed Force at an unquantifiable rate. The plan is to increase the vibrational frequency inside of the container to the edge of Multiverse transcendence and discharge the corrupt lightning in Barry’s veins. This will sever Barry’s connection to the Speed Force. Barry won’t be the fastest man anymore, but he will be alive.
Bart then races onto the scene. Barry thinks how Bart is his grandson. That Bart is proof that Barry is not needed here. Barry notes that since Bart felt the tremor in the Speed Force that Bart will be as powerful as Wally. Bart asks if Max Mercury is still alive. Bart thought that it was Max who returned and not Barry. Barry answers that he does not know if Max is still alive.
We then see Hal Jordan arriving with Iris. Barry says that Iris should not be here. Jay says that the Speed Force is part state of mind. Wally says that the thought of Linda was enough for him to prevent losing himself to the Speed Force. That Linda was Wally’s lightning rod. Wally says that Barry needs his lightning rod.
Iris then tells Barry that no matter how fast he ran, either through time or dimensions. that he always took a moment to be with his family. And to be with Iris.
We flashback to Barry and Iris’ first date. Barry is late. Iris says that Barry is lucky that she waited for him. Iris hands Barry a present as an apology for how she acted when they first met. Barry opens the box and pulls out a red bow tie. (Dios mio. Again with the bow tie.) Iris says that not many men can pull off a bow tie. Iris then says that she thought that Barry would look better in red.
We cut back to the present with Barry yelling for everyone to run. The lightning crackling around Barry blows up the container. Barry says that he feels the Speed Force reaching out for Jay, Wally and Bart. That the Speed Force wants them. Barry yells for Hal to get him out of here. Hal forms a green container around Barry and flies him high into the air. Wonder Woman and Superman follow. Barry yells out that he loves Iris.
As they are flying, Superman and Wonder Woman start blocking lightning bolts. Wonder Woman comments that each bolt of lightning is trying to get to Barry. Barry asks Hal if anyone is following them. Hal says that his ring indicates that no one is following them. Barry tells Hal to let him out of the container. Hal does so.
Barry drops to the ground. Hal asks Barry what he is doing. Barry replies “Making an executive decision. I’m running back to the Speed Force.” Barry says that he cannot say good-bye to all of them again. Barry says that he cannot say good-bye to Iris again. Barry says Iris will understand. Barry says he hopes Hal understands, too.
Barry takes off running. Superman follows. Superman pulls up next to Barry and says that he is not going to let Barry do this. That the JLA has lost Aquaman, Martian Manhunter and Batman. That they cannot lose Barry, too. Not when there is hope.
Barry answers that he cannot risk hurting everyone else. Superman responds that Barry has already sacrificed years of his life for everyone else. That Barry now has a second chance. Barry responds that it was not a get out of jail free card. That it was a wish off a monkey’s paw.
Barry says that Superman cannot stop him. Superman responds that he has raced Barry several times before. And that Superman has won some of those races. Barry responds “Those were for charity, Clark.”
Barry then blasts off leaving Superman eating his dust. Barry then begins to run so fast that he runs backward through time. Barry sees his life re-play before him in reverse. Past his “death.” Then past him becoming the Flash. Then past the murder of his mother.
Barry keeps reminding himself that as long as he remembers Iris that he will be okay. The further back in time Barry goes the harder it is for him to remember Iris’ name. Finally, it gets to the point where Barry says “As long as I remember…What’s her name? No. Don’t let me forget it. Take me, but don’t take that away from me, too! Please.”
Barry then races past his own birth. Barry screams “What’s. Her. NAME?” Voices answer that her name is Iris and that Barry’s name is Barry Allen. The voices tell Barry to say his name. Barry does so.
Suddenly, Johnny Quick and Max Mercury appear out of the Speed Force vortex. Johnny says that Barry is the answer to the formula for speed and time that he says in order to get his powers. Johnny grabs Barry and says “My daughter, Barry. Please, whatever you do. Don’t hurt my daughter. Tell Jesse I love her. And tell Libby…tell my wife…I never stopped missing her.”
Johnny Quick then disintegrates. Max then grabs Barry. Barry tells Max not to touch him. That Barry will kill him. Max says that it is not Barry. That it is the Professor. Max and Barry get sucked through the Speed Force lightning.
Suddenly, we see Reverse Flash (Professor Zoom) holding a golden rod with lightning bolts on each end. Reverse Flash says “Do you understand yet, Barry. Do you not see what I have done? I’ve shifted you into reverse.” End of issue.
The Good: Flash: Rebirth #3 was a bit of a disappointing issue. Still, there were several nice aspects to this issue. Johns has crafted a story that is incredibly rich in details. Johns is an excellent historian and his hard research shows through in this story. There are so many small touches and details inserted into the story designed to delight long-time Flash fans.
Yet, at the same time, Johns has made such a concerted effort to effectively give plenty of back-story on each of the various characters. And the result is that Flash: Rebirth is remarkably new reader friendly. New readers have no problems getting a good feel for each member of the Flash family and how they relate to each other. Johns also has given enough back-story on Barry that when Reverse Flash appears at the end of this issue, even new readers recognize him and understand his importance in the Flash mythos.
Johns continues to perform plenty of fantastic character work. And the character work has certainly been the strength of this title. Johns so clearly understands and loves all of the characters in the Flash family and it really shows. I loved the short scene with Liberty Belle and Hourman. I am a fan of both characters and I enjoyed how Johns wrote Jesse in this scene. Johns gives the reader such a wonderfully concise and insightful view into Jesse’s character.
The character work with Barry, Jay, Wally and Bart in the Fallville scene was well done. Johns continues to craft clearly defined personalities and roles for each Flash. I enjoyed how Johns contrasts how Wally has gotten so much older since Barry’s “death” while Jay has gotten so much younger in that same span of time.
Johns has Barry comment on how Wally fills up the Flash uniform perfectly and looks like the Flash. This underscores the fact that Johns respects Wally’s character growth since Barry’s “death” and has no desires to squash Wally’s character in route to bringing Barry back to the DCU.
Bart is properly tagged as the future for the Flash family. And Jay retains the role as the patriarch of the Flash family. Barry may be the “greatest” Flash, but Jay will always be the head of this family.
Johns continues to do a strong job with really pushing Iris in this story. Johns is doing his best to try and establish Iris as an important character in Barry’s life as Lois Lane is in Superman’s life. Barry and Iris are a classic DC couple, yet since Barry has been “dead” for over twenty years, most modern readers have no concept of the Barry/Iris relationship. It is important that Johns properly build up Iris in the modern reader’s eyes.
Now, personally, I found the race between Barry and Superman to be by far and away the best part of Flash: Rebirth #3. And this scene had the best line of the issue when Superman mentions that he has beaten Barry before in a couple of races and Barry responds by saying: “Those were for charity, Clark.” I absolutely loved seeing Barry totally dust Superman. That was awesome and made the little kid in me smile.
Johns ends Flash: Rebirth #3 with a great final three pages. We got the appearance of Johnny Quick, my personal favorite speedster, and Max Mercury. I would be surprised if Johns does not end up bringing back Max by the end of Flash: Rebirth. Personally, I’d much rather have Johnny Quick back as Max’s character does little for me. I liked the fact that Johns has Johnny mention that Barry is the answer to the speed and time equation that Johnny says in order to gain his speed powers. That was an interesting little tweak.
Johns then unveils the dramatic hook ending with the appearance of Professor Zoom at the end. Reverse Flash is the ultimate Flash villain. And since Reverse Flash is sporting the rod with the lightning bolts on both ends we now know the identity of the killer in the beginning of Flash: Rebirth #1. The reader also learns that it is not Barry killing speedsters but, in fact, it is Reverse Flash behind it all. I am curious to see where Johns goes with this newest plot development.
Ethan Van Sciver does an excellent job with the artwork in this issue. I love Van Sciver’s style of art and I dig the amount of detail that he is able to cram into each panel. Flash: Rebirth #3 is certainly a pretty book to look at.
The Bad: Flash: Rebirth #3 was a incredibly anti-climactic read. This issue completely failed to live up to my expectations. The pacing on this issue was just flat out awful. This story is moving along way too slowly. Johns is dragging his feet in unfolding this story.
While the reader might have forgiven the slower pace over the first two issues, the slow pace in Flash: Rebirth #3 certainly grates on the reader’s nerves. By the third issue of a six issue mini-series, there is absolutely no excuse for the writer to still be moving the story along at such a slow crawl. With only six issues to work with, the story should be much tighter and more focused than what we got with this issue.
Flash: Rebirth #3 also suffers from poor plotting. Nothing at all happens in this issue. Johns literally does nothing other than waste time for the entire issue. Johns performs no plot progression at all until the final three pages. It is just unacceptable to ask a reader to plunk down $3.00 for an issue that provides little to no actual content. It is painfully obvious that Flash: Rebirth is only being written with the trade format in mind. And that is reoccurring weakness of Johns’ writing.
Johns wastes almost this entire issue merely re-hashing the same dialogue and inner narration that we have gotten over the course of the previous two issues of Flash: Rebirth. Johns gave us one page involving the attack on Abra Kadabra. We then got a two page scene with Liberty Belle and Hourman. While this scene sported good character work; this scene was still largely unnecessary and failed to progress any plotlines.
Then the following 16 pages of Flash: Rebirth #3 proceed to simply re-hash well worn ground from the previous two issues. That left just the final three pages that actually managed to progress the story at all in any sense or fashion. And only three pages of actual plot progression in one issue is flat out unacceptable.
The flashback scene with Barry, Iris and the bow tie was just not necessary. Honestly, if I never see that damn bow tie again it will be too soon. I did not mind the flashback scenes between Barry and Iris with the first two issues. However, with this issue, the usefulness of these flashback scenes have largely run their course.
Johns continues to try and build up Wally and Bart with the scene in Fallville. This is Johns’ continued effort to try and win over Wally and Bart’s fan base. For the third straight issue, Johns has Barry incredibly humble and completely playing down himself and his importance in the DCU. I understand this method of trying to win over Wally’s fans and it was a wise approach for the first two issues. But, I am officially over it with this third issue. Johns has made his point already. Get over it. It is not longer necessary or needed. It is time to move on.
The scene with Hal, Superman and Wonder Woman and then the race with Superman was yet another total re-hash. Johns gives us more of the same dialogue from Barry about how he shouldn’t be alive. That it was a mistake and dumb luck that he was brought back to life. That he no longer serves any purpose in the modern DCU. Again, we have already gotten a huge helping of this dialogue and narration in the first two issues. It is time to move on.
The four pages with Barry running back through his life was just an excuse to give the reader Barry’s origin one more time. Again, this was just unnecessary. The first two issues gave the reader enough back-story on Barry that made this scene nothing more than a time waster. It could have been condensed down into two pages and still done its job which was to introduce Reverse Flash to the story.
My biggest problem with Flash: Rebirth, to this point, is that it has been missing that special “it” factor that most of Johns’ big event titles have. There is a lack of that special compelling storyline that hooks the reader and completely captivates their attention. Maybe the appearance of Reverse Flash at the end of this issue signals that this story is about to get that “it” factor that will make it a captivating read.
Overall: Flash: Rebirth #3 was an average issue. It was slow and extremely repetitious as Johns once again covers all ready worn ground from the first two issues. I have to admit that after three issues, Flash: Rebirth has failed to live up to my expectations. Maybe I set my hopes too high given the combination of my love for Barry Allen and my respect for Johns’ righting ability.
At this point, I would not recommend Flash: Rebirth to anyone outside of hard-core Flash fans. I just don’t think Johns has made it that interesting for new readers. If you want a tightly written and exciting read then Flash: Rebirth may not be for you. However, if you love the Flash family continuity and history then this is the title for you.