Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: Flashpoint Kid Flash Lost #1

Despite being one of those people who complains of 'event fatigue' in comics, I found myself signing up for a handful of Flashpoint mini-series, mostly based upon characters I follow. But I was thrilled when I saw the solicits included Flashpoint:Kid Flash Lost by former Supergirl writer Sterling Gates and relative newcomer Oliver Nome. This was a mini-series added to my pull list on the strength of the creative team alone.

Gates has always professed to be a Wally West fan and a Bart fan and at one point was linked to a possible Flash-family style book called Speed Force, a book which has yet come to pass. But when a creator has a passion for a character and finally gets to write them, the usual result is a great book. And so far, Kid Flash Lost is just that.

Stuck in the dreary reality of the Flashpoint universe, Kid Flash Lost actually reads a bit like a fun book, Bart's infectious, upbeat, and frenetic personality standing as a stark contrast to the horrors around him. Despite finding himself in the ultimate dystopia, Bart is still Bart. This isn't a murderous Aquaman or a rampaging Wonder Woman ... this is Bart equating his situation to movies he has seen, wowed by the cool things around him, and worrying about his future. For me, that is the key to the series. Who wants to read a dour Kid Flash? Not me.

So it is great to see Sterling Gates at the helm of this book as he has such an easy handle on the character. Bart's reactions are exactly as I would expect them to be. And Gates does just what he should do in an opening chapter of a book like this ... give me enough of the character so I get a sense of who he is, keep the action high, and give me a great hook to come back for more.

Oliver Nome's art is energetic and expressive with a hint of a manga influence. It occasionally looks a little rough which I think might be more of  Trevor Scott's inks given the things I saw Nome doing at the Boston Comic Con.

The series first starts with a female Hot Pursuit sensing some massive chronal disturbance and teleporting away.

But the opening scene of the title character has Kid Flash running with testy and easily perturbed Barry. It doesn't feel right. More than anything, Barry has seemed to try to avoid Bart since his return. This more upfront and angry encounter doesn't sound like Barry.

I have to point out the small editorial gaffe of putting the creative credits on this page twice, once in the yellow circle and once in small red font right on the Flash's left thigh. Just a slight distraction, I know ... but certainly it is someone's job to make sure this doesn't happen.

Now outside of Barry's personality, Bart also notices slight imperfections in the city around him, miscolored signs, misplaced landmarks. Even Bart's slight pain from an old knee injury is gone. Someting is wrong and Bart knows it. Barry's anger was the tipping point. This has to be some sort of illusion and Bart is going to rebel. I thought this was a nice way to show that Bart is smarter than he sometimes lets on. I also liked the reference to his knee injury at the hand of Deathstroke.

Bart starts by attacking 'Barry'. Oliver Nome does a nice job using multiple fist images to show the superspeed assault Kid Flash unleashes.

In that rebellion is the equivalent of the taking the red pill from Morpheus in The Matrix. By rejecting this illusion, Bart awakens in a pod, hooked up to life support, and surrounded by technology. It certainly has a Matrix feel to it. Nice perspective of this panel, looking down on an isolated Bart surrounded by this machinery.

Bart immediately recognizes the decor as consistent with a super-villain's lair but before he can investigate more he discovers two things. One, he is cut of from the speed force and powerless. And second, his escape from the pod has been detected by robot sentries who swarm him to attack.

Bart is able to hide but he spies the night stick of Hot Pursuit.

These panels were my favorites in the book because they showcase the youth of Bart. I am not going to say immaturity because that is too pejorative. He is just young with a short attention span. The first panel with Bart peeking out from his hiding spot just has a Scooby Doo sort of vibe here. Did he really think that he could hide from robots that way?

And then the 'Kid Flash fact' that he is easily distracted. It both ties into the history of 'Flash facts' panels but rather than some science factoid we get a wonderful self-awareness. He should have kept moving but he paused when he saw the nightstick. That just gets to the core of who Kid Flash is.

It turns out that the super-villain is Brainiac, looking bleaker and more robotic than usual. I thought this was a subtle way to ground us in this Flashpoint world. Things are darker here. Even the villains look more monstrous, less human. And Kid Flash stands out as just being different in this world.

And the Matrix-feel continues as we learn that Bart was a battery, Brainiac draining him of chronal energy.

But before Bart can be put back in his pod, he is rescued by the now materialized Hot Pursuit.

Again, the beauty of this book was just how Bart reacts, how he retains his joy of life despite the craziness and grimness of everything around us. Bart has awoken in this nightmare world but he pauses to say he thinks the speed bike of Hot Pursuit is cool. It is that disconnect, that juxtaposition of some brightness in this bleak universe, that makes this such an interesting book. 

Once outside the battery tower Bart basically calls this world the Matrix, saying he saw 'this movie' with Conner and neither of them liked it. It really does have a Matrix feel, people trapped in pods while machinery is everywhere like vines. I wonder if it might smack a bit too much like the Matrix.

Still, it makes sense that neither Bart or Con liked the Matrix. Both of their character histories have them trapped in virtual worlds, stuck away from reality. It probably hits home a little more to them. Of course they wouldn't like it! Small flourishes of characterization like this really stick with me in comics.

It turns out that the new hot pursuit  is Peggy Spivot, the forensic scientist last seen in Flash. In that book, she is supposed to be a contemporary of Barry. Here she looks pretty young. Will she become a sort of romance interest for Bart here? Or a more appropriate question is how long before Bart tries to be smooth?

Her equipment tells her that they are in the 31st century, 500 years into Brainiac's rule of the planet. Again, the rewritten history of Flashpoint has future implications. This isn't the optimistic land of the Legion; this is hellish.

And that change in history means Bart was never born. While in Brainiac's fortress, Bart had some sort of chronal protection. But now, outside of that pod, Bart is literally fading away. He references doesn't name it outright but he says he saw this movie with Cassie ... obviously riffing Back to the Future.

So this was a very nice opening to this mini-series. Really the best opening chapter of all the Flashpoint mini-series that I have bought. It had good action, a great handle of the star character, and a very nice hook to keep me coming back for more.

The question really is where the heck do we go from here? Bart would need to go back in time and stop Flashpoint from happening to reset the right timeline. Could he be the hero of this thing? Or does he somehow get some more chronal protection? Or does he try to recreate his birth within this new timeline? Maybe he is going to flit around the timeline throughout? I have no idea where this is going ... and that is also another hook for me.

But really, the character of Kid Flash made this a lot of fun despite all the horror that has bubbled up in Flashpoint. And that was appreciated.

Overall grade: B+


Nikki said...

What are the chances we may see some underground legionnaires?

Anj said...

Now that would be cool!

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, great book. Having Patty be Hot Pursuit is even more fun if you recall her dream career as Ms Flash!

Anj said...

Having Patty be Hot Pursuit is even more fun if you recall her dream career as Ms Flash!

Yeah, that's a great point I didn't think of!

Anonymous said...

Great issue! Definitely picking this series up! Can't wait to see Sterling writing H&D. That looks great, too.-ealperin