Friday, March 18, 2011

On how some things end in a...oh, I just can't DO it!

It's just been announced that DC will be cancelling the latest version of The Flash with issue 12, ending it just as their next event Flashpoint starts. 

This is not the first time they've ended the book's (you should pardon the expression) run abruptly.  They cancelled the book when Bart Allen was in the red suit right in the middle. Even went so far as to solicit three fake issues so when the book came out, the surprise of the events of the book were not ruined three months back.  The surprise was of course that Bart died. 

And a bunch of people wailed and screamed and rent their garments and went on about the commonality of death in the DCU, and all that.  And another bunch of us read the issue of JLA that came out the same week (almost as if it were planned) and saw Brainiac 5 holding the little wand, and we all said "Well okay, this is obviously already handled".

And sure enough, a year and change later, Bart came back in the stellar Legion of 3 Worlds, and Barry had already come back in Final Crisis, and all told, it was looking pretty good for Flash fans.

But now they're cancelling the book again, and once again everyone is cursing the darkness, complaining that DC can't seem to get a book off the ground, it's all the fault of the creative team, yadda yadda.

And I stand here nonplussed, asking "Really?"

I will tell you right now, this was planned from square one.  Geoff Johns is the current reigning master of the Long Game. He plans to a degree that put the Bene Gesserit to shame.  He plans his stories over the course of YEARS.  He had the Sinestro War in the planning stages by the time the new Green Lantern book started.  And he teased both Blackest Night AND War of the GLs in the middle of Sinestro War.   They told us about Flashpoint right at the beginning of the new title, and pretty much everything that's happened in it has been connected to it, directly or obliquely.  It was a single 12-issue story, intended to bring us right to where we are now, primed and ready to see what Eobard Thawne can do with full access to the timestream.

This is not changing horses in mid-stream. Geoff raised this horse from a foal.  He helped birth it. He may have held the stallion's hat while it was shagging the mare.  In a very real way, we've been reading one huge over-arcing tale since GL Rebirth, possibly longer. 

Now, in the case of Bart, I don't think it was as carefully thought through.  As I understand it, they did want to get Bart over as the Flash, although they were already talking about bringing back Barry.  The first six issues by Bilson and DiMeo were, I'll be honest, disappointing.  It felt like stunt-casting; get the guys who did the did the Flash TV series (Which was at best, small islands of great in a sea of meh) to write the comic, and get a little mainstream publicity.  It consisted of several issues of Bart...not running.  The idea was that accessing the Speed Force could kill him, so he was trying to give it up, but then things happened that made him change his mind and it all just felt like I was watching Robert Altman's Popeye again, and as good as it all looked and as fun as it was to watch I just wanted to see him EAT...THE FUCKING...SPINACH...AND GET ON WITH.IT.  That, combined with the fact that the several years Bart spent in the Speed Zone were summarized in a single chaotic two-page spread that answered NO questions, left a sour taste in my mouth.

This was followed by a move by Bart to Los Angeles and becoming a forensic scientist, a move that was supposed to make a connection to his grand-dad, but felt far more like a last-minute change because what they were doing wasn't working.  And by this point, Lightning Saga was getting ready to go in JLA and JSA, and that's about when they decided that Bart had to go.  Just not for too long.
Supposedly it was originally Barry that was to return in Lightning Saga, but they held off till Final Crisis to give the return more weight.  So they brought back Wally from his exile to the Speed Force, a move that was originally supposed to mirror the events of IC when Wally took the torch from Barry. Wally and his family were back, and the kids were older, and they tried to make his story stick, but once again, for reasons no one can pinpoint, it didn't catch on.  I think by this point, the apparent bait-and-switch of Lightning Saga (Heck, even Batman thought it was Barry coming back)  had the fans thinking that we'd see the "real" Flash back sometime soon, and as happens all too often (See Shooter's recent run on Legion) the readers looked past what they had in anticipation for what they may have at some point in the future.

So while he didn't get killed off or shuffled off to another dimension (this time), Wally's tenure as the titular Flash ended shortly before Final Crisis.  And that where we saw both Barry and Bart come back, and things looked rosy.

Plans for a Kid Flash book by Sterling Gates were put on hold.  The idea was to give people just one Flash for a bit, to get people re-acquainted with Barry.  And it's worked well.  The new Flash title has been exciting, and has really turned up the Sci-fi and time-travel facets of the character.  Some don't care for that, but it makes perfect sense. Remember, the Multiverse had its origin in Flash, with the seminal Flash of Two Worlds. Time-traveling villains were part and parcel of his story from the beginning.  So if you're going to do a story about time travel, Flash is the character to do it with. 

From the first issue of Flash Rebirth we saw that The Reverse Flash's plan involved dicking with time to mess up Barry Allen, but not to the point of destroying him.  So the plot of Flashpoint is simply that taken to the extreme.

Now I was right there saying "Hang on, changing history, that's supposed to be impossible, it's what Booster Gold was supposed to be combating in his book, you know, the one that Geoff co-wrote for a while".  So when it was announced that not only was he going to be involved, his title was going to be the only monthly book tying directly into the event, I was REALLY chuffed.  Is it possible that even the threads he set up in Booster Gold were part of the groundwork of Flashpoint?  I wouldn't put it past him.

So if you think that this end to the Flash book is "another example of what's wrong with DC today", I suggest you have it exactly backwards.  It's an example of what they're doing right.