Flash Case One: Case of the Dastardly Death of the Rogues
US: Nov 2010
It’s hard to set aside how amazing B.O.B.‘s recent track “Airplanes” is. Even without the heavyweight of what seems to be Marshall Mathers retelling of his personal journey to stardom coming by way of hard graft rather than simply luck or talent. B.O.B. takes possibly the most horrific image of our time, the hijacking of civilian air transport, and manages somehow to reclaim it. “Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, I could really use a wish right now,” featured artist on the track Hayley Williams of Paramore intones, offering a redemption of the idea of hope in a post-9/11 world.
This is about rebuilding our lives, “Airplanes” seems to remind us. About living outside the paradigm of what happened, about never having to live in the shadow of That Day. And “Airplanes” is haunting, the weight of the past decade comes crashing in. But this song is also about More. About the kind of existence where ‘rebuilding our lives’ means more than being haunted by those memories and defending against evil. It means tapping that courage to erect those kinds of symbols again. It means flourishing. It means a full richness of life.
It’s hard to remember the real Silver Age Flash, Barry Allen. By the time I finally arrived at his book, Barry was already in death spiral. Barry was on trial for his use of lethal force to apprehend the Reverse Flash, Professor Zoom, a maniac who came from the distant future to murder Barry’s wife Iris. Barry himself, in an attempt to save his good name and identity had undergone radical reconstructive surgery at the hands of the super-civilized technologically advanced Gorillas of Gorilla City. Barry had assumed a new identity. And to make matters worse, Barry’s sidekick Kid Flash Wally West gave testimony that lethal force was not called for to resolve the situation.
But even as I held the world-spiral in my hands there were glimpses, flashes, of an older kind of Flash story. It was that endless tilting, not just at windmills, but at the entire world. It was a very different kind of story, unique among superhero stories. Superman was deployed against planetary-level threats. Batman was a sleuth tracking down the perpetrators of unthinkable crimes. But Flash. Flash was about thinking, about science. About fighting with ideas, inventions. Lunatic develops a wand to ‘hack’ the global weather system? Barry would cause the collision of two south Pacific hurricane systems to undo Weather Wizard’s advantage. Supercriminal with a heat ray robbing banks? Barry will simply build a frost-generator from scratch. No wonder Central City built a museum to honor him, Barry, was Kobe, Michael Jordan and Ali rolled into one.
And not to mention, Barry dematerialized himself while saving the universe.
So what happens when after years of writing Wally West, Barry’s successor to the Flash mantle in the early part of this decade, Geoff Johns returns to writing Barry Allen himself?
There is an exuberance on these pages. A rush that seems to never die down. Barry’s back, and Central City is in danger again. Super-science cops from the distant future have come back in time to arrest Barry for a crime he is yet to commit. They care little for the havoc they leave in their wake.
But that’s what Barry’s for—a rescuer who can literally be everywhere at once. A spirit of optimism so indomitable, that no one will go undefended again. No one will wake up cold, or hungry or trapped.
And that’s what Geoff Johns brings to a character that was labeled by many as ‘dated’ and ‘outmoded’. The idea of an unraveled life at once seems securely and permanently behind use. And the idea that after 9/11 we will not only stand again, we’ll fly.