Comics

The Trial of the Flash: Geoff Johns' Relaunch of the Silver Age Flash

The Rescuer: Barry Allen saves people, that's what a Flash is for.

Even before Silver Age Flash Barry Allen's 300-plus-issue run on the title drew to a close, his character arc was spinning out of control. Johns' relaunch brings a return to those days of exubernace of Wild Science.


Flash Case One: Case of the Dastardly Death of the Rogues

Publisher: DC
Length: 22 pages (each)
Writer: Geoff Johns
Price: $3.99 (each)
Publication date: 2010-11
Amazon

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.

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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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9

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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8

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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