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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
The Flash: Rebirth was the comic that got me into The Flash. Well, sort of. I saw some preview art (by Francis Manapul) of the then-upcoming The Flash series. I wanted to get into it, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I did some looking up and saw that Rebirth sets the stage for the new series. I figured this would be as good of a jumping on point as any, so I picked up the collection.
Bottom line: I liked it. I was shocked to later discover how reviled it seeming is online (then again, the internet hates everything). I don’t think it deserves the hate it gets, but Rebirth does have some serious faults.
In The Flash: Rebirth, we find Barry Allen readjusting to his life after being trapped in the Speed Force for a very long period of time (25 years in real time…who knows how long in comic time). He is feeling very down about everything as he feels that he shouldn’t be alive. Things get worse with several speedsters are seemingly attacked through the Speed Force (the mystical field that gives speedsters their power). The Speed Force is seemingly calling Barry back to it. Turns out it is all a plot by Barry’s thought-dead nemesis the Reverse Flash. Reverse Flash has learned how to go back in time and change things. Now, he wants revenge against Barry and those he loves.
As suggested above, there is a lot of good and bad here. Let’s start with the good. Writer Geoff Johns does a solid job with establishing the new status quo for Barry Allen in the then-DC Universe. We learn who this guy is and what he is all about. This might seem odd do to, but keep in mind, this character was largely absent from comic lore for two and a half decades. Some character establishment was needed.
The book also set the status of the extended Flash family (though nothing was ever really done with it). There was some establishing groundwork with some of the extended supporting cast (such as the Rogues, other villains, and Gorilla City) which was apparently set for the follow-up series. Again, it all went nowhere with the new 52 reboot a year or so later, but it gave this reader some excitement of things to come.
Here is the bad: the story. It is awfully convoluted at some places. I get it that Johns was going for a mystery of some sort, but things just kept jumping around. Why is the Speed Force hurting speedsters? Why did Barry briefly become the Black Flash? Does the Reverse Flash want to kill Barry or just keep him alive? There is a lot of jumping around with very little focus. Also, what was the Reverse Flash’s ultimate goal here? It is never truly clear.
This story really needed to be simplified. Thing is, it is a fairly simple story. Johns just throws way too much into it that it becomes overly complex. It also doesn’t help that he desperately tries to tie the then-upcoming Brightest Day crossover into the mix regarding Reverse Flash’s resurrection. For the longest time, I never understood how the Reverse Flash came back to life. He has a line about him having a “resurrection of [his] own in the days ahead” due to a “good friend” of Barry’s. This is, of course, a direct reference to Green Lantern’s role in Brightest Day, but it is still incredibly vague, that the villain’s rebirth is utterly confusing.
See how confusing just that explanation was?
Ethan Van Sciver’s art is good. Nothing spectacular. I am not sure if the Flash is the best character for him to really draw. There are just some artists and some styles that just don’t work for some characters. I am not convinced that Van Sciver’s art meshes with the character. I am not 100% sure if he can really draw speed that well. I never really got the impression that the characters are zooming along the way they likely are. When it came to static, conversation, or group images, Van Sciver is great.
Personal aside: I actually got Ethan Van Sciver’s autograph on my The Flash: Rebirth collection this past year at C2E2. He was a really nice guy. Even doodled a Flash symbol with the signature.
Can I recommend this story? To the average fan, probably not. It isn’t terrible, but it won’t really sell you on the character. Maybe I’ll suggest this to someone who reads some of the following Flash collections and then go back to read Rebirth. It is just too confusing to really get a handle of what is going on.