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Is It Wednesday Yet?

30 August 2011 Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!

Our grading scale is simple:

Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.

Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 24 August 2011
Writer: Sterling Gates
Pencilers: Oliver Nome and Scott Kolins
Inker: Trevor Scott
Colorist: Brian Buccellato
Letterer: Dezi Sienty
Cover: Francis Manapul
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Hannah Krueger
Bart Allen appears to have been untouched by the changes in the universe thanks to Flashpoint, but not for the reasons you'd think. The Speed Force appears to have possessed him, and is sending him racing through time, from speedster to speedster. However, it appears to be using him for a darker purpose, for as soon as he meets the speedsters, the Speed Force consumes their powers, leaving them dead as Bart races on to the next. But why?

Okay, I know we try to stay as spoiler-free as possible, but I have to discuss some of the big spoilers here. Especially considering what's due to happen tomorrow: the reboot of the DCU, and how that's going to happen.

As we go through the book, we find out that the Speed Force isn't necessarily killing the speedsters. Instead, it's using Bart as its messenger; it's gathering the power it's granted the various speedsters to give it all to one very specific person: Barry Allen.

Now, let's talk about Crisis on Infinite Earths. I was three years from being born when this event happened (sorry for making you guys feel old), but as I understand it, one of the big cruxes of the event was that Barry Allen ran so damn fast in order to stop the Anti-Monitor that he sacrificed his existence and became a part of the Speed Force. His death forged the basic dynamic of the Flash Family; how all of its members relate to each other is a direct result of Barry's legacy. (Until he got not dead anymore in the last few years, but that's something for another story.)

Towards the end of this book, Bart's goal moves from visiting the other speedsters to running so fast that he can catch his grandfather in the Speed Force. The dynamics of how Bart relates to his grandfather are huge in the final pages.

What happens next is where I think the so-called flashpoint that reboots the DCU is going to come into play.

Instead of it being Barry who becomes a living part of the Speed Force, it's Bart who becomes a White Flash and is assimilated into it apparently giving his grandfather what he needs to go and fight. The scene where it happens is purposely meant to invoke Barry's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, to the point where after I read it I went and looked up the scene and did a panel-to-panel comparison.

I'm really not sure how I feel about Bart taking on his grandfather's sacrifice. On the one hand, it's a hell of a thing to do, especially for a kid. But, the problem is that we've seen this before, and it very directly seems to be aiming to be the retcon that takes that out of existence all to begin the new universe.

The art here is pretty interesting. Along with Oliver Nome's pencils, Scott Kolins adds his take on past events as Bart runs through time. While it's a really good idea, it doesn't quite work on paper; it makes the pages incredibly jumbled and confused.

I'm giving this a flip through. With the reboot coming, I have a feeling this is going to be one of the titles that, in retrospect, turns out to be hugely important in how the new universe is formed. But how they've chosen to do it doesn't exactly make me eager to read the DCnU.

Flashpoint: The Outsider #3
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 17 August 2011
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Javi Fernandez
Colorists: Richard & Tanya Horie
Letterer: David Sharpe
Cover: Kevin Nolan
Cover price: $2.99

Review: Hannah Krueger
The Outsider appears to be some kind of James Bond-esque villain / possible antihero made of rock, who at one point (in this continuity) found the dead Doctor Erdel and the Martian creature that he had bought to Earth, and, subsequently, after figuring out his weakness to fire, sold him to the Russians so that they could have their own Project Superman. However, it appears that the Martian is not in Russia.

Look, I'm honestly trying to make this interesting for you readers. But this is the last of a three-issue series, and I honestly have no clue what's happening here. I don't know if The Outsider is supposed to be based on an existing character, or if he was created for Flashpoint. The issue assumes you've been following along, which, given the nature of these tie-ins, is a fairly reasonable assumption to make. But if you're picking this up at the comic shop, intrigued by Martian Manhunter holding a stone skull a la Hamlet and Yorick, you're gonna be pretty lost.

Most of this issue focuses on Martian Manhunter's history in this universe, and in case you couldn't guess, it kinda sucks. Also, it features Robinson's penchant for strong, borderline unnecessary violence; he's really big on killing people in the most gruesome ways possible in this book. We get to see Martian Manhunter being tortured by fire, and a character is torn in half by a portal. If you like that, good for you, but it's not that appealing to me. I don't read comics to see casual decapitations and torso-severing.

The art for this is a bit on the sketchy side, but it serves the book well. It's not knock-your-socks-off amazing, but neither is it eye-searingly awful. It just is.

Skip this. Odds are, if you wanted to read it, you've already read the other issues, and you'll have far more context than I did. If you're picking it up casually, you'll be a bit too lost to be able to properly figure out what the hell is happening. Plus, the violence might be a bit too much for some.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
Publisher: IDW
Released: 24 August 2011
Story: Kevin Eastman and Tom Waltz
Script: Tom Waltz
Layouts: Kevin Eastman
Artist: Dan Duncan
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Robbie Robbins
Cover: Dan Duncan
Cover price: $3.99

Review: Sean Lemberg
With no less than eight different titles in its past, each bearing its own unique set of continuity implications, one might think the ship has sailed on ever truly rebooting the famed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license. And, considering the somewhat speckled public reaction to the Turtles' animated relaunch efforts, the timing of another fresh take might be considered suspect as well. However, considering the tidal wave of responsibilities associated with the franchise which forced co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird to abandon their initial run very early in its publication lifespan, perhaps those recent bumps in the road are a blessing in disguise. After all, without a hundred different licensing opportunities clouding its vision, the timing could finally be right for the book's original promise to shine brightly once again.

All of that sounds reasonable enough, anyway.

In practice, it's a total flop. Eastman's return to the property that made him famous is a lifeless reinvention, a gruelingly dated "new" direction with a strange set of priorities. In rushing to poke fun at the exaggerations of the original series, particularly those that were most played up in the classic Saturday morning cartoon, the writing comes off as jaded and bitter a classic knee-jerk overreaction. Where Eastman is looking for a sharp, biting edge, it feels instead like he's taking target practice at point-blank distances, at times even disrespecting the very core of the characters themselves.

The issue's plot structure is a total mess, too. After dedicating its entire front end to a brainless, baseless fight scene, the narration leaps to an equally futile new point of genesis for the fearsome foursome. Without giving anything away, I'll note that the axis of their origin has shifted from the classic "discarded toxic waste in the sewers" to something much more generic and overplayed. And, considering the amount of characters that owe their livelihoods to the presence of radioactive materials, that's really saying something. Surrounding the four infant turtles is a cast of familiar names in reinterpreted roles; April, Splinter, Baxter Stockman, Krang, and Casey Jones are all here, but they've each been fundamentally altered for no discernible purpose beyond the capacity to say it's fresh material.

With Peter Laird declining to participate in the new series and Eastman content with co-writing and layout credits, the chore of actually illustrating this issue falls to up-and-comer Dan Duncan, fresh off a run on Image's creator-owned The Butler. Duncan's loose, frenetic work shows a ton of potential elsewhere, particularly on his personal blog and DeviantArt page, but within the confines of TMNT it's disorganized, constantly muddied, and completely forgettable. I'm not sure if the blame can be placed on the pressures of such a high-profile gig, the presence of Eastman's guiding layouts, or a tight deadline, but it's a total miss in every aspect from a guy who seemed to be a surefire prospect.

In no uncertain terms, this isn't an issue to even entertain opening. If the plot alone wasn't enough to leave me squinting my eyes and slowly shaking my head, the artwork would've chased me out of town. A desperate cash-in on a dead property, it captures neither the spirit nor the adventurous nature of the original. Some franchises are best left to the crows. Skip it.

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