Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things That Made Me Happy

... in my comic books this week.

  • Always good to see Wonder Woman versus a nuclear missile.
  • A visit from Cabal. Okay, that's actually something that happened in my comic book store, but that's close enough.
  • 57 cents.
  • Ah, so THAT's why Thom got a job as a gravedigger. Wasn't expecting that. But, as always, Brainy forced it to make sense.
  • Superman was fascinating this week, without a Superman at all. Robinson, doing what he does best, has made Metropolis and its characters come alive.
  • Whoa. Magical Siamese elephants.
  • The Riddler starts Gotham Sirens, I see... .
  • The nameless tombstone.
  • "Another room full of ice. I'm starting to sense a pattern." I always loved that little guy!
  • A dog in a dentist's office is one thing; but an owl...?
  • Orange versus Blue and Green. With Violet and Red and Yellow lurking in the wings. Oh, this is going to be one sweet and pretty war... .
  • "I followed it step-by-step with little success." Not only one of my favorite character's but one of comics' greatest comedians.
  • Eating the candles.
  • The power of Lex Luthor's hair.
  • T.O. Morrow might destroy you, but he doesn't want to see you cry.
  • Al makes Grant sing.
  • "Leviathan, is that you?" Yeah, I cried.
  • Okay, that return/reveal was definitely worth a two-page spread.
  • "Everyone like ice cream."
  • Tellus.
  • While Two-Face was poorly characterized in Gotham Underground, everyone else was just great, and I enjoy their interaction.
  • That's... not what I expected from the Time Trapper.
  • Ares' gift looks... unpleasant.
  • Zatara vs. Jimmy Olsen; advantage, Olsen.
  • Hal's attitude toward "stealth" as a "superpower".
  • And, of course, it's good to see Central City still looking as ridiculous as ever, just as it should...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Star Trek

I seldom discuss anything not directly related to comics on this blog, but I can't help myself:

I really liked the new Star Trek movie!

Now, I'm not going to say, "IT ROCKED: IT WAS GREAT!" Because then this will devolve into a definition of "good", and some Trek-geek will tell me that it was crap because the directors clearly forgot that Scotty was left-handed or some such nonsense. The film did rock and it was great, but I'm not going to go there. Suffice it to say, I loved it.

The Star Trek mythos is one that, like those of the great comic book heroes (see? you knew I'd find a comic book connection...), is one that developed over several decades. But for all the expansiveness of its storytelling, it remained rooted in one spot for one reason: the original characters were completely linked to the actors who originated the roles. As long as that was the case, Star Trek, while an astonishing franchise, hadn't really become myth. "Jim Kirk" was William Shatner. Now that character (and each of the others) stands apart as an indepedent entity it a way it never has.

And how thick IS Chris Pine's neck? Yeesh, that's hot! Forget, Dorothy; let me surrender.

Kudos to the casting director and the actors; they do excellent work in embodying the characters rather than imitating or parodying them. I would have preferred a much more, hm, "womanly" version of Uhura, but balancing that out, Chekov is simply adorable. I defy you not to love him.

I thought the movie expertly balanced the need to have familiar touchstones for the traditionalist fans as well as appropriate updates for a new audience. In fact, I can imagine that someone who had zero knowledge of any of the Star Trek series would still enjoy this rollicking space opera.

Anyway, I shan't indulge in any spoilers, for there are more than a few surprises the Star Trek film. It certainly has refreshed the franchise for me. Not only will I see this film again, I can't wait to see where the next one leads.

Pep 17: Hanging Out

From Pep Comics solicits...

"Not a hoax! Not an imaginary story! In this issue, while visiting an excessively castellated Ren Fair, the Shield becomes frickin' enormous-- through sheer force of will! Will his increased size be enough to save Dusty from that evil dry-cleaner, 'the Starcher', who's attacked his cape?

"Plus, we introduce the Hangman, the Caped Crusader of Capital Punishment! Coming soon for kids on the Cartoon Network: Hangman, The Grave & The Cold!"

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Dawning of a New Age!

I am quite fed up with people, references, articles, etc. continuing to refer to this as the "Modern Era' of comics.

First off, talking about the "Modern Era" of anything is just sheer intellectual laziness and hybris. "The era in which I live in cannot be easily classified or typified, as can the shallow, simple eras of the past. My era is simply 'modern' and all others are ... not."

To which I say, poppycock. I'm sure many people in those previous eras thought they were living in "the Modern Era", too. Current social, cultural, and artistic eras will, in fact, be tagged and bagged by future generations. Pretending that they won't or turning a blind eye to "the Modern Era's" earmarks is disingenuous at best.

Yes, some distance is helpful in identifying and characterizing an era, but it's not an absolute necessity ... we all knew quite well what the Big '80s were like when we were living in them, for example. I think we're pretty clearly not in the same era as that which began with Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns, and it's about time we acknowledge that new era and begin to get a handle on it.

We have emerged from the Iron Age, characterized by the rise of the anti-hero, the tarnishing of the heroic ideal, the abandoned of Silver/Bronze continuity, and the emphasis on mythos-breaking. The current era, which I call the Platinum Age, is instead characterized by a re-statement of the heroic ideal, the reincorporation of elements from Silver/Bronze continuity, and the emphasis on mythos-building.

There are other changes, of course, but with my focus on DCU continuity these are most immediately salient.

To me, that we are in a new "age" isn't really in question. The question is: when did it begin?

Comic ages seldom have one clear starting point; having different publishers alone ensures that. But there are usually several clear signposts...

2000. Marvel's launch of the Ultimates line indicates awareness that there mainline continuity has become a burden to storytellers and a barrier to new readers. The transition from the Bronze to the Iron was marked by DC chafing against its accumulated continuity and taking steps to address it. The transition from the Iron Age to the Platinum Age by a similar phenomenon at Marvel. Both the Ultimates are Brand New Day are examples.

2004 Identity Crisis. Essentially, the last gasp of the Iron Age and its tarnishing of the Bronze ideal. DC likes to play it as the beginning of its new era. But in fact it was merely the final straw for many readers, causing a loud "enough is enough" from fandom on the grim-ification of mainstream superhero comics.

2002/Spider-Man and 2008/Dark Knight. The superhero film become a serious and profitable genre, part of general re-surfacing of the superhero as a cultural ideal/icon.

2005. Infinite Crisis restablishes the multiverse and M-Day cleans house at Marvel.

What do you think marks the end of the Iron Age, the beginning of the Platinum Age, and the diffferences between them?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I'd like to thank all of you who made purchases or donated for the Big Monkey Benefit Party last night; we raised $1300 to give comics to the patients at Children's Hospital and the DC Veteran's Hospital. And we had a great party in the process!

With your help, we're able to bring some cheer to a great many ailing kids and soldiers.

Many guests asked when our next such party would be... based on the response to this one, it may be soon! If you didn't make this one we hope to see you at the next one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Our benefit party to send comics to kids and soldiers in hospitals is TONIGHT at Big Monkey in Washington DC!

If you can't join us, please considering contributing by sending a PayPal donation to, with a note saying it's for the benefit.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Size of Central City

The squaring of the circle?
Perpetual motion?
Retooling the Republican Party?

I scoff at these minor puzzles.

For I have achieved a working estimate of...


One picture. One picture out of the zillions of pictures of the ridiculous geography of Central City has made this estimate possible. Here it is:

Note that Central City has no apparent rivers or roads transiting it. There is no escape from Central City, unless you can achieve escape velocity, like Flash.

Flash states that he's traveling at just outside a hundred mile radius from the center of the city (in fact, the point where Gorilla Grodd is standing-- but that's not important right now). Now, the perspective makes things a little tricky (in Central City, perspective is always a problem). But with a little measuring, I estimate that Central City is roughly a square whose diameter is 37.5 miles.

That would make Central City about 1406.7 square miles.

Let's put that in perspective.

When you exclude consolidated city-counties (which are just plain cheating, and a different animal entirely), the U.S. city with the largest land area is Oklahoma City (no big shock there), with 607 square miles.

Central City is 2.3 times larger than Oklahoma City.

Kids; see if you can spot Central City!

Yes, that's the approximate size of Central City compared to the state of Kansas. Central City is the only city with a multi-story phone book.

So, how many people live in Central City? It's a toughie, but we'll guestimate it anyway. As mentioned, Central City is about 62 times larger than Manhattan. Let's start with that. Now, on the one hand, Central City seems to be full of nothing but ridiculously broad avenues, sidewalks and plazas (all the better to fight Rogues in). That would make it seem much less dense than Manhattan. BUT...

there don't seem to be ANY buildings in Central City under 20 stories, and most seem to be MUCH higher. Of course, on the other hand, every room in Central City is about four times larger than any room in a normal city. So, I'm going to call it a wash: let's assume Central City is as densely populated -- at least -- as Manhattan.

Manhattan's population is about 1.62 million. And Central City is 62 times larger than Manhattan. Ergo,

the estimated population of Central City is at least 100 million.

Central City has the equivalent of three Californias worth of citizens, or four Texases, or five New Yorks. No wonder Flash has trouble finding the Rogues!

Comparing Central City's population to country populations, Central City is just smaller than Mexico and just larger than the Phillipines. It's a good chunk heftier than Germany and Vietnam. And it's got France beat without breaking a sweat (not that that's particularly difficult).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pep 16: Sunlamp

Another green-skinned, pointy-eared baddie, with bat-faced monster-minions menacing a helpless broad while Dusty bursts in the window and the Shield saunters in from Stage Right with fist a-ready?

Still. Two things keep this Pep cover from being just another one:

Vampire syringe? Nice. Cheating... but still cool.

The sunlamp.

Really? A sunlamp?

As vampires, you guys SUCK.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Strange Feelings, with Barry Allen

If you're new to Barry Allen, you may not know that he was famous for finding himself in strange situations... strange even for a DC superhero in the Silver Age.

But even in the strangest of situations, Barry seldom lost his composure, and faced his role as a lightning rod for Silver Age lunacy with remarkable acceptance and equanimity. A perfect example is one of his most famous quotes:

"I've got the strangest feeling I'm being turned into a puppet."
Yes, Barry; that is certainly one of the strangest feelings. But there are others...

"I've got the strangest feeling...I'm being characterized as an enormous geek."

He works in a lab. He talks to himself. About comics books. While drinking milk. With a straw. All this you know before you even see him. What more could they do, put him in a bow-tie?

"I've got the strangest feeling...
I'm under attack from surrealism in comics."

The second you let down your guard, BANG! You're the center of a paranoid delusion about inanimate objects, specifically, the traveling staircases from many a surrealist joke book ("A traveling staircase goes into a bar, and when the watch melted, the chicken died.")

"I've got the strangest feeling...Zahi Hawass is going to kick my ass."

I sure hope Barry has Josh Bernstein's number; now, that's a Brave & the Bold issue I want to see!

"I've got the strangest feeling...
I'm in a Katsushika Hokusai painting."

Now, that is one classy swipe.

"I've got the strangest feeling...
I should be wearing a red handkerchief in my back pocket."

Who knew that Barry had given the FFA (um... that's...Flash Fans of America, for you kiddies) its slogan, "If you can't fit a keyhole, make it fit you"?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Wait... David Seville is Armenia's UN ambassador? That actually makes sense.
  • Well, there's the line where Kryptonian tough love turns to just plain bad parenting.
  • Acorns? How very... thematic.
  • Arkillo's necklace.
  • Aquaman brings his trident to UN meetings? Probably in case the Australia rep gets out of line.
  • *Giggle*! You can't "decimate each and every"; do DC writers no longer own dictionaries?
  • Ah, the elegant simplicity of the Gamma Gong.
  • Ah... Sinestro's daughter! Interesting.
  • Hey, is Oracle's friend the guy who posed for the Big Belly Burger logo?
  • Flash, the World's Fastest Statue.
  • Fear keeps the Daxamites in check ... just as it always has.
  • Step by step we get closer to her walking again.
  • Kangaroos that say "HOLA!"
  • Giant ants. Always a winner.
  • Blue Man Group. Heh.
  • An autographed picture of Starro...?!
  • 7734. Clever.
  • That's a big snake. A really BIG snake.
  • Nice to see Kanjar Ro get some sweet, sweet octopus love.
  • Attempt raped of paraplegics. Always a winner.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Benefit Party for Kids and Soldiers in Hospital

Next Wednesday, April 22, Big Monkey is having a benefit party to raise money for donating comic books to the ailing children and soldiers in two local D.C. hospitals.

For every dollar raised (either through purchases or direct donations), Big Monkey will match with an equivalent amount of merchandise sent to Children's Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital. Help give hundreds of comics and toys -- and hours of needed enjoyment -- to those in need.

Meet new characters, both real and fictional! And the Big Monkey staff will be on hand to find you comics and graphic novels you'll love. Catering by Harryfeatures, music by Big Monkey Radio. The party is from 7PM to 10PM at Big Monkey (1722 14th St. NW Washington DC; that's on 14th between R & S, near the U St. metro station).

IF YOU CAN'T ATTEND BUT STILL WANT TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAUSE, you can PayPal a donation to with a message saying that it's for the benefit... we'll add it to the tally!

The Evite to the Party.
The Facebook Page for the Party.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vibe: The Musical


Break-dancing sensation,
every little step he takes
thrilling combination,
every move that he makes

One smile and suddenly nobody else will do

You know you'll never be lonely with you-know-who

moment in his presence
and you can forget the rest

For the boy is second best to none, son

Oooh! Sigh! Give him your attention

Do I really have to mention
he's the one

He walks into a room and you know he's
uncommonly rare, very unique

peripatetic, poetic and chic

He walks into a room and you know from his
maddening poise, easy elan

thrilling combination,
every move that he makes
he's a special man)


Can't help all of his qualities extolling

Loaded with charisma is my
jauntily, sauntering, ambling, shambler

Vibe, and you know you must

Shuffle along, join the parade
he's the quintessence of making the grade
This is whatcha call trav'ling!

Oh strut your stuff!

Can't get enough!

Ooh! Sigh! Give him your attention

Do I really have to mention

Vibe's the one!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pep 14: I think the blind guy nodded off

Okay, let's go down the Pep Cover checklist, shall we?

  • Yellow background?
  • Pulp-style posing and grimacing?
  • Thematic setting?
  • Dusty flying through the air?
  • Odd muddle of male villains, masked or hooded?
  • Threatening phallic weapons, suggestively poised?
  • The Shield grape-vining in from Stage Right with his Ready To Hit You pose?
  • Random lady strapped down and in danger?
  • Promo for strangely irrelevant co-feature?


But, wow... helpless blind guy in wheelchair? Now that's over the top!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Flash Back

Ah, revisionism. Younger or newer readers often get snowed by the DC press machine into believing that a character has "always been a certain way". Many readers, for example, would assume that Alfred's always had a biting dry wit. Not so; that characterization began entirely with Frank Miller. In fact, for the entire Golden and Silver Age, Alfred was pretty witless. Read old comics, people; there's a lot to learn from them.

It's come to my attention through recent conversations about Flash: Rebirth that there are a lot of people whose idea of what Barry Allen was like has been formed entirely based on the saint-like reverence of him by modern characters. Based on that impression, they've been objecting to how Geoff Johns has portrayed Barry Allen in Flash Rebirth. Well, I have news for you; odds are Geoff Johns has read more Barry Allen stories than you have. Odds are, he's read all of them.

"This no time for anything but crimefighting attitude isn't like Barry Allen at all."

"Barry was never such a hard-ass."

Here's Barry, who's a police officer, pressuring a lawyer to violate attorney-client privilege.

"Barry Allen believed in criminals reforming."

Here's Barry refusing to believe one of his foes has reformed, purely out of instinct, even though everyone else believes it.
Naturally, he was right. But that's not really the point, is it?

"Barry was never so humorless."

"Barry was a nice guy."

Here's Barry using superspeed to begin to incinerate an opponent; and laughing about it.
Look, I'm not saying Barry was a bad person. Of course he wasn't. Hey, I could easily post panels that show he enjoyed vacation with his friends, liked kittens, and was, in fact, a very good mentor to Wally.

But he was a rather serious policeman, with a no-nonsense approach to justice, and little inclination toward coddling crooks. Just because a character's stories are full of talking gorillas, giant insects, wacky villains, and absurd pseudo-science doesn't make the character a lighthearted jackanapes. In fact, Barry took all those goings-on deadly seriously. You may consider them crazy and funny in retrospect, but Barry Allen surely did not.

If you fact if you want a Flash who's fun, and light-hearted, and thinking all the wacky Silver Age is funny, well, then you want Wally West, not Barry Allen... .

P.S. Iris Allen was mean, and she and Barry were not the Most Perfect Couple Ever (tm).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Things That Made Me Happy...

in my comics this week.

  • Why the Vega system is off-limits. Now I get it.
  • And let's hope that's the last we see of the Nightwing costume.
  • The Riddler noting things for ... future reference.
  • Clark Kent the farmboy knows how to deal with animals.
  • Flux capacitor humor.
  • So, I figure, since it's stated 100 times that that simply has to be Jason Todd... that it isn't.
  • The Controllers seem to have bitten off more than they can chew.
  • The Orange Lantern, however, does not.
  • Two-Face, as an actual crime lord, just like the old days.
  • I think I love Liana, too.
  • I wasn't ready for a Tiny Titans/Secret Six mash-up.
  • Wow; they really want us to buy the new Power Girl series, don't they?
  • Kind of surprising who wears Booster Gold's personal scent!
  • That's funnier than crowbars usually are.
  • I don't think I've ever liked Hal more than I did as he was sassing Ganthet this week.
  • What the Thought-Beasts can do.
  • The Riddler knows the Hymn to Aten. In hieroglyphs. I love him.
  • Good to know the Guardians notice little things like the formation of new planets populated by superpowered supremacists in already occupied solar systems.
  • Alfred states the obvious. But makes it look cool.
  • Well... I guess not everyone loves Skeets after all.
  • I am so glad that guy was dressed as Blackhawk.
  • If only there were a toll-free number to vote on Damian.
  • Even though it's a brief cameo in the 'wrong' book, Central City still looks like Central City.
  • Can the Artist Guild throw a party, or what?
  • Hey, now; that is the Penguin! Find the person who did me this favor... then kill them!
  • Ankh. Excellent.
  • "Insignificus" is the best name since the Sivana's last visited the Maternity Ward.
  • Labor Day on New Krypton!
  • I dunno; how bad can someone who tries to kill Damian be, really?
  • Heh. You just never know how they're going to sneak Streaky in.
  • Booster Gold's strategically ripped costume. And body.
  • Hey, Allura! Ya forgot to take out the anti-grav rollers!
  • Ouch. And right after Tim's face had just healed so nicely...

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pep 13: Scipio's Dream

"Doctor, I keep dreaming I live in an underground lair, with a giant organ and two green-skinned reptile men who wearing nothing but Speedos. And I'm wearing some kind of, well, a butterfly or moth costume, I can't tell which.

"Anyway, I'm packing up Joan Crawford carefully to ship her to Hollywood, I think, but there's this candle that's, um, I think it's also a, you know, a phallic symbol, and it's flaming on top, and it's jutting into toward her... No, really, out from her, I think like it's a strap-on or she's a pre-op, or something. Anyway, I having some trouble with the packing tape, which has gotten twisted, and into the dream burst a young boy, masked, who grabs a lizard man and shoves him butt-first onto my giant organ, and a strapping man, also masked, who grabs me roughly from behind and stops me from packing up Joan. And they both are dressed like an American flag and have flaming red hair atop, and kind of remind of the candle strap-on thing."

"Tell me, doctor; what does it all mean...?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Flash Rebirth

I've just read the most important superhero comic book in the last 20 years.

Obviously, I'm discussing Flash Rebirth.

Central City. Really, the opening panel is all I needed. The skyline is much too long. The buildings are too tall. The buildings are too thin. All their lights are always on. In other words, it's perfect and looks exactly like Central City should. Delightfully, this panel and the other panel of the unnamed river that separates Central City and Keystone perfectly depict the two cities. Keystone is short, industrial city with factories (as indicated by smokestacks) along the river. Central City is ... well, you know what Central City is like.

Not only is the look of Central City firmly re-established, but its character is being fleshed out. In Central City, people are in a hurry, pressed for time, all about speed; this make the Flash the perfect hero for them. It also reinforces that Barry Allen -- the slow, methodical police scientist-- is their perfect 'anti-hero'. And the death of the scrupulous lab cop in the opening scene reminds us of that.

The Opening Scene Narrator. Well. THAT wasn't exactly what I expected.... and I'm glad. This negative re-creation of Barry's origin was gory, dramatic, creepy, mysterious, and yet obviously deeply rooted in the character's history somehow. I know these characteristics are what some of you hate about Geoff Johns' work; but it's what I love about it. Geoff Johns is the anti-Morrison; with John's work you don't know what's going on until it's over, when all is revealed and it makes sense, whereas with Morrison's you think you know what's going on until it's over, when it's revealed that it didn't make any sense at all.

Who/what is that in the opening scene? After lots of thought, I've come to the conclusion that... I have no idea. And that I like it that way; I don't want to wrack my 12-level comic book brain to deduce everything that's going to happen in a story like this, I just want to enjoy the ride. Whatever it is: it doesn't revere Barry and his worldview; it dresses just like him; as a foe of haste, it represents the opposite point of Central City and the Flash. Smells like the new Reverse-Flash to me, folks.

Bart Allen. Many readers will surely complain that Bart's lack of respect for his grandfather is mischaracterization. I don't mean to dismiss those feelings; I myself almost fainted when Bart referred to him as "Barry" rather than "Grandpa". Make no mistake; yes, it is a very dramatic change in the way Bart is portrayed. But, after a bit of thought, I don't think of it as "mischaracterization" but as "re-characterization". Bart's essential characterization hasn't been changed (like it was when they grew him up and made him grim 'n' gritty; that was mischaracterization). Only his attitude toward one character has been adjusted.

Shocking though it was at first, I'm okay with it for two reasons. One; it makes more sense. Bart never really knew his grandfather; heck, he never really knew his parents. Bart's father figure was Max Mercury, and I think Geoff Johns implies that Bart resents the fact that Barry came back and Max didn't. Add to that the fact that Barry's return has completely overshadowed Bart's and seems like a "demotion" of Wally, and Bart's current lack of respect for Barry makes a lot more sense than his former veneration of him.

Two, the viewpoint he now embodies is a necessary one. Quite obviously, Bart now represents 'the doubters' among the readership. Barry isn't "his Flash"; he doesn't really know Barry; he doesn't understand why people revere him and are so willing to "put aside" Wally, who's been the only Flash he's ever known. This gives the writer to "prove" to the reader that the return of Barry Allen is a good thing, rather than just positing it as a unquestioned fact. And, really, there's no other Flash character who could be given this sceptical viewpoint.

Iris Allen. Well, naturally, I'm not ever going to be happy until Iris is portrayed as the vicious ball-buster she's traditionally been, with Barry Allen being the only man perfect enough to meet her high standards. But the main thing that Johns has done with her in issue 1 is clever: like Bart, her attitude is the opposite of her traditional portrayal. It may have escaped you, because lots of younger readers don't really know Iris from the Silver Age. Iris was a pushy, nosy, in your face reporter, as we are reminded by the frames articles on her wall. To have her first words be "I'm not asking any questions" is a virtual slap in the face to wake up the reader and say, "Oh, but there are LOTS of questions that need asked, and soon". But even more confounding to my than Iris's ostriching, even more mysterious than the visitor to the crime lab is ... the dog. WTF? In Iris's house?! It's not Bart's former dog, Ivan; did Joan bring it with her? I can't imagine the Garrick's having that kind of dog. My theory is that the dog is, in fact, Iris's, but that it's stuffed and that she bought it that way. The only other possibility is that it's not hers, it's there recuperating because does neutering free as her hobby; who better?

Hal Jordan. The relationship portrayed here between Hal and Barry is all note-perfect, so I don't have a lot to say here. There are a couple of nice "comic book irony" points Johns' makes that I want to re-emphasize. For one, other than Bart and the Rogues, the only person who's not thrilled that Barry is back and accepting it unquestioningly is ... Barry himself. It's a nice irony and a clever hook for those who are still sceptical of his return; Barry, it turns out, is one of you. Also, Barry Allen and Hal Jordan are often thought of as contrasting characters (which, yes, they are, and their differences still shine in their scene together). But reminding us of their common like as policeman (terrestrial and extra-terrestrial) is a useful irony. My favorite irony is this scene is the "catching up" reference. Johns shows that world now operates at a much faster pace than it did when Barry was introduced, that speed is now more important than ever. This is the ingenious irony... The common wisdom for a decades had been "Barry Allen is dated character, his time is over, he's a symbol of the past." Johns is saying, "Barry Allen was ahead of his time, his time isn't over, his time has only now finally arrived." And, really, who could symolize modern crimefighting in the information age better than a police scientist with superspeed?

But most important, Johns has re-established the essential irony of the character. Most great characters have an essential irony. Bruce Wayne, the gazillionaire who fights muggers in alleys. Superman, the passive office schlub who can shove planets around. Wonder Woman, the ass-kicking warrior of peace and sisterhood. Hal Jordan, with a ring that can do whatever you imagine on the hand of a rock-headed moron. Barry Allen's essential irony used to be that, even though he was the fastest man alive, he had a reputation for being slow, lazy, and always late. Johns has re-established that irony with a new twist: Barry Allen, the one person who you'd think of as having all the time in the world, feels he has no time for anything, is terrified of being late, and can't afford to slow down. Suddenly, a modern person can identify with Barry Allen more than ever before; no matter how fast you are nowadays, there still never seems to be enough time.

Johns takes pains to build this essential irony into a new backstory for Barry, which naturally involves a gruesome childhood tragedy. Now, I'm sure a lot of you are rolling your eyes, and Pantha's head, over Geoff Johns' brutalization of your childhood (and Barry Allen's). And I will admit that it's all a bit familiar. One of the first things Johns did in retooling Hal Jordan's origin was to give him a Tragic Death of Parent Before Child's Eyes story as a mechanism for explaining why they character is how they are. Now he's doing it with Barry Allen (and what a story it is).

No, it's not the most original origin of all time. But it's classic, and unlike many modern writers, Geoff Johns doesn't try to pretend that he's smarter than the writers who created the likes of Batman, Superman, and Dr. Fate using just such origins.