Tuesday, June 26, 2007

JLA 10/Flash 13: "I thought it was going to be someone else"

Previously: discussion here (in the comments) about Tle Villain Is tle Lero in lis Own Story, and the return of the Lightning Saga Legion later this year.

Well, even though everything's been said about JLA #10 and Flash #13, I'm gonna go ahead and do my shtick anyway. Yes, I'm a week late and about to be drowned out by the new week's stuff that comes out Wednesday afternoon, but what the hell. And even though Flash #13 doesn't actually contain any Legion stuff, it's very relevant to the big picture.

So it's the end of the Lightning Saga story, but certainly not the end of the story. There are too many loose ends, not the least of which are Starman and Karate Kid. Nice bit of misdirection there by Johns and Meltzer, making everyone think that the Legion went back in time to revive Barry Allen (Flash II). In fact it was a double-reverse: they dragged us through the whole issue and practically told us they were going to revive Barry, then hit us upside the head with Wally and family. And as the kicker, they really did revive Barry after all, but they never anticipated Wally to begin with, and he's in the future now.

I think DC did a disservice to the fans by practically telegraphing the endings to JLA and Flash with their spoilers last weekend at the conventions. They had kept the secret so well, everyone would have been shocked - shocked! - by the endings had they not known about Bart and Wally and the status of their books.

So we have questions, now that the story's over. In no particular order:

  1. Why did the Legion travel back in time to capture Barry within the lightning rod in the first place? That was what they wanted all along - as Brainy said, he was surprised that Wally came out of the lightning, but "we got who we wanted".

  2. For that matter, as Terence says in the comments, why did they need to send people rather than robots?

  3. Why did they lie to the JLA and JSA about what they were doing? Why was the mission so secret?

  4. They made some cryptic comments about Superman's future and how things are in the 31st century. What's going on there?

  5. What Earth or alternate dimension is this Legion from? They're not the "original" pre-Crisis Legion - Wildfire was never "related" to Red Tornado, Karate Kid is still alive, Ayla is apparently dead, Projectra never wore the Sensor Girl costume while Val was still alive, Dream Girl's powers are related to the Dreaming, the flight rings look different, etc. Starman mentions that Karate Kid "died too and came back". On the other hand - hey, Proty died after all, he didn't reanimate and take over Lightning Lad's body!

  6. What's the current version of Legion continuity with regards to Superman and the rest of the 20th/21st century super-heroes? Superman said that he never saw the Legion again after the first Crisis. I suppose that's true, if you don't count the time when the post-Crisis Superman (rebooted John Byrne version) met the post-Crisis Brainiac 5, Blok, Invisible Kid, and Sun Boy; and when he bounced around time by the Linear Men in "Time and Time Again", meeting the Adventure-era Legion, the 80's Legion, and helping to destroy the Moon in the Glorithverse v4 timeline. Plus, it's not like nobody ever heard of the Legion before - half the team was trapped in the 20th century for a while, and they took part in Final Night. Hell, even Batman met the post-Zero Hour Legion in Final Night, the Lightning Saga Legion, and next issue of Brave and Bold he'll meet the current v5 continuity Legion. (I wonder if he'll mention that?)

Some of these questions will be answered later this year when the Lightning Saga Legion returns later this year.

Part of the story was the return of Wally West, Flash III, and the apparent death of Bart Allen, Flash IV. Bart, of course, showed up prior to Zero Hour but was retconned to be from the post-Zero Hour Legion's future along with his cousin Jenni "XS" Ognats. Barry retired to the 30th century prior to the Crisis, fathered the Tornado Twins Don and Dawn Allen, then died in the Crisis. Then, when the post-Crisis Legion became the Glorithverse Legion and then the post-Zero Hour Legion, the extended Allen family was retconned to the post-ZH future (and thus when Barry retired to the 30th century, it was actually the post-Zero Hour pre-Crisis, not the pre-Crisis pre-Crisis or even the post-Crisis pre-Crisis). We had Bart as Impulse in the 20th century for a while, and Jenni in the 30th. Post-Infinite Crisis, I suppose the Allen family saga stayed the same but shifted to another new future, but Impulse (and his duplicate Inertia) never got their story told, and Jenni hasn't been seen since Earth-247.

I assume much of this (some?) will be covered by Mark Waid in his new Flash series later this year. He answers some questions over at Wizard:
WIZARD: Are you expecting joyous jumping in the streets with his return, or are you expecting people scratching their heads, or are you just going to stay off the Internet for a while?

WAID: Dude, believe me, I’m staying off the Internet. I’m actually having the DSL modem taken out of my house. I don’t know. It’s a complete crapshoot. We live in a world where people are celebratory about the fact that Tony Stark is a villain. I just can’t worry about that. All I can do is be true and faithful to how I perceive the characters. All I can really do is try to make something interesting out of Wally’s new status quo and try to give you stuff that you’ve never seen before in a Flash book.

WIZARD: One last thing about Bart's death: with the multiverse stuff in play are we seriously never going to see Bart again?

WAID: [Laughs] I plead the 5th on that. That's all I can say.

Bottom line, the whole Impulse chronology makes my head hurt almost as bad as keeping track of Legion chronology. Which may be a moot point, now that he appears dead. Now, the Lightning Saga Legion of some Earth's 31st century has Barry, and the JLA of Post-Infinite Crisis New Earth has Wally, while Bart is headed for parts unknown. In retrospect, "Lightning Saga" referred to the plan to resurrect Barry somehow in a manner similar to how they revived Lightning Lad, with Wally & co. riding the lightning.

Did everyone catch that the twins costumes are duplicates of what Don and Dawn originally wore in 1968?

(pictures via)

A sampling of reader reactions that ran the gamut of "best book of the week" to "worst book". I'll cover them in the order I found them:
  • Blurred Productions:
    So I read the JLA #10/Flash #13 one-two punch that was released today. And these were bad, bad comics.

    Let’s start with Justice League. I have been wondering what the fucking point of this whole JLA/JSA/Legion-that-isn’t-supposed-to-exist-anymore crossover was. I guess now we know, it was to bring Wally West back (and trap Barry Allen’s soul?). What Wally West and the old Legion of Superheroes have to do with each other I will never know...

    Which, of course, brings us to Flash #13. Honestly, was there any point to all of this? The last 12 issues of this series have been a complete waste of what had once been an interesting character...

  • Graeme the Savage Critic:
    So, am I the only one who feels that DC has truly fucked up The Flash? Not the character necessarily, but I'm really referring to what was revealed this past weekend... because the shocking end that everyone's worked so hard to keep a secret was revealed last weekend at Heroes Con and Wizard World and then online (And again, what the fuck? They couldn't have either kept it secret for another week, or else managed to make the book ship on time?), there's absolutely no tension in the book.

    Maybe even more confusing, in terms of DC's knack of spoiling their own comics online before they're released, is what isn't in this comic - An announcement that fans should probably check out JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #10 for the next part of the story. The final part of "The Lightning Saga," you see, ends with the triumphant return of the Flash.

    Justice League of America #10 is an Awful ending to the JLA/JSA crossover. The return of Wally comes out of nowhere - well, kind of nowhere, in that lots of people have been expecting this particular misdirection due to the name of the storyline - and isn't given any attempt at explanation in the story at all. The fact that we're seeing an entirely different Legion of Super-Heroes from the ones who have their own series isn't really given any attempt at explanation (There's one line of dialogue which kind of suggests that they're from Earth-2? Maybe?). Why this alternaretroLegion came back in time to resurrect a character that wasn't definitively dead in the first place is given no attempt at explanation, either; instead, we're given scenes that hint that the Legion had an ulterior motive, but, of course, that's not explained either. It's hard for me to say how truly sloppy this final chapter is, even compared with the earlier parts of this story. It's truly fan-fiction that somehow got published by a real company.

  • Tom Bondurant, the Grumpy Old Fan at Blog@Newsarama:
    Instead, Bart dies almost as an afterthought, killed by the Rogues’ Gallery. “Killed by Dan Didio is more like it,” I can hear you saying. “First the JLI, now Young Justice.”

    Those patterns are certainly present … and if the Great DC War On Fun is behind these deaths, here’s my explanation: fun is a luxury. Fun is for people who don’t have to worry about the real world. Fun is for characters whose existences don’t have to be justified. Fun can also be pretty hard to pull off, especially when a character’s corporate owner gets concerned about “realism.”

    That naturally brings me to Justice League #10, an issue which made very little sense except as part of a larger shared-universe storyline. ... As the conclusion to “The Lightning Saga,” JLA #10 was bewildering. As the reintroduction of Wally West, though, I found it surprisingly affecting. ... I’m glad Wally’s back, because his circumstances didn’t need fixing in the first place. However, I’m sorry Bart had to be wrecked in the process.

  • The Comic Book Revolution (Flash review, JLA review)
    Now that I have praised Guggenheim for delivering the best issue he could with what DC gave him, I’m now going to address the huge mistake that I feel Flash #13 was. Was it really necessary to kill Bart Allen?

    I was really hoping that Bart would be sent back to the future to work with the Legion of Super Heroes. Or maybe that since the Multiverse is back and better than ever, that it would provide DC the perfect literary vehicle to place Bart in another universe where he could be the Flash. Unfortunately, it is the long dirt nap for Bart. Oh well, honestly, I’d much rather have Barry or Wally than Bart as the Flash. But, that doesn’t mean that I wanted to see Bart killed off.

    Justice League of America #10 was a great ending to a story arc that I have completely enjoyed. Meltzer gives us a well paced issue. The issue gradually builds in intensity and gains speed with each page as we tick down to the moment of impact.

    Yeah, DC teased us with the return of Barry Allen. Especially with the visions that Batman and Hal Jordan had just prior to Wally making his grand return. And Batman was visibly stunned that it was Wally who the Legion was bringing back and not Barry. But, maybe Batman was right after all. Because, after Wally’s dramatic return, Meltzer then drops another bomb on the reader. Wally West was not the person that the Legion was trying to bring back to life.

    There are some many questions with regard to the Pre-Crisis Legion. What is the great threat that they are facing? What happened to the Legion that caused them to sever their ties with Superman? I am fascinated with the return of the Pre-Crisis Legion and I cannot wait to see what DC has in store for the Pre-Crisis Legion. Personally, I’d be thrilled if we found out that the current version of the Legion of Super Heroes is actually from an alternate universe and that the Pre-Crisis Legion is the Legion from New Earth’s future.

  • I Was a Bronze Age Boy:
    Whacking superheroes is all the rage these days. It’s like the Sopranos have infiltrated the upper echelon of Marvel and DC editorial.

    So, Bart croaks in this week’s issue #13. It would have been a shock, thanks to DC’s loose-lips-sink-ships tactics if...IF THEY HADN’T SPILLED THE BEANS AT A CONVENTION FIVE DAYS BEFORE THE FRIGGIN’ BOOK CAME OUT!

    And over in the sleep-inducing Justice League of America #10 (where Power Girl’s, uh, power must be the ability to make those puppies defy gravity), Wally West and his family are brought back to Earth by 31st Century Legion of Super-Heroes technology. Don’t Ask. Two books. Two Flashes. Two comics that won’t make this week's Best Of list.

  • Jimmy Olsen's Blues, channeling the late Bart:
    Just in time to not save me, Wally's back. Maybe if the Legion of Super-Heroes hadn't spent so much time keeping their plans secret for no good reason, they could've brought him back a little quicker and I'd at least still be alive. Mark Waid would never have gone for this kind of shabby treatment of any Flash. If he was writing the book, I'd be back as the Fastest Man Alive any month now...

    DC News of the Week: Mark Waid Returns to Flash; Wally West on Cover of First Story -

    ...God damn it.

  • All About Comics:
    Gosh, my heart is overcome with the tragedy of Bart’s death — or would be, I guess, if this had any sense of poignancy or drama, and didn’t just seem like a soulless corporate reaction to the current lack of interest or sales to this version of the character.

    This offers the conclusion to the JLA/JSA/LSH crossover, and it turns out the Legion was trying to bring back… Wally West. Um, OK. This makes no actual sense, since West has never had any connection to the Legion (where bringing back Barry Allen, say, would at least have had the tangential connection offered by the Tornado Twins...), and the feel is that West is back because… well, because DC wanted him back; no other reason. This whole crossover just sputters to a close, and it’s convinced me to drop this title
  • Kalinara and the Occasional Superheroine and their respective commenters weigh in on Bart vs Wally and how it all went down.

  • Comics Should Be Good at CBR:
    Okay, this is the conclusion of the big JLA/JSA crossover, “The Lightning Saga.” Oooohhhh, that means there’s some terrible threat to the world that necessitates the two teams getting together, right? That means this is going to be a big smash-’em-up, because when two superhero groups get together, they have to fight something that challenges them really seriously.

    Let’s look at the obvious problem: there’s no villain. This is a crossover between the premier team of the DCU and one that for the past decade has been shoved down our throats even though they’re made up of geezers, plus the added bonus of having a bunch of heroes from the future, and they don’t fight anyone! I can’t speak for the rest of the crossover, so maybe they cleaned up the villain last issue and it turned out the villain was just a ruse, but this the climactic issue, and the closest we get to a fight is the tentacles at the beginning. What the crap? Added to this is the fact that the actual point of the issue is handled really poorly. The Legion comes back in time to bring someone back from the dead. The League thinks it’s Lightning Lad, but the clues in this issue point to Barry Allen. But really, it’s Wally. Fine. But why is the League fighting them? Why, even after they realize that they’re bringing someone back from the dead, do they try to stop them? Why is the Legion trying to deceive them in the first place? Why would Superman be so offended? “You can’t bring anyone back from the dead - dead means dead!” “Yeah, Superman, tell that to Doomsday.” I mean, why on earth is the entire issue devoted to two groups of superheroes trying to stop a third from bringing someone back from the dead?

    I really, really apologize for going on so much about this horrible comic book. It has to be said, though: this sucks. It sucks worse than The Flash #13, because although that ended with a stupid death rather than a stupid resurrection, at least there was a villain that Bart defeated (sort of) before he got kicked to death. This has no bad guy, no big fight, no character development, no humor, no sense of grandeur, and no point beyond bringing a character back from the dead. It’s astonishing that this comic is DC’s best-selling comic. The only reason I can think of that is that people simply are desperate to see their favorite characters in a book together. That’s a terrible reason to buy a comic book.

  • FanBoyWonder:
    But we talk about the death of “Bart Allen” in quotes because this character who filled these pages for 13 issues was NOT the Bart Allen we knew and loved. This Wally West Clone (we don’t use that word by chance) appeared in issue One and there was an expectation, a demand almost, that readers connect to this stranger with a familiar name (well two names, “Bart Allen” and “Flash”).

    “Bart Allen” was to the DC Universe what Ben Reilly was to the Marvel Universe. When we watched “Bart” die at the end of #13, we immediately recall feeling the same way when the clone of Peter Parker, one-time Scarlet Spider and replacement Spider-Man bit the dust (literally) quite abruptly when Marvel realized what the Spider-Clone story line was doing to the entire Spider-Man franchise.

    The Lightning Saga took a LONG time to get where it was going and while there was a rewarding payout at the end in the form of the return of Wally West/Flash and his wife and (now apparently teenaged) kids from the Speed Force or wherever, this JLA/JSA/Legion cross-over never really captured our imagination or frankly our interest for that matter.

    We did like the feeling of build up and the bit of a fake out where it seemed that it was Barry Allen that the Legion was going to bring back with their Lightning Rods. And apparently they thought so too—so Wally’s return is a happy accident.

  • Here are Don McPherson's annotations of the Lightning Saga.

  • Suspension of Disbelief shows us how Power Girl got a breast reduction between the time the original cover was solicited a couple months ago and this issue.

Final notes: I found this interesting post by Yonatan Bryant. He got into comics in the early 90s, practically a generation after me and the other old fogies who remember the Legion (and the JLA, etc.) of the 70s and 80s. We, collectively, are the main fans of comics today, and we are now the creators. But we're not the only ones.
See, while the Legion above might be a bunch of peoples Legion, they are not mine. My Legion is the post zero hour Legion. It is a strong and powerful Legion that does not need a Kryptonian to survive. It is a Legion that will get you to do something for them, as Cosmic Boy said in The Legion 3, not because of their powers, or their numbers, but because they are the Legion, and you follow what the Legion says. That is also my main complaint with the newest version of the Legion: They do not command respect. That and the fact that Gates is not a member.

But at the end of everything, Kyle is my Green Lantern, Wally is my Flash, Conner is my Green Arrow, my JLA kicks ass, my Legion of Superheroes are from the post boot era. Someday they will return.

We, the fans and creators, would do well to keep that in mind.


Terence Chua said...

One other thing was the hints that the Legion's mission was an Adventure Comics #312 situation, but in the end, it was completely different - they didn't use the rods to sacrifice their life force for a dead guy, but to capture a dead guy, which is completely different. Tom Galloway pointed out that if that was the case, they didn't need live people: they could just have set up the rods on tripods.

Just to be a punk, it occurs to me... what if they didn't come back for Barry, but the life force they captured was Bart instead?

Nah. Of course it's Barry.

Michael said...

I added a few more questions in the body of the post, and noted that we've already been told that the Lightning Saga Legion will return in Action Comics later this fall.

And although I am not that familiar with it, supposedly Bart has a "scout" power to make clones of himself, or something like that. There's your easy way of backing out of Bart's death.

Walking through Destinys Garden said...

wee... i got quote somewhere... really have to make do those comic reviews later today...

MaGnUs said...

"Bart has a "scout" power to make clones of himself, or something like that"

Uh... what?

And the Bart-not-Barry-in-the-rod theory has been mentioned over at the Absorbascon.

Michael said...

From the Flash page Those Who Ride the Lightning:

During a trip to the 31st Century (Impulse #75, 2001; see Dark Tomorrow), Bart was blasted by an experimental hyper-ray intended to give ordinary people super-speed. Instead it gave him the ability to create “scouts,”** energy-like avatars of himself which he could then send through the timestream, then absorb their memories when they returned. After one of his scouts was killed on Apokolips (Impulse #77) and the psychic feedback sent him into shock, he has been extremely reluctant to use his new power.

Bart has used it only twice since then: once, unwillingly, when the genie Bedlam used his scouts to create a “World Without Young Justice” (Young Justice #44–45, Impulse #85, etc., 2002), and later to rescue his mother and his friend Carol from the 63rd Century. In light of later events, it is extremely likely that Bart no longer has this ability.

Bryan said...

The number one question is, "Why would the Legion care about ANY Flash?" There's no reason why they should.

Also, even if the "Time and Time Again" story no longer happened, you would think that Conner Kent would have mentioned to Superman something about traveling to the 31st century and joining a Legion that wasn't the same Legion that Superman was a part of.

Michael said...

Unfortunately, Connor died before Supergirl left for the future, so they couldn't compare notes directly.

Each member of the Superman family had joined a different Legion: Superman and the pre-Crisis/Lightning Saga version, Superboy and the post-Zero Hour version, and Supergirl and the post-Infinite Crisis version.

MaGnUs said...

Thanks for the clarification on Bart's scout power, Michael.

And Bryan, even if Conner told Superman about joining the Legion, post-Crisis Superman's adventures with the Legion where pre-Zero Hour, and post-Zero hour, afaik, tehre was never any confirmation that they had happened at all.