DC ComicsFlash

Flash: Rebirth #1 (2009)

flash rebirth 1 2009 geoff johns ethan van sciver

Flash: Rebirth #1 (June, 2009)
“Lightning Strikes Twice”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Art – Ethan Van Sciver
Letters – Rob Leigh
Colors – Alex Sinclair
Edits – Chris Conroy, Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $3.99

Hey! It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Been a bit of a year ova’ here… won’t bore y’all with my varying tales of 2023 woe, but suffice it to say I haven’t really been in the right headspace to blibbuh-blabbah on about comics… or anything, really. Not even sure where I’m “at” right now… just really missing the old Chris is on Infinite Earths “ritual”… missing talking to and at anybody who who pops over to the ol’ site… I miss a lot of stuff.

Received my latest DCBS box this past weekend… which makes three I’ve gotten and haven’t even bothered to open! I suppose each one serves as a reminder that I’ve long neglected all of my pseudo-creative exploits. DCBS boxes loaded to the brim with X-Men books (a family of titles I haven’t read in well over a year at this point), and Titans books (my most recent attempt at chatting about comics). I feel kind of ashamed even looking at them, if I’m being honest. Feels like I really let myself (and anyone who found any enjoyment in my nonsense) down.

Hey, didn’t I say I wasn’t going to bore you? Oh well, sorry ’bout that!

Anyway, today… wanted to start filling in one of my “on purpose” blind spots in DC Comics history. Flash: Rebirth… ya know, the first one. This series hit the shelves at a time where I was both destitute and in the midst of one of my many DC Comics “temper tantrums”. If you were subjected to my disastrously depressing Flash Forward review from a few years back, you could probably suss out that I was (and am) a “Wally guy”. The idea that they’d bring Barry Allen back (likely shoving Wally aside to do so) wasn’t one I wanted to get on board with. It was, in my opinion, bad enough that they demoted Kyle Rayner in favor of Hal a few years earlier. Gone were the fresh new faces (relatively speaking, of course), and back in the saddle were the Silver-Agers who I felt deserved their “retirement” and (at least in the case of Barry) “sainthood” status.

I also tend to (if you’ll pardon my preciousness) get a bit too wrapped up in the sorta-kinda hypocrisy of the comics industry when they pull stunts like this. For the entire time I’ve been into this stuff, the pros and editorial have been almost adversarial toward the fandom… lambasting us for “demanding change” all the while railing against it and yammering on about how new comics/characters aren’t as good as the old. I guess it’s only okay to kvetch if you’re in a position to actually bring back the old stuff? Ehh, I think I think too much.

Anyway (have I already started a paragraph with “Anyway”? Probably…), I feel like it’s finally time to take care of this weird blind-spot in my fandom… and figured, why not take some fine folks along with me for the ride? I mean, this was such a “thing” for me that, for the past near decade and a half, I wouldn’t even pick up issues of Flash: Rebirth out of the quarter bin! An odd bit of dissonance, considering I picked up the Brightest Day (and New-52! Barry-books) without much reservation. This time around, I managed to find issues 2 thru 6 in buck-bins. The issue we’re going to look at as soon as I quit rambling and vamping, however, I had to pay a bit over cover price for… and, to add insult to injury, I wasn’t even able to track it down in my usual Phoenician stomping grounds! Happened across it at a shop while on a trip to Omaha, Nebraska a couple weeks back.

So, howsabout I shut up and, together, we hop over the dashes into our spoilery-synopsis?

We open in Central City, where a couple of forensics folks are trying to “creatively” solve an open murder case. Ya see, the DNA don’t match… however, due to some pressure from the news media, the forensics lead reeeeeeeally wants it to. Needs it to, even. The junior scientist is told, in no uncertain terms, to “make it match”. We’re seeing this scene play out from the point of view of… someone… holding a lightning-bolt tipped cane. This… someone… launches into the room, and kills both of the lab rats. He then heads over to the shelf o’ chemicals in order to recreate Barry Allen’s (and I suppose Wally West’s) origin… using the lightning-bolt cane as a lightning rod. Looks like it worked too.

We next hop over the bridge to Keystone City, where Linda Park-West is on the air to announce the return of that other Flash (also Bart “Kid Flash” Allen), and that there will be a huge celebration to mark the event. This joyous news isn’t met with smiles from a certain group of folks, however… the ol’ Rogues ain’t too pleased.

From here, we jump into a montage of Flash-return-reactions. Our first stop is the Justice Society brownstone, where Jay Garrick credits Barry with getting him to put the tin pan back on his head after retiring from super-heroics back in the long ago. A neat twist on the story of Barry being inspired by Jay in the first place.

Next, we check in on the poor chump who’d been keeping the seat warm for the last quarter-century (our time). He’s at Titans Tower (East) with all his old pals… and the twins. Pardon my projecting, but it almost feels like Wally’s being written to be as unlikeable as possible during this scene. I wouldn’t suggest that our writer dislikes Wally in any way, considering the excellent run Johns had on Wally’s title… and how instrumental he was in bringing him back during the other Rebirth. Still though, Wally doesn’t feel right here. I suppose we all adjust to major life-changes in our own ways… and, I guess it wasn’t too long ago (in comics time) that Wally was kiiiiiind of a prick.

With Barry’s big return, it kind of feels like Bart Allen’s own comeback was a bit overshadowed… this all comes after that weird, short-lived, Flash: The Fastest Man Alive series that featured Bart in the titular role. I honestly don’t remember where Wally was during that time… I’m sure it had something to do with “dur hur, Flashes don’t survive Crisiseseses”, especially considering we were pretty much drowning in Crises during the latter half of the 2000’s. Anyway, over at Titans Tower (West), Bart is downplaying Barry’s return and overall importance to him… which, kind of tracks, considering they never met. Barry is Bart’s grandfather… but, hasn’t actually been one to him. Bart’s upset that Barry’s the only Speedster who was able to escape the Speed Force… which, is a reference to how Bart’s grandfatherish-figure, Max Mercury, couldn’t.

Finally, we head back to Central City… and check in with Iris, who is waiting for Barry to return home. This is where it gets a bit comicbooky… not that I can hold that against it. I mean, for as long as this other Flash has been “gone”, so has Barry Allen. It kind of feels like thinking too hard about Clark Kent’s whereabouts during the fallout of the Death of Superman. It’ll be explained away… kind of brushed under the rug (since that’s the only way it can be dealt with), but still feels kind of awkward. Anyway, while Iris waits, she gets a call from Police Captain Frye, who has not only heard that “Barry’s back”, but is also in dire need of his forensics expertise.

Speaking of Barry being back… howsabout we finally get around to checking in on him, eh? We zip over to the Flash Museum, where our man is kind of taken aback by all the advances in technology and communication since he’s been “gone”. People with cell phones and whatnot. This is normally something I kind of roll my eyes at, but in this case… I can buy it. This isn’t like someone writing a current-year Captain America (check out the 2021-2022 volume of Cap for this) being befuddled and confused at the sight of an iPad… when Cap’s been using tablets, holograms, all sorts of wacky tech forever now. While lost in thought, Barry is approached by the other then-recently Rebirthed fella, Hal Jordan. Barry expresses that he feels great discomfort… the memories of his time in the Speed Force are all over the place, and he can’t help but to feel as though he wasn’t supposed to escape it. Kind of like being on “borrowed time” before the Speed Force sucks him back in.

Meanwhile… in Fallville, Iowa (during our recent Nebraska trip, we did spend about 15 minutes in Council Bluffs, Iowa… just long enough to grab the Iowa Starbuck mug)… we join a couple of boys who happen across the charred remains of a black-suited speedster. Long time Flash fans might assume this is the Black Flash… and well, duh, they’d be right. One of the kids pokes it with a baseball bat, and it turns to dust.

Back to the Flash Museum, where Barry reveals that he will not be attending any of the Flash Celebrations. Hal tries to convince him otherwise, but it’s no use. Ya see, with Barry feeling like he’s on borrowed time, he needs to make the most of every moment he has left. He then suits up and takes off, stating that the world needs him… and that he can never be late again. Folks might not remember that, despite secretly being the Fastest Man Alive, Barry Allen was famously “late” to pretty much everything.

As he runs, we jump into Flashback Land, where it’s revealed (maybe for the first time? I honestly don’t know), that when he was very young, Barry’s mother was killed… and his father was arrested for the murder. Barry considers this his “white whale” open case. Something he’d really like to solve before getting sucked back into the Speed Force… or, ya know, triggering a Flashpoint toilet-flush.

While Barry recounts the (I assume) retcon, a hand reaches out from the very emblem on his chest. The hand belongs to Savitar, an Speedster baddie, from a time before every-other Flash villain was a Speedster baddie. Barry’s never met ol’ Sav before, yet remembers seeing him as part of an exhibit at the Museum… and so, he gives chase. Once he catches up, he reaches out to grab him… which turns him to dust! Savitar warns that Barry Allen is the beginning and the end before shuffling off to wherever Speedsters rendered into dust shuffle off to.

We close out with a sort of ripple-effect. Barry doing… whatever it was… to Savitar caused some kind of Speed Force feedback gimmick, which wound up discharging through Wally, Jay, Bart, Irie, Jesse Quick, and the remains of the Black Flash.

As is the case with most of my DC (and comics in general) temper-tantrums, I think I really missed out on something special by not experiencing this as it was coming out. Of course, finances (or lack of ’em) being what they were at the time, it wasn’t really a possibility… however, I was well on the road to solvency before the 2011 DC Comics toilet flush. I could have, in theory, read (and likely enjoyed) this while it was still “relevant”. I used the latter half of 2010 to catch myself up on like 90% of the DC I missed during my engagement with poverty and flirtation with homelessness… and yet, I avoided this like the plague. While I’m (reasonably) sure much of this is still “in continuity”, I… ehh, I dunno, nothing really feels like it is anymore, does it? Maybe it’s just me.

Hell, for all I know, this entire miniseries has been retconned to somehow include the Joker into the murder of Nora Allen. DC can’t seem to go a single issue (a single page!) anymore without an appearance or mention of the guy.

Anyway, howsabout I stop snarking and projecting, and actually start discussing some of my takeaways from this issue!

Let’s talk about Barry first. I was never a “Barry guy”. Not that I disliked him or anything, I simply didn’t know him. What’s more, I was so happy with Wally, that I didn’t really feel a need to know Barry. I appreciated the “Saint Barry” anecdotes as it always gave Wally something to aspire towards. Dead guys don’t get all that many opportunities to let you down… especially those who died while saving the world, right? Barry had his flaws, like everybody does… but, post-Crisis, we tended to focus on “the good”. He was an inspiration. He was a legend. And, in my opinion, then (and even now to an extent), he was better off when he was off the canvas.

In the years since Barry’s return, I’ve gone back and read a great deal of Silver and Bronze Age Barry stories… and quite enjoyed them. So, it’s not like I don’t have any appreciation for the guy. I guess I kind of feel as though, when you’re bringing back long-dead characters… especially those who died in ways that shaped so much of the status quo… you might just be out of ideas? Regardless of how good this story is… and how much Barry’s return is made to “make sense”… I have a very difficult time mentally taking it out of the “stunt” pile.

That said, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy Barry’s reaction to being “back”. The revelation that, even the fastest man alive, can’t outrun his own mortality was quite well done. Taking inventory of how the world has changed during the (insert nebulous number here) years he’s been Speed Forcin’ was nice as well. As I mentioned during the spoilery-synopsis above, that sort of thing can (and has been) a sticking point for me. A real immersion killer. In fact, it was one of those things that ended my Marvel Zombiedom during (the first, less garbage… but still garbage) Civil War. Captain America was made to look “out of touch” by not knowing what a Facebook is. As though Facebook “happened” while Cap was on-ice… Cap was made to look like a buffoon, and… much like the entirety of that event, it just felt phony to me. More recently (as mentioned), Cap didn’t know what an iPad was… which, come on. Not even the slipperiest of sliding timescales makes that work.

The Black Flash appearance was especially cool (and eerily relevant) to me, as I just recently completed my Flash (vol.2) collection, picking up a couple of those Millar Black Flash issues (which were shockingly expensive) to finally wrap up the run. Haven’t read them yet, but timing being what it is, thought it was really neat to see his remains (?) here! Odd sidenote, I think there are like 3 issues that are all considered the “first appearance” of the Black Flash… which is probably why all those books are so spendy.

Anyway, not much more to say without going into wild(ly out of date) speculation, so I’ll wrap it up here for now. Despite my precious reservations, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this goes. I’m enjoying seeing Barry meeting Wally baddies. I like how this feels like a true “event”, in a time when the word has… basically lost all meaning. This is the sort of story Geoff Johns was born to write, and Ethan Van Sciver’s work here was quite good. I know EVS is a divisive dude, and I don’t always love his work… I find it a bit too, I dunno, “severe” sometimes… but, this is (in my opinion) really nice stuff.

We’ll talk more Flash: Rebirth soon… unless I wind up getting sucked into the Speed Force (which, in fairness, is the last unchecked box on my 2023 BINGO card)!

2 thoughts on “Flash: Rebirth #1 (2009)

  • Glad you’re back posting on the site!

    Every few weeks or month I check back in on the site, so I’m happy I checked back in pretty soon after you’d posted this.

    And I’m a day late, but Happy Thanksgiving! Also, happy holidays in general! Hopefully we can see some of your famous Christmas coverage coming up, but since I don’t know the details of your 2023 life you allude to, I totally understand if that’s not in the cards.

    I, too, was and largely am not a fan of bringing Barry back, because I also am a huge Wally fan and fan of legacy heroes in general. I did read this one a few years after it came out and enjoyed it as a story, even though I still don’t think Barry being back is that good of an idea. I like legacy heroes too much and don’t like regressing in this way. And, even though I’m more of a Bart as Kid Flash/Impulse fan (ironic/hypocritical, maybe, but I tend to think it’s just because I had a decade or so with him in those roles instead of the year or so he had as Flash–still, a short run I remember liking), poor Bart didn’t really get a good faith chance of being the main Flash before this!

    It’s been awhile since I’ve read this mini, but I do seem to remember thinking the Flash family overall was treated well here, with some minor reservations like the Wally one you mention in your review. That being said, I feel all the other speedsters were pushed aside after this mini to mainly focus on Barry. The mini’s approach seemed a little similar to the GL Rebirth approach, although the GL family had the Corps book after the mini to at least continue shining the light on the other GLs (not as much on Kyle as I would’ve liked, but still any focus was better than nothing, and I’m always a sucker for some Guy and John coverage).

    I’m not sure how I feel about the mini’s – SPOILER! – later plot point of Barry essentially creating the Speed Force/powering the other speedsters, assuming I’m remembering that plot point correctly. Part of me likes it, giving Barry some of his inspriation/sainthood aura that was diminished IMO by bringing him back, but I also feel like it takes away from the other speedsters. They already are clearly indebted to Barry, so I don’t quite like making them more owe him more and standing on their own two feet less.

    Interested to see your thoughts on the rest of the mini!

    A few thoughts outside Flash:

    1) I know you’ve been away from X-Men for a bit (totally understand some burnout, given your extensive coverage of them in X-Lapsed, and given the Krakoa era’s tendency to sprawl out too much, creating inconsistent quality) but I’ve really been enjoying the Fall of X lately, so maybe consider picking them back up. It’s nice to get back to the momentum Hickman had seemed to plan and build before he left, a momentum that was treading water for a bit because of higher sales (Clone Saga vibes, maybe?). And, low points of the Krakoa era aside, the whole era has been the most I’ve liked X-Men comics since the Morrison era (and 90s era before that).

    2) I did, and still intend, on giving your Titans coverage a listen/read, but I’m behind on the Nightwing book that led up to the Titans revival, so I was waiting to catch up on reading them first before going to your coverage. I’m almost up to issue 100 of that Nightwing series. I’ve been liking it a lot and especially love Bruno’s art (who I think will be leaving the series or at least drawing it less consistently, if I’m remembering that properly).

    3) I was close to your neck of the woods last week, vacationing in Sedona. Love it there, but I also – despite not liking winter generally and am fine with it leaving after Christmas – am glad I’m able to get some Midwest winter goodness for Christmas.

  • Chris U

    I’m pretty sure that I have never read this series, so it is a blind spot for me as well. While also not being a “Barry guy”, I am morbidly curious to find out how Johns reintegrated him into the DC universe. So I will fallow you on this rebirth journey for as long as you are on it.

    Side note: I had just finished watching a YouTube video from the channel “Strange Brain Parts” on 1St Issue Special and how it relates to the Tom King series “Danger Street”, when I clicked over to COIE to post a link to your site in my comment so anyone watching that video could get a more indepth look at the individual 1St Issue Special issues, when I was presently surprised to see this post. Glad to see you back to writing. You have got me reading all the new Titans related series since your last outputting here. I’ve been meaning to email you about it since August, but if there is one thing I am good at it is procrastination. Hope to talk more before the end of the year.


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