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The ’80s Revisited: The Flash (1987) #1

flash(1987)_0001Flash

Writer: Mike Baron
Penciller: Jackson Guice
Inker: Larry Mahlstedt
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Editor: Mike Gold
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: June, 1987
Cover Price: 75 Cents

I’ve been quite aware of The Flash–particularly Wally–since my initial foray into comics back in 1989/1990…my earliest conscious exposure to the character offhand was Adventures of Superman #463. Mr. Mxyzptlk forced the two to race…and this stands out to me because of the fact of Wally constantly eating, the notion that even with the super-speed, he was still burning calories and all that (to my 8/9 year old self, the simple “have to eat to keep going” was enough). I became more aware of the character with guest-appearances here and there, and the “key” role he played at the start of Zero Hour, and as I learned more about “continuity” and such, I became aware of Barry and generally got to where the Flash was an accepted character for me.

I didn’t start picking up any issues of his actual series on any regular basis, though, until #197 (Geoff Johns, first issue of the Blitz arc) in 2003 or so, and I’ve moved forward from there. I’ve become aware of several creative teams, and it was all the positive “buzz” for Mark Waid‘s run and then the (at the time) up and coming Geoff Johns that eventually led to me trying the series. But outside of maybe a couple issues, I really have never actually gotten (around) to reading Wally’s series, particularly from this period.

So jumping into #1 here rather arbitrarily was definitely an interesting experience.

We open on Wally–now 20–at a convenience store and come to find out he’s marking time before a “surprise” party for his 20th birthday. He’s no longer a teenager (and now being The Flash and not Kid Flash, no longer a “teen” Titan). He’s “graduated” into the role, stepping into the costume previously worn by Barry Allen, and he’s got huge boots to fill. Before the party can really get rolling, Wally receives a phone call: a heart is available for a transplant…in Seattle. And conventional technology cannot get it there in time, so it’s up to Wally to race the heart to the opposite coast. He extracts some conditions, pointing out that he’s doing a favor, and these doctors are getting paid huge sums, but he (Wally) could use medical insurance (wow…30 years ago!) and such…that it’s the principle of the matter. (To say nothing of the fact that he needs the calories for such an extensive trip). Along the way Wally encounters someone who was apparently attacked by Vandal Savage, and witnesses other situations he can’t stop for…but he eventually arrives and the transplant’s a success, and (after 17 hours’ sleep) Wally gets to meet the patient, who conveniently has some knowledge of (at least the rumour of) Vandal Savage. After being returned home (via plane), Wally receives a package…with a heart–and meets Vandal Savage.

I just double-checked…and this issue is “only” 22 pages of story. So much in it, and clear to follow, and it’s all crammed into 22 pages. We meet the main character, and start off on this key day–he’s now The Flash (not Kid Flash), he’s just turned 20; we see him with friends/teammates for context; we get details about who he is, what he is, how he got here, limitations of his powers, etc; we see him in action AS the Flash; clear differences between THIS Flash and his predecessor are highlighted; immediate threats overcome and a new threat set up, and close on the introduction of a “big bad” for the upcoming issues. Basically, this is an excellent sort of first issue!

This issue looks and feels like a mid/late-’80s book…which is quite appropriate. Guice‘s art is top-notch, and I really like it here. The detail may not quite be quite the level of, say, George Perez of this time, but it’s quite good and works very well for me, with all relevant characters looking as I’d expect for my contextual knowledge of the time, they look familiar/recognizable, and the visuals never failed me as to what was going on.

Story-wise, as said, this is an excellent first issue with numerous “bullet points” touched on that I would hope and expect a first issue to do…I genuinely want to read the next issue, such that I find myself thinking I’d willingly buy the next several issues at “full back issue pricing” (up to $2-$3 per) just for the sake of immediacy on getting to read them (or $1.99 for digital; same reasoning).

I really like that we get a concrete age for Wally–I’m not sure how old I’d’ve pegged him by the early 200s (probably mid-20s at least), and concrete ages don’t often seem to be established for characters. While I get that many don’t want to nail characters down or “limit” them that way, I’m one that really likes that sort of detail, even if it comparatively “ages” other characters. I also really like that Wally seems young-ish (I’m in my mid-30s myself!) and I truly get that sense of his just now stepping up into the Flash role–I can “see” the Kid Flash there, essentially “trying on” the “real Flash” costume; he wears it but does not seem particularly comfortable in it. (And I know from other stuff I’ve read ABOUT the series that that’s something that largely continues for a number of years of stories, such that the reader gets to see Wally’s progression to where he truly comes into his own as The Flash).

I enjoyed this issue, and it was honestly a real treat to read. I know I snagged this copy from a quarter bin, and it’s absolutely worth 25 cents, or $1…as a #1 from when such things were treats and rarities, I’d say this would even be well worth getting up to $5ish. As you can get it digitally for about $2, I wouldn’t recommend going much above that, though, unless you’re particularly interested in owning this issue. It’s well worth the $2 to at least read, and I very much look forward to digging up the next few issues, either from my own collection or re-buying in some form for the immediacy.

Zero Hour Revisited – Showcase ’94 #10

90srevisited_zerohour

showcase_94_0010Aftermath

Script: Alan Grant
Penciller: Mike Vosburg
Inker: Ron McCain
Colorist: Dave Hornung
Letterer: Ken Bruzenak
Consulting Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Editor: Neal Pozner
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1994
Cover Price: $1.95

This particular story basically sees a despondent, defeated Jean-Paul Valley momentarily existing as a homeless man on the streets. He’s been stripped of his role as Batman, having abdicated his role as Azrael for that, and now hasn’t a clue what to do with himself. He contemplates himself, his life, where he is, what he’s been through, how his life has changed in a year (basically saying that from Sword of Azrael to Zero Hour has been about a year in the Bat-side of things–further backed by the Superman: The Man of Steel issue where Batman mentions to Superman both having quite a year). Valley intrudes on a group of homeless, "hogging the fire," and eventually one is brave enough to approach him and engage him (albeit one-sidedly…or so it seems). When he up and leaves, the remaining homeless crowd around the fire and then are threatened by another group. Valley returns and drives them off, and continues to mope about, though now accepting that he IS a person, like any of these others.

Story-wise, this seems both a sort of quasi-epilogue to KnightsEnd, partly following up on that and bridging that story and the start of the ongoing Azrael series that started sometime later in 1994, I believe. This is definitely where a title like this–Showcase ‘__–excels. You don’t have to have an entire issue of some other title dedicated to a story, but you can have a standard-issue-length story presented once without having to be entirely its own one-shot or Special Issue or whatever. There’s room for this Azrael (Jean-Paul Valley) story, prior to/without an Azrael title (yet), but without hijacking another issue of Batman or Detective or Robin or Catwoman or whatever.

Given that, I like this story, and somehow was kinda surprised that it DID run the "full length" of a standard-sized issue. Then, for only 45 cents more (1994 pricing) we get another issue-or-so’s worth of content spotlighting other stuff.

And the cover–featuring Azrael–is a nice Quesada/Kesel piece with the destroyed Az-Bats helmet on the Az-Bats-period Bat-symbol. Iconic, simple, and applicable to the story.

The Tempting part 1: The Beating of Wings

Writer/Creator: Brian Augustyn
Penciller: Anthony Chun
Inker: Matt Banning
Letterer: Steve Haynie
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Editor: Neal Pozner

I’d swear I’ve read stuff with Black Condor before–specifically in Justice League America–but this did not feel like that at all. I think it’s safe to say this is the first "solo outing" I’ve read of the character, and it felt like a bit of a first-issue thing, introducing the main character, a supporting character, and a conflict. Of course, the hero starts to seem victorious, before being presented with a greater challenge, and we’re left with a cliffhanger (I ought to see if I have the next issue of this, but honestly I doubt I’ll get to it anytime soon…I’m interested, but not necessarily enough to hunt it down for an immediate read. Chances are if I ever get around to assembling the several years of these Showcase Years I’ll read it someday).

The story and art are both good, and as mentioned above for the Azrael story, this is a solid outing that seems like it could lead into an ongoing series; but barring that/prior to that, serves in that stead, being allowed to be put out there as part of an anthology ongoing even where any singular character/story would not support its own thing.

No real complaints, and I do feel I’ve a bit more insight into the character, or at least the context, than I would have had without having read this.

Deja Views

Story: Mike McAvennie
Pencils: Jason Armstrong
Inks: Stan Woch
Colors: Stuart Chaifetz
Letters: Willie Schubert
Consulting Editor: KC Carlson
Editor: Neal Pozner

This story was all over the place, but essentially focuses on a group of Time-themed villains including Clock-King (I believe) and Calendar Man (I think–and not at all like the revamped Rebirth version!). The group is trying to steal some helmet or armor, and stuck in a time-loop, and they got confused in-story right after I got confused reading and jumping to the conclusion that there was some significant editorial error before realizing that was part of the story. And before things are completely sorted out, the story fades to white, signifying the "join" to Zero Hour.

Visually, no great issue on this story for me…it’s not bad, not wonderful. I’m not overly familiar with the characters, don’t really care about them, and this story doesn’t seem to directly come out of anything…it’s just "a story set during _______" (here, Zero Hour). This tie is enough to "justify" including this in reading Zero Hour stuff, but the issue does not sport the official Zero Hour banner or trade dress. Of course, that’s in keeping to the title‘s trade dress of generic fonts for "logos" rather than some bold solo-title logo.

At least it’s more tie-in than a number of tie-ins had, so it’s worth reading for the sake of completeness, though does not ultimately "matter."

OVERALL THOUGHTS

While this title itself–Showcase ’94–may not in and of itself matter all that much, I’m more convinced than ever at its greatness for its time. That’s not to say I could see following such a book long-term in the present, in 2016…but going back 22 years and the three issues I’ve now read for their having a segment each tied to Zero Hour, I recognize what the book’s existence allowed to be published without hijacking other books’ pages or the stories just not getting told. Add to that my not recognizing many of the creators and a slight memory suggesting this: the book was the sort for giving "new talent" a chance without being otherwise committed to a book. Try a writer out, give an artist a story to do, without compromising a "regular" or "ongoing" title, but still get their work out there, see how they do with various characters and creative team lineups.

This issue as a whole is not worth it in terms of Zero Hour, really…but it’s a strong issue, with a distinctive cover, and for the quasi-self-contained Azrael story, it’s well worth a bargain-bin buy (just not worth some collector’s premium or markup despite the issue’s age or cover).

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