Chris' Comics Corner
Chris' Comics Corner
Hey guys, sorry the reviews are so late this week. On the bright side, something interesting happened in the world of comics news early Thursday, and it became the subject of this week's Where Do We Go From Here segment.

The Flash #9
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Francis Manapul

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I feel like Geoff Johns is trying too hard on Flash. I was puzzled by the choices Johns made in the first arc of the relaunched series, having Flash face off against a group of knockoff Rogues, cops from the future who modeled themselves after the Flash's greatest adversaries in order to combat the greatest villain of their era: The Reverse Flash. Now, at the end of this issue, the identity of the highly hyped new Hot Pursuit stands revealed, and I'll eat my hypothetical hat if it doesn't leave more readers scratching their heads and saying "huh" than it has readers jumping off the couch screaming "Oh $#*%" And all of this is building up to DC's big summer event: Flashpoint, which seems to center on an altered universe/timeline.

Sound confusing? Sorta. Johns is a masterful storyteller, so the narrative is easy enough to follow, and the individual issues are highly enjoyable on their own. I just feel like this series isn't what I expected or wanted from a relaunch that was supposed to position The Flash on par with the other pillars of the DCU just as Johns did with Green Lantern a few years back. Johns is a self-professed Flash fanatic. He already has one epic run on the title (starring Wally West) to his credit. And he turned the Flash's rogues gallery into the second baddest bad asses in the DCU.

I think the problem stems from, and I'm sorry, this pun was unavoidable, rushing to make this title and the adventures of the protagonist epic in scope. We don't need a huge Flash centric event right now, especially not 12 issues into the relaunch. I realized that Johns and DC are trying to mirror the rise of Flash with that of Green Lantern, but Sinestro Corps build over the course of 20+ issues.

While the first arc felt like it was dragged out, this one already feels massively decompressed. What this title needs is a back to basics approach, with short, snappy story arcs. Mirroring Grant Morrison's Batman and Robin approach by having each arc cap at a three issue maximum would be a great way ensure that the title character's adventures move at a pace befitting his powers. As it is, we've seen very little of the real Rogues, the rest of the Flash Family, and all of the other wonderful set pieces that make the Flash universe unique. Even elements of the new status quo such as Barry's work dynamic, and a new legacy hero following in the Elongated Man tradition feel like their being brushed aside in favor of laying track for the big blockbuster story on the horizon.

Francis Manapul's art is as gorgeous as ever. I hope he plans on making this title his home for a good, long time to come. He brings that same sort of clean, wholesome, Norman Rockwell-esque Americana to this title that he did to Adventure Comics, but also adds new layers of detail and motion to his pencils that had only been hinted at his earlier work. A further shame of Flashpoint is that Manapul won't be drawing it, because if DC has one artist who deserves a bigger spotlight and profile, it's him.

Grade: B

Batman and Robin #20
Publsiher: DC
Writer: Peter Tomasi
Artist: Patrick Gleason

Having Grant Morrison call you up and ask you to succeed him on one of his most acclaimed series to date has got to be like the President of the United States calling you up and personally requesting that you shoot yourself in the head. However Tomasi more than rises to the occasion in this very enjoyable debut issue of the new creative team. It isn't a perfect first outing, and this is a dynamic that we're familiar with now having seen several different iterations of it: Damien is an uber-violent little hellion, Dick is simultaneously nurturing and knocking him down a peg with humor.

This isn't a perfect debut issue, and one scene in particular suffers from having too many Bat chefs in the kitchen (5 Batman ongoings, 3 starring Dick Grayson) where a meeting with Commisioner Gordon ends on an unfortunate cliche rather than the very understated and nuanced twist Scott Snyder put on a similar scene over in Detective Comics.

However, a very nice opening scene featuring the entire "Wayne" family together for a very symbolic boys night in did a lot to win me over on this issue, as did Patrick Gleason's fantastic art. While the layouts were a bit confusing in some places, the majority of this book is a pleasure to look at, and having already seen marked improvements in Gleason's art in his transition from Green Lantern Corps, to Brightest Day, to Batman and Robin, I can't wait to watch his work continue to evolve in the coming months.

I would also be remiss not to mention the vibrant and stunning colors of Alex Sinclair. Robin's costume especially really pops off the page, and the Gotham night really comes to life making the city look like it has a thriving nightlife.

Grade: B+

Where Do We Go From Here:

A few thoughts on some recent creative shake ups.

Marvel made a very interesting press release this past Thursday that I'm just dying for someone from Newsarama or CBR to follow up on. They announced that Nick Spencer would take the reigns of Secret Avengers, one of the most anticipated and acclaimed titles of the past year. The press announcement went on to clarify that Spencer's first arc would tie into Marvel's huge Summer event, Fear Itself, and that Scott Eaton would take over as penciller.

What was/is unclear is whether or not this is a permanent creative change. Secret Avengers was as highly anticipated as it was because Ed Brubaker, the master of super hero espionage himself was the one writing it. So are we to understand that one of Marvel's Architects (a title Marvel has given to five of their most prolific writers) is walking away from one of their most high profile titles after only 12 issues? Brubaker is the guy who settled in for a 60+ issue run with no end in sight of Captain America. So if Brubaker really is stepping off the book, and this isn't a fill in arc, the question I have to ask is why?

Some have criticized Brubaker as a writer of team books, and to be honest, Secret Avengers did kind of read like a Steve Rogers solo series with some very interesting recurring guest stars, but it was always a superb read. Recently it was announced that Steve Rogers would co-feature in the soon to be oversized 40 page issues of Captain America, so maybe he just decided that his stories were better suited to Steve Rogers as a solo act. Possible, but I tend to doubt it.

Recently, Brubaker has been using his Twitter to encourage fans to read more lesser known comics (read independent work), so maybe he's stepping back to focus on more of his creator owned series, perhaps returning Criminal to a monthly publishing schedule. More likely, but also not the reason I believe is motivating this change.

Later on Thursday, in a press conference with Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev regarding their new Moon Knight relaunch, editor Tom Brevoort, revealed that Marvel was launching two more (and the term is used loosely) companion books to that series, branded together by the idea that A-list talent would be rejuvenating well known but series-less characters. The initiative is tentatively being referred to as "big shots." I wouldn't be surprised at all if Brubaker is revealed to be the scribe of one of these two soon to be announced books. I'm intrigued to ponder what character could spark Brubaker's interest enough to pull him away from Secret Avengers.

The other interesting development in all of this is the whiplash inducing rise to stardom of Nick Spencer. Spencer was an indy buzz kid, who became an indy darling after his creator owned series, Morning Glories began to sell out issue after issue. Following the success of Morning Glories, it was only a matter of time before Marvel or DC made him an offer as is the standard practice when someone achieves that much success and buzz outside of the big two (Marvel and DC). But I was not expecting what happened next. Roughly in this order Spencer was announced as the writer of an Action Comics back up feature, Supergirl, and T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents from DC, and Iron Man 2.0 and now Secret Avengers from Marvel. He soon stepped down from Supergirl, and the Action Comics stint ended, but that's still a lot of work in a short time of increasing stature for a relatively untested young gun. Good on him.

I sincerely believe that Spencer's success stems not only from his undeniable talent, but from his incredibly smart decision to buck a prevalent trend of creators signing exclusive contracts to Marvel or DC (which usually doesn't effect their creator owned stuff, it's just a way of Marvel or DC saying hands off to the other). While an exclusive contract gives one stability in an industry that is anything but stable, Spencer's choice not to go exclusive put him in a position to receive offers for high profile titles that he may not have received if he had taken an exclusive. Once Marvel or DC had locked him down, they probably would've tested the water with a smaller profile assignment, but since Spencer is a free agent with a proven track record of Indy success, it looks like both companies are offering him sweet opportunities to bring him into the fold.

So now I'd like to try to throw this discussion out to you guys. What do you think? Am I reading the Brubaker situation wrong? Do you think there were other factors that contributed to Nick Spencer's success? If you have insight, I'd like to hear it!

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