The Flash #35 – Comics Review

Time travel plot threads bring Barry Allen into battle against himself from the future.The Flash #35 offers:

  • Excellent portrayal of Super Speed, and strong use of lettering, colour, and light in the artwork.
  • Insight into Barry’s character: change and potential in his future selfs actions and attitudes.
  • Unusual Time Travel perspectives and broad, science fiction ideas.

Light, electricity, and lightning crackle across the pages of this comic. Super Speed is portrayed through interesting art choices, later in the comic book.

The best art choices arrive late in the comic. It’s the introduction of a second time traveler that brings a interesting change in the art choices. Up until that point, the comic book had show off super speed as blurred fists and feet, and repeated images of The Flash and his future self running.

This character has one particular panel that shows off how super speed can work. Future Barry makes a final move against the present Barry. He tosses pebbles. They fly as fast as bullets.

In one panel the character notices the tine stones, reaches out to stop them, and then activates his powers and outruns them, stopping the pebbles from reaching Barry.

These actions all occur in one panel, representing barely a second of time passing.

Essentially, this hero has caught the pebbles at the same time he has noticed them. The panels effectively captures how quickly a character with super speed moves – faster than sound, arriving before his voice finishes travelling through the air.

While it’s a spoiler to reveal this character’s identity, the portrayal of their speed is effective.

The red clothed Barry Allen of the present, and the electric blue Barry from the future, stage their battle on a desolate plain of white salt flats. Lightning and electricity crackle across all the panels after the opening scenes, and stay for the remainder of the comic. Pages of red, yellow, and blue electricity fly across panels accompanied by giant, electric lettering.

Barry is contrasted with his future self, who has lowered himself into cynicism. Compared to his past self, Future Barry does not respect the criminal justice system, and believes in violence as a solution for his problems.

Before the battle begins, Barry of the present eats cereal for breakfast. He chooses “refined sugars and process grains”. Not a great choice for breakfast – The Flash’s metabolic rate might allow him to eat whatever calories he needs, but it’s not the best example to set. It is an interesting comment that Barry’s future self effectively stops him from eating the sugar-coated cereal.

This raises the question of if time travel were possible, would we stop our past selves eating unhealthy food choices?

Barry and Future Barry also fight over lethal force. Future Barry has concluded that arresting criminals and seeking rehabilitation for them – what he calls “virtue” is not enough. Villains continue to re-offend, and murder. He has reached the extreme point of rejecting the criminal justice system.

Fighting style also receives a comment from Future Barry. He name-drops Deathstroke, Lady Shiva, and The Batman as his martial arts teachers. He comments to his past self:

“Speed. It’s the only weapon you have…a reason to neglect honing your other skills”

The comic book explores large science fiction concepts and perspective more than deeper themes. Speed Force as exotic matter appears alongside an interesting perspective on time travel.

The plot of the comic relies on the exotic matter of the Speed Force. Fixing the broken Speed Force drives Future-Barry’s actions. Repairing the damage involved applying more Speed Force to the Speed Force problem.

Despite the re-use of Speed Force throughout the comic to explain the problems and provide solutions, the comic book provides entertaining science fiction.

Time as portrayed in this comic book does not fit into Back to the Future rules. Barry’s death in the present would not wipe away this future version of himself. Time travel ideas here are difficult to conceptualise. How would a paradox not happen if the younger Barry was killed? Would Future Barry necessarily fade out of existence rapidly?

It’s an interesting perspective – looking at time not as a cause and effect, with a series of linear events, but as a more abstract concept. It’s difficult to see time as a larger, interconnected web, or any shape other than a chain of linked events.

The Flash #35 is published by DC Comics ($2.99USD). Robert Venditti & Van Jensen (W.) Brett Booth (P.) Norm Rapmund (I.) Andrew Dalhouse (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Booth, Rapmund, Dalhouse.

All New X-men #29 – Comic Review

The battle between the future Brotherhood and X-men reaches a conclusion, but a large part of this comic puts together a discussion about good and evil. All New X-men #29 offers:

  • Artwork with great action, and strong colour
  • Good  moments for several main characters
  • A good and evil discussion: the comic raises ideas about the difference between good and evil

Force, movement, and lines of action are clearly visible from scenes with X-23, who slashes through the air. Bright purple and red colour dominate this comic.

One pivotal strike from X-23 shows off a powerful, downward line of action. Xavier can’t stand up to her assault. She cuts through the air with claws that leave trails. It’s easy to follow the action from panel to panel with these movements.

Psychic power explodes throughout this comic book. Xavier Jr.’s power is light blue, and icy. Jean Grey, in full flight, unleashes purple light. Pages of this comic are filled with it. When the light is not purple, it’s dark shades of red. This colour represents anger. In this case, It’s X-23’s rage. She was attacked and left in the snow. She’s angry. Raze, like Xavier, catches up with her in these scenes.

Emma Frost receives some development, while Cyclops leads the team, taking charge of the X-men’s ethical decisions. Deadpool also has some good moments.

Emma Frost has a scene with excellent dialogue. She talks to Jean Grey about the events of Battle of the Atom, specifically, about Xorn, and what happens to Grey if she continues to live her life in the present, never returning to the moment in the past she and the other X-men left.

Deadpool has a few hilarious moments. Iceman is less animated than he has been in previous issues.

Scott Summers also has a moment of good dialogue, and lays down a value for the X-men to follow. Cyclops leads the team, which impresses, considering his character has been running since the events of Avengers Vs X-Men. A moment towards the end of the issue references Avengers Vs X-Men. Summers recollects his actions under the power of the phoenix force.

The comic brings an interesting value discussion to light. It draws a line between good and evil – the X-men, and the Brotherhood – The X-men consistently state that there are lines they will not cross, which separate them from their enemies.

A large part of this comic puts together a discussion about good and evil. The comic’s values line up with big, broad statements about good and evil summarised by quotes from philosophers like Nietzsche:

“He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

When the psychic Stepford cuckoos confront Xavier alongside Jean Grey, they comment that Xavier is a reminder of what happens when they “let themselves slip”. Abuse of their talents leads to becoming like Xavier. Later, Molly Hayes tries to attack a defeated Raze. Beast tells her “Don’t be them”. Later, when facing the wounded Xavier, Scott Summers states “Today, your lesson is to be better than your enemies”.

When faced with a defeated Brotherhood, the X-men will not respond using their enemies methods. The comic has that value: a distinction between good and evil.

One popular culture references is a quote from the Angel. When asking Laura out on a date to a Bob Evans restaurant, Warren quotes a Superman movie saying “Well, I’ll do most of the flying”

All New X-men #29 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Stuart Immonen (A.) Wade Von Grawbadger (I.) Marte Gracia with Jason Keith (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Immonen, Grawbadger, and Gracia.

All New X-men #28 – Comic Review

The X-men face another catastrophe from the future. Building more layers onto an already complex time travel story, however, creates confusion. All New X-men #28 offers:

  • Artwork filled with detail
  • Time Travel exploration
  • Exploration of Psychic powers and their effects
  • Collected into a graphic novel, All New X-men would tell a sweeping time travel story

Capturing fine details, the comic sets effective scenes, and employs good character body language. Both quiet scenes and loud scenes have a sense of silence and volume respectively. Colour choices are strong here.

In the distant future, Dr. Hank McCoy ruffles his blue fur. He hangs from the ceiling of his quiet laboratory, scrawling chalk notes across a blackboard. The attention to detail here is strong. Easter eggs from X-men history are dotted within the complex notes.

The artwork establishes McCoy’s impossible puzzle. He brought young X-men from the past into the present day. Now, in an alternate future he created after those events, he cannot solve the problem. The young X-men were not returned to the moment in time they left, and reality broke as a result.

In a powerful flash forward to the future, The X-men and the brotherhood featured in Battle of the Atom clash. In two pages, a large scale artwork depicts older, wiser X-men facing off against an upstart brotherhood. Pale blue and purple energies glow, while swords shine through the air.

Dialogue centres around two brothers: Xavier junior, and Raze. Xavier’s struggle to make the X-men understand how badly his father, Charles Xavier, was treated forms the key conflict of the comic book.

There are some hilarious comments in the dialogue featured across the opening scenes. Old Beast, in the far future, meets young Xavier Junior and Raze – founders of the new, upstart brotherhood. These young men are in fact brothers. Their mother is the blue, shape-shifting Mystique. Their fathers are Charles Xavier and Wolverine respectively.

Xavier meeting with young Jean Grey presents a chance to bring out his backstory. It’s a major point of conflict. His father died fostering the X-men despite all the efforts Charles Xavier delivered in growing, expanding, and safeguarding the X-men. He references the events of  Avengers Vs. X-men. His rage grows when he outlines to Jean exactly how frustrated he is that his father’s legacy, house, and fortune where not retained or cared for by the X-men.

His Brother Raze is plainly a terrible person. It comes across in the artworks depiction of his body language, and the word choice that creates his character voice.

Exploring layers upon layers of time travel, the question this raises is how far can space, time, and the history of the Marvel Universe be pushed?

The comic overflows with time travel mechanics. And layering more time travel atop the already teetering stack of time travel events in All New X-men creates confusion. There are not many deep themes here. Moreover, the comic explores the effects of psychic powers, and time travel.

The artwork is rich in colour and detail. Character’s speak in their own unique voices. Threats from an alternate future are interesting. The time travel mechanics however, are confusing.

Xavier Junior and Raze decide to travel back in time to initially confront the X-men: if they fail to reach their goal, they will send a message to themselves moments before they left, which allows them to build a new plan, and try again.

This causes a paradox: how can they travel back and try a different approach if they now no longer went into the past initially, failed to reach their goal, and sent a message to their future selves?

The paradox that emerges pushes an already strained timeline. Is this pushing too hard on space and time in the Marvel Universe?

Two popular culture references appear. When asked who his father is, Raze states it is “Batman”. When examining his timeline for gaps, Dr.McCoy mentions the Age of Apocalypse, and the Age of Ultron in.

All New X-men #21 is published by Marvel Comics. ($3.99 USD). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Stuart Immonen (A.) Wade Von Grawbadger (I.) Marte Gracia (C.) VC’s Cory Petit (L.) Cover Artwork by Immonen, Grawbadger, and Gracia.

Rocket Girl #3 – Comic Review

What Rocket Girl #3 Offers

On July 3, 1985, Back to the Future opened in American cinemas. A July release date means the film, with it’s ground breaking and long lasting time travel themes, opened to audiences in the summer.

When I was younger, I watched similar movies and read similar comics about characters going on wild adventures, usually during the summer. They left me with a sense of nostalgia and adventure.

Rocket Girl #3 gave me a similar feeling. The Back to the Future popular culture link strengthened the story: it recreates the 1980’s strongly with excellent interior art and attention to detail.

Rocket Girl #3 offers:

  • A comic about power, and responsible use of power
  • Great visual narrative
  • Time Travel themes for science fiction fans
  • Police Service themes, and criminology ideas
  • Youth versus Age themes

The first and last themes would be useful to educators looking to teach about power, youth, and responsibility with comics.

The comic might be confusing for new readers, however, since the plot might confuse at times.

When collected into a trade paperback, and read as a graphic novel, Rocket Girl might make an excellent introduction for readers interested in a new super-hero and time travel themed comic.

Cast

Rocket Girl is Dayoung Johannsen. Only fifteen years old, Johannsen has an unusual name, and lives in an alternate time. She comes from 2013, a world unlike the 2013 we just experienced: a major corporation called “Quintum” has taken control of New York City, and turned the Police into privately owned law enforcement.

Rocket Girl belongs to a Police Force of teenagers. Equipped with powerful technology that can gather information from radio waves and wi-fi, and a small but powerful jet-pack, these young officers bravely defend the law.

The comic tells the the story of her current mission: traveling from 2013 back to 1986 to prevent the Quintum from gaining a toehold, which will one day develop into dominance outright. A pop culture link is Trunks from Dragon Ball Z. Just like this young time traveler, Rocket Girl wants to make a few alterations to the past in an attempt to help everyone living in the future.

Art

The 1980’s setting is rendered with such authenticity that in a scene where a character sings along to The Final Countdown (by Europe, released February 14, 1986), you can heard the distinct 1980’s sounds.

In a two page artwork, Rocket Girl is without her jet-pack, and escapes captivity in a Police Station with clever gymnastics, and Parkour. These action scenes shop off dynamic artwork.

Themes, Ethics, Values

In an interview with Comic Book Resources staff writer TJ Dietsch, series creators Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder talked about the moral decision making they wanted to include in the story.

After reading through issue #3, some moral decision making from Rocket Girl herself is clear. There is a question of power, and how power is used.

Rocket Girl travels to the past carrying not just advanced technology, but knowledge of history, and a collection of skills – gymnastics, marital arts, parkour – not common in the 1986 time period. Her possessions could cause catastrophe and change: ripples on a pond. With this weight on her back, Rocket Girl makes a set of choices that show she is trying to weild that power responsibly:

  • She does not cause excessive damage. She is defensive, but not aggressive.
  • Responding to difficulty, Dayoung shows strength and a desire to help.
  • She accepts help from friends offering it. She does not attempt to work alone.

Then there is the Youth versus Age themes. It captures a sense of the generation gap. In the 1960’s, The term “generation gap” was used to describe the unusually large differences in music, fashion, and values observed between younger generations and their elders.

A gap is clear in Rocket Girl, which sets up and appears to continue to include scenes and ideas on younger character’s values in opposition to older character’s values. Rocket Girl herself comments to “Never trust anyone over 30”. Clashes between generations abound throughout the comic.

Rocket Girl #3 is published by Image Comics. ($3.50 USD). Brandon Montclare (W.) Amy Reeder (A.) Cover artwork by Amy Reeder.

Works consulted: Generation Gap. http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Generation_gap.html

Battle of the Atom – Comics Review

Battle of the Atom #1: Chapter 1

All New X-men #16: Chapter 2

X-men #5: Chapter 3

Time travel in popular culture can be like playing a dangerous Jenga game. Pull out too many bricks from the foundation – the past – and the future might collapse.

In the latest X-men crossover comic book from Marvel, Battle of the Atom, the consequences of the X-men‘s experiments with time are close to catching up with them. Maybe Beast bringing his past self, along with younger Jean, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel, to the present was not a great idea.

(This review includes some spoilers for Battle of the Atom parts 1, 2, and 3)

Battle of the Atom #1 is Published by Marvel Comics ($3.99). Brian Michael Bendis (W.) Frank Cho, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger (A.) Marte Gracia (C.) VC’s Joe Caramagna (L.) Arthur Adams & Peter Steigerwald (Cover Artists.)

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