Review: Superman vs. The Flash trade paperback (DC Comics)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I tend to go into reading Pre-Crisis DCU stories with the aim to read them as if they fit in the Post-Crisis DCU. And all things considered, it's not really that hard. Replace a Wonder Woman with a Black Canary here, ignore a smile on Batman's face there (or chalk it up to that's how Batman "was" back when Dick Grayson was Robin) there. And then other times, it gets a little harder, as with Superman's race with Barry (Flash) Allen, when he uses his Super-Ventriloquism. Yes, folks, his Super-Ventriloquism.

And lest you be confused, dear readers, a note from the editor explains that while regular people give the illusion of throwing their voices using ventriloquism, Superman can actually throw his voice using Super-Ventriloquism. Which means, near as I can tell, Superman's voice actually leaves his body, goes across the room, whispers in your ear, and goes back to him. It's amazing, folks!

I jest. It's actually these little bits that make Superman vs. the Flash so much fun. And since nearly all the stories take place about ten years apart, this trade also offers a wonderful cross-section of both Pre- and Post-DCU history. The stories are, no pun intended, quick, certainly quicker than some of the three-parters found in the Crisis on Multiple Earths trades, and though some of the stories are hokey, the hokiness nearly never gets in the way of reading the tale.

It was also interesting for me reading this tale because, more or less, Wally West is who I know as the Flash. Though it may have been Barry Allen behind the cowl on Super Friends, "Barry Allen" as a person has always been synonymous with "that guy who died during the Crisis that Wally West looks up to." So all my impressions of Barry are usually filtered through my knowledge of what came afterward, and therefore I have a hard time relating with people who liked Barry for Barry, or even, Wally West's outrage in places like Identity Crisis--I just can't feel it, because Barry Allen isn't a paragon for me, he's just a martyr (the same is somewhat true with Hal Jordan, though I'll touch on that more when I review Green Lantern: Rebirth). So I enjoyed in this trade also reading about Barry Allen and seeing him as a person, as well as small moments as in the first story where he's hiding his identity from Iris Allen, and in the second story after he's revealed who he is.

Also excellent here are the villains. I won't spoil all of them, but it was interesting to me that Barry Allen fights Abra Kadabra early in the trade, and then Wally fights him at the end of the trade--in comics published almost thirty years apart! I know these characters have been around a long time, but when you see that, at root, the stories we're reading now are not that different--almost identical, really--from stories people read decades ago ... well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And look for another big-time Flash baddie as well, along with a notable Super-villain cameo.

I bought Superman vs. Flash mainly for the DC First: Superman vs. Flash tale, and it was worth it all around. That DC First story is very accessible even if you're not up on current Flash storylines, but it helps bridge a Flash/JLA continuity gap, as well, plus nice Geoff Johns characterization of Jay Garrick. I'm off to read a couple of other Flash trades now before Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen, and I'm glad I had this "time" with Barry Allen, as it were, before I did.

To all, a good night.
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