Let me be up front with my biases. I’m a Wally fan. For me, Barry was the guy who showed up when Wally really needed a push in the right direction and then he went back into the Speed Force until the next time he was needed. He was kind of like Ben Kenobi in Empire Strikes Back. So, to have Barry back pushing Wally out of the spotlight is kind of like if Ben was the lead character of Return of the Jedi.
This book is entertaining. You probably won’t be bored. But I kind of wonder who it’s aimed at. The story requires you to know quite a bit of Flash back story if you want to have any chance of following it. But people who have read a lot of these stories may not take kindly to the trade-mark Geoff Johns retcons in this issue.
I don’t think this book is being written for Barry Allen fans. (Which is probably a good thing, because I think they are a dying breed.) I imagine some Barry fans are thrilled just to have Barry back. But I also have to think there are some that are wondering why DC bothered to bring him back if they are going to change the character so completely. This new spin on Barry isn’t grim and gritty, but he’s not the Silver Age Barry Allen I read about in JLA: Year One and Brave and the Bold.
Johns goes to lengths to get Barry dirty. He goes so far as to have Barry run through a list of his sins and failures. He also has Barry act like a bit of a jerk sometimes. Oh, and there’s an entertaining retcon regarding Barry’s fashion sense. But after all the tweaks, the guy I’m reading about just doesn’t feel like Barry.
The main plot deals with Barry’s investigation into Savitar’s death. If you don’t know who Savitar was, I suppose it’s okay. Johns used him as cannon fodder last issue. You may scratch your head a few times wondering where he came from or how he got trapped in the Speed Force. But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter much. Savitar’s death is just a plot device.
We also get some flashbacks (no pun intended) to Barry’s early days as a forensic scientist and how he met his future wife, Iris West. A subplot is introduced regarding the death of Barry’s mother. Apparently, Barry was trying to clear his father of the crime. I’m not a big enough Barry fan to know if this is an established part of Barry’s history or another retcon. But it felt like something Johns was adding on to deliver a more angsty Barry.
The issue ends with a shocking revelation regarding Barry’s new status quo. Presumably, this explains why Barry has remained in our world rather than returning to the Speed Force. I guess I’d be a little more shocked if I believed this change would remain in place after the conclusion of this mini-series.
If you like what Johns has been doing with Hal Jordan in Green Lantern, odds are you’ll like this Rebirth too. I admit, I enjoyed the book too. I just wish it was a little less heavy-handed in the reinvention of the title character.