Book of the Month

Book of the Month – The Flash Omnibus by Geoff Johns, Vol. 1

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Written by GEOFF JOHNS
Art by ANGEL UNZUETA, SCOTT KOLINS, ETHAN VAN SCIVER,DOUG HAZLEWOOD and others
Cover by SCOTT KOLINS

Size: 448 pages
Price: 75.00

With everyone’s attention currently focused on DC’s future, let’s take a trip back to DC’s illustrious recent past.

11 years ago, after revitalizing the character and bringing him to previously unseen levels of prominence, writers Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn handed the reins of The Flash to a relative newcomer named Geoff Johns. (After a one issue fill-in by Pat McGreal.) Johns then proceeded to embark on his own celebrated run, guiding Wally West and the gang for three years. When you combine Waid and Johns’ time on the book you get a virtually unbroken 11 year run of fantastic Flash comics on a book that crashed and burned almost immediately once Johns left and which did not recover until Johns came back in The Flash: Rebirth.

Those Waid and Johns Flash comics are some of my favorites in the modern era and I look back on them with great fondness. Sadly, they have been exiled to my long boxes never to be read again. Or that would be the case if Geoff Johns wasn’t such a big deal now and The Flash wasn’t suddenly the lynch pin in the DCU. As a result, we now have The Flash Omnibus by Geoff Johns, Volume 1 which collects The Flash #164-176 as well as The Flash: Iron Heights, The Flash: Our Worlds at War #1 and The Flash: Secret Files #3. Those issues encompass the first 448 pages of Geoff Johns’ time in Keystone City.

(Still no word on a The Flash Omnibus by Mark Waid and for various reasons I’m not holding my breath.)

The omnibus is broken up into four arcs. The first one, funnily enough, is the weakest. Featuring art from Angel Unzueta that is best described as “not quite Mike Wieringo,” the story finds The Flash waking up to find himself in a slightly altered reality where no one has ever heard of The Flash and Barry Allen is still alive. (Waitaminute…) The best thing about the opening arc is that the Rogues are, of course, involved and the friendly adversarial relationship between The Flash and The Rogues is one of the strongest aspects of Johns’ entire run.

It’s a shame that, for the sake of completeness, the second arc of this omnibus doesn’t  kick things off because the story doesn’t really recapture that unique Geoff Johns/Flash feeling until the second arc when penciller Scott Kolins and inker Doug Hazelwood join the book and suddenly everything feels right. There are certain writer and artist teams that just work so well together on a certain project that you can’t picture one without the other. When I think of Grant Morrison on JLA, I think of Howard Porter. When I think of Kurt Busiek on The Avengers, I think of George Perez. And when I think of Geoff Johns on The Flash, I think of Scott Kolins, who draws the middle two arcs of the omnibus. These stories are really where the book seems to come into its own. It’s where Wally’s new supporting cast is introduced and where Keystone City gets its own identity. One of Mark Waid’s biggest accomplishments during his run on The Flash was to shape Wally West, formerly Kid Flash and partner to Barry Allen, into a fully realized adult character. It was a resounding success; Wally was infinitely more interesting when Waid left the book in 2000 than when I first started buying The Flash on a monthly basis in 1991. What Johns did during his run was to take that character that Waid had so expertly crafted and build up the world around him. Usually the city that a comic book protagonist operates in is just the backdrop for the story being told and rarely does it have a distinct and defining character all its own.

In the pantheon of DC Comics’ fictional cities, Gotham City and Opal City are probably at the top of the list of Cities Who Are Also a Character, but coming in close behind them in Keystone City during Johns’ run. He sets up Keystone City as the blue collar capital city of the DC Universe. It’s a steel town, it’s a car town, it’s a coal town–and it’s a town that is always moving and constantly under construction. A lot of credit goes to colorist James Sinclair for creating a muted brown color palate for Keystone City that makes it instantly recognizable and unique. The story in the second two arcs involves building up the newer, deadlier Rogues, focusing specifically on Wally’s ex-girlfriend turned supervillain (aren’t they all?) Magenta (whose powerset is similar to the similarly named Magneto), and the new and improved Weather Wizard. Geoff Johns is known for taking characters from the past and reinterpreting them for the modern age and that is on full display here, particularly with Weather Wizard whose powers are amped up and full of surprises.

What I’m calling the fourth arc isn’t really an arc so much as a collection of one-shot stories. The first is the 48 page Iron Heights story that follows Weather Wizard from his capture in the previous arc to his incarceration in the newly introduced Iron Heights Penitentiary, the only other place in the DCU that rivals Arkham Asylum for bold name residents and pure unadulterated misery. It’s a tale drawn by Ethan Van Sciver and it might be the most compelling story in the omnibus. A lethal virus has been released in the prison and Wally West and Jay Garrick have to team up to save the day. The fourth  “arc” also features a one shot tie in to the Our Worlds at War crossover that is notable mostly for the team-up with Cyborg and the race between The Flash and The Black Racer. And finally, the fourth “arc” ends with a one shot story from The Flash Secret Files #3 that features art by Scott Kolins and that introduces the character of Professor Hunter Zolomon, a character that will plague Wally for years. It’s a nice way to end the omnibus.

(Well the omnibus actually ends with the character profiles that were included in the Secret Files issue, which is a great resource for getting up to speed (sorry) with who is who and what is what in the world of The Flash at the time.)

As I said at the top, the stories in this book are 11 years old. I have read them all before and loved them all before. But 11 years is a long time and there has been a long road featuring a lot of comics between then and now. As I read The Flash Omnibus by Geoff Johns, Volume 1 I realized that I had forgotten most of the details of these old stories so it was like discovering them for the first time all over again, even if I did have a vague recollection of certain characters and stories and details. That’s the great thing about old comics. If you wait long enough to read them again they will feel, for the most part, new to you. That’s why I am so grateful for these omnibus collections that DC is putting out on select runs because without them I’d probably have never have had a chance to experience these great comics again.

Conor Kilpatrick
I love that Linda is a huge hockey fan.
conor@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I was just wondering this morning if this would be your book of the month.  I can’t wait to get this!

  2. Excellent review of an excellent series. Makes me want to re-read the trades. This run on the Flash was my first real “breaking in” to the larger DC Universe, and I’ll always remember it for that and much more besides.

  3. It’s wonderful seeing classic Scott Kolins art.

  4. great Choice! – A few months ago I re-read my entire Flash Collection which include this whole volume – I was amazed at how fresh and involving the stories still were.
     I enjoyed Barry Allen’s Rebirth but Wally is “my” flash and always will be. Was it Waid who did “The return of Barry Allen” – Now THAT was a story !!

  5. Great choice. I read this last week and loved it. The Wonderland story was good but it really kicked up a notch once Scott Kollins came on. Can’t wait for volume 2.

  6. @conor How many of these are we expecting altogether? 4? 5? And why will probably never get a Mark Waid Flash Omnibus? I was really looking forward to reading those figuring they’d be next after the Johns stuff.

  7. I agree with Conor, the entire omnibus didn’t get good until Scott Kolins did the art.

  8. Gosh, I wish I had money for stuff like these.

  9. Please, if there is a god, let Kolins go back to this style! I miss it so much!

    I’ve read the pre-Kolins stuff in this before and they aren’t that good to be honest. Not bad, but Kolins coming into the series certainly made this book better by miles. 

  10. This review got me quite excited to read so I bought it right after reading this, thanks Connor now I’m $45 less richer.

  11. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    I tend to think that the unsung hero of this run was Doug Hazelwood, Kolins’ inker when he did this series. It seems that when Hazelwood stopped inking Kolins, his art changed to a new style that many of us don’t like as much as his earlier work.

  12. Wow, not really a glowing review.  More of a “Ya, I had forgotten the details.  It was good to go back.  You should read it.  It was nostalgic.”

  13. @KickAss  No, that is incorrect.

  14. Looks like a beautiful collection, but hard for me to justify when I already own a lot of this stuff in trade. We’ll have to see if late night temptation or a friend generous enough to get this for me as a gift will change things.

  15. Regarding Geoff Johns work, the review is spot on.  The guy can’t do wrong, and as a first time reader of Johns Flash, I must say the guy did a great job so many years ago.

    However, this is what the review doesn’t cover:  The quality of the book and page count VS price.

    Does any of you got “Legion Of Superheroes: Great Darkness Saga Deluxe Edition”?.  If you do, then you’ll have a better notion of the quality of the Flash Omnibus.  Same size as the Deluxe Edition, weak dustjacket, glued binding.

    I got the Legion book because I thought $39.99 for more than 400 pages was a bargain, an it was!.  I had a great run plus several extras at the end, that included sketches, scripts and comments made it a GREAT DEAL!!.

    Now, this Flash book have 448 pages BUT it cost $75 (??!!). 

    No comments, no extras, no sketches.  No higher quality than The Legion book nor anything.  Nothing that justify the price tag really, just Johns magic that, as the same review here says, is not just yet the best of Jonhs Flash run.

    Amazon offer a 41% discount on this one making it $44.  Sorry to say, the book is still $15 too expensive.  But that’s for you to decide, of course.

    I rather get the two first Flash trades that are still at a great price on Amazon and Ebay, save oodles of money, and not be part of DC Comics Greed Machine that nowadays is so common.  I would like to say that Geoff Johns writing and the pretty art worth the money, but they don’t.  Not for me of course.

    I have to thank DC though because thanks to these BS overpriced products they’ve been launching I’ve found myself cancelling several DC books and go Marvel for the first time in my life.  I got a few Marvel Omnibuses and I feel my money’s worth a tenfold. 

    Thanks DC!!.  Thanks for making the competition look better!!!!!.

  16. @conor. Great review Conor thanks. I’ve been looking for an entry point into The Flash for a while and I think this is it. Is Flash rebirth and the subsequent 12 issues worth the time or am I better off waiting for these omnibus’s of the original run?

  17. This was the series that got me back into comics. The Rogues, Morillo and Chyre chemistry, and Kollins art were fantastic. Glad to see it was special run for others as well.

  18. @DeadlyFoe  Go for the omnibuses!

  19. There’s a fan film about the Flash I saw on youtube that was actually pretty good. It’s called The Flash Heroes Are Born. Check it out. Support the geeks! 

  20. I was hesitant to buy this collection because of the hefty price tag, I got over 25 issues for the same price in Ed Brubakers Captain America omnibus, but after purchasing yesterday I am glad I spent the money. Everything which is good about this edition has been mentioned already but special mention must go out to the covers included in this omnibus by Brian Bolland, that guy f’ing rocks!