REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS BLUE LANTERN FLASH
One of the most impressive epics presented in the pages of DC Comics in recent times is certainly BLACKEST NIGHT. Following the revelation of an entire color spectrum of emotion cascading throughout the universe, of which the Guardians had harnessed the green aspect of willpower to build their Green Lantern Corps, various other Corps began to arise. Sinestro, long wielding the yellow power of fear, built an entire Sinestro Corps, empowered by yellow rings. The Star Sapphires, which had harnessed the violet power of love, increased their ranks and took a more active role in the cosmos. Atrocitus brought about his Red Lanterns, fueled by the red power of rage and hatred. Ganthet and Sayd, two Guardians who had been expelled for feeling emotion, founded the Blue Lanterns, based on the power of hope. The Indigo Lanterns, with their power based on compassion, emerged, as did Larfleeze, also known as Agent Orange, and his power of avarice.
After several cosmic conflicts, these disparate powers would find themselves having to unite to combat the Blackest Night, as black rings of death emerged, creating hideous constructs of friends and enemies since deceased, programming them with the memories of those departed, and sending them to gather the emotional power around them. Behind it all was Nekron, determined to wipe out all life in the universe. Ultimately, it was the power of life, maintained by a White Lantern, that brought about his defeat, but not before the heroes and villains of Earth and beyond were challenged like never before.
As part of the story, a handful of noted heroes and villains from Earth were deputized into the various colored Corps, to hold the line on Earth as best as they could, while the Green Lanterns and others sought to stem the tide of Black Lanterns throughout the universe. Among these were Flash, who gained the power of a Blue Lantern; Mera, who gained the power of a Red Lantern; Wonder Woman, who gained the violet power of a Star Sapphire; Scarecrow, who gained the yellow power of the Sinestro Corps; Lex Luthor, who gained the power of an Orange Lantern; and Atom, who gained the power of an Indigo Lantern.
These monumental events have been captured by the popular DC Universe Classics line of action figures produced by Mattel. Wave 17 of the line is devoted to most of these characters, including BLUE LANTERN FLASH. Let's consider the history of the Blue Lanterns, and then have a look at the history of Barry Allen, the Flash.
The creation of the Blue Lantern Corps is rooted in the events that transpired during the Sinestro Corps War story line. During the first half of the event, Ganthet and Sayd serve as a dissenting voice among the Guardians as they acknowledge that the Blackest Night prophecy within the Book of Oa is coming to pass. Their willingness to embrace emotions and the love they have for one another leads to the two being banished from Oa.
Two issues after their exile, Ganthet reveals the Blackest Night prophecy to the reader, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, and Kyle Rayner. In his description he says: "Elsewhere, a flicker of hope will shine from deep space, like a lighthouse warning the ships away from the rocks. The blue light will hold the line in spirit if not in strength." It's revealed at the end of the issue that Ganthet and Sayd have settled on a planet (later named as Odym), have created a blue power ring, and intend to form their own Corps.
In the "Rage of the Red Lanterns" plot line, Ganthet and Sayd's Blue Lanterns are finally introduced. The Green Lantern Corps have just been ambushed by the Red Lantern Corps, kidnapping Sinestro from their custody. Hal Jordan, reeling from the effects of an attack from newly added Red Lantern Laira, finds himself being healed by the powers of Saint Walker. Saint Walker introduces himself to the Green Lanterns as the Blue Lantern of Sector One. By being in his emotional proximity, Jordan's power levels are boosted as long as Walker hopes for his well being.
Walker takes Jordan to Odym. There, the reader is introduced to the second member of the Blue Lantern Corps, as Walker and Jordan watch Warth being given a blue power ring by Ganthet and Sayd, after which the two former-Guardians ask Jordan to aid the Blue Lanterns in rescuing Sinestro from Atrocitus, as his survival is important in the upcoming War of Light
All of the various aspects of the emotional spectrum have a cosmic entity as that emotion's embodiment. Adara is the embodiment of hope, is connected to the blue light of the Emotional Spectrum, and is bird-like in appearance. It is first shown during the Blackest Night event in Green Lantern vol. 4 #52, as Sinestro, recently transformed into a White Lantern, recounts the creation of the emotional entities. Adara was created from the first act of prayer from a sentient being caught in a fierce storm.
All Blue Lanterns are armed with a blue power ring, fueled by the emotion hope. While hope is the most powerful of the seven emotions, Blue Lanterns must be near an active Green Lantern's power ring to tap into their own rings' full power. Otherwise, the rings are only capable of the default abilities of flight and a protective aura. This is a result of the fact that the power of hope is nothing without the willpower to enact it. Blue rings must be fueled by true hope in order to operate at their user's command.
While under the influence of a nearby green power ring, Blue Lanterns can heal wounds. The ring's power can be supplemented with the hope of other living beings; for instance, Saint Walker and Warth were able to reduce a dying sun's age by 8.6 billion years because of the hope emanating from the inhabitants of a nearby planet. A blue ring can negatively impact the performance of rings on the opposite side of the emotional spectrum. It can neutralize the corruptive effects of red power rings, block the energy-stealing properties of orange rings (as well as nullify its side effects on the bearer of it), and drain the power of yellow power rings. Conversely, a blue ring can charge a green power ring to twice its maximum power level.
Just as the Green Lanterns and other Lantern Corps recharge their own rings, the following is the oath used by Blue Lanterns to recharge their blue power rings:
In fearful day, in raging night,
With strong hearts full, our souls ignite,
When all seems lost in the War of Light,
Look to the stars-- For hope burns bright!
As for Barry Allen, his history is far more extensive, so I'll endeavor to summarize a bit. The character first appeared in Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956), created by writers Robert Kanigher and John Broome and penciler Carmine Infantino.
Born to Henry and Nora Allen, Barry Allen is a police scientist (his job title was changed to a forensic scientist in The Flash: Iron Heights one-shot) with a reputation for being very slow, deliberate, and frequently late, which frustrates his fiancee, Iris West. One night, as he is preparing to leave work, a lightning bolt shatters a case full of chemicals and spills them all over Allen. As a result, Allen finds that he can run extremely fast and has matching reflexes. He dons a set of red tights sporting a lightning bolt, dubs himself the Flash (after his childhood comic book hero, Jay Garrick), and becomes Central City's resident costumed crimefighter.
In time, he married his girlfriend Iris, who learned of his double identity because Allen talked in his sleep. She kept this secret, and he eventually revealed his identity to her of his own free will.
In the 1980s, Flash's life begins to collapse. Iris is murdered by Professor Zoom, and when Allen prepares to marry another woman, Zoom tries the same trick again. Allen stops him, killing Zoom in the process by breaking his neck.
Placed on trial for murder in connection with Zoom's death, Allen is found guilty by the jury. When he is told by a juror, who is being possessed by a mind from the future, that Reverse Flash (who Allen knows to be dead) brainwashed the jury into this verdict, Flash flees his trial. The Flash is then attacked by Reverse Flash, and realizes that the answers to this mystery, and restoring his good name, lie in the future, so the juror uses a time device to send them forward.
They discover that Abra Kadabra was disguised as Reverse Flash to ruin the Flash's good name. Defeating Kadabra, he retreats to the future to be reunited with Iris, having learned that Iris' spirit was in fact drawn to the 30th century, and given a new body (and was in fact the mind inhabiting the juror). The final issue of The Flash ends with Flash and Iris kissing passionately, making love, and the caption "And they lived happily ever after... for a while". There are a few references in the final issue (The Flash #350) to the upcoming events, and Flash's impending death.
Following the trial, Allen retires and joins Iris in the 30th century. However, after only a few weeks of happiness, the Crisis on Infinite Earths intervenes, and Allen is captured by the Anti-Monitor and brought to 1985. Allen escapes and foils the Anti-Monitor's plan to destroy the Earth with an anti-matter cannon, creating a speed vortex to draw the power in, but dies in the process as the power becomes too much for his body.
It has been said that Allen travels back through time and becomes the very same lightning bolt that gives him his powers, but later it is also strongly implied that the soul of Barry resides in the Speed Force, the mystical source and Valhalla open to all dead speedsters, and from which the living ones draw their amazing powers. After Allen's death, Wally West, his nephew and sidekick (known as Kid Flash), takes up the mantle of the Flash.
Twenty-three years after his death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen's essence made a return to the present DC Universe proper in DC Universe #0, preceding his full time return in the pages of writer Grant Morrison's Final Crisis.
DC Universe #0 features an unnamed narrator who initially associates himself with "everything". As the story progresses, he begins to recall his past and association with Justice League members, particularly Hal Jordan and Superman. The lettering in which he speaks to the reader is yellow on backgrounds that are initially black. As the story moves forward, the background slowly begins turning red. In the final pages, the narration boxes feature a yellow lightning bolt. Over time, as he recalls friendships and connections with other people, his mind begins to narrow, remarking "I...know him. I am no longer everything. I am a shaft of light split through a prism". Yet he is still the only one able to see "the shadow falling over everything", in the form of Darkseid. On the final page, the moon appears in front of a red sky, as a yellow lightning bolt strikes diagonally in front of it creating the logo of the Flash, as he remarks "and now I remember". The title of the story is revealed to be "Let There Be Lightning."
A Daily News story released on the same day proclaimed that Barry Allen has returned to life, with issue co-writer Geoff Johns stating, "When the greatest evil comes back to the DC Universe, the greatest hero needed to return."
Barry makes his corporeal return in Final Crisis #2. On the second to last page, Jay Garrick and Wally West feel vibrations to which Jay remarks, "Wally, don't you recognize those vibrations? It can't be... Not after all these years... Not after all this time." On the final page, Barry Allen is seen in hot pursuit of the bullet which kills Orion, outrunning the Black Racer and shouting to Jay and Wally to "Run!"
In 2009, writer Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver created The Flash: Rebirth, a 6-issue miniseries bringing Barry Allen back to a leading role in the DC Universe as the Flash, much in the same vein as Green Lantern: Rebirth. When asked what Flashes would appear in the series, Johns and Van Sciver said, "All of them." The series begins with the cities of Central and Keystone celebrating the return of, "Central City's Flash." Avoiding the parades, parties, and other celebrations of his return, Barry instead contemplates why he is alive again. A visit to the Flash Museum and from his friend Hal Jordan is not enough to put his mind at ease as he runs off as the Flash. "I can't be late," he says. When asked by Hal late for what, Flash replies, "For whatever the rest of the world needs me for."
Barry Allen is one of the main characters in Blackest Night alongside Hal Jordan, better known as Green Lantern. At the grave of Bruce Wayne in Gotham City, Hal Jordan and Barry Allen reflect on Batman's death and how the hero community is avoiding linking Wayne and Batman.
After fighting off the Black Lantern version of Martian Manhunter and the subsequent Black Lanterns with Hal and the arriving Atom, Mera, Firestorm, and two of the Indigo Tribe members, Barry, along with Wally and Bart, races across the globe to warn every superhero community across the planet.
Barry decides to go to Gorilla City to seek aid from its ruler Solovar, unaware the gorilla leader had been killed years before. Finding the city attacked, Barry assumed Grodd had struck only to be horrified to learn Solovar was now a Black Lantern. Their fight was shortened by Barry racing to Coast City.
He stops at the city's memorial, where he witnesses the arrival of the Black Lanterns' demonic lord, Nekron, and his disciples Scar and Black Hand. The Justice League, the Titans, Wally, and Bart arrive to aid Barry to take a stand against Nekron.
As Barry and Hal rejoin the heroes against Nekron and his army, Ganthet, one of the Guardians of the Universe and a leader of the Blue Lantern Corps, summons a blue power ring and Barry is chosen as a Blue Lantern so he would be more effective during the battle.
So, how's the figure? Really very cool. As one might expect, the figure uses the same body molds as many of the DC Universe Classics action figures, as well as the same head mold and certain other unique pieces -- in this case the treaded boots with the little wings on the side -- that were used for the original Barry Allen Flash figure that came out quite a number of assortments ago.
A few collectors here and there have decried the use of the same basic set of body molds for such a vast majority of figures within this line, but I, for one, and I know I am not alone in this opinion, appreciate it. For starters, it's an excellent design. For another, it lends a good level of consistency to the line as a whole. This is one of the reasons why I have opposed the addition of double-jointed elbows and knees on some figures, although fortunately, Blue Lantern Flash is not afflicted with these.
Of course, the costume colors are radically different, and really makes Blue Lantern Flash a standout. Flash's usual uniform is red with yellow trim. Neither color is present on his Blue Lantern incarnation. The costume more or less looks like Flash's -- to a degree, but the basic pattern of a Blue Lantern costume, perhaps best exemplified by Saint Walker (when do we get a figure of HIM, Mattel?), is certainly dominate as far as a color scheme is concerned.
Flash's cowl is now blue, a color that extends over his shoulders and chest, and extends in a narrow stripe down the front and back to belt level. The boots are also blue. The rest of the costume is black. It's interesting to note the number of Lantern Corps that use a lot of black in their costumes. Green Lanterns, Sinestro Corps, Red Lanterns, Blue Lanterns, Larfleeze -- really only the Indigo Lanterns and the Star Sapphires don't use much black.
There is a black circle around Flash's collar, which in the front, tapers into his insignia. The emblem is a cross between the Blue Lantern emblem, and the Flash's own, with a white lightning bolt superimposed over the Blue Lantern logo.
There are a few more distinctive details, that are very Flash-oriented. The wings on Flash's cowl and boots are very distinctly metallic blue. Nice touch. He also has the lightning-bolt-like belt and cuffs to his gloves, and these are a notable lighter, and brighter shade of blue than the blue found on the rest of the costume.
While the figure uses standard body molds for the most part, as well as parts that have been used for the previous Flash figure, there is one unique part to this figure -- the right hand, which has a Blue Lantern power ring sculpted on the second finger. It's also painted in a metallic blue finish.
A brief digression. Some of you may be thinking, as I was, "If we can have a figure of the Flash, and a Blue Lantern version of the Flash, then why can't we get Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash!?" Certainly the Flash's Rogue's Gallery has been pretty badly neglected in this line. To date, we've had a "Collect and Connect" of Gorilla Grodd, and individual figures of Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang. Characters such as Mirror Master and Weather Wizard could easily be done with existing body molds and new heads, and I sincerely hope that someday, they shall be.
However, I am happy to report that the forthcoming Wave 20 of DC Universe Classics, the last wave to be offered at retail before the line restarts to go along with the "DC Relaunch", will feature the Reverse Flash. So Flash's deadliest enemy will become part of this line in the near future.
As for Blue Lantern Flash, the figure is neatly painted, superbly detailed, and certainly well-articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. I am very happy to report no assembly or articulation problems.
Blue Lantern Flash comes with one accessory -- a blue lantern power battery, also with a nice metallic blue finish. Now scroll back a number of paragraphs and memorize the oath!
So, what's my final word? Some collectors said fairly early on that they would be passing on this particular wave of DC Universe Classics figures, since it featured figures from a very specific event in the DC Universe, one in which they didn't even spend all that much time in their various Lantern identities. Okay, there's a degree to which I can see that. I doubt that even without the recent reboot, we'd be seeing much of Blue Lantern Flash, or Star Sapphire Wonder Woman.
And I'll also admit that I prefer to see figures that expand the population of the DC Universe Classics, from the DC Universe, without rehashing characters that have already been brought into the line. Go into your local bookstore and pick up a copy of the DC Comics Encyclopedia, and try not to hurt yourself in the process. There's literally thousands of characters to work with. Granted, I'm not sure we ever need action figures of "Little Boy Blue and his Blue Boys" (no, I'm not kidding), but you get my drift.
However, to categorically ignore this wave is to ignore some really nicely-done figures from a recent and significant event in the DC Universe, once which I found to be very entertaining reading. So, I'll let Mattel pull a "DC Direct" this one time, and readily accept most of the "Blackest Night" colored-lantern figures from this particular wave.
And certainly Blue Lantern Flash has been very well made, and is an excellent figure in his own right.
BLUE LANTERN FLASH from the DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS collection definitely has my highest recommendation!