When "Green Lantern: Rebirth" by Geoff Johns and Ethan van Sciver was first announced, I remember a lot of scoffing at the notion that it would succeed. Bring back Hal Jordan? Why? How? Several years later, though, there's no denying that it was a huge success. The two re-uniting for "The Flash: Rebirth," then, seemed like a natural decision. So why is this mini-series feeling so slow?
It's strange because if you break down the absolute basics of the mini-series so far, it sounds like it would work. In bringing back Barry Allen, Johns has assembled a who's who list of speedsters for the supporting cast. All the other Flashes are there, of course (Jay Garrick, Wally West, Bart Allen, Jai West, Iris West), as well as several surprise villains from the past. We've got early stories of Barry and Iris meeting, an untold story of Barry's family, and super-intelligent gorillas. There's even a big cliffhanger regarding the fate of one of our main characters.
The problem is, right now it feels like nothing is happening. There's a whole lot of talking and reminiscing, but remarkably little forward movement in a book that is titled "The Flash." Even though it seems obvious that the story involving the fate of Barry Allen's parents will somehow tie into the present day narrative, right now "The Flash: Rebirth" is focusing too much on it and not enough on what's happening with all of our still-living characters. Because Barry's parents are both deceased, it's hard to work up any sort of real excitement or worry about that half of the comic. The end result is a comic that just feels like it's inching out of the gate.
It's all the odder when you look at a comic like "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" #4 (also written by Johns), which also deals with the return of a Flash from the dead. In that comic, it's energetic, it's exciting, there's a lot of joy expressed by characters at the return of Bart. The difference between it and "The Flash: Rebirth" is a little startling; you'd think these characters were being confronted by their old high school principal, not the return of a good friend.
On the bright side, Van Sciver's art is pretty nice. I think he's actually at his best in some of the smaller moments, like the looks on Jai and Iris's faces when the Titans are giving them an exam (such perfect pouts!), or Sam Scudder's twisting, fidgeting look behind the defendant's desk in the courtroom. There are some places where I think Van Sciver goes a little too overboard in musculature of his characters (does Hal Jordan's ring give him six-pack abs?), but on the whole it's an attractive book.
With three issues to go, hopefully "The Flash: Rebirth" will pick up the pace a bit. Johns can write peppy, fun comics, so I'm not entirely sure why this one feels so slow. Right now, the over-twenty-years-in-the-making return of Barry Allen feels woefully anti-climactic.