Archive for September, 2009

Micro-Hero of the Week

September 29, 2009

The Red Hulk – or Rulk!  Who is he?  Does anyone even care anymore?

That’s right, folks – Rulk has been around for over a year now, and they still haven’t told readers who he is.  And, while EG doesn’t personally read the Hulk books, OG has been strung along this whole time!  Sucker!

So, this Rulk guy, whoever he is, is the red version of the Hulk.  He is tactical and conniving, and uses mammoth weapons to kill things like the Wendigo and Abomination.  And, evidently, when he gets angrier, he doesn’t get stronger like the normal Hulk… he gets hotter.

Huh?

Okay, whatever.  Here is EG’s Micro of Rulk.

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Preview Review – Cable #16

September 25, 2009

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That’s right kiddies! It is BACK!

Welcome to the Preview Review, wherein I find the unlettered preview pages offered online for a comic (that I really have no intention of buying), and write a review of the issue based entirely on my perceptions of what is going on.

And, what do I have in store for today? Why, nothing less than the majestic wonder that is Cable #16!

(Ooh… ahh…)

Yes, my friends, gather ’round, and let’s take a look at this masterpiece provided to us by writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Paul Gulacy. First up, the cover by Dave Wilkins!

Cable #16

Let’s see… looks like we have a little kid, most likely a girl is my guess… mostly because she seems to have that look of the “big eyed girls” that was prominent in outsider art of the 1960’s.

That’s right, scoffers! I have an art degree and I’m not afraid to use it! Sure, I could have gone for the lazy reference to anime/manga for the size of the eyes, but no! I went all historical! Ha!

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the cover. Anyway, the little girl is standing there, wearing a pair of boots that, based on the size, must come from Guy Gardner’s closet of the late 80’s/early 90’s!

Really? I’m the only one that gets the reference? Fine, here, take a look:

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See?

Anyway, the little girl appears to be standing in front of Cable, drawn from Picasso’s Blue Period.

Ka-Zow! I did it again! Another zinger courtesy of my art degree! Ha ha ha! It makes it all worth it – the years of study, the student loans I’m still paying back, the virtual uselessness of the degree in an actual workforce…

(On a blog, no one can see you cry…)

Alright, so, the kid is in front of Cable (I know its Cable, because, a.) the massive gun, b.) the large number of pouches, and c.) I lived through the 1990’s.). Cable is… I’m going to say that Cable is encased in a giant block of ice.

And, given how he’s standing, the cold front must have moved in fast. Maybe one of those “superstorms” we saw Jake Gyllenhaal running from in The Day After Tomorrow. Which means that Cable, despite being a superhero, can’t outrun Jake Gyllenhaal.

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(Wow… he’s got some crazy eyes, huh?)

I’m not sure what purpose that knowledge will ever serve, but now you know, and knowing is half the battle. GI JOE!

Given the cover, I can only assume that this comic deals with the kid trying to free Cable from the block of ice… a plot that makes me flashback to the film atrocity known as Batman and Robin, and thus makes going any farther a less than inviting thought.

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And, yet, I must! On to the first page!

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First panel! Ah… well. Hmm. It seems that the guy with the metal arm… Colossus? No, he has black hair. Oh, wait, white hair! That must be Cable! I see pouches and a gun!

Okay, so Cable is… assaulting a little person in the ruins of a building? That doesn’t seem right. What happened to the little girl from the cover?

What? No, that can’t be the little girl from the cover. That is *clearly* a woman’s head on that wee body, not a little girl. Although, she does appear to be wearing the same outfit at the girl from the cover.

So… confused… already… move… to… next… panel…

Alright, see, I told you! That is NOT a little girl. Maybe it is the little girl’s mother, and they have matching outfits. Oh, and she is ticked because Cable is getting fresh.

But, man, take a look at that head of hair on Cable. That is some nice, thick, well-maintained hair. Even in the midst of a building in ruins and fighting with a little person, Cable remembers the importance of looking good for the odd camera angle.

Next Panel!

Look! Cable and the little person are posing for a boxing match promotional poster! And starting to glow blue? Hmm…

After the poster shoot, it looks like the little person has fought off the advances of Cable with a mighty kick that looks to have crushed his sternum. And, again with the blue glow… why does that look so familiar?

Last panel of the page an — wait a second! I understand it now! I know where I’ve seen that blue glow! Quantum Leap! The little person appears to be leaping! Leaping from life to life! Striving to put right what once went wrong! And hoping each time that the next leap… will be the leap home!

Wow, I didn’t know that this was happening in Cable comics! I LOVED the tv show Quantum Leap! If I had known that it was picked up in the Cable comic, I’d have been there from the start!

Woo hoo! I’m suddenly much more interested in this comic! I wonder where the little person will leap next? Maybe into a police officer in the early 80’s, or a high school freshman of the 1970’s, or maybe a grandmother in the 1990’s…

Let’s turn the page and find out!
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Ha ha! Too bad, Cable! The little person Leaper is getting away! No more of a chance for you to try to work your charms on her!

And the next four progressive panels, we see the continued leap. Strange, I never really noticed Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap having such a look of distress on his face when leaping. Still, by that third panel, I can almost hear the Quantum Leap theme song, “Do do, doodoo, do do, doodoo…”

And the leap seems to be almost over, wonder where we will end up! Next!

Hey… wait a second. Why are we back with Cable?!? We were going to leap, following the adventures of the little person bouncing around in time! She got to leap away, and we get stuck with what? A Cable comic? C’mon… how is THAT fair?

Those last two panels on this page are fitting. Yeah, Cable, we are with you. We thought we were going to get a great Quantum Leap story, too… but now… just the sad, pathetic knowledge that the leaping little person is gone, and we are stuck here… alone… with you.

Turn the page. It has to get better, right?

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Huzzah wha-? Did I miss where the ground went out from beneath Cable? No, I didn’t. Okay, then we are climbing to… the next panel…

Ah, here we go. Cable was climbing to get to the rooftop of some building… because as a moody character, he’s required to look over the vast decay of the environment and brood? Sure, why not?

You know… that’s a lot of debris on that rooftop. Its like someone actually had to carry it up to the rooftop. I don’t know why they would do that, but that’s what it looks like. And, right there, in the center… is that a tire rim? Why in the world would someone carry a rim up there?

On to the next pan – Augh! Oh, wow… I was not expecting a close-up of Cable’s giant, sweating dinosaur head. Gee willickers, a little warning next time. Let’s just move on… that milky-white eye is creeping me out.

Now it appears as if there is a dust storm on the rooftop. And the silhouette of two large bones. Maybe there is more in the last panel…

Hmm… seems the bones weren’t bones, but hydraulics. Wait, I get it! Rims, hydraulics… this rooftop was the domain of nomadic Lowriders!

You know, coincidentally, all my friends love a lowrider.  They really, really do.

Okay, let’s turn the page.

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Alright, now, here we have Cable saluting in front of a wall of junk. He probably thinks it is fitting, since a lot of that junk looks like it could have once been some of the massive guns he carries. Ooh, and his hand is glowing! Maybe he’ll finally get to leap and find that little person!

Oh, and look! A little inset of sand castles. Lovely. Not really sure why it is there, but lovely nonetheless.

Just under that, Cable poses, showing off his gun, pouches, and firm buttocks. His hand is still starting the Quantum Leap. Must be a delayed reaction.

Sliding over to the next panel, another close-up of Cable and his milky-white eye. Sheesh, that’s creepy. But, it seems he’s finally noticed the leap is starting! Almost time to travel through time!

At the bottom of the page, we have… Cable rending his clothes? Huh? Hold on, I know what is going on. The blue glow of the leap is spreading, and Cable thinks he has to strip naked to travel in time like in those Terminator films. Someone should explain to him that Leaping doesn’t really work like that.

Alright, how about that last page? I can’t wait to see Cable assume the identity of a diner waitress at a truckstop in 1978!

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Oh, guess I was wrong. Seems that Cable leapt into a black guy in… well, it looks about the same sort of place that Cable was already in. Oh, and what irony! This guy also has a metal arm, but it is on the opposite side that Cable’s normally is.

And, a little inset of debris. Wonder why they focused on tha —

Holy smokes, Cable’s using the debris to tear into that metal arm! Cable! Stop! I know, this wasn’t the most excited leap in time, but trying to force another leap just isn’t the answer!

In the next inset panel, Cable, frustrated, seems to be ripping the metal arm off. That seems extreme.

And, finally, we are presented Cable, in profile, grimly accepting that leaping can’t be forced. There are things that have to be put right before you can leap… a lesson we all learned in the Quantum Leap episode entitled “Double Identity.”

And, if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’.

(To the other three people on the planet that get that reference, thank you.)

Well, that was quite a little adventure. Sadly, there was NOTHING in this about Cable being encased in ice, which was disappointing. Plus, there at the end, they completely messed up the Quantum Leap stuff, because in that show, Sam only *appeared* to be the person he leapt into. He was actually still himself. So, Cable tearing into that arm with the debris? Yeah, that would have been him tearing into his actual flesh arm. And, that is kinda sick. I can only give this 218 stars out of 18,716 stars. I really think I’d have gone higher if we’d followed the leap of the little person that was escaping Cable.

That’ll do it for now. See you all at the next Preview Review.

*EG, enveloped by a blue light, leaps away!*

EG’s Review: The Shield #1

September 23, 2009

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The Shield #1
Writer – Eric Trautmann
Pencils – Marco Rudy
Inks – Mick Gray
Letters – Sal Cipriano
Colors – Art Lyon
Publisher – DC Comics

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(Heads up – there are a couple of spoilers in this review – nothing that I think will take away from the comic if you read it, but I wanted to warn you, just in case you hate any spoilers at all!)

You may have heard that the Red Circle characters were coming to DC. You may not have had a clue what that meant. Then, you may have heard the Archie super heroes were coming to DC. You may have wondered how Jughead in a cape was going to be folded into the modern DC Universe.

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For me, though, when I saw the characters, I thought, “Hey, those are the Mighty Crusaders coming to the DC Universe!”

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And, that is when I got excited.

See, when I was but a young geek, I had the action figures of the Mighty Crusaders. My family wasn’t exactly rolling in the dough, so when it came to little chunks of overpriced plastic (ie, action figures), I didn’t have all that many. When the Mighty Crusaders came out, though, they were significantly cheaper than other figures.

And thus, I had them.

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In all honesty, I didn’t know much about the characters at the time, and very often used the Shield as Captain America and the Web as Spider-Man (which, admittedly, was a bit of a stretch), but I came to really like the toys, and eventually learned about the actual characters and enjoyed them a lot.

Which is one of the heartbreaking things about revival of these characters at DC.

A little while back, they issued four one-shots of the Shield, the Web, the Hangman, and the Inferno (again, I admit, I was less familiar with the Hangman and the Inferno… because they weren’t members of the Mighty Crusaders), and I bought all four.

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Sucker that I am.

The one-shots were pretty crummy, and connected, which meant that if you didn’t get all four, you were missing out on the story. And, if you did get all four, you just felt ripped off.

When the ongoing Shield book was announced, though, I thought I’d give it a chance. The one-shot, while not great, was probably the best of the four, and I was able to get the first issue at a great discount. (In case you haven’t noticed in my previous postings, I’m cheap.) Even if it was crummy, I could pass it along to someone else (Christmas is coming, and I find comics make great padding in packages being sent out!).

I was glad I had read the one-shot in preparation for this first issue of the ongoing. I’m pretty sure I would’ve gotten the gist regardless, but knowing the Shield was an injured soldier, saved by experimental technology via his suit, helped.

In the story, the Shield is sent to locate some Special Ops Units that have gone missing. Unfortunately, they’ve gone missing in an area that is particularly sensitive about costume-clad heroes coming in – the Bialya/Kahndaq border.

(In case you didn’t know – and, spoilers for 52 here – Black Adam, at the death of his wife, Isis, went nuts and killed everyone in Bialya… which explains the sensitivity in the region)

After speaking with the Mullah of the local village, the Shield is led to the location where the missing men are likely being held… and is attacked!

Not by the insurgents, though. He is being attacked by the missing men!

While trying to keep the men from killing the boy that led him to the location, and keeping the boy from killing the men as well, the scene is interrupted by Magog!

Ooh, exciting… except, not so much. This big reveal of a guest star from the DCU in the next issue was… disappointing.

Up to that point, the comic was really intriguing. First off, it had a great feel. If I had to describe it, it would be a nice blend of Captain America, with a bit of Iron Man thrown in. There was definitely a nice military feel, and the Shield was definitely presented as a soldier, but there was also the science fiction element of the suit thrown in.

Even having the men attack the Shield was a bit unexpected, and let the reader wonder what was really going on. But, then, Magog was shoe-horned into the book. And, personally, not being a fan of that character, I was immediately deflated by his appearance.

More than a personal like/dislike of Magog, though, I found that the introduction of a DC guest star was a little early. This book needs the chance to establish what it is before throwing guest appearances in, especially guest appearances from d-level characters. (I’m just saying – who buys a book by seeing Magog on the cover? “Ooh, look, Magog! Gotta have it!”)

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(Wait… seriously?!?)

The art throughout the story was good, and fitting for the book. Perhaps a little too clean, but that could just be that it had the same feel as the most current run of Captain America, and the art style there is darker, which in turn makes me feel that maybe this should be as well.

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Along with the Shield in this book, though, we are also given the back-up (I don’t care if you call it a co-feature or a second feature, DC, it is still a back-up) of the Inferno.

I won’t go into the story there. I read it, and it was “eh” – plenty forgettable and I don’t think it paired well with the main character in the book. The art was fine, but nothing extraordinary.

So, what is the verdict? Well, sadly, The Shield has three strikes against it. Strike one – the abrupt, unnecessary, and unwanted inclusion of a guest star right at the end. Strike two – the Inferno second feature really brought down the momentum established in the main feature of the book. And, strike three – cover pricing a new, unestablished book at $3.99? Really, DC, what are you thinking? Kill the back-up story and bring this in at $2.99!

Even with the strikes, though, I really enjoyed most of the first issue. For that reason, I’m giving the book two and a half Running Steves.

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When it is collected as a trade, I might pick it up, but it didn’t pull me in enough to buy every month.

Micro-Hero of the Week

September 21, 2009

Alright, folks, a special treat is in store this week!

EG loves M.O.D.O.K.!  Seriously, though, who DOESN”T love a giant head in a floating chair?!?

He is the product of AIM (Advance Idea Mechanics), who decided that they’d use technician George Tarleton to create a genetically altered and advanced creature, the Mobile Organism Designed Only for Computing.  Well, as is apt to happen whenever science plays God and creates an abomination, said abomination rebels and kills its masters. 

M.O.D.O.C. replaced “computing” for “killing,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

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And, remember, EG is always open to suggestions for other characters to make, so let us know who you wanna see!

EG’s Review: X-Men Noir

September 16, 2009

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X-Men Noir
Writer – Fred Van Lente
Artist – Dennis Calero
Letters – Blambot’s Nate Piekos
Publisher – Marvel Comics

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Summary –

Honestly, this is a tough book to summarize. I mean, I’d love to just start with the concept and say, “What if the X-Men were translated into the world of the crime drama of the 1940’s?” But, the truth is, this is no where near that easy to describe.

Nevertheless, I’ll endeavor to give an idea of what goes on in this book..

A body washes up on Welfare Island, a redheaded woman with an “X” tattoo, covered in slash marks, grouped in threes. The “X” tattoo brands the woman as someone that spent time in a reform school run by former psychologist/current convict Charles Xavier. Xavier is in prison after it is discovered that he was training his pupils, honing their criminal abilities. Even without their mentor, though, the “X-Men,” as they call themselves, are still active in the criminal world.

At the scene of the crime, we are introduced to young detective Peter Magnus, son of the Chief of Detectives, Eric Magnus, whose life is turned upside down when he finds out that his father is under the thumb of the criminal organization known as the Hellfire Club, and that the organization essentially runs the city.

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As the story progresses, we see a lot of characters with familiar names, but wildly different personalities than we are used to in the regular Marvel Universe.

Perhaps the key character to the entire story is Thomas Halloway, a reporter and costumed vigilante who seems to be the only one truly interested in finding out who murdered the woman washed up on the island. (If you are up on your Golden Age Marvel, you’ll recognize this as the original “Angel” – a nice nod, given this is an X-Men book.)

The story essentially splits early on, and we are left with one story loosely following Peter Magnus, and the stronger story following Thomas Halloway. The two do eventually come together, but not in a way that seems particularly necessary.

After the completion of the Magnus storyline, we follow the Thomas Halloway as he eventually discovers the murderer, and discover a couple of surprises along the way.

Along with the sequential art story, we are given a prose science fiction story, a throwback to pulp stories, that also references a lot of stories and characters from the Marvel Universe.

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Review –

I’ll admit, I don’t regularly read any X-titles right now, but I’m familiar with the characters. If you are coming to this title expecting “What if…” versions of the X-Men you are familiar with, you are going to be disappointed. For the most part, only names and the slightest essence of the characters are taken from the known mythology and applied to this new setting.

Which, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. It is not a new idea, and has been used with varying degrees of success in other projects (the “Just Imagine Stan Lee…” and Tangent Universe titles from DC, and the Marvel Mangaverse spring to mind immediately), so the concept is valid. The execution, sadly, is not great.

The characters in this story seem to sit on a fence. Instead of breaking completely with the characters of the regular Marvel Universe, the writer gives the characters moments of connection to those counterparts, but it is often tenuous at best. For example – Quicksilver is fast, so there is a line where Peter is referred to as fast… and that is about it. Given that the story is so completely breaking with the “normal” of the regular Marvel Universe, I can’t help but think that a clean break would have better served the story.

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There are also a lot of characters thrown into this story. We are being introduced into this world and narrowing the focus on fewer characters would have let us get to know those characters a little better, which would have been a major benefit to the story.

I also found the split story was a detrement. When I first started reading, I thought Peter was going to be the central character of the story, but quickly learned that his was essentially a pumped up subplot. Had that aspect been removed from the book entirely, allowing more focus on the single mystery where we followed Thomas Holloway, I think the entire story would have been more engaging, and certainly tighter.

The prose story is kind of a highlight of the series, but seems completely out of context with the story. I kept looking for some parallel (other than “Look, here’s another story where we use names from the X-Men universe”), but if it is there, I failed to grasp it. Still, it is a neat homage to pulp science fiction of yesteryear.

As for the art, while the tone is fitting for the work, the figures are stiff. And, while I don’t mind an artist occasionally cutting and pasting a repeated image, in this book it seems to be done a lot. (I love nine panel grid, I really do, but only when it is handled correctly. Using the same image of a head in all nine panels just looks plain lazy, and makes me want to direct the artist to Wally Wood’s famous 22 Panels That Always Work!)

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And (this may be a first for me), I found the word balloons/lettering distracting. It is hard for me to nail down exactly why I found them so distracting, but I think the lettering is too small for the balloons. It allowed for a lot of white space around the lettering, which, given the color tone of the pages, really stood out.

Overall, I found getting through this series difficult, with just an okay story and lots of shortcomings. As a result, I’m giving this one and a half out of five Running Steves.

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I may have dropped it down to just one, but I got the hardcover from the library, and since I didn’t have to pay to read this series, I’m feeling generous!

Micro-Hero of the Week

September 14, 2009

Howdy all!  We here at the Steve Austin Book Club, in an ongoing effort to… well, produce content, really, will be introducing new features over the next little bit!  Basically, we are throwing things against the wall, seeing what sticks!

Today, we are happy to introduce the Micro-Hero of the Week!  Micro-Heroes are small pixel drawings of pretty much any person or character that you can think of.  EG has been making these simple drawings for a while now, so we figured we’d show some of them off.

EG is always open to suggestions for other characters to do, so speak up!

Without further ado, here is the first Micro-Hero of the week, starring in everyone’s favorite major event over at DC – Kal L, Superman of Earth 2, Black Lantern!

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Ain’t he a cute little psychotic zombie?

Clothes Make the Man: Wally West

September 9, 2009

The Blackest Night falls from the skies.
The darkness grows as all light dies.
We crave your hearts and your demise.
By my black hand…
The dead shall rise!

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*Shuffle, stumble, moan* Braaaaiiiinnnnnnssssss!

Huh?  Oh…

Greetings one and all, and welcome to another fun-filled entry here at the Steve Austin Book Club!

(What is that you say?  No posts in over 13 months?  Huh.  Well, looky there.  Guess you are right.  Oh, well, no dwelling on the laziness of your hosts!  Seriously – we did the “rising from the dead” bit right there at the front, okay?!?)

In case you haven’t heard, Barry Allen is back.  And, in case you are under 30, Barry Allen was the Silver Age Flash, Wally’s uncle.

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(Figured I’d go ahead and explain that, since DC is pulling a character back into the land of the living that has been dead for over two decades.  DC: Giving the fans what they never demanded!)

With Barry back, it does beg the question, what about Wally?  Wally West, former Kid Flash, has been wearing the red tights for 22 years, but now his uncle is back, and what does the DC Universe need with TWO Flashes?

Of course, there have been two Flashes for a while – first, Barry and Jay Garrick, who is the Golden Age Flash:

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Then Wally and Jay:

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And, if there are two Flashes, what’s the big deal with adding a third?

Well… it seems it is the costume.

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Wally essentially wears the same costume as his uncle Barry did… does.  (Sorry, keep forgetting.  Barry isn’t dead anymore.  No need to dwell on his emotional death, full of heroic sacrifice, or how Wally managed to be the only character to fully assume the mantle of his mentor… and is essentially being reduced to the Kyle Rayner/chamber pot holder position now that his uncle is back.)

What was I saying?  Oh, yeah, the similar costumes.  There are differences – Wally has no wings on his boots, and his belt is different – but they aren’t big enough differences.

Which is a shame, because at one point in time, Wally West was regularly wearing a costume that, while similar to Barry Allen’s costume, was distinct enough that the two could be easily told apart.

Going back in time to the Flash comic series that started in 1987, Wally West was still living under the shadow of Barry Allen and wearing the exact same costume his uncle wore. 

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He was also significantly less powerful, having a limited top speed and requiring massive amounts of food to sustain himself.  All that started to change, though, as Wally came to grips with his new role.  Eventually, he even realized it was his own feelings of inferiority to his uncle that were holding him back.  With issue #50 of that series, Wally West started wearing his own version of the Flash costume (designed/updated by Greg LaRocque).  This costume was a darker red, metallic in tone, added the angled belt, removed the boot wings, and had white lenses that covered Wally’s eyes.

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When you look at Barry’s costume and this version of Wally’s costume, it really is pretty easy to distinguish between the two.

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But, after about 80 issues or so, the suit reverted to the Barry Allen version with just the modified belt and lack of boot wings.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe the artists wanted the expression that seeing the eyes allowed.  Or, maybe they couldn’t get the metallic red to look right.

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Regardless, we have come to the point where, once again, Wally West’s suit is a near identical copy of his uncle’s suit.

At least until issue #6 of the Flash: Rebirth miniseries.

(Which is really an odd thing to call it, since all the Flashes of the DCU returned PRIOR to that mini.)

In the final issue of that miniseries, we have been told Wally West’s new costume will be revealed.

There have been no clues about what the costume will look like, but there has been a lot of fanart guessing what it might be like.

Most of them seem to assume a costume that resembles (in style, at least) Wally West’s red and yellow costume from when he was Kid Flash.

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There was also a time in the past where Wally kinda “became” the Speed Force itself, and we saw a costume that was kind of a cool variant of his Kid Flash costume.

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A lot of folks seem to think Wally will take on the colors of the original Flash, Jay Garrick.

Which gives us something like this:

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Or this:

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And, if we do see this something like that, I think it is a given that we will see Jay Garrick either retire or be killed before the end of the miniseries.  Which would be sad, for those among us that have been fans of the JSA series.

I’ve heard, though, that the new costume will not contain any blue.  Which leads me to another option, seen previously in the weekly series Trinity – where an alternate history Jay Garrick wore this little number:

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It does kinda look like a cross between Jay’s costume and Wally’s costume, doesn’t it?

Me, I’m still hoping to see Wally wear the “Dark Flash” costume worn by the alternate universe speedster, Walter West:

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Of course, I have another thought… a possibility.  We have to remember that Geoff Johns is writing this miniseries.  And, to bring this post full circle, he’s also writing a little thing called “Blackest Night.”

Given that, and the fact that you can’t really have two guys in the same costume with the same name running around the DCU (at least regularly in the same universe), what if the new costume being designed for Wally isn’t a new costume as a hero… but as a Black Lantern?

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There is a horrible prerequisite to being a Black Lantern, though, isn’t there?

Just some food for thought.