Tangent Comics: The Flash (review)

Posted on 07 July 2013 by Admin

Let’s flashback (!) to 1997 and take a look at DC’s Tangent Comics event!

“Tangent Comics was a DC Comics imprint created in 1997–1998, developed from ideas created by Dan Jurgens. The line focused on creating all-new characters using established DC names, such as the Joker, Superman, and the Flash.” (from Wikipedia)

Emily: If you grew up in the 90’s you are well aware of Lia Nelson. Well, maybe not Lia Nelson specifically but her ‘type’ of character. She is endemic of a culture with an excess of wealth and time to spend it on shopping. The Flash is basically a carbon copy of Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless – except she is made of light and explores her humanitarianism through saving people’s lives. Other than those small differences, they share everything, from bleach blond hair to their flawless ability to butcher the English language. She is meant to be a hero that can relate to us and she represents the youth of her generation. Unfortunately, a comic book like this will make any self-accredited feminist fume.

First off, almost everyone involved in producing this issue of The Flash are men; men who seem to have no concept of real women. Artist Gary Frank is even quoted as saying that if he were on a date with Lia Nelson it wouldn’t go well because β€œit’s not like [he] could have a conversation with her.”

Technically, he has a point, since nobody could have an intellectual conversation with her! But what does this teach young girls who are exposed to such stereo-typing?

Putting the emphasis on physical beauty and mind-numbing writing aside, there is an unusual villain in the mix: her father. So, the entire story-line is based around a power-thirsty (and completely incompetent) father who is trying to destroy his only daughter. There is no intricate plot to take over the world and–other than a broken strap on her dress–Lia has no legitimate reason to fight anybody. Overall, the only thing that got my attention was the brightly coloured cover. Other than that, the over-use of the word ‘like’ and odd character choices made me more annoyed than anything else.

Mike-EL: I have a soft spot for this comic! I recommended it to Emily amongst a sea of odd-ball comics we found at a comic convention. The first thing that caught my eye upon release (way back in 1997) was the excellent costumes design by Gary Frank–especially the odd colour scheme. His Flash costume reminds me of the weird early-70s Legion of Superhero costumes by Dave Cockrum.

Frank’s art stands out as a hidden gem among the doldrums of hyper-realistic, exaggerated trashy art of the 1990s. He has since become a fan favourite based on his work on Superman: Secret Origin, Batman: Earth One and the Shazam! back up series in Justice League. I always preferred his earlier art style used here and on The Incredible Hulk: smooth, simple, almost photo-realistic. Recently, he has taken to overloading his art with superfluous lines, which actually makes his work look less realistic by drawing attention to the harsh, inky lines.

In any case, Frank’s art style is perfectly suited to this retro-comic book and meshes well with the writing of Todd Dezago. While Dezago’s work is not ground-breaking, it is decent genre work, and serves as a good introduction to this alternate version of the Flash.

She would return a few more times over the next several years and I’ve often wondered if the energy and talent put in to creating these ‘5th Week Events’ back in the Silver Age Renaissance (late 90s DC) would have been better served by giving these characters new names and trying them out in the regular DC ‘Universe’ (a term and concept that I usually try to avoid).

To review Emily’s review above: the characterization of Flash may be one-dimensional at times but this is clearly a sign of the times it was published. It is too bad that the creators couldn’t have put more thought into Lia, but this was only the ‘first’ issue–and potentially last, as it was only a one-shot (with no plans to bring her back at the time of release).

I didn’t mind the choice in making her father the ‘bad-guy’; it actually fit in with the (superficial) theme of ‘girl power’ throughout. Its such a bizarre choice, its actually an idea I would have liked to have seen explored further in future issues!

Overall a decent issue, if a bit disposable. Like much of the output by DC Comics in the 90s, this comic was enjoyable, but indicative of the (sometimes) directionless nature of the company under Paul Levitz (before Dan DiDio came on board around 2004). What did the Tangent Comics line accomplish? It certainly couldn’t have brought in new readers, since these characters only showed up a handful of times after this initial ‘event’.

This is a case of self-indulgence on the part of the DC creators; no one was cracking the whip and it shows. A great costume and a cool set of powers were wasted on this ‘character’. Again, it would have been smarter to give her a different name and then tried her own in a regular DC title.

*** (recommended, especially for the $0.50 it will cost you at a comic convention!)

Thanks to Emily for contributing this guest-review!