Four Color Media Monitor considers the dark side of Flash as multidimensional CSI — namely, the level of violence in the CSI shows.
And Geoff Johns certainly has a reputation for scripting graphic violence. I didn’t notice it so much on his initial Flash run, despite the fact that he opened with an entire morgue full of murder victims, but it became clear as I read more of his work — JSA (though I only really read “Injustice Be Done” and the first arc of Justice Society of America — which has Baroness Blitzkrieg, who super-speeds through people causing them to explode), Infinite Crisis (Superboy Prime screaming “You’re ruining everything!” as he dismembers and beheads C-list members of the Titans with his bare hands on-panel), etc.
I do think violence — even graphic violence — has a place in storytelling, but not necessarily in every story. In something like Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge, or Irredeemable, it fits. You’re dealing with hardened criminals or ax crazy super-beings, and that’s the point.
But I don’t think it’s a good fit for the Flash. In all his incarnations, the character has primarily been about the wonder of speed. And while super-speed can certainly make violence very effective (or ineffective, depending on who the fast one is), and has many practical uses, what do most people think about when they think of the Flash?
That’s not battle. That’s not a fighting technique (discounting Baroness Blitzkrieg, anyway). That’s adventure.
Sure, adventures often involve fighting, or death-defying stunts, or overcoming a powerful villain of one sort or another. But the violence isn’t the point of the adventure — it’s an element of risk.
I said last week that I liked the idea of Barry as an interdimensional detective, and I do — in the sense that I want to read about him solving bizarre crimes. But I don’t want to see it turn into Powers. I’m already reading Powers, and I want something different from The Flash.
I’d like to think that Geoff Johns, as he brings to an end the story of Superboy Prime in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds and gives us the final word on death in the DC Universe in Blackest Night, will keep The Flash (post-Rebirth) more about adventure than about death and dismemberment.