Saturday, December 6, 2014


FLASH/ARROW may not be the ideal crossover of live-action TV superheroes, but it'll do until a better one comes along.

The crossover owes its entire aesthetic to John Byrne. In the 1980s Byrne, whose pronouncements carried enormous clout with both the fan community and professional comics-editors, stated that Superman and Batman, given their polarized outlooks, should never have been friends. much less that they would have teamed up with one another often enough to spawn a regular feature about their joined adventures. Byrne's direct influence on Superman and Batman ended when his tenure on the 1980s SUPERMAN feature concluded, but his indirect influence went on for years. Many though not all raconteurs agreed that Superman's niceness would set Batman's teeth on edge, while Batman's questionable practices would raise the Kryptonian's eyebrows.

FLASH/ARROW borrows this basic schema of light vs. dark, innocence vs. experience, and so on. In ARROW's previous season the hero and this support-cast take police scientist Barry Allen into their confidence regarding their clandestine mission. This season, Barry receives the blessing of super-speed powers for his own brand-new series, precipitating this two-way crossover.

Of the two episodes themselves, the FLASH story was a bit stronger. Arrow and his crew visit Central City on separate business, but the archer and his team can't help getting involved with Flash's new meta-villain, TV's version of the Rainbow Raider. The Raider unleashes nice-guy Barry's buried hostilities and aggressions, so that he begins to flip out in the workplace. Then the Flash goes on a super-speed rampage against the boyfriend of Barry's sort-of adoptive sister Iris-- a rage-fest that's been building for some time in the regular series.  The ensuing battle between Flash and Arrow can't hope to duplicate the kinetic antics of the comics page, but for television, it's pretty good.

The ARROW episode, naturally, had to be considerably darker, as a murderous version of Captain Boomerang comes to Starling City, intent on killing Lyla, ex-wife of Ollie Queen's buddy John Diggle.  While I 'm glad that the producers gave the loony-looking captain a grittier aspect for the purposes of this story, I think they hyped up his skill-set too much when they had him single-handedly invade an ARGUS stronghold, where his boomerangs really shouldn't have been very effective against multiple guns. This time Flash and his crew visit Arrow and his "Arrowcave," as FLASH-regular Cisco calls it: all of these scenes are a virtual treasure-trove of the embarrassing aspects of superhero gimmickery to any self-respecting "dark hero," even if he does use gimmicky arrows himself.

But, as the characters themselves say-- perhaps a little too self-reflexively-- the worlds of the Superman-type, Flash, and the Batman-type, the Arrow, don't merge very well. Arrow, who has already vowed to clean up some of the dirtier aspects of his crusade, must be made to don the hairshirt of regret once again, simply because Barry and his buddies come to visit. This forces the episode to go over old ground once more, partly with the use of flashbacks hearkening back to Oliver's service with Amanda Waller-- a plot-thread I for one am not in love with. Since Boomerang is not capable of taking on both heroes, the script is forced to find a way to employ the talents of Barry and Ollie separately. It's an efficient enough contrivance, but overall the story doesn't do much to enhance the reputations of the speedster or the archer. It's a small blessing that their friendly-but-testy relationship feels indebted less to John Byrne's simplifications tand more to the more artful meditations of Frank Miller on the subject.

Since the crossover was a ratings success, I imagine there will be another one some time in the future. I for one would rather leave the respective heroes in their own bailwicks for the foreseeable future.

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