The last time

Barry Allen

was a prominent player in the DC Universe,

Ronald Reagan

was president and

Buddy Ryan

had just been named head coach of the Eagles.

Yes, 23 years is a long time to be absent and with the release of "The Flash: Rebirth" No. 1 this month, we see Allen returning to find the world he left behind is a very different place.

It should be noted that, for many readers - and even those who have grown up with Wally West as The Flash on TV cartoons - Allen will be a very different Flash. Indeed, when one considers that it's impossible for anyone hitting the legal drinking age this year to have read a new story starring him, it is clear DC is taking a risk reintroducing the character.

So why are they doing it? They seem to be hoping that lightning will strike twice, in many ways.

First, when the Barry Allen Flash first hit shelves back in 1956, the response was so great and he captured imaginations to such an extent that he is recognized as the first "modern" superhero and credited with reinvigorating the entire industry. With DC regularly finishing a distant second in sales to Marvel, with hungry new publishers nipping at its heels and with many of its high-profile projects fizzling out, DC undoubtedly hopes "The Flash: Rebirth" is the project that gives its entire line a desperately needed jolt.

Second, one of the few bright spots for DC has been the response to "Green Lantern" and its related titles. That was set in motion back in 2004, when DC took another character whose time was thought to have passed - Hal Jordan - and brought him back to take over for a popular, younger replacement in a project titled "Green Lantern: Rebirth," written by Geoff Johns.

That Johns was able to pull off a successful resurrection before made him a no-brainer for this project. Does he deliver the goods? Absolutely.

As presented here, Allen is both a more noble Batman and a darker, edgier version of Superman. The book devotes time to giving the reader insight as to who Barry Allen is and why we should care. The book briefly shows the impact his return is having on his friends, foes and family, while also delving a bit into his past to see what drives him to do the things he does.

Indeed, his time lost and his fear of leaving again have him more committed than ever to make sure "The Fastest Man Alive" makes every second count - to such an extent that he blows off parties and parades celebrating his return so he can be there "for whatever the rest of the world needs me for."

If Allen was always this well-written, he likely would never have been replaced in the first place.

'Flash' back

Can you name the issue in which the Barry Allen Flash first appeared? First reader with the correct answer gets a free copy of "The Flash: Rebirth" No. 1.

'Freedom' going forward

Another property with the "need for speed" is closer to becoming a feature film.

While Radical Publishing announced last July in San Diego that director Bryan Singer was attached to a film based on its"Freedom Formula: Ghost of the Wasteland" comic, the project now looks to have shifted gears into the fast track of development. Variety has reported that Singer is still attached and that New Regency has landed the film rights.

The property is a futuristic premise in which fighter jets have been replaced by pilots who battle in racing exo-suits. The hero is a genetically engineered racer who learns his bloodline has the power to change society. *