URBAN DISORDER AND THE SHAPE OF BELIEF: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb and the Model Town of Pullman by Carl Smith looks at how three title events each raised fears that Chicago (and by implication any metropolis) was a festering breeding ground of chaos due to looters, socialists, anarchists, unionists and more generally the unholy mobs of the working class, who refused to behave in a middle-class manner or accept the dictates of the rich. The default solution was authoritarian steps such as calling in the army to keep order (plus multiple, apocryphal stories of looters post-Fire). Pullman’s model town for his employees represented a kinder, gentler approach — placing the lower orders in an environment where they could be trained up to middle-class standards of conduct (like the more militaristic responses, Pullman assumed the less say the working class had in this, the better. Reminds me of a great many other books, such as the discussion in Weeds of weeds as a metaphor for uncontrollable urban environments; dry but worth the reading.
FLASH: Running Scared by Joshua Williamson and various artists has Barry grappling with a personal crisis (should he reveal his identity to Iris?) only to be plunged mid-grapple into a return battle with the Reverse Flash (I’m guessing his frequent appearances on TV made someone think he was due for resurrection). Unfortunately what follows bogs down in the kind of retcon the Crisis on Infinite Earths supposedly put an end to — Thawne has to explain his pre-Crisis history, the Flashpoint arc, his backstory in the New 52 and what I gather is a new backstory for DC’s Rebirth soft-reboot of the 52. I really don’t think the story benefited from that, and the idea of Thawne dedicating himself to destroying Barry’s life has never worked for me either.
SUPERMAN: Black Dawn by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason starts well as the Kents begin to realize that everyone in the town of Hamilton where they live now is part of some sinister conspiracy, which seems to be targeting Jonathan. Unfortunately the creators crapped out when they resurrected Manchester Black as the reason. In the pre-New 52 universe he was an interesting anti-hero/villain; here he’s just one more self-righteous psycho vigilante who thinks Good can only win by playing hardball. A shame, as I do love the Kent family here.
After reading Volume 2 and 3, I finally got around to the first collection of PAPER GIRLS by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang (cover by Chiang, all rights remain with current holder), which worked even though my reading order spoiled me for the big twists. It’s 1988 and a quartet of girls are delivering papers early one morning, only to encounter what appear to be alien invaders. Next thing they know, their small suburb is abandoned and pterosaurs are circling overhead … very good, with the same kind of retro references (“It’s like in that crappy TV show, War of the Worlds“) that everyone enjoys in Stranger Things (I prefer this version of the 1980s)