If there’s one thing that best describes Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’ Blackest Night: The Flash #2, it’s “caught in the middle.” It’s the middle of a three-part story. It takes place between chapters of a larger story. It fits between the end of one Flash series and the beginning of another. It’s about people caught between life and death.
It’s also about mirror images, both in terms of opposites and in terms of forcing characters to look at themselves.
Unfortunately, it looks like this miniseries isn’t going to stand on its own very well, for the simple reason that it’s not a self-contained chapter of Blackest Night. Each issue is interleaved within other chapters of the larger story. The first issue brought readers up to speed with Blackest Night #4. This one doesn’t pick up where the last issue left off, but skips ahead and has to recap a couple of major events from Blackest Night #5 & #6.
That may be a big part of why I liked the Rogues’ story a lot better than the Flash’s: their story actually does seem to be a solid story, not a loose collection of scenes that fit between panels in another series. In that way, it reminds me a lot of Battlestar Galactica: The Plan.
Of course, another reason I liked the Rogues’ story is that it’s hard to go wrong with Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins on the Rogues. As I mentioned last time, Johns’ grim-and-gritty storytelling and Kolins’ angular art style are perfectly suited for the hardened Central/Keystone criminals…and for the undead Black Lanterns.
And now…it’s spoiler time!
We get some seriously effective Live Rogues vs. Dead Rogues battles, both physically and emotionally. Captain Cold vs. Golden Glider gets the most attention (this is a Geoff Johns Flash book, after all), and Johns manages to give us enough background on the brother and sister that new readers should be able to get the impact.
On the other hand, I’m not entirely sold on Blue Lantern Flash. It’s not the concept that bothers me. Hope does fit Barry Allen. (The new tragic backstory undermines that, IMO, but that’s a matter for another post.) The problem is that the fact that the Flash spends the entire issue focused on a different super-power than super-speed — and one that’s remarkably ill-defined, at least in the pages of this book. It’s not clear what the Blue Lantern constructs can do, or what types of constructs he can create. And it’s hard to take “All will be well!” seriously as a battle cry.
It also makes the book remarkably monochromatic. Nearly everything is black and gray or blue — even the Flash. While the coloring fits the tone of the story, it does make things stand out visually which perhaps aren’t meant to, as splashes of color highlight Mirror Master, Heat Wave’s flamethrower, and a couple of panels with Wally West. The two protagonists, Barry Allen and Captain Cold, have an unfortunate tendency to blend into the background.
There are some nice moments of humor: the Rainbow Raider finally being able to see color, now that he’s black-and-white himself. Dead Mirror Master Sam Scudder taunting replacement Evan McCulloch over his Scottish accent. Kid Flash (can we call him “Black Bart?”) saying that everything’s better with gorillas.
Overall, this book reminds me of why I’d rather see Geoff Johns writing a Rogues’ Gallery book than a Flash book. The battle in Iron Heights, if we’d gotten to see more of it, would have been absolutely perfect follow-through on the promise of the first issue. The Flashes’ battle, however, hardly felt like a Flash story at all, except for all the sudden arrivals.
Ah, well. It is, after all, the middle of a three-act story, and the middle is often weaker than the opening and closing acts. Here’s *ahem* hoping that the conclusion will turn things around again.