I’ve been really enjoying the ongoing Flash series despite the frustration and disappointment of Flash: Rebirth. It’s as if “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues” is being written by Geoff Johns, and Flash: Rebirth was written by the mirror Geoff. Or in a multiverse context, the Geoff Johns of Earth-3.
Also surprising: Johns seems to have remembered an old saying about writing comic books: Every issue is somebody’s first. A few deftly placed lines of dialogue spell out the key details of the story so far: Boomerang’s status and new abilities, who the Renegades are, what file is missing and why, etc. Considering this is part 4 of a 6-part story, I suspect most writers today wouldn’t have bothered.
Francis Manapul’s artwork continues to be the highlight of this book. The Flash stands or falls (runs or stumbles?) on pacing and the reader’s perception of speed, and Manapul delivers. This time around, the stand-out panels are splash pages in an effort to rescue pilots from a damaged helicopter. (One nice easter egg: in the background of that double-page spread, we see the bridge that Wally West rebuilt back in “Crossfire.”)
I’m neutral on the “Flash Facts” pages, though if they’re going to keep using them to spotlight the villains, I like the way they link the real tech with the comic-book tech. Last month it was “How Boomerangs Work” and “How Captain Boomerang’s Boomerangs Work.” This month it’s mirrors and Mirror Master’s mirrors.
Some of the luster is beginning to fade, though. The structure is starting to feel formulaic: Barry Allen keeps fighting the Renegades, and every battle gets cut short one way or another. Every issue has a major super-speed feat, which individually manages to be extremely cool, but gets repetitive four issues on.
I think the main thing that disappointed me about this issue was the revelation behind the murder mystery. Sure, it’s one of the few explanations that fits Barry Allen’s character, but it also violates the expectations set up in the first half of the story. To say any more, I’ll have to break into….
According to the future Top, when the Rogues break that giant “In case of Flash, break glass” mirror, the “Mirror Lords” will break loose and possess Iris Allen, turning her into Mirror Mistress, and the only way to break their hold is to kill Mirror Master.
So, um, yeah. Mirror Lords. All right, it’s not that much hokier than “Captain Boomerang” or “the speed force,” but even though I’ve been reading The Flash for decades and have gotten extremely used to some silly names and costumes, the term jumped out at me in a way that “The beings who live there” wouldn’t have.
More importantly, introducing possession this far into the story breaks expectations. We’ve got time travel, super-speed, and fantastic weapons established at the beginning, setting up a certain expectation of what is and isn’t valid in this corner of the universe. And then suddenly demonic possession shows up? That’s like doing a street-level, hard-boiled Batman story and then bringing Zatanna in for the finale. Sure, it works in the wider context of the DC Universe, but feels like a cheat in the narrow context of the individual story.
(Also: I know it’s a fairly standard trope, but the plot device where killing the spellcaster undoes the spell tends to bug me.)
On the other hand, I really want to know what Iris found in that file. Judging by her reaction, I’d expect some sort of police cover-up rather than simple negligence, with one of the higher-ups (Singh is too obvious a choice) involved, or possibly someone Barry knows personally like Forrest or Frye. I’d actually find the story a bit more satisfying if this case turned out to feed into the reason the Renegades are here…
Because the reason they give doesn’t add up. They’re not allowed to change history, but they are allowed to arrest someone before he commits a crime…which changes history. Something tells me the future Top hasn’t been entirely honest with Barry.
One last item: I have to give props to Brian Buccellato’s coloring as well. Sure, the Flash is kind of dark, but he makes effective use of contrast between the dark blues of the Rogues’ hideout and the warm reds and yellows of the sunset battle between the Flash and Captain Boomerang. Another good example are the two major speed sequences: rescuing the helicopter pilots and collecting the boomerangs. When we see time from the Flash’s perspective, everyone else is in muted colors. When we jump back to real-time, it switches back to full color. It’s a simple technique, but it gives it a sort of “bullet time” feel, despite being entirely made up of still images.