Following the devastation of issue #275 and the immediate fallout in #276, Flash #277 had a lot to deliver. Iris was dead and Barry’s mind was ravaged by a massive dose of PCP. He found himself aboard the Justice League Satellite, begging his friends and teammates to bring her back to life by any means.
This type of subject matter was far beyond mainstream superhero norms of the era. A drug-addled Flash begging the JLA to bring Iris back from the dead is a shocking turn for a character who was, less than a year before, engaged in stories about Golden Age comic books. Even more notable is that the change occurred while the title maintained the same writer: Flash legend Cary Bates.
UP TO SPEED: Flash has turned on his fellow JLA members, threatening to take down the entire Satellite with him! Links to research and artwork are included throughout this post.
COVER: Another great Dick Giordano Flash cover. He worked on over 50 for this particular volume.
PG. 1: By this point, Flash has already disabled the Satellite’s gyroscopic stability system and bested all but Superman one-on-one.
PG. 2: The team has regrouped, but Flash quickly whips up an ingenious speed trap, crushing Green Lantern and Batman against Superman’s indestructible body. Flash is essentially creating a tornado vortex with the JLA trapped in the middle, while creating suction that is destroying the Satellite’s equipment. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Many tornadoes contain smaller, rapidly spinning whirls known as subvortices, or suction vortices…suction vortices can add over 100 mph to the ground-relative wind in a tornado circulation. As a result, they are responsible for most (if not all) cases where narrow arcs of extreme destruction lie right next to weak damage within tornado paths.”
PG. 3 & 4: Superman takes the direct route, and Flash somehow manages to not destroy himself on that Kryptonian arm. Superman then holds Flash like a stray cat. A quickly-devised plans to restrain the speedster falls short, but Flash exhausts himself in the struggle and does some more damage to the Satellite.
PG. 5: Hal Jordan and Superman team up to examine Flash for possible physical triggers of his outburst. Bates makes sure to show that Hal and Barry’s bond is still strong despite the circumstances.
PG. 6 & 7: Roll call at Iris’s funeral. Barry sure has some influential and powerful friends! Counting the JLA and Wally West, the majority of the funeral-goers know Barry is the Flash. Even Dexter Myles, Flash Museum Curator, is on hand as a friend of the Allens. Detective Frank Curtis‘s role in this story, including here as Barry’s only non-JLA friend, really highlights the fleshing-out of Barry that was happening here. This page is a redeemer for Barry.
PG. 8 & 9: Barry-as-Flash calls Picture News, Iris’s old job, and leaves a cryptic message with a reporter about an announcement he plans to make at the Flash Museum. I couldn’t recall another mention of Rachel Barnett, the reporter here. The editor appears to be a Julius Schwartz caricature. Melanie, the ESP-powered female fan who unmasked Flash in issue #275, reappears here. She has read the Flash story Barry planted in the newspaper. I couldn’t find an actual tennis match with Bjorn Borg matching the score listed on the sports page in this comic. A secret prize to the first person who can find it (around 1978/1979, score is 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, and the word “indoor” is visible in the panel)!
PG. 10: Barry races to the Flash Museum to make his announcement, seemingly content in his apparent decision to retire. He still hasn’t stated this outright. However, he quickly finds himself on a collision course…with himself!
No matter how far-out Flash plots would get, even through the Trial, Bates made sure the book was anchored in the core strengths of super-speed action and heroism. He also makes sure to always get the Rogues involved, something we’ll see even more of in the coming weeks.
PG. 11 – 13: This whole weaponized-chocolate sequence was covered in a classic Speed Force post. The scene is a great indicator, I think, of Flash’s true state of mind. Creativity and a sense of fun shine through.
PG. 14 & 15: Melanie retrieves the discarded costume-ring. Barry is able to preempt Flash’s appearance and begins to reveal his secret identity, even starting with his actual origin story. However, the crowd’s good-natured Flash-mongering overwhelms Barry and seems to bring out some of the PCP-induced reactions we saw at the psych ward and on the JLA Satellite.
PG. 16: Melanie’s pep-talk here is shallow enough, given the grim circumstances and what we know of her powers, that it seems she really could be mentally controlling Barry via his costume ring as he himself suggests. She has shown the ability to use relics to exact influence over her chosen subjects. The art seems to intimate this as well.
PG. 17: You’ve got to love the juxtaposition of the last panel with the “Next Month” tag.
NEXT WEEK: A special Speed Force exclusive! You won’t want to miss it.
I keep thinking what a great story this would have been if they left the PCP out of it. You know, if the reason why Barry was beating on the Justice League wasn’t because he was tripping balls, but because he was genuinely affected by the death of his wife and enraged that the league wouldn’t use their powers to bring her back to life. This could have been a truly mature story but it was instead consumed by ridiculousness. It was a dark and gritty ridiculousness, but at its core, still ridiculous.