Annotations: Flash #278, “Road to Oblivion”

Hot on the heels of our two-part interview with comic book legend Cary Bates, we dive right back into our analysis of his Flash work!  Links to research and artwork are included throughout this post.

UP TO SPEED: Barry Allen, the Flash, has buried his beloved wife, Iris.  After fighting his way through a vicious drugging at the hands of an unknown assailant, Barry considered retirement.  Convinced (or manipulated) to stay in the cowl by an ESP-powered fan, Barry embarked a manhunt for Clive Yorkin, Iris’s accused killer…

COVER: Dick Giordano on Captain Boomerang.

PG. 1:  Flash follows two stolen necklaces to an animal preserve “patterned after the Australian outback,” complete with three kangaroos and red bottle brush courtesy of artist Alex Saviuk.  Captions state Flash’s vow to follow every clue, “no matter how far out.”

PG. 2: Crimson pearls used on the necklaces here would be extremely rare, and would likely not be natural salt water pearls.

PG. 3: Rather than battle Boomerang, Flash decides to take the time to “see what ‘old’ Boomerang has come up with.”  He “admires” the traps set by his foe, even providing light commentary.

PG. 4 & 5: Bates’ use of the Rogues in this arc is worth a look.  The man himself was on board with the title’s dark new horizon, but maintaining the relationship between Flash and his closest enemies was also key.  Dressed in the classic characters, the new Flash‘s differences are even more striking.  Life moves forward despite the loss of Iris, and in Flash that meant the reality of the Rogues.  In issue #277, Barry is sidetracked on his way to his own retirement speech by a Mirror Master plot that would have been at home in any issue edited by Julius Schwartz.

Still, the time for fun is short, and after a quick round of “why are you hitting yourself?” Flash cuts to the quick.  The awareness of the Rogues roles, “gentleman thieves” as former Flash artist Paul Ryan put it, is deeply rooted in the dialog both here and later in the issue.

PG. 6 & 7:
We get a recap of the last few issues.  Barry performs self-hypnosis on himself to help recount the last few moments leading to Iris’s murder.  We also find out that Yorkin is dyslexic.  Dyslexia is a disorder affecting how one’s brain interprets language, but it is used here to explain why the Nephron Process had the effect it did on Yorkin.  It also acquits Dr. Nephron of any actual wrongdoing, though Detective Curtis states the doctor discovered Yorkin had the condition while he was treating him.  If this was the case, one could argue that Nephron was more responsible for Yorkin’s transformation.

PG. 8: Yorkin stalks the smoking.  Planet of the Vampires is a 1965 film.

PG. 9 & 10: Yorkin sneaks into the movie theater and, “sensing” the fear of the moviegoers, scares them some more.

PG. 11: Turns out, Yorkin wasn’t just goofing around in the theater.  He feeds off of “the energy emitted by human beings,” in this case emotional energy.  Barry and Frank return to the mansion that was the scene of Iris’s murder to do some police work, and discover the Sandman costume worn by Barry’s attacker.

PG 12 & 13: Barry is using the crimson pearls to lure Central City’s crooks into a trap, wherein he tries to extract information regarding Iris’s killer.  The pearls are revealed to be fakes.  Heat Wave has fallen for the trap this time, and another note-perfect battle begins.  Much like the Boomerang encounter earlier in the issue, Bates gets the Rogues involved but uses them in a way consistent with the plot and tone.

PG. 14 & 15:
Flash’s target finds him, as Yorkin is drawn to the battle by the “intense flood of anger.”  Heat Wave tries to fry Flash in the confusion, but finds himself at Yorkin’s mercy while Flash scrambles to douse the fire.  Heat Wave begins to turn a deathly blue and ages almost instantly.

PG. 16 & 17: Flash returns to break up the pair, but Yorkin escapes.  Flash is forced to leave a critically drained Heat Wave in order to give chase.  The hero is ambushed by this “psychic freak,” locked on with his death-grip, and his life energy begins to leave him…



2 thoughts on “Annotations: Flash #278, “Road to Oblivion”

  1. Lia

    I love Digger’s crazy booomerang hideout in this story; even his ashtray and chair were shaped like or made of boomerangs.

    Of course, Digger really was fairly gentlemanly in those days, but then in Suicide Squad (and elsewhere at the time) he was portrayed as the ultimate disgusting lout.


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