Annotations: Flash #281, “Deadly Games!”

Welcome back to our series of Flash annotations, focusing on Cary Bates’ “Death of Iris Allen” story.  This issue begins the third act of this arc, a key stretch of issues that would further redefine Flash and his relationship with his archenemy, Professor Zoom.  Links to artwork and research are included throughout this post.  For previous issues, click here!

UP TO SPEED: The psychic monstrosity known as Clive Yorkin is no more, buried alive during last issue’s climactic confrontation with Flash.  However, any peace of mind Barry Allen drew from Yorkin’s demise was shattered by a phone call from Detective Frank Curtis: Allen’s friend, fellow cop, and fellow target of heroin smugglers…

COVER: Dick Giordano continues his run of memorable Flash covers.

PG 1: Barry and Frank discuss a major development regarding the identity of Iris Allen’s killer.  Both have been targeted by heroin smugglers after Barry discovered his crime lab was being used as a drop point.  The gunshot interrupts Frank’s revelation, but it’s fun to try and finish his sentence (“…and it’s — “).

PG 3: This is one of the most violent pages in Flash vol. 2.  Det. Frank Curtis: “The Creep” would have been a great companion series.

PG 5: Flash takes out the hit-men with devastating sound waves generated by his clapping.  It’s like the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), but with physical destruction.

PG 6: Frank survives the attacks, thanks to a bullet-proof vest, and is spirited to the hospital by an incognito Flash.

PG 7 & 8: It has been hinted since issue #274, but here it is revealed that Police Chief Paulson has been behind the recent attacks on Barry and Frank.  From the multiple shootouts to Barry’s PCP dosing, Paulson has been trying to take out the cops investigating the heroin found in the crime lab.

I’ve mentioned I’m not a huge fan of Don Heck on Flash, but his work here is strong on both the police action and emotional sequences.  Barry is subtly taunting Paulson throughout this scene, and Heck nails Barry’s confidence and Paulson’s nerves.

PG 9: Paulson makes plans to split town.

Barry and Frank reconvene, as Frank has evidence proving Yorkin did not kill Iris as suspected.  The proof:  a videotape of Iris’s death from a security camera at the party.

PG 10 & 11: The viewing of the death is the first time readers are shown the moment Iris was killed, but the nature of the security video leaves key details a mystery.  A devastated Barry replays the video of his wife’s death, searching for clues.

PG 12 & 13: Barry changes into Flash in “…scarcely more than 1/100th of a blink of an eye…”.  The average blink takes 300 – 400 milliseconds.

Zoom appears at the center of a gunfight at a Powdered Milk Factory, which Flash notes as a strange setting.  Zoom’s fascination with 20th Century Speech is a long-established theme.  It was arguably at its most absurd in Flash #186, where he chooses to speak as a gangster a-la Al Capone.

It is fun to take Zoom’s “Long time no see” remark and “run with it”, given the events of Flash: Rebirth and what is now happening in Flashpoint.  Zoom’s appearances have become nonlinear by definition, but its also possible that the events in this issue never “happened” due to his recent time-traveling trail of destruction.

The thing is, Zoom had been making a lot of appearances from 1978 – 1980, from Secret Society of Super-Villains to three classic issues of Justice League of America (#166 – 168), to the first two issues of DC Comics Presents.  He and Flash had been clashing frequently, from Flash’s perspective.

PG 14 & 15: Flash and Zoom have it out over land and sea until Zoom literally splits in half in an evasive move.  Flash chalks it up to “…ultra-advanced 25th Century technology!”, another staple of the Reverse-Flash arsenal.

PG 16 & 17: The techno-advantage gives Zoom the edge, allowing him to keep his distance from a determined Flash.  As Flash tires, Zoom fits him with a pair of “heavy-matter boots”, another product of the 25th Century.  Zoom’s prowess with technology had been established in early appearances, such as Flash #153 where he explains how he uses the science of super-speed to “create machines with effects never before seen on Earth.”

Zoom then reveals the ultimate advantage: he knows who killed Iris…



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