Welcome to the final installment in our 15-part series of annotations on “The Death Of Iris Allen”! Halved by our two-part interview with author Cary Bates, previous issues can be found here! Links to artwork and research are included throughout this post.
UP TO SPEED: Trapped aboard a runaway time-machine with the murderous Professor Zoom, Flash has chosen to take on the flow of time himself in a desperate attempt to avoid certain doom…
Here is this issue’s corresponding Tom vs. The Flash post!
COVER: This would be the last Andru/Giordano cover until Flash #291.
PG 1: A time-lost Flash. Bates riffs on the Twilight Zone TV series intro. Most notably, this climatic issue is edited not by Ross Andru, but by Len Wein. According to Bates, Andru was a driving force behind the many tonal changes witnessed in this story. In all, Wein edited 20 issues of this volume of Flash. Andru continued editing on books like Jonah Hex, Weird Western Tales and Warlord after his time on Flash.
PG 2: This scene is the sequence from the end of issue #283, except played out in reverse. Last issue, Flash overtakes Zoom aboard the time sphere, disables him and tries to pilot the time-sphere himself. Here, Zoom subdues Flash and deliberately sets the time-sphere to go “…all the way back to the beginning of time…and before!” There are major changes in momentum and intent on both sides here, and this is likely the first casualty of the editor change…or, a quick way of showing Flash literally “reversing” his course through time. One thing does remain consistent: Flash makes the decision to leave Zoom to die.
PG 3 & 4: Flash falls uncontrollably through the time-steam, unable to control his molecular vibrations, and is pulled into a dimensional vortex. He finds himself on a barren world, without his super-speed. Flash claims he can now move “…no faster than the average track runner…20 miles per hour tops!” World and Olympic champion Usain Bolt has an average speed of just under 24 MPH.
PG 5 & 6: Flash continues to test his speed. A land bridge appears, with Barry Allen’s hometown of Fallville at the other side.
PG 7: As he attempts to cross the bridge into Fallville, Flash finds his path blocked by the Lord of Limbo. Forced to bow, Flash learns that limbo is “…the most mystic kingdom of all…a land beyond all other lands…beyond the very stream of time itself!”
This limbo appears to be a different land than the one introduced in Keith Giffen’s Ambush Bug, and seen later in the work of Grant Morrison in Animal Man and Final Crisis: Superman Beyond. An explanation could be that this is limbo for displaced, unfortunate time-travelers, while the Giffen/Morrison version is, as advertised, the final destination of forgotten characters. As for the Lord of Limbo, he and this limbo-world would appear once again in Flash #305.
PG 8 & 9: The Lord of Limbo continues to taunt Flash with the nature of the limbo-world, even subjecting him to a normally-fatal fall from the land bridge.
PG 10: Flash recovers, and meets his fellow captives. They describe themselves as time-travelers, like Flash, who encountered the dimensional vortex that brought Flash here. It’s easy to think of this Limbo as a Bermuda Triangle of time travel in the DC Universe.
Flash’s fellow prisoners also reveal a key aspect of Limbo: “Many of us even possessed extraordinary powers equal to your own super-speed…but not here!” Flash’s lost speed, and the lost powers of his fellow limbo-mates, are the result of “mental jamming waves” courtesy of the Lord of Limbo.
PG 11 & 12: The glimpses of Fallville are also part of the Limbo Lord’s taunts. Though unable to muster the will to use their own powers, the prisoners of Limbo focus their combined will onto the Flash, allowing him to access his super-speed. Flash and his benefactors consider their circumstances as the speedster escapes via the images of Fallville. Their thoughts appear separate…until one of the travelers responds to Flash’s thoughts in their own bubble. Thought and word bubble errors are not so unusual, even today (see: Batman & Robin #7). However, the decision to use either thoughts or words appears to change mid-page here.
PG 13: This sequence is one of those pre-Speed Force curiosities that were neatly explained away by that concept. As Flash enters Fallville, he comes across his own birth, and realizes he is still an out-of-sync wraith. To restore his form, he concludes he must “…put on the speed…and run the most important race ever — through time and space, literally racing after my own life!”
PG 14 & 15: Flash makes his way through the events of his origin. The recreation of panels from Showcase #4 is interrupted by the Lord of Limbo, who claims Flash is still under his jurisdiction due to his tenuous relationship with the time-stream. But Flash has his speed once again, and the two battle it out in the background of scenes from Flash #123 and Flash #165.
This is very similar to the journey Wally West would take in 1994, from Zero Hour back into his own title (and Terminal Velocity) via Flash #0. In that story, however, Wally is able to break through and interact with his own past. I have to think that this issue was a major influence on Waid and the genesis of the Speed Force concept.
PG 16 & 17: Flash hilariously calls his time with Iris “the marriage years,” as the pass through a scene from Iris’ funeral, circa Flash #277. As he races toward the present, Flash notes once again that he is leaving Zoom “…to face the doom he so richly deserves!” This echoes, almost verbatim, Flash’s comments in the last issue. Therein, he planned on taking Zoom back to his home century, to face “…the execution you so richly deserve!”
As Flash overtakes his physical form, the Limbo Lord latches on. Fighting both the Lord and the dimensional vortex to Limbo, Flash ejects some spare molecules at super-speed. Accelerating with the vortex, Flash escapes both his captor and the Limbo realm, but not before predicting his own eventual return (in #305, see above) to help the stranded time-travelers.
In his own time, Barry visits Iris’ grave and vows to move on with his life and as Flash, “…because I know your beautiful spirit will be with me forever.”
Thanks to everyone who read along with us! We’ll be checking out some related Flash issues in the coming weeks, leading up to the August 9th release of Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash. Once that volume hits stores, we’ll start breaking down the contents.
See you next “time”!