The Zoom Room: Flash #186, “Three Times Three Equals — ?”

Welcome to our newest series of Flash annotations!  Following our breakdown of the “Death of Iris Allen” story from 1979 and 1980, we’ll be looking at some classic, perhaps lesser-known stories featuring Professor Zoom!  This week features a great issue by a writer not normally linked with the Silver Age Flash title, with a complex plot and ties to the Golden Age. Links to research and artwork are included throughout this post.  For a list of issues we’ve hit so far, click here!

EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THAWNE:  Prior to Flash #186, Zoom’s previous appearance was in Flash #175.  In that story, he masqueraded as one of the alien gamblers in the second Superman/Flash race.

COVER:  A classic “Dead Flash Cover” by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.

PG 1:  Iris Allen suggests that her weary husband take a solo “vacation in time,” reasoning that he’ll arrive back the moment after he leaves.

PG 2 & 3:  Barry Allen exits via Cosmic Treadmill…and returns one panel later, fresh and tanned from the “recreation sites of the 23rd Century”.  This is Mike Friedrich’s first Flash story.

PG 4:  At the hospital, Iris gets the news that Barry has contracted an “unknown virus, of unknown species!”

PG 5:  The 25th Century, where Professor Zoom sits in a radiated cell.  His speed is nullified by the same stasis beams seen in Flash #165.  Zoom has been provided with reproductions of early gangster movies and resolves to emulate the “quaint gangster talk.”  The disembodied voice belongs to Sargon the Sorcerer, who had not made a single appearance anywhere in 20 years prior to this issue.  His last story was a solo 5-pager in Green Lantern #37.  He had nearly 70 Golden Age appearances up through 1949.

PG 6 & 7:  Sargon assists Zoom in time-traveling from his cell back to the 20th Century.  Sargon also provides him with a stolen copy of the Reverse Flash costume, and some backstory.

The Sorcerer states he has retired from fighting crime to focus on the occult, and that the prospect of time travel is of immense importance to his studies.  He has returned Zoom to the past to learn the villain’s method for traveling through time.  Having occasionally resorted to illegal means of obtaining information, Sargon explains that he could not seek out Flash for fear of drawing that speedster’s scrutiny.

Zoom takes advantage of his position and leaves to attack Flash.  Using a stolen Flash costume, Sargon attempts to trick Zoom into thinking Flash is already dead.

Sargon was a 100% straight-shooter in the Golden Age, so this is a pretty radical re-imagining of a reasonably popular character.  Friedrich adds some hesitation to his dialog, hinting that the life of crime may still not agree with him.  His method of tricking Zoom is to put the stolen Flash costume onto Barry Allen’s actual physical remains, pulled from the future at some point after Barry has truly died.

PG 8:  Sargon plants the Flash-corpse in a vacant city lot, where it is discovered by a group of children.

PG 9 & 10:  A disbelieving Zoom fact-checks Sargon’s claims by visiting Iris in the guise of an undertaker.  Iris then visits the hospital, followed by Zoom, where she learns that the skeleton found in the Flash costume matches Barry’s x-ray charts.  Convinced, Zoom returns to Sargon, who expects his time-travel lesson is about to begin.

PG 11:  Zoom tricks Sargon into reciting an incantation that sends him to the “nether-world of Chimano!”  Zoom admits that the mysticism was beginning to “scare” him, but revels in the prospects of a life of crime with no Flash to worry about.

PG 12 & 13:  While Zoom makes good on his promise of a worldwide crime spree, Barry awakens in the hospital.  No sooner has he left the hospital, and donned his uniform, when he collapses in an alley “for many hours.”

PG 14:  Flash hails a cab to take him back to the hospital.  On the cabbie’s radio, Flash gets wind of Zoom’s recent crime wave and resolves to stop him, virus or no virus.  As he is speeding away, an “eerie bolt” strikes Flash and he vanishes.

PG 15:  Moments earlier, Sargon appears in Chimano.  Calling it, “the domain of the Chill of Death,” Sargon is nearly powerless but still maintains some influence on Earth.  He uses the Ruby of Life, the source of many of his powers, to call upon Flash.

PG 16 – 18:  Flash determines he can likely jump the two back to Earth’s dimension via his vibratory powers, and uses the power of the Ruby to break the dimensional barrier.  Flash takes off in pursuit of Zoom, still concerned about the eventual onset of the future-virus in his system.

Zoom has robbed Earth of “its best loot,” and reduced each piece to miniature size for portability’s sake.  Overtaken by Flash, he uses the same technology to re-enlarge/weaponize his prizes.

PG 19 & 20:  Zoom is able to use his reducing technology on Flash, trapping the speedster among his collection and continuing his crime spree across time.

PG 21:  Zoom’s “500 years of crime” includes prizes such as: a statue of Buddha, a gong, ornate clocks and chests, a classical portrait…

Flash awakens…with the Ruby of Life in his hand.  The Ruby controls “…whatever it’s been in contact with,” so Flash calls upon the winds of Chimano to break him out of his “test tube prison” and overcomes Zoom.

PG 22 & 23:  Flash knocks out Zoom with the winds at his command, and returns himself to normal size.  Sargon is nowhere to be found, but secretly vows to retrieve the Ruby from Flash.  Flash obtains medical treatment for his 23rd Century virus when dropping off Zoom in the 25th Century.

Sargon would return in Flash #207, written once again by Friedrich, in which he would reclaim the Ruby of Life and deal once again with his dark side.  In DC Comics Presents #26, “Whatever Happened to Sargon the Sorcerer?”, more explanations are offered to the nature of Sargon’s duality and his relationship with the Ruby.  Friedrich’s Sargon saga is an interesting, complex, slightly different look from this era of Flash.

One loose end that is not tied up: Barry’s future-corpse is never returned to its original era!  He spends the rest of his life (through Crisis on Infinite Earths, at least…) existing in the same era as his own time-lost remains.

See you next week for another session in The Zoom Room!


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