Review: DC Retroactive 1980s: The Flash

Apologies for the lateness of this review, as I’ve been somewhat unwell recently. My lateness certainly had nothing to do with disliking the issue! I enjoyed it very much, as it was a lot of fun. More details and mild spoilers after the cut.

Of all the positives in this issue, the aspects I liked best were a) the Golden Glider kicking ass, and b) the story was actually fun, with a few humourous lines that made me smile. For the most part modern DC comics tend to be lacking in the fun department, so maybe it isn’t surprising that it took a Retroactive issue to bring some back for a bit. Of course not all stories should be silly or lack gravity, but it seems that outside of children’s comics, modern DC has forgotten it’s possible to have fun at all (Marvel is better at this). Here the Rogues get all the best lines, which is a nice harkening back to the days before they became dark and serious.

People who have read my review of Citizen Cold #2 or the opinion piece on the handling of the Golden Glider are aware I don’t like the way she’s been portrayed over the past decade. Fortunately this issue doesn’t have that problem at all; writer William Messner-Loebs clearly remembers how he used to write her back in the 1980s, which was tough and playful and a bit crazy. Honestly, this is my favourite aspect of the story, and a welcome relief. Fans of Wally West should enjoy the issue too, as it’s a chance to see their beloved character — written by one of his more popular writers, no less — before he returns to limbo again. It’s really unfortunate that some of us only get stuff to please us in a oneshot Retroactive issue, rather than, say, appearing in an ongoing series.

Greg LaRocque’s art is highly reminiscent of his classic `80s style, which is nicely appropriate for the story. I’ve never particularly liked the way he draws Captain Cold, but he’s always done a great job on everyone else, and continues it here.

The most unusual problem with the issue is a number of colouring errors, which badly mix up Mirror Master’s and Trickster’s costumes, and give the normally red-headed Piper dull brownish hair. And speaking of Mirror Master, his presence is a huge continuity mistake; Sam Scudder died around the time Wally became the Flash, while Evan McCulloch wouldn’t hook up with the Rogues until a number of years after his debut. It might be an understandable error, but it immediately jumped out at me and some of my Rogues-geek friends.

The choice of reprint included with the story is bizarre as well; it’s the last part of a random storyline, and not especially memorable. It doesn’t have any of the Rogues who appear in the modern story, in case someone might want to read an adventure from their past — perhaps we should be grateful that it at least features Wally and was written and drawn by the same creative team. The reprint’s issue number is only included as part of the indicia in tiny print on the very last page, so otherwise the only way anyone would know what issue it is would be if you recognize the story or can look up “The Adventures of Speed McGee, Part 3” (Flash v2 #18, for what it’s worth).

The newly-written `80s story is great fun, and a pleasant surprise after the 1970s Flash issue, which regretfully I didn’t much enjoy. Messner-Loebs and LaRocque clearly haven’t let their skills get rusty, and it’d be nice if they had more work published these days. I’m glad to at least have this.

DC Retroactive 1980s: The Flash
Story by William Messner-Loebs
Art by Greg LaRocque


10 thoughts on “Review: DC Retroactive 1980s: The Flash

  1. mr maczaps

    I enjoyed this as well and didn’t notice the timing issue of the id for the rogues… but I did notice the coloring error…

    So far all the issues of the retro books have had odd reprints…

  2. eric

    Did anyone else miss Jose Marzan Jr’s inks on Greg’s pencils? Maybe it was the aforementioned coloring, but everything looked a bit heavy to me. Ah well. Still a pleasure to read this delightfully quaint throwback to the days of old.

    1. kyer

      On a short fan interview I saw, he states that while he respects the inkers whom he worked with, nobody inked the Flash like he’d wanted it so was very happy to have been able to do the inking as well as the pencils.

      I guess it is all a matter of taste.

  3. papa zero

    The appearance of Mirror Master was weird as was the exclusion of Abra Kadabra (though he was on the cover). Perhaps I missed him in a single panel?

    The two plot holes I saw were the inability of Wally to find the villain running around the city (though this has been used in other stories) and the alternate plan they used to attract the villain to location X. Why would a hero attract civilians to a showdown and why were they ultimately the only ones that showed up in a city of Flash fans? 😛

    Still a fun read that felt grounded in the era!

    1. Lia

      Kadabra appears in two panels on the last page — scarcely coloured, though, so easy to miss.

      I’ll be honest, I prefer the Flash to be depowered somewhat. At the speeds he travels, he should be able to do anything (whether it’s finding someone in the city in moments or being able to beat a Rogue before he pulls the trigger), and stories are more interesting and less plot-holey if he can’t do that all the time.

  4. Kelson Post author

    Yeah, this was a really fun issue. It even managed to focus on what was different about the era – Wally being a bit less mature than he became, having the public identity, the Rogues working with him as often as against…and again, the fact that it wasn’t all dark and serious. (I remember the Dark Flash saga basically being a big epic about why the Flash shouldn’t be grim, then later Ignition being all about why the Flash shouldn’t be decompressed. Yeah. Anyway…)

    As odd a choice as part 3 of anything is for a backup story, when I read it, I kept finding all these little moments that had stuck in my head years ago. Mary West & Chunk’s “I need a job/secretary” exchange, the joking shout-out to COIE, Wally stopping at the diner after closing, desperate for something to eat, and the waitress digging out some cold french fries, the genre-savvy response to “No one could survive that!”

    From the standpoint of it representing the era, it’s a good example.

  5. Esteban Pedreros

    I haven’t been able to read the issue yet, but your review gives me hope. I opened it up and saw that the lettering was horrible, the logo for the credit’s box looks like a bad photoshop effect, and I might be wrong but I believe they used “Comic Sans” as the font for the issue. I believe that “Comic Sans” is a big “no-no”, for professional letterers, and the color seemed equally un-professional.

    The overal look of the book made me think that it was an issue that didn’t receive the right amount of production time, and suffered the consequences. At least this review gives me hope that I’ll be able to enjoy the story.

    1. Lia

      The lettering looks fine to me, but you’re right about the credits box. Still, it wasn’t something that really bothered me.

      I do think the story’s worth it, although there may well have been issues with production time — if so, it’s lucky things turned out as well as they did.

  6. Greg LaRocque

    Our little secret;-)
    It’s called a retro story, A Wally West Flash in the 1980’s told in a 2011 book.
    When I got the script I loved what Mr. Loebs had come up with, but I saw my opportunity to have some fun of my own. For those with questions on the continuity in the book, here is my dirty little secret.
    I created my own pocket universe where the Wally West Flash we all love still endures!! As one of my favorite television series tells us “Only fools are enslaved by time & space”.
    In Flash # 67 & 68, Flash battles Abra Kadara in a future era. They are returning to Wally’s present at the end of that story.
    Well, in the retro story you are seeing an untold occurrence from that adventure. Wally veers in his return & ends up here in the 1980’s wearing his 1990’s suit, that is pg 1 of the retro story.. He now inhabits a pocket universe within DC continuity where he continues his adventures, safe from the current DC story line. Thus the differences you’ve noticed.
    There’s problems with the time stream & the villain behind the scenes is revealed in the last 2 pages if you look closely at the background.
    The final panel has Wally suiting up to run off to his newest adventure. Happy in the pocket universe.
    Go Flash!! Go Wally!!

    1. Lia

      That’s awesome, I think Wally fans will like that 🙂 Even when the Reboot hits, I guess we can still say that the DCU is continuing in its own other universe, it’s just no longer the one getting focused on. That makes me feel a bit better, although it’s still a bummer that we don’t get to see what they’re doing.

      Thanks for dropping by, and thank you for your great work on the Retroactive issue! 🙂


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