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Subj: The Flash #6 - Everything Askew...
Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 at 07:00:14 pm BST (Viewed 573 times)
With Christmas just over the horizon thoughts begin to turn to what to get the relatives and what to say when they ask what I want most this year, if it were possible to have several wishes honored then at this juncture in life I would not be averse to asking the almighty to cast a blessing over the meandering unambitious title star that is The Flash. For I do wish Barry Allen's Flash as a series was one I could, after so very many years, actually connect with, to actively enjoy for a sustained period. But from the days I first encountered him circa 1980 Barry's book has never been one by which I could embrace and get something out of reading, other than a sense of expended effort that is. Trying to both access and maintain an open minded attitude to this latest outing from new Writer Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico I find the same old responses of weary resignation and a degree of resistance still cling to Barry Allen's book, and after over three decades of this response I am not going to shy away from being honest and blunt when I have to conclude that the fact of the matter for me is that Barry Allen tends to be a very difficult character for creators to mesh with, to develop and make an interesting expansive character out of.
But then let me be equally as blunt in my view that all too often the problem is that The Flash/Barry has been a character unable to attract the right creative team, a worthy creative team, the initial year of Francis Manapul's contribution being perhaps the honorable exception. A look back on Barry Allen's long career reveals no Mark Waid's or Paul Pelletier's contributing their considerable talents to reinforcing the Silver-Age legend that is The Fastest Man Alive, instead the lesson given has been that of a long list of nondescript creators and seemingly whoever the editors could pressgang at the time to meet the available budget and deadline requirements. And so, far from being an unfortunate choice that didn't work out the team of Joshua Williamson and Carmine Di Giandomenico are instead merely atypical of the anyone-will-do philosophy that DC Comics attach to The Flash. Two unknowns chosen not because an editor spotted the potential for something special to come forth from their pairing, but picked because they were cheap, willing to toe the line, and up for a paid job.
So issue #6, and with the Speedforce having inexplicably lashed out and arbitrarily created a squadron of superspeedsters we have a mystery developed where one of them is apparently murdering the rest and Barry Allen is at a loss as to who and why. All of which comes to a head this issue as he and we come to learn that the cultprit is close to home and shares a distorted similarity to Barry in that they act out of something tragic occuring in their past and their desire to correct that miscarriage of justice. With Godspeed, clad in an all-white suit and an achingly unsubtle play on televisions Zoom, we meet a bogeyman who is faster than the Flash and despite having his power for all of five minutes knows a few tricks Barry doesn't...
This is not the most original of plots then, apart from the season long arc on television that told the story of Zoom we also had the Daniel West Reverse-Flash playing out the same formula courtesy of Fancis Manapul, so if this latest storyline is to offer anything new then it has to come from fine character work and visuals to distract from the familiarity of it all. And true to the series' recent history neither of these elements are much present here unfortunately. Carmine Di Giandomenico work is distinctly european in flavor and while likely suitable for many genres and characters is a very ill match for the needs and requirements of the exciting fast moving world of The Flash. Which is not to say there are not some noteworthy scenes he illustrates within this issue, the reveal of Godspeeds identity is suitably dramatic in its own way, but his is work that lacks much in warmth or emotion, two qualities needed to lift such generic and familiar story material, it takes a highly capable artist who's dynamism and ability to create emotion in characters to ensure that their role as illustrator will be enough to compensate for the derivative nature of the material they are translating and bringing to life. The tightly compressed layouts Di Giandomenico prefers combine with his native european sensibilities and training to make such a feat impossible to fully achieve. So what we have as the final result is an issue that lacks in nearly every department.
If a comic could be made to be dramatic and engaging by employing the values of its own historical traditition Barry Allen's current adventures would be a winner. As we follow the tense and tireless Barry's pursuit for clues as to the killer of the newly created Speedsters and the eventual slow realisation as to who the culprit must be it all feels quite familiar. If you read The Flash thirty-five years ago or Fifty then the elements withing Joshua Williamson's plot are all instantly recognisable and would be perfectly at home in the book as it was presented in those past decades, whether the protagonist in question was The Top, or The Ringer, The Eradicator, or even Iris Allen herself, the cause and target of Barry's latest crisis was always typically someone close to his circle of aquaintance, and so it turns out to be here with the unmasking of Godspeed and a brief confession of motive that ensures, just as with Zoom, that The Flash faces a distorted mirror image who shares his tropes and a similarly tragic backstory which drives him to pursuing a warped and murderous parallel path to The Flash. Yes, this is all very familiar fare. And because of this lack of much to praise or point out within it I am floundering for something by which to hold up as particularly noteworthy and interesting, certainly on at least one brief occasion we are served with a momentary intrigue as Barry reviews the fate of the murdered speedsters he feels responsibility for and a haunting hazy memory he has of his famous death in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. The moment is very brief, and immediately dropped, but for just an instant there is the hint within Williamson's script of something so profoundly disturbing for Barry his mind seems to instantly recoil from further pursuing the thought, the fact that he remembers a past where he died. Another life, his life.
How odd it is to go from that to a scene where Barry visits Iris Allen, his wife in another time, and be preoccupied with keeping his alter-ego a secret from her reporter inquisitiveness. With The Flash it seems to be the case that the past life he now remembers/bottles away is something that has created a schism in his mind, a split almost. He remembers another world that was once his and yet resists the associated experiences that that world and his memory might reward him with. The might be no easy way for reconciling these two competing histories in Barry Allen's head but since Joshua Williamson has chosen to carry on what he has been handed thanks to the Rebirth lead in it is a dillema that will need addressing and settling at some point, for the sake of the Readers as much as Barry himself.
That Iris West is no more than a brief visitor to the pages for this issue is unfortunate, her role is merely to pass on a snippet of information to the searching Barry Allen, if hers was a more involved role within the series and followed a more complemetary and romantic route then the adventures of The Flash would surely be a more engaging and pleasing story to follow. But as it stands the ever pressed and pressured Barry is what we are served with, and he workd dilligently here to prove the adage that all work and no play makes for a very dull boy indeed...