Messengers everywhere

February 6, 2003

By Avi Green

Flash #189-191

I am now offering up three more reviews of recent Flash issues, at your super speedy service, readers!

Flash #189: Messengers
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Rick Burchett

Well, it’s been a week in Keystone City since the new Rogues’ Gallery tried – and failed – to rob the city and its townsfolk and target Wally West (as seen in the last issues over here) in the process. So now, our hero and his beautiful wife, having recently discovered to their surprise that Linda is pregnant, are taking some time to entertain themselves and take a rest. Regular artist Scott Kolins also took a rest for this issue – and the next – letting special guest artist Burchett draw this issue (although Kolins did draw the cover, taking over that chore from the recently departed Brian Bolland), which, as evidenced by the issue to follow, appears to be a good idea, since that takes place in another part of the country that the guest artist seems more familiar with that area and knows more about how to handle it.

After taking some time to skate at the city ice rink, Wally takes off to pay a visit to several of his friends and some other notable people (“Checking in with friends and family”) such as the former nemesis of Green Lantern, Keith Kenyon, formerly know as Goldface, now reformed and serving as mayor of Keystone City, who’s also the chairman of the city worker’s union.

Thanks in part to Wally, and also to the members of the union, the former Goldface was exonerated of any wrongdoing, and is now trying again to make good as the city’s mayor. It’s amazing as to how a man who gave Hal Jordan such a hard time years ago is now proving himself capable of being such a good defender of the city he’s now leading. With any luck, we’ll be seeing more of the ex-Goldface in future stories as well.

Wally then goes on to pay a visit to Jesse Quick, looking adorable as ever, who’s been getting her company, Quick-Start Enterprises, back on track, to the home of Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick and his lving wife Joan in Denver, where Joan has thankfully recovered, and it was revealed in the last issue of Impulse #89 that Jay’s archnemesis, the Rival, was behind the deception that Joan was supposedly more ill than they thought. It’s good to see that everything’s turned out allright for the Garrick’s, and for Wally’s younger cousin Bart, alias Impulse, too, and that they too are getting back on track, and are ready to return to Keystone as soon as possible.

Wally then heads back, this time to Central City across the Van Buren bridge, to visit his fomer partner in the Teen Titans, Vic Stone/Cyborg, to pay him a visit as well. It’s a great scene that serves very well to emphasize the friendship they’ve had since their days as former teen superheros. And Vic, delighfully, shows that while a lot, if not all of him, may be machine, he’s still quite human as can be, and has a great sense of humor.

Finally, he goes to visit his beloved Aunt Iris, who’s been paying another visit to her adoptive dad, Ira West, and with her, is not just her new stepson, Josh Jackam, but also another guest whom Wally knows but whom I’ll leave for the readers to find out.

It’s so great to see Iris West Allen, the wife of the 2nd Flash, Barry Allen, and who in 1971 found out that she was actually born in the 30th century, back to live in the Central/Keystone area after living in all but secrecy for the past few years, all because she was worried about possibly affecting the future of Wally and company, which was really just ridiculous. I’m hoping that more use will be made out of her in the near future, and I’m interested in seeing how her relationship will be with her new um, boyfriend.

It’s a very pleasant “taking a break and breather” issue, and Johns once again scores with strong characterization for all the characters, with Wally’s visit to Vic scoring the best moment. Burchett as the artist does a very good tribute to the Silver Age, one of the best things about this run on the title by Johns, and it’s interesting to note that Linda looks more authentically Oriental here than she does in the past years under artists like Oscar Jiminez.

And if there’s anything here that’s really surprising that I think I will tell about here for now, it’s that – gasp! – Girder’s been stood erect again, apparently welded back together by S.T.A.R Labs. Now that really took me by surprise. Looks like the Flash is going to be getting himself a hefty nemesis yet again.

And who, as asked on the cover, is it who escaped from Iron Heights? Well, that’s something that’ll be discussed in the next review!

Flash #190: Rat Race
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Rick Burchett

The man who escaped from Iron Heights whom Wally was hoping to get transferred and exonerated, was Hartley Rathaway, the former Pied Piper, who was framed for murdering his own parents by the Mirror Master, the Rogues’ Gallery’s way of getting back at him for reforming. He’s travelled up to Chicago, where the former Trickster, James Jesse, now reformed (or is he?), is now working as an FBI agent.

After a brief scuffle in which Jesse angrily tells Rathaway he can’t help a killer, which he isn’t, so the latter runs off to another part of Chicago, and on the way, narrates his background, telling about how he’d started off being born deaf, but managed to get hearing implants, and then later, after a quarrel with his parents, a pair of rich residents of Central City, decided to take up a criminal career, and became one of the notable adversaries of Flash 2/Barry Allen’s many years ago. He developed many musical instruments at the time which could let out deadly charges of music, and then subsequently joined the Rogues’ Gallery in Central City at the time.

What’s impressive about this issue is that unlike the story in Green Lantern #154, in which Judd Winick shoved a heavy-handed story about gay-bashing down the reader’s throat, with no proper explanation as to why the culprits are so full of hate for their victims, this story on the other hand deals with other, better stuff than Rathaway’s own gayness which he admitted to in 1991, and the part about his being gay is wisely excluded to the background. Best of all, unlike the part in GL #156, in which Winick depicts Terry Berg’s parents as flat stereotypes who say that their son’s lifestyle is to blame for what he’s been through, while Rathaway’s parents were crummy, they’re in no ways depicted here as one-dimensional stereotypes; their depiction is honest (as he says, “mine were stuck up snobs. Sterile. But they weren’t…monsters.” ), and doesn’t set out to villify them the way that Winick did in his story in Green Lantern.

The Piper goes to meet another former villian whom he seeks help from, whom I won’t reveal here, but who was also a fomer Rogue, and whom I will say once had a partnership with another villain who was spotlighted earlier last year.

Overall, while not 100% perfect, it’s well done, and with that being told about now, let me now proceed to the next issue.

Flash #191: The Brave and the Beaten
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kolins

We’re back to focus in Keystone City now (not to mention the clever artwork of Kolins, which is perfect for the current style of the book), and the focus this time is on Wally West’s sexy wife Linda, who quit her job as a TV journalist a few years ago to attend medical school instead. And it seems that she’s got to deal with a suspicious classmate named Cliff, who turns out to be none other than Brother Grimm, the other-worldly villain from a kingdom called Eastwind, who wants to claim Linda as his own bride and conquer Keystone as well, unleashing a horde of dragons upon the city to aid him in his conquest. Luckily for Wally, who should happen by in an airship at that moment other than Hawkman!

Sometimes a team-up between two crimefighters can yield some very good storytelling, and here too, it shows, with Carter Hall, as Hawkman calls himself regularly, helping Wally to fly up past the beanstalk that’s sprung up in the city center which rumbles to prevent him from ascending it himself, and arrives to rescue Linda from the unkind attentions of Brother Grimm.

(Not to worry, Linda’s already taken a pretty good measure of her own to rescue herself, in this case, by dealing Grimm a nice good slap on the face, just like a woman, one of the parts that I liked the most.)

Once again, Johns gives us another good tribute to the Silver Age with relish, and the revelation about Grimm’s disguise turned out to be a very good left fielder, very honestly done. The dialogue between Flash and Hawkman was sharp and right on, and the part where Hawkman tells him “They say you’d make your uncle very proud,” was a highlight of the issue.

I do hope that there’ll be another team-up between these two superheros again someday, and this one was quite a treat for fans of both characters.

So until the next issue, let’s all relish this smart little gem here, and enjoy a good homage to the adventures of the Silver Age.

Avi Green, who ought to get a pair of wings like Hawkman’s, can be reached at avigreen2002@yahoo.com

2010 update: as of this writing, I no longer stand by this review. I have since changed my opinion and written these off as garbage, as explained over here.

Copyright 2002 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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