The Profiler becomes his Subject

The Flash #197-200: Blitz

January 18, 2004

By Avi Green

Note: since 2011, this review has been extensively rewritten, with good reason.

Of all the stories Geoff Johns could be telling here, this is by far the worst to date, where he "updates" Barry Allen's old archnemesis, Prof. Zoom, the Reverse-Flash. And it's Keystone City police’s Rogue profiler, Hunter Zolomon, whose last name was apparently meant to give a hint to his becoming all along since the new archnemesis was announced.

He’s sitting in his hospital bed, and you can tell that his mind is broiling with evil from the look on his face, and he’s asking himself, “Who fits this profile?” The answer is the Reverse-Flash, of course, also called Professor Zoom, and whose real name originally was Eobard Thawne, Barry Allen’s worst archnemesis in his time, and the only person whom he ever killed in all his career, in order to stop him from murdering Fiona Webb, the ladyfriend whom Barry dated during the time when Iris West Allen was murdered by Thawne, and whom he was going to marry that very day the Reverse-Flash reappeared in the present, and planned to murder as well. For killing him in defense of someone else’s life, he was wrongfully charged with manslaughter, and went on trial at the end of the first volume’s run, and was thankfully exonerated. He then went to live in the future alongside Iris, who’d been saved from death, as it turned out, by her parents, by transporting her soul into a new body they’d cloned for her, in the future, and she’d gone back in time then to pose as a jury at the trial to help clear her beloved husband of all charges. (Sadly, this time it was her to suffer the loss, with Barry dying to save the universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths in November 1985.)

We discover that Zolomon grew up in a very dreary household in Virginia, with parents who hardly ever spoke to each other, causing a very lonely life there. And it turned out later on that his father had been a serial killer, who’d murdered three girls and buried the bodies in the backyard. His mother, who’d discovered this, had decided to call the police the day she was put to death by her husband, but he’d come home early from work that day, and, as mentioned before… The father was shot dead by police storming the household, and Hunter came home horrified to find both dead and the cops milling about the house.

Oh wow, please do tell us another that won't comes as more sickening than it already sounds. Not only is this fairly derivative and rather unimaginative, it's also another example of the darkness that taints Johns' edge of writing, and unsuitable for a book of this sort. Not often do I stumble across something as vile as this really is.

That was also the time during which he was set to enter college, and he decided then to study to become a crime researcher to learn how crooks are made. It was at college that he met his later wife, Ashley Zolomon, whose father was a prominent and respected criminologist, and later married Ashley. (The father-in-law’s name strangely does not seem to be mentioned here, though on one of the fansites, his name is listed as Derek Fox).

Working in the FBI, he also took to studying rogues of the kind that the Flash and even Batman faced off against. And he even took to studying the superheroes of the DCU themselves. And because Johns so dictates, he also was present at the time that the Trial of the Flash, where Barry ended up facing his toughest battle of all, the legal system, for his killing of his worst archenemsis, Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, whose real name was Eobard Thawne. As longtime Flash fans know, the Reverse-Flash was the one who’d murdered Barry’s wife, Iris West Allen, and he’d later come back to try and murder Fiona Webb, the fionce who never was. As indicated here, rather absurdly at that, Zolomon apparently didn’t buy into much of the aspect of time travel, let alone sci-fi based powers, that make up the world of even the Scarlet Speedster, and when Barry was thankfully aquitted and left for the future to be with his wife Iris, who’d been saved from death by her biological parents in the 30th century (in a plot that’d be too complicated to explain just now), so he thought that Barry had just vanished into a witness protection program. And then, Barry went to the great reward during the Crisis (on Infinite Earths), and nephew Wally took his place.

What’s really troubling Zolomon - though not as much as we're feeling are from the irritating story that ensues - is a fatal estimation he made years ago, that ended up costing the life of his father-in-law, his job at the FBI, and his marriage to Ashley, when he helped track down a minor villain Barry Allen once faced, Lyle “The Clown” Corley, a crazed circus performer who’d either killed or attempted to kill people around the circus he worked with whom he saw as guilty for the death of his family. It seems that years later, and a couple years after Barry’s own death, Clown had struck again, and was now using a farmstead as his HQ. The feds had tracked him there, and Hunter, having noted the fact that Corley himself didn’t use firearms for his main weapons (symbolic of the story's unimaginative approach), didn’t think Corley would be armed with such, leading his dad-in-law to lead a break-in to the house to catch him – and ended up being shot to death by Clown with a revolver, and Hunter’s being badly injured in the leg, his shock at his stupid mistake having slowed down his reactions too much to be able to pay attention to when Corley opened fire at him too. The Clown was shot dead by Ashley, who then burst into cries upon her dead father’s body. And this, he felt, was where many of his troubles to date began. He later took up a job application for the KCPD’s rogue profiler, as it was the best job offer he could get after his getting kicked out of the federal business.

He had also paid attention to the fact that Wally had clumsily told the court that he thought that Barry could’ve handled the situation without having to kill in order to defend, something that Wally later regretted, and especially now. And with Hunter’s mind now working sinisterly in his wanting the Flash to help him the way he wants, and which he wasn’t willing to do an issue earlier, this comes as something that he’d like to “fix”, by making the Flash into “a better hero”, an idea borrowed quite blatantly from the older material with Barry Allen. This was something that Eobard Thawne mockingly told Barry when the latter had tracked him down after murdering Iris in 1979.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…Hunter discovers that his rendezvous in the Flash Museum with the Cosmic Treadmill gave him powers not unlike the Flash’s own. The bad part is – they’re even more advanced: he’s practically standing still in time.

He then sets out to execute his idea of how to turn the Flash into "a better hero". When it comes down to this, that's when the story begins to self-destruct even more, as Zolomon becomes an increasingly absurd caricature. After kicking the hell out of Impulse, he grabs Linda from the apartment and after banging up Wally and Jay, he strikes Linda to the ground, terminating her pregnancy. What ensues then is a most tasteless view of how Neo-Zoom bashes up Wally some more and lets him know that Linda's pregnancy is aborted, and she's crying in the hospital.

This is also an example of a problem I've noticed in at least a few of Johns' stories: he allegedly builds up sympathy for the villains, and then proceeds to destroy it, all the while doing it in a book where the approach is unsuitable.

Sure, Zoom is eventually defeated, with Jesse Quick's help, but it doesn't counteract the over-the-top violence we're forced to endure. This was an extremely tasteless, pointless story that serves as little more than an excuse for mayhem for the sake of it. And Wally borderlines on defeatism in the aftermath, acting as though it's really his fault because he doesn't have a secret identity. Towards the end, Barry Allen comes back in time to give his approval of the Spectre erasing the planet's knowledge of his identity as the Flash. But it only serves to help destroy more of what was built up during the 1990s.

Copyright 2004 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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