Adventures with a lot of Fun
May 19, 2004
Flash: Crossfire TPB
Publisher: DC comics
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Scott Kolins, Rick Burchett
By Avi Green
I had once written about the
Crossfire story arc two years ago, and now, here's a special
TPB review of the story to accompany it that's more thought out.
Tributes to times like the Golden and Silver Age can be a wonderful
thing, and with Flash: Crossfire,
which compiles issues #183-191 of the second volume, Geoff Johns,
the current writer of the Scarlet Speedster’s series, has put
together a wonderful tribute to that fondly remembered era in comics
for today’s excitement-seeking audience.
When Mark Waid was the writer of the Flash, he had Wally West battle
plenty of enjoyable adversaries. However, the difference from when
uncle Barry Allen was the Flash was that most of them were akin to
futuristic creatures and modern day gangsters, or just pale copies
of older villains like Captain Cold, such as Chillblaine, and with
the exception of Abra Kadabra, who was the closest thing to an
archvillain for Wally during the 1990’s, the Rogues’ Gallery of the
yesteryear was used very little, mostly because some of them had
either retired or just gone part time in being criminals.
With Geoff Johns at the helm, several of Barry’s adversaries
returned to the spotlight, such as the Weather Wizard, Mirror Master
and Captain Cold, and a whole bundle of new villains, including
Blacksmith, Plunder, Murmur, Girder, and even a new Trickster, Axel
Walker, was introduced to take the place of the old one, James
Jesse, who’d reformed some time earlier. Plus, Frances “Magenta”
Kane, the erstwhile girlfriend of Wally’s who first appeared in The New Teen Titans back in
1982, joined up with them after a brief stint with the criminal
mastermind Cicada in the Blood
Will Run story arc.
The Crossfire story arc of
2002 is by far the greatest revitalization of villains who were
first used during the Silver Age, and introducing new ones from
within a similar vein. Johns had been building up to an enjoyable
suspense story within the past year involving the forming and
unition of a new Rogues’ Gallery in Keystone and Central City, all
plotting to bring down the current Flash, Wally West, which would
enable them to take over and loot the cities without opposition.
They’ve even managed to take sneaky steps to get some of Wally’s
allies, including Jay Garrick, the first Flash, and Jesse Quick, the
beautiful daughter of the late speedster Johnny Quick, too busy to
help him out and too far away, before moving in to corner him and
bring him down.
However, it looks like they’re to be challenged for the control of
Keystone and Central City by one of Jay Garrick’s old nemeses, the
Thinker, Clifford Devoe, a corrupt district attorney who was later
turned into an electronic entity that took to dwelling within
Keystone’s computer networks. Now he’s out to take over every living
man, woman and child in the city so he can have room – to think! And
aside from wanting to take over the brains of the Rogues’ as well,
Wally is his main quarry, since he sees his mind as being the most
powerful and useful for his plans.
One of the best things about this story is how it succeeds in
presenting the new Rogues’ as an effective and convincing menace to
Wally, enough to make him feel worried as hell about what to do and
how to stop them. And it’s always been facinating to wonder how the
Mirror Master’s crafty gadgets work, including how he can turn a
pane of glass into a temporary teleportation device, one of the
things he does here. And another thing I’m impressed with here is
how Captain Cold is depicted as a crook who walks the fence between
good and evil. No, he’s not joining up with the other Rogues’ in the
scheme they plot here under Blacksmith’s leadership, and he was
otherwise only in town to avenge the death of his late sister Lisa
Snart, the Golden Glider. Nowadays, Barry Allen’s first regular
adversary when he first debuted in the Silver Age really does strike
me as being more a good guy at heart than a baddie today, and here
he even helps lend a hand to the good guys side in bringing down the
villains. And the ending showdown really made me feel proud.
Scott Kolins’ artwork can be a bit of an aquired taste to some, I’m
sure, but it’s perfect here for depicting Keystone as a city that’s
a wonderful hometown to the blue collar/working class society of
America. And Doug Hazelwood’s coloring was certainly a plus. And I
liked the interaction between supporting cast members like police
detectives Fred Chyre and Jared Morillo, who’re almost like some of
those characters you see in buddy cop TV shows and movies like Starsky and Hutch and Lethal
Weapon, in which the partners look out for one another, and work
together as good teammates. Johns, having worked with director
Richard Donner on movies like Lethal Weapon, certainly seems to have
learned a thing or two from his experience on such films, and it
shows here too.
The next two parts involve what could be called an intermission, in
which the characters get to take a rest between the action scenes,
with Wally paying visits to some of his friends and relatives like
grandpa Ira West and aunt Iris West Allen, to Jay and Joan Garrick,
who’re now the guardians of his teen cousin Bart, now the new Kid
Flash, and to Jesse and Vic “Cyborg” Stone, his former partner in
the Titans back in the 1980’s. Then, there’s a story focusing on
Hartley Rathaway, the former Pied Piper, who’s fled from Iron
Heights to Chicago, and which tells his back story and how he’d
become a Rogue in his time, to when he reformed later on. These
parts are drawn by Rick Burchett, who does a surprisingly good nod
to the quirky artwork of Carmine Infantino from the 1960’s, with the
funny character angles and expressions. Both are good stories, and
are pleasant on the one and engrossing on the other.
Finally, there’s the part with Flash and Hawkman, the only other
character to appear alongside with first Flash Jay Garrick in his
own book when they debuted in the Golden Age, teaming up to rescue
Wally's wife Linda Park West from the clutches of the villainous
Brother Grimm, a creature from a fairy tale-ish land called
Eastwynd, who first appeared in Johns first story arc, Wonderland.
As a teamup in the classic mold, this too is a pretty enjoyable
story, and the part where Carter Hall told Wally that he’d make his
uncle proud made me smile.
This is a real treat for anyone who likes some enjoyable escapism,
and a loving tribute to the fun and excitement of the Silver Age.
This review is dedicated to the
memory of DC’s legendary EIC Julius Schwartz (1915-2004), who
passed away on February 7, 2004. He will be sorely missed.
2010 update: as of this
writing, I no longer stand by this review. I have since changed my
opinion and written this off as garbage, as explained over here.
Copyright 2004 Avi Green. All rights reserved.
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