Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Flash of the Lightning

The Flash: Born to Run: written by Mark Waid and Tom Peyer; illustrated by Greg LaRocque, Humberto Ramos, Pop Mhan, Jim Aparo, Bill Sienkiewicz, Wayne Faucher, and others (1992, 97; 98/ collected 1999): Long-time Flash writer Mark Waid explores the origins of what was DC Comics' third Flash, Wally West, who started his super-speed career as Kid Flash, protege (and eventual nephew) to Barry Allen's Flash. 

This is an enjoyable Year One story-line made somewhat unusual by the age of the hero in question experiencing his Year One as a superhero. Wally West is about 10 when he gains super-speed powers in an accident almost identical to that which created Barry Allen's Flash. That this all seems like too much of a coincidence for a 1990's comic-book reader or writer looking at an origin story from the early 1960's is addressed throughout the story, though the origins of this 'coincidence' will only be explained in another book.

The super-speed action is fun and nicely thought-out, as it pretty much always was during Waid's tenure. Waid fleshes out the early back-story of Wally West with indifferent parents and a desire to flee his small Nebraska hometown. Waid's characterization of Wally, Aunt Iris West (soon to be Iris Allen), and Barry Allen is deft and sympathetic. The art is solid, meat-and-potatoes comic-book storytelling, though a story in which legendary Jim Aparo is inked by legendary Bill Sienkiewicz is a rare artistic treat. Recommended.

The Flash: Dead Heat: written by Mark Waid; illustrated by Oscar Jiminez, Jose Marzan Jr., Humberto Ramos, and Wayne Faucher (1995-96/ Collected 1999): What's really a one-year Flash story-line kicks off here with some major ret-conning introducing a whole new Flash villain who's actually been around for a long time. That's the self-named Savitar, a maniacal speedster who wants access to the Speed Force all to himself and who will kill everyone else with super-speed to secure that access.

Ah, the Speed Force. Introduced by long-time Flash writer Mark Waid, the Speed Force is a quasi-mystical energy/realm existing beyond the speed of light that gives super-speedsters their speed. Run too fast and you become part of it. Savitar and his ninja-like worshipers have to go after Wally West's Flash because he has the most direct connection to the Speed Force in their time period: basically, he's the reigning avatar.

Over the course of six issues, Savitar and his people force Wally to round up all the secondary speedsters of his time to defeat Savitar's plans and stop his killing spree. As noted, ret-conning abounds, but the explanations and exposition go down smoothly. The art by Flash artists Oscar Jiminez and Jose Marzan Jr is straightforward and pleasing, while the manga-influenced, big-heads-and-big-eyes of Impulse penciller Humberto Ramos (two of the six installments appeared in Flash spin-off Impulse, the Kid Flash of the 1990's) is really a matter of taste for the reader. Recommended.

The Flash: Race Against Time: written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn; illustrated by Anthony Castrillo, Oscar Jiminez, Jim Cheung, Sergio Cariello, and others (1996/Collected 1999): The story begun in The Flash: Dead Heat concludes here. The climax of that story-line hurled Wally West millennia into the future, unbeknownst to girlfriend Linda Park and the rest of his loved ones in the 20th century. While Wally tries to make his way home, 27th-century speedster John Fox makes the moves on Linda Park after he arrives in the 20th century as a fugitive from his century.

Problems soon develop for both Fox and Wally as they struggle to adapt to their new centuries. With enjoyably straightforward art, we visit several time periods with Wally while Linda and Fox try to solve an on-going mystery back in the 20th century. Two old Flash villains, a mysterious new Flash villain, and the wife of deceased Flash Barry Allen, Iris Allen, figure into the mystery. And unfortunately for the 20th century, John Fox doesn't make a very good Flash regardless of his attempts to woo Linda Park. Recommended.

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