Friday, May 16, 2014

The Flash #27

"History Lessons Part One"

Brian Buccellato Writer
Patrick Zircher Artist
Matt Hollingsworth Colorist
Carlos M. Mangual Letterer
Harvey Richards Associate Editor
Brian Cunningham and Wil Moss Editors

The cover is by Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth, and I don't like it one bit. It seems Ferry was so worried about not spoiling anything, he basically drew nothing at all. What we have here is a terrified Flash against a vague, colorless background, running away from ... green rags? How is this supposed to draw in readers? And why couldn't Patrick Zircher draw it? I'm not a huge fan of his style, but I think it would have been better for the comic had he done the cover.

Our story actually begins in the year 1848, in the Midwest Territory. We come across two miners in a heated argument. The one named Marshall accuses Sutter of hoarding the precious gems for himself, and in his anger, kills his partner with a pickax.

We then return to now, at the Keystone Diamond District, which has just been robbed by Chroma and Tar Pit (this story takes place before Chroma was killed by Grodd in The Flash #23.1). Flash quickly finds the two villains fighting each other in the Fletcher Square Station. Chroma tells Flash to "taste the rainbow," and tries to hit the speedster with his light-based powers. Flash easily dodges Chroma's attack, and takes him down with one blow. Tar Pit starts to escape by melting deeper underground. Flash runs to a nearby firetruck, borrows an extinguisher, and uses it to freeze Tar Pit. He then realizes the lava-based villain has uncovered a chamber full of skeletons.

Barry Allen returns to the scene with the Central City Police Department to investigate the 17 skeletons. They've apparently been there for years, and Barry wonders why the killer stopped. Captain Darryl Frye suspects it's because the killer is already in prison. Hollis Holden, aka the Broome Hill Butcher, was convicted 20 years ago for murdering 32 people. Barry's from Broome Hill, but he's never heard of this serial killer. Director David Singh then asks James Forrest to handle this case, but he says he's too busy. Barry, who now works in the cold case room, says he has plenty of time and offers to take the case, but Frye refuses.

In the cold case room in the Central City Police Department, Barry talks with his girlfriend, Patty Spivot, about Frye's curious decision. Barry says he'll respect his captain and follow protocol, but he's still going to help Forrest with the case. Barry eventually learns that at least six of the 17 victims died within the past 10 years — while Holden was in Iron Heights Prison. This means there's another killer out there. It also means that killer could be the one who murdered Barry's mom, Nora Allen.

So Barry takes his evidence and suspicions to his dad, Henry Allen, who is still in Iron Heights for Nora's murder. Barry's found old documents where Holden mentions being compelled by an accomplice, and these 17 victims were killed in the same manner as Holden's victims. To increase the coincidences, the same week Nora was killed, two of the victims were abducted from the same neighborhood. To Barry's surprise, Henry doesn't want to hear any of this, and he yells at Barry to stop.

Undeterred, Barry decides to become the Flash to visit Hollis Holden in his cell. Flash asks Hollis who his accomplice was, but Hollis warns him not to go looking for him. When Flash presses the issue, Hollis says the accomplice is already dead. The cell doors then open to let the prisoners out for dinner, and Hollis uses this moment to attempt suicide by jumping off the balcony. Flash catches Hollis, then is attacked by an old foe, Girder. Flash impatiently beats Girder up, then gets a name from Hollis — Archibald Dylan.

Barry then asks Captain Frye for permission to exhume Dylan's grave so he can get a DNA sample to compare to his mom's case. Frye adamantly refuses, and tells Barry to drop the case. Barry says Darryl doesn't understand, since Nora wasn't his mother, to which Darryl admits he loved Nora and had a history with her. Barry is furious he's just now learned about this, and he storms out the office while Darryl insists that Dylan didn't kill Nora.

The Flash then goes to the Central City Cemetery to dig up Dylan's grave anyway. As soon as he reaches the coffin, he's attacked by a green ghost that says, "Fletcher must die!"

The Good:

The mystery of Nora Allen's murder. Finally, we're addressing, or coming close to addressing the great tragedy in Barry's life. Really for the first time since issue #0 are we getting some more details about Nora and Darryl Frye. This was the biggest element missing from the Manapul-Buccellato run, and I'm very glad Buccellato came back to explore it. Interestingly, I believe most of this issue was originally planned for issue #6 — especially the origin of the Gem Cities nickname — but editorial interference required Manapul and Buccellato to start bringing in the Rogues and Grodd. And that was a wise move for the early days of the New 52 — we needed to see some familiar faces after the Mob Rule arc. But by issue #27, it is more than acceptable to go off the beaten path a little bit. I'm not  a huge fan of the Flash fighting ghosts, but I'm not entirely opposed to it, either. Flash made a cameo in Justice League Dark that turned out alright, so why not bring a little Dark to The Flash?

The Bad:

I don't have any major complaints. The art wasn't amazing, but not horrendous. Just good enough to get the job done. Having Chroma quote the Skittles slogan was a bit cheesy, but I was happy to see him, Tar Pit and Girder, even if it was just for a brief moment. This issue does lack the excitement and importance of the Gorilla Warfare and Reverse-Flash stories, but it's still a pretty decent comic book.

Final score: 6 out of 10

Next: Deadman walking

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