Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Flash #31

Through a Glass Darkly

Robert Venditti & Van Jensen Writers
Brett Booth Penciller
Norm Rapmund Inker
Andrew Dalhouse Colorist
Dezi Sienty Letterer
Booth, Rapmund & Dalhouse Cover
Amedeo Turturro Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Group Editor

Our cover shows the Flash grotesquely covered in open sores and fungus. This is presumably the work of this issue's new villain, but sadly, nothing like this happens inside. And that's a real shame, because I kind of would like to see a story where Flash has to fight off a serious infection. Theoretically, it would be pretty easy for Flash to overcome it with his super speed, but a gifted writer could find an interesting way to make it a serious challenge. But that's not the story we get here.

Our story begins now in Central City, which is surprisingly covered in a lot of anti-Flash graffiti. Perhaps young Wally West has stepped up his game, or maybe the long-forgotten Dr. Darwin Elias is using this graffiti as a passive-regressive way to get back at the Flash. Anyway, we see a man in a black suit and gold gas mask chasing a guy named Rick. Rick says they had a deal, but the guy in the suit says Rick must have known he wouldn't let him live, as he sprays him with a sinister-looking gas.

Fortunately, the murder was captured on bystanders' cellphones and put up all over social media. When Barry Allen arrives on the scene, he takes a look at one of the witnesses' phone and immediately recognizes the masked man as Black Mold — a former villain who's been inactive for the past few years. Captain Darryl Frye, also at the murder scene for some reason, was initially upset with Barry for spending all his time talking to the witnesses, but when Barry made the Black Mold connection, Darryl said he should get full reinstatement to the crime lab. I wasn't aware Barry still hadn't been fully reinstated. He hasn't seemed to be limited in any way at his job.

Anyway, Iris West soon shows up at the murder scene and rather unprofessionally asks Barry again to spend time with her nephew. Barry reluctantly agrees to help, and Iris schedules a playdate for latter that day. (I'm not sure when any of these events are taking place. Everything seems to be late at night or very early in the morning.) Patty Spivot, who also coincidentally is working at this murder scene, is understandably jealous to see Barry make plans with Iris and Wally. Patty points out that Barry hasn't been sleeping lately or spending any time with her, his live-in girlfriend. Barry promises he'll make time for her, and Patty warns him about running himself into the ground.

Sixteen years from now, the blue future Flash arrives in front of the Central City Museum of Natural History as it's hosting its 75th Annual Charity Gala. Apparently the future Flash only intended to come back four years, as he's happy he made it to the gala in time.

Now, in the Central City Police Station Downtown Precinct, Barry does something that the police should have done a long time ago — take stock of which weapons were raided from the evidence room during the Crime Syndicate's attack. Director Singh finds Barry in the evidence room, and is predictably unreasonably upset with him. But Barry says he's learned more about last night's homicide. Off panel, he tracked down the real Black Mold, who's in traction in the hospital. Apparently he also escaped during Iron Heights during the Crime Syndicate attack, but somehow angered the crazed villains from Earth 3 and was beaten half to death.

Barry has also learned that the victim from the Black Mold case and the victim from the Mogul case were both part of a robbery crew that was arrested seven years ago. And through some more digging, Barry learned that two other members of this crew were reportedly killed by some villains named Squall and Pica. But as with Black Mold and Mogul, their weapons were also stolen from the evidence room. Barry suspects all these weapons might be in the possession of one man now. Singh unreasonably orders Barry to look into this case on his own time, but he does admit he hopes Barry's wrong.

Sixteen years from now, we see that not only is Darryl Frye still working, but has been promoted to chief of police. But despite his high rank and old age, Frye is on duty tonight, protecting the rude and drunk mayor at the museum gala. Suddenly, Mirror Master appears in the museum and creates a bunch of mirrors in the main room. He instructs the partygoers to deposit their valuables into the mirrors, and when they resist, he takes the mayor's wife hostage. The mayor begs the cops to surrender their weapons, and Frye agrees, ordering his men to do the same. The blue future Flash then arrives, and shoves Frye into a mirror, to which Frye oddly curses at him and tells him to stay out of this.

Now, Flash is running around the perpetual twilight of Central City, investigating the two other murders that were hastily written off as the work of Pico and Squall. Flash finds nothing at the first location, but shortly after entering the second location, he's approached by detectives Seborn and Parker. For some reason, Flash decides it'll be better to explain himself as Barry Allen, so he quickly takes off his uniform before speaking with the cops. He tells the detectives he found a connection between the murder victims, but Singh told him to work the case on his own time. Seborn and Parker say they were the ones who originally took down that crew seven years ago, and they also realized those criminals were being picked off. Barry asks if they've found anything, but they haven't, saying all the murder scenes are almost too clean. They then mention that it's a quarter to 8, and Barry realizes that his watch is running slow and he's late to meet up with Iris and Wally.

At Civic Park, Iris is quite upset at Barry for being late, and Wally is mad at the world. When Wally sees Barry was Iris' special guest, he flips out, saying, "He's the guy who busted me for terrorizing the city with a can of spray paint." Barry angrily remind Wally he was vandalizing freshly repaired buildings with anti-Flash graffiti, and he asks him why he hates the Flash so much. Wally says it's because Flash put his uncle Daniel in jail and didn't save his mom from the Crime Syndicate. Wally then storms off to the car, leaving Iris to beg Barry to give him another chance. She admits she doesn't know anything about her nephew, since Wally's mom never brought him around. But Iris feels Barry can relate to him because of his family's history. So Barry agrees to take them to a Diamonds baseball game later that week.

Sixteen years from now, Flash has shoved all the cops and guests into the Mirror World, which amuses the Mirror Master, who is also impressed by Flash's new costume. But when Frye puts his gun to Mirror Master's head, he falls right into Flash's plan and escapes into the real world. Flash promptly breaks Mirror Master's arm, steals his mirror gun, and hands it to Frye, telling him to wait a couple of minutes before freeing everyone from the Mirror World. Flash then explains to Sam Scudder that a freak earthquake will soon strike, not causing a whole lot of damage, but enough to shatter windows and mirrors.

Flash shows Sam tomorrow's newspaper, which says 11 people were killed during Mirror Master's robbery. Flash explains that he's from four years in the future, and the "current" version of himself was unable to save those 11 people because the Speed Force is ruptured, causing him to lose time and constantly be late. Blue Flash says he's going back to fix everything, but first he wants to make sure idiots like Mirror Master never hurt anyone again. The earthquake then begins, and Flash takes off, leaving Mirror Master to be killed by his shattering mirrors.

The Good:

Building a decent mystery. I kind of like where this main story is going. Someone has taken advantage of the chaos caused by the big Forever Evil event, and has made off which a bunch of powerful weapons left behind by some obscure villains. It's a pretty neat plan, and for the most part, I really like how Barry's putting it all together. There was one critical scene that occurred off panel, which bugged me, and I wish Director Singh would be a bit more supportive, but otherwise, I think this a pretty nice mystery for the series.

The Bad:

Iris West. Seriously, Iris, what the heck? You are interrupting Barry at the scene of a murder to beg him to spend time with your wayward nephew. I can't believe nobody called her out for that unprofessional behavior. And why on Earth does Iris insist on forcing Barry and Wally together, even after Wally made it perfectly clear that he hates Barry, since he was the guy who arrested him? I know Barry also lost his mother, but it doesn't make a lick of sense for Iris to want Barry and only Barry to be the positive male role model that saves Wally from a life of crime.

General lack of logic. I have enough small complaints to add them together to one legitimate complaint, I feel. First is David Singh. I know he's under a lot of pressure to close cases quickly, but when Barry presents him with so much evidence and logic connecting several small cases into one big one, shouldn't the director of the crime lab show some support? Four former associates have been murdered in a short period of time. This isn't something to sweep under the rug and solve off hours. Next is the future Chief Darryl Frye. Mirror Master arrives, takes a hostage, and Frye immediately surrenders. But when Flash shows up, he tells him not to get involved and curses him. Shouldn't Darryl be a little grateful at the sight of the Flash here? Or did he think he could take down Mirror Master by himself without a gun? And lastly, why did Wally describe his vandalism as "terrorizing the city"? That hardly seems like something a 12-year-old would say. I know Booth has a hard time drawing him like a 12-year-old — he makes everyone too tall — but couldn't Venditti and Jensen have given him some more age-appropriate dialogue, like "I was just having fun" or "goofing off"?

I also don't agree with the future Flash's logic, but at least he does have a logic to his actions. He's worried about his ultimate plan failing, so before he starts that, he's going to revisit some of his biggest failures. I think he should go straight back to the time when the Speed Force first ruptured, and not waste any energy on what happened after that moment. But that's just my opinion.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next time: Now that we know who the Black Mold is, we can take a look at Venditti and Jensen's retelling of Flash's origin in Secret Origins #7.

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