Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Flash #33

A Step Behind

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 fighting a grotesque, monstrous villain, whose muscles are ripping right out of his skin and clothes. It really is quite nasty, and a bit unsettling. But also slightly intriguing. Flash doesn't always get to fight enormously buff guys like this, so I am mildly interested. But the most interesting thing to me is the street sign that says Ringo, which I believe is in honor of the late Flash artist Mike Wieringo, who also co-created my favorite character, Impulse.

Now, in the Central City Police Station, Downtown Precinct, we see that Barry's ever-growing case has finally caught the attention of the big boys in charge. So Captain Darryl Frye and Director David Singh have gathered the whole department together for a briefing. Frye explains that five people have recently been killed, each by a different weapon connected to a costumed criminal. Each of the weapons were among those stolen from the department during the Crime Syndicate attack. And all five victims used to belong to the same criminal group.

Singh says there's only one member of that group still alive, Nate Jones, who is now the department's best suspect to be the "Mashup Killer" — a name Iris West came up with in today's paper. Singh is so upset with Iris' snooping, he threatens to fire anyone he catches talking to the reporter. Barry then tries to present some more information about the case, but the impatient Singh brushes him off. Oddly, Darryl does not speak up on Barry's behalf, as you'd think a police captain would like to have as much information as possible. But one person does want to hear what Barry has to say, and that's Detective Seborn, who arrested the group of six criminals. He tells Barry not to worry too much about Singh, and asks Barry to meet him outside in five minutes.

Barry heads downstairs, and you'd never believe who he runs into. That's right, Iris West. And no, she doesn't want to talk to Barry about the Mashup Killer, but, you've guessed it, her nephew Wally. Iris hacked Wally's Facebook account and discovered plans to commit a robbery with some older kids at 3 p.m. that day. Barry says he's busy working overtime on this case, and Iris makes a note about the station authorizing overtime. She then begs Barry to take care of her nephew, saying they apparently made some great connection at the baseball game. She tells Barry that one of Wally's friends has a red hatchback, and she gives him the license plate number. Finally, Barry reluctantly agrees to once again help this boy he hardly knows.

Barry then meets with Seborn, and tells him he dug up all the old case files of the group of six criminals. He analyzed their fingerprints, and found them consistent with several more recent robberies that also involved weapons stolen from the evidence room. But then Barry noticed a new, seventh pair of fingerprints from the robberies. Seborn and Barry both believe this means someone else has joined the crew, and has as good a chance of being Mashup as Nate Jones does. Seborn tells Barry that an informant is supposed to send him Jones's last known address, but he'll be stuck on surveillance duty all day. So Seborn offers to text the address to Barry once he receives it.

Seven years from now, the future blue Flash catches the Trickster right before he walks into Central City Credit Union. Flash runs Trickster up the side of a skyscraper and says he knows he was planning on depositing robots made from rolls of change to steal the bank's vault. Dangling by his ankle over the edge of the building, Trickster unleashes his robots to attack Flash, and tells the "do-gooder" to put him down. But Flash says he knows Trickster was worried about setting off the bank's alarms, so he didn't wear his flying shoes. And to prove that more than just his costume has changed, the future Flash drops Trickster off the skyscraper.

Now, Barry has received the address from Seborn, and has decided to check out the shady-looking waterfront shack alone, and in his police scientist guise. Barry finds Jones at a table with six vials of glowing green liquid stuck in his chest. Jones is already frothing at the mouth by the time Barry pulls the vials out, and he soon transforms into the gigantic, grotesque monster from the cover.

Seven years later, Blue Flash is fighting off Trickster's coin robots, and one of them has a Jeb Bush dollar for its head (meaning that not only will Jeb Bush become the next president, but will have an impressive enough presidency to earn a spot on the national currency). Luckily for Trickster, he has enough robots to distract Flash and save himself. Unluckily for Trickster, the robots aren't very tough, and Flash easily destroys all of them.

Now, Barry easily avoids the monster Jones, and tries to offer help. But Jones is unwilling, or unable to listen, and continues his attack. Barry wraps Jones in chains, but he breaks free of them and destroys the shack in the process. He seizes a small boat to smash Barry with, but his heart gives out and he collapses. Barry says "I tried to warn you," then notices it's almost 3 o'clock. So he ditches Jones, and calls 911 to the riverfront while he rushes off to something much more important — Wally's wellbeing.

Seven years later, Flash continues to threaten Trickster, until Axel Walker finally screams out and begs for his life. Satisfied, Flash saves them both with a whirlwind, and asks Axel how bad he'd have to feel to want to kill himself. He explains that in his past, Flash wasn't able to stop Trickster from attempting the robbery. Trickster's coin robots weren't strong enough to carry the vault, and it fell on a young family with a one-month old girl, killing them all. Devastated, Trickster jumped off the very skyscraper he was just dangling from. Future Flash shows Axel the newspaper clipping that printed his suicide note, and makes him promise to turn away from a life of crime. Axel agrees, and gives Flash the key to his secret stash of gadgets.

Now, Flash spends a few seconds looking for the red hatchback, but he's shocked to see it's already 3:08 p.m. Turns out Wally and his friends are extremely punctual thieves, and they have already been caught. Flash hears the report on the police scanner, and actually takes Wally away from the police before they can load him into the car. Flash doesn't take Wally far — just around the corner — and apologizes for being too late to prevent the crime. He takes all the blame, and tells Wally to run away. But Wally refuses, saying he'd prefer to share the same fate of his friends. He then makes a stupid quip about Flash liking to lock up Wests, referencing his beloved uncle Daniel. The cops then find Wally just around the corner, and thank Flash for catching him. Flash asks what'll happen to Wally, and they he'll get some leeway since he's so young. But this is the second strike on Wally's record, counting the spray paint incident.

Later, Barry visits his oft-neglected girlfriend, Patty Spivot, who has analyzed the serum Jones injected himself with. It was a homemade derivative of Bane's famous Venom, which was also stolen from the evidence room. Patty says Singh has already declared Jones to be the Mashup Killer, and has closed the case. But this doesn't make any sense to Barry. As he tells Patty what happened, he says it felt like Jones was waiting for him. And when he talks about how Seborn sent him the address, he suddenly gets an idea. Checking the fingerprints on Seborn's mug, Barry is able to confirm that the friendly detective is actually the Mashup Killer.

The Good:

The Seborn/Mashup thing is interesting, but not terribly so. Although I am glad to finally have a name for the case — now that's all but wrapped up. But the real intrigue in this issue came with the future Flash and Trickster. And I'm really torn on it. On one hand, I'm glad that Blue Flash isn't a cold-blooded killer. He's willing to help his villains reform whenever he can. But on the other hand, this makes me retroactively question how he dealt with Mirror Master. That was another case of a Rogue accidentally killing innocent people, but Blue Flash felt Mirror Master deserved to die, while Trickster deserved a second chance. I don't see the logic in this. And maybe that's the point. This future version of the Flash has become twisted past the point of sane reasoning. We've seen him brutally murder two of his former foes, sympathetically watch one of them die from cancer, and convince another to give up a life of crime. And he's supposedly doing all these random deeds on his way to kill his past self, which I think he should have attempted to do first. I can't decide if I like this or not, so I will neither add nor take away a point on this matter.

The Bad:

Jerky Iris. Barry tells her he's busy and is not allowed to talk to her, but she assures him she's not going to press him for details on her story, and proceeds to go into another lengthy sob story about Wally. But as soon as Barry drops one snippet about the case, Iris eagerly jumps on it like the ravenous vermin all too many journalists are equated with. Iris wasn't alway like this. This New 52 series started with her trying to write a negative story about the Flash. But when she couldn't find enough evidence to support that premise, she decided to drop the story. But now she's pissing everybody off for no good reason, and is directly lying to the man she is also coercing into taking care of her nephew. Guess what, Iris? That's your responsibility! Not Barry's! Tell a real police officer about Wally's robbery, not a scientist you happened to date six years ago.

Idiot Barry. Is it me, or is our main character getting stupider as this series goes on? Why didn't he tell anyone else that Seborn found Jones' last known address? Even the irrational Director Singh would have to agree that this is the best lead toward closing the Mashup Killer case. There should have been a full squad of policemen to check out the place. Barry then battles Jones in his street clothes, not taking the millisecond to put on his Flash uniform. He's lucky Jones didn't survive, because that would have been a potentially dangerous criminal who knows the Flash's secret identity. Also, I kind of blame Barry for Jones' death. He sees the monster has no pulse, and basically says, "I told you so." He then takes off to save Wally without even trying to revive the transformed man. And what the heck was he trying to do with Wally?! Kidnapping him from the police? Resisting arrest is a pretty big no-no, and that will only hurt Wally's case. And if Flash really wanted Wally to get away, then why did he only take him like six feet away? At least when Flash tries to break the law, he's really bad about it. And on the bright side, this is the first time I've liked anything about this new Wally. Unlike Barry and Iris in this issue, he actually demonstrated some moral fiber by being willing to accept punishment for his crime.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: Showdown!

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