Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Flash #34

Collision Course

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 is misleading for several reasons. One, there never was a Mashup Gang — only a Mashup Killer, who used the weapons of these separate villains who had nothing to do with each other. Two, none of these villains are active criminals anymore — they were arrested and had their weapons confiscated. And three, nothing like this scene happens in this issue. Flash does battle Seborn, the singular Mashup Killer. Since he has all these guys' weapons, I guess you could argue that this cover is a symbolic representation of that fight.

Our story picks right up where last issue left off. In Central City's Downtown Precinct, Barry Allen has just deduced that Detective Seborn is the Mashup Killer. Barry's girlfriend, Patty Spivot, can't believe this, saying Seborn is one of the few good cops on the force. But Barry points out all the evidence against him, most notably his fingerprints left at all the crime scenes. A good detective would have been wearing gloves during the investigation. Barry also realizes that Seborn set Barry up to be killed by the Venomed-out Nate Jones once he learned Barry discovered the seventh pair of prints. Patty implores Barry to go to Captain Frye with this evidence — like he should have done at the beginning — but Barry says he has to take down Seborn now. Seborn will soon learn Barry survived the attack, and will likely go after him and his loved ones with his stockpile of deadly weapons.

The Flash runs off into the night and finds Detectives Seborn and Parker investigating a robbery at a ... um ... furry club called The Zoo. Awkward. Anyway, Flash immediately confronts Seborn, calling him the Mashup Killer. Parker says that's a very serious accusation about his partner, but Seborn chooses to immediately turn on the offensive. He pulls a gun on his partner, then teleports away before the Flash can grab him. Flash quickly catches up to Seborn at his car, where he is retrieving more of his stolen weapons. Seborn also takes the time to kindly explain that he used the evidence room to build a criminal empire with its cash, drugs, and weapons, including the Skipper's teleport.

Seborn then knocks down Flash and Parker with a hydro gun of some sort that can create an enormous amount of water/foam/snow. The art isn't particularly clear. As Flash fights his way through the wet stuff, he asks why Seborn went bad. Again, Seborn politely and clearly explains everything. Seborn said he saw many cops get killed during the Crime Syndicate invasion, so he switched sides to survive. He tracked down the crew of six guys he arrested years earlier and convinced them to help him raid the evidence room. Seborn says he didn't care about leaving evidence at all his robberies because he was convinced all the heroes were dead. Flash then puts together the rest of the story, realizing that Seborn tried to seamlessly slip back into the police force when the Justice League did return, but Seborn had to take out his crew before they linked him to the crimes. Flash says that Seborn injected Nate Jones with the homemade Venom and left him to kill Barry Allen. Flash tells Seborn that Allen survived and showed him the evidence against Seborn.

Seborn pulls out the Lasher's whip on the Flash, but it does nothing. So he next tries a glove that fires small rockets full of nails. Flash decides to vibrate through the nails, but when he tries to, he's met by a strange resistance from the Speed Force, which hurts him quite a bit. Seborn tells Flash he never wanted it to go down this way, but he's scared to death of being an ex-cop in Iron Heights Prison. Now that Flash is all beat up, Seborn gets the whip to work and ties up the Scarlet Speedster. Flash tells him it's over, pointing out all the nearby security cameras that have caught the whole thing. But Seborn says since he's already a criminal, then he might as well be the one who killed the Flash.

Parker then shoots Seborn in the arm, saying he wants to make sure his former partner stands trial. Flash makes sure Seborn doesn't have anymore weapons on him, then turns down Parker's request to stick around and answer questions for the authorities. For some reason, Director Singh and Patty are the first to arrive on the scene (I thought their jobs mostly kept them in the office). Parker explains everything that happened, and mentions that the Flash got pretty beat up and bled quite a bit. Singh is suddenly very interested in collecting the Flash's blood to determine his secret identity. Luckily, Patty is the one collecting the blood, so she'll make sure Barry's secret stays safe.

Speaking of Barry, he then casually walks up to the crime scene in his work clothes. Patty pulls him aside and points out that he was almost killed because he didn't take her advice to involve the police on this case. But Barry brushes that off and instead talks about how something's wrong with the Speed Force. It's causing him to lose time, and it prevented him from safely vibrating through the nails. Patty notices Barry is still bleeding through his shirt, so she gives him her jacket and tells him she'll take care of his blood samples to protect his identity. Patty also assures Barry that they'll figure out what's going on with the Speed Force, but she says he needs to stop pushing her away. Barry starts to deny this, but Patty flatly points out that he spends more time fighting crime and hanging out with Wally West than he does with her. Barry apologizes, saying he thought their relationship was the one thing he didn't need to worry about. He promises to do better, but says he has one more thing to do for Wally.

Later, at Iron Heights Penitentiary, Barry has arranged for Iris and Wally to meet Daniel. Normally, Daniel is not allowed any communication from his family — even Wally's letters were sent back — but Barry was able to call in some favors to make this one-time exception. Wally says he wants to prove Daniel's innocence so he can come home, since he and Iris are the only family he has left now. But Daniel shocks the 12-year-old by admitting his guilt. Daniel says the Flash was right to put him in jail, and he's thankful for it since it's given him a chance to learn to be a better man. He encourages Wally to stay out of trouble to avoid ending up like him, and he challenges him to be the first man to do the West name proud.

Wally and Iris walk away in tears, but Barry stays behind. He congratulates Daniel on his performance but regrets he had to bribe him to do it. Daniel vows to one day escape and exact revenge on the Flash and Barry Allen. In the meantime, Daniel threatens to reach out to and corrupt Wally if Barry misses one of his payments, for what must be a rather exorbitant bribe. Meanwhile, Officer Setendjian leads Seborn into his new cell, which he will be sharing with three men he framed for murder — Mogul, Squall and Merge.

Seven years from now, the blue future Flash prevents another past villain from committing suicide. I'm guessing this is the first appearance of the New 52 version of the Top, since the man's name tag says Roscoe, and the Flash's newspaper clipping appears to say, "Spinning killer shoots self." Six years from now, Blue Flash saves five people from a fire; and five and a half years from now, he saves a family from a capsized yacht.

Five years from now, Blue Flash collapses in an alley and has his computer analyze the Speed Force anomaly. The computer says the rupture remains too wide to seal, and recommends he travel back in time an additional five years. But first Blue Flash wants to save Wally, who is currently chasing with Iris chasing after Daniel. I'm not sure how they hope to catch up to the Reverse-Flash in their car, but they're determined to help their family member. Daniel, whose costume is now yellow and black, is screaming for the Flash to show himself. Blue Flash shows up and explains that Flash isn't hiding, just running late. He tells Daniel that he's the result of a lifetime of being late and living with the cost, but now he's going to be the end of both Daniel and himself.

The Good:

Patty Spivot. Yeah, I thought it was stupid how she has to be chasing around Barry's blood and hiding it from Singh. But I absolutely love how she stood up to Barry in this issue. He is spending way too much time with some random kid and his ex-girlfriend. And he's getting really stupid and sloppy with his crime fighting, both as the Flash and as Barry Allen. Patty had every right to rip Barry a new one, but she did it in a kind, loving way. I mean, how many girlfriends take off their coat and give it to their boyfriend? I'm happy Patty is willing to give Barry another chance, but personally, I'm running out of patience with him.

Exciting climax. This is the story we've been waiting for. Wally's death was supposed to be the big event that triggered future Barry's madness, and now we're finally seeing him get ready to prevent that. I would have liked to see more of Blue Flash saving the Top instead of saving a handful of random people. And I am a little confused as to why the future Flash has become progressively kinder the further he travels back in time. If it weren't for Reverse-Flash, I bet he'd be saving kittens from trees now. But I am excited. This definitely feels like Venditti and Jensen have been waiting (possibly even stalling) for this moment, so it's nice to finally have it.

The Bad:

Stupid Barry. Our main hero really is getting stupider each issue. Once again, Barry refused to go to the police when he should have. And once again, Barry put Wally ahead of his girlfriend. "You're right, Patty. I am spending too much time with that Wally kid. I'll make it up to as soon as I do one more, tremendously expensive favor for him." Let that sink in for a moment. Barry is bribing Daniel to scare Wally straight. How far will Barry go for this boy? Did he also bribe the guards to arrange the meeting with Daniel in the first place? And more importantly, what happens when Wally learns that Daniel was bribed to say the right thing? Barry is using a lie to set this boy on the right path. Ugh! I so want to smack Barry right now!

Stupid Seborn. This detective has carefully and cleverly been covering his tracks for a long time now. And with the last member of the crew dead from an apparent self-inflicted drug overdose, the case is officially closed and Seborn is off scot-free. And Barry's proof of the fingerprints isn't enough to overturn that. Seborn can easily claim that the whole department's been overworked, and in his stress and rush, he forgot to wear gloves while investigating the crime scenes. Or he could even argue that the men he once arrested were trying to frame him. But when Flash accuses him of being the Mashup Killer, he doesn't even attempt to deny it. His partner is initially on his side, and Patty mentions corruption in the robbery division, so there's a good chance Seborn could get a few other cops to cover up for him. But instead, Seborn dives into a lackluster fight with the Flash, in which he only teleported once, and was immediately thrown into a cell with three angry criminals who will do unspeakable things to him. Even if all the police in Central City were honest, good cops, they still wouldn't consign a fellow cop to such a gruesome fate. They would make sure Seborn was treated fairly. A better conclusion to this story would have been Barry failing to prove Seborn is the Mashup Killer, but Seborn pulls him aside and whispers the truth, then walks away like business as usual. Then Barry has to constantly be looking over his shoulder, wondering when Seborn will strike.

Unsavory art. I am not a fan of Brett Booth's style. It's all flash and no substance (which I guess is fine for The Flash). All his characters have the exact same tall and thin body type, and he frequently bends them in unrealistic poses. But despite all the minor complaints I have with his work, it usually is done at a fairly high standard. This issue, though, seemed just a notch below his usual standard. It's not quite straight-up sloppiness, but a few things were pretty bad, such as the water that didn't look like water and the 17-year-old Wally looking exactly like the 12-year-old Wally. At least give one of them a different hair style! And the reason I choice the word unsavory was because of the furry club. I don't know who's responsible for throwing that in, and it's really not that big of a deal because the issue didn't dwell on it, but it still felt just a bit off color for me. I know this comic is rated Teen, but what does that even mean? Personally, I would prefer The Flash not to include such things.

Final score: 4 out of 10

Next: Five years later — the battle for Wally West's life begins!

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