Friday, August 14, 2015

The Flash #38

Skeletons in the Closet

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

Our cover is another symbolic collage of sorts. Blue Flash is crashing through one of Mirror Master's mirrors, and at his immediate left is Patty Spivot. Continuing clockwise, we have the current Flash, Mirror Master, Wally West (who is thankfully not in this issue), Iris West, Selkirk, and the new Rogue, Napalm. I have no idea who that's supposed to be in the bottom left corner. Overload? It sure doesn't look like the guy we say last issue. And there isn't anyone in this issue that looks like that. This is just yet another example of these Flash covers not meshing with the actual content inside. Why are covers so problematic for this creative team?

Our story begins now in Central City, where Blue has finally organized all the dead bodies he led Iris to. And even though Patty has a completely different and equally busy job, she's insisting on helping with the examination of these bodies so she can spend more time with her boyfriend. Of course, this kind of negates Blue's earlier statement about doing all this work at super speed, but whatever.

So Blue begins by quickly determining the cause of death for each victim, determining that most of them were killed by Deathstorm, Typhoon, Hyena and Plastique. But on John Doe 63, Blue finds signs of electrical scarring, as well as trauma consistent with a small-scale explosive event, leading him to believe he's found Overload's first victim. Overload, meanwhile, is out complaining to his horse, Alastair, about all the electronics around him, vowing once again to soon silence all the jabbering fools.

Blue's examination is interrupted by the inexplicable appearance of Iris. Even though she's the most despised woman at the CCPD, they still let her just waltz in to this highly sensitive room. Anyway, Iris thanks Blue for giving her the tip, and says she might have a shot at beating out Lois Lane for the Pulitzer Prize this year. But Barry is furious with Iris' award-chasing attitude, and reminds her that these unidentified victims were real people with real lives. Before Iris can defend herself, the police scanner reports Mirror Master being spotted in the financial district (what kind of a city has a financial district?). Iris immediately excuses herself, saying the Rogues usually end up on the front page above the fold. And Blue callously says there might be a body count if Iris is lucky.

Outside the bounds of time and space, in the savage world of the Speed Force, Barry is finally having his suit repaired by the 18th century seamstress, Louise. She comments on how remarkable his suit is, not even needing patches. Barry says he needs clothes that can come back from a beating (like armor ... but he changed that for some reason). Barry then engages Selkirk in another conversation where he strangely seems shocked out of his mind to be surrounded by things from the past and future.

William Selkirk takes Flash to his room, and explains that in the early 20th century he was a student of the Speed Force. He was a specialist in myths and legends of ancient indigenous cultures, and first came across a mention of the Speed Force during his doctoral studies of anthropology at Oxford. He then spent his family's fortune traveling the world to learn the mystery of the speedsters. He found Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia that depicted lightning granting power to people, and stone carvings in Bolivia that suggested the same thing.

Selkirk published his findings, but was derided as an amateur. So he redoubled his efforts, spending years living with obscure tribes and cultures. Eventually, his travels led him to America, where a Goshute shaman directed him to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. There, Selkirk just happened to come across a tear in the Speed Force. In his exuberance, he stepped too close to it and was sucked in. Selkirk met up with some other people, and he quickly became their leader because he knew the most about the Speed Force and had already spent the past few years living in harsh conditions.

Of course, all Barry cares about from this story is whether Selkirk can help him get his powers back. Selkirk assures him that he's just the man to do it, saying he received his lightning scars from attempting a ritual taught to him by pygmy sprinters in the Congo. So Selkirk gathers a team of a guy named Spotter and the Singer twins, Johnny and Taylor (Johnny's a girl), and they head off for the mountain.

In Central City, Mirror Master pops up in a random bank, accompanied by a guy in a fire suit named Napalm. But Napalm is a bit out of control, and Mirror Master warns him to cool it. Apparently Napalm is the third replacement for Heatwave (who I guess is officially dead by this point), and Mirror Master warns Napalm that if he kills anyone, they'll get a fourth replacement. But Napalm doesn't listen to him, and actually begins to burn the very money they're trying to steal. Blue Flash soon arrives, and he and Mirror Master half-heartedly talk about the Rogues returning to crime after being heroes, and how Captain Cold is the only one who came away from Forever Evil looking good.

Napalm gets pretty excited to see the Flash, and he begins burning everything in sight. Mirror Master becomes disgusted with his behavior, and uses his mirrors to protect the civilians while telling Napalm he's failed his tryout. Blue Flash completely ignores how Sam Scudder just saved a bunch of people and says, "You never change, Scudder. Innocent people always get hurt around you, and it's never your fault." So Mirror Master starts to retreat, but as he pulls Napalm through a mirror with him, Blue uses one of the upgrades on his suit to launch a small projectile at the mirror. The mirror shatters with Napalm's arm halfway through, leaving Sam holding a severed arm on his end, and a screaming, bleeding Napalm in the real world.

Sam is shocked to see the Flash behave so violently, and Blue begins to justify his actions, saying everyone saw how careless Napalm was. He picks up a large shard of glass and says that if he kills Napalm right now, he'll protect the innocent people Napalm was likely to kill later. Iris conveniently arrives right at this crucial moment. Blue sees her and stops himself, throwing Napalm to the police and quickly taking off. Iris calls her editor, Dave, to tell him she has a new story — the Flash is a killer.

At the Central City Police Department Downtown Precinct, Patty is returning to her mystery case of Kyle the college kid. She's found a few fibers in his chest cavity, which appear to be made of graphene, a material decades away from commercial use. James Forrest comes by to tell her about the Flash's incident with Mirror Master, and say that Patty has specifically been requested for this case because of the large amounts of blood. Patty has a hard time believing the Flash actually severed a man's arm. Blue suddenly appears and asks Patty about the fibers she's analyzing. But Patty refuses to tell him about it and coldly walks away.

The Good:

Hmm ... I did like that Patty is finally realizing the Barry she's with is a big jerk. And Selkirk's backstory was semi-interesting, although I'm still sad he's not the New 52 version of Savitar. But really, this is one of the sloppier issues from this creative team, and there isn't much good about it.

The Bad:

Iris West. She has become completely unbearable in every possible way. I start to cringe whenever she appears on page. Not only is she suddenly able to appear whenever and wherever is needed to help the plot, but she now fully epitomizes the absolute worst qualities of any journalist. Immediately after being chewed out for placing her career ahead of people, she tactlessly gets excited at another chance to be on the front page. And if future Barry is so angry with how she's handling the story he gave her, then why did he give it to her in the first place? He easily could have uncovered the truth as Barry Allen. I guess we have to chalk this up to another bizarre, inconsistent action of the crazy future Flash.

Lost opportunity with the Rogues. This is actually the first time the current Rogues have shown up in The Flash since they saved Central City from the Crime Syndicate. And all we got was Mirror Master and some expendable Heatwave replacement. Where was Sam's girlfriend, Glider? Where was Weather Wizard? These guys had their own miniseries. But now? Just a quick cameo to remind us of how violent the future Flash is. The few, throwaway lines about the Rogues' role after Forever Evil and Captain Cold could have and should have been the focus of an entire issue. I love this family of criminals, and I really want to know what they're up to.

Final score: 3 out of 10

Next: On the hunt for a killer!

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