The Flash #33 is the first chapter of a Dark Nights: Metal tie-in story entitled “Bats out of Hell.” Normally, I am not much of a fan of tie-in issues for big event stories that take place through multiple different titles. The stories often lack depth and come across like a cheap cash grab. Having said that, I am a die-hard Barry Allen fan so I am not going to skip this issue even if I am not that enamored with the Dark Nights: Metal story. Kevin already reviewed this issue. However, we both have slightly different takes on what happened. Let’s hit this review for The Flash #33.
Words: Joshua Williams
Art: Howard Porter
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Flash and Superman racing. We see that Steel is hooked up to a device that has created a portal to the Phantom Zone. Barry thinks how he and Superman have raced many times before. However, this time, Barry wants Superman to win. That the Multiverse depends on it.
Flash recounts the events of Dark Nights: Metal #1. Flash brings the reader up to speed about how the Dark Multiverse has gained entrance into our heroes’ universe. That the Dark Multiverse is a world of chaos. That the leader of the evil Batmen is Barbatos. That they first appeared in their world when Challengers Mountain appeared in Gotham.
Barbatos is a demon who used Batman as a doorway to our heroes’ world. And Barbatos brought with him seven nightmare versions of Bruce Wayne. These seven nightmare versions of Bruce Wayne have wrought havoc and chaos across the globe.
Flash says that Superman believes that their Batman is still alive. That he is somewhere in this unknown realm that Steel has opened a portal to.
We see Flash and Superman building up maximum speed. Barry says that he can hear Bruce’s voice in his head saying what he always says whenever Barry is uncertain: “Just run faster, Barry!”
Flash then touches Superman’s hand and transfers all of his speed into Superman. This supercharges Superman and he flies like a bolt of light through Steel’s portal and disappears.
Steel asks Barry if he thinks that Superman made it into the other dimension. Barry says asks “How can you see Superman fly and not be inspired? He will find Batman. I know it.” (This. This right here. This is why I love Barry Allen. This is why I love DC Comics when they embrace their core values.)
Barry and Steel look at the Cosmic Tuning Tower that serves the role of keeping the multiverse aligned. Steel says that he wishes they could study the Cosmic Tuning Tower. Barry tells Steel to ignore it. That the known Multiverse exists on different vibrational planes. That the Cosmic Tuning Tower was designed to align them.
Flash says that Batman studying the Tower is part of why they are all in this mess to begin with. Barry then says that he has felt the vibrations coming off of the Cosmic Tuning Tower before. That they are familiar.
Steel then says that they are men of science. That Batman had no business examine a device like the Cosmic Tuning Tower. Flash responds that they will deal with that after Superman finds Batman. That they are going to need the Cosmic Tuning Tower to keep the portal open so that Superman and Batman can come home.
Barry then uses the Justice League’s satellite relay to communicate with the other Justice Leaguers. Barry tells the other Leaguers that Superman entered the Phantom Zone and is looking for Batman. Barry asks if any of the Leaguers have found any Nth Metal already.
We see Wonder Woman, Doctor Fate and Kendra Saunders (That’s Hawkwoman? That looks like Snake Eyes.) Wondy says that they are at the Rock of Eternity but have not found any Nth Metal, yet.
We see Hal Jordan and Mr. Terrific in space. Hal says that they are heading to the hidden heart of the real Thanagar Empire. (Uhhh, so there is a fake Thanagar Empire? And is that Plastic Man that Hal has in a green energy ball? Cause it looks like him. But, Hal only mentions himself and Mr. Terrific. It must not be. I have no clue what this orb thing is.)
We see Aquaman and Deathstroke the Terminator underwater. Aquaman says that he is not happy being stuck with greedy pond scum like Deathstroke. Deathstroke replies “I’m right here.” (Yeah…so, Deathstroke is not a character like Deadpool. He does not have a sense of humor or engage in witty banter.)
Aquaman says that if the Nth Metal can kill these evil Batmen then he will risk Atlantis to breach the Forbidden Halls beneath.
Flash replies that he knows all of the Leaguers are stressed. But, they have to remember that they cannot let their frustrations get in the way of their teamwork. (Yes! Imagine that! A super hero team that acknowledges stress and problems but emphasizes the importance of teamwork over all else! A positive message! Imagine that. Another reason I love Barry Allen and DC Comics when they embrace who they are.)
Flash says that he and Steel have accomplished their immediate task of getting Superman into the other dimension. Flash asks the other Leaguers where can he help out now.
Cyborg then cuts in and says that the Leaguers are out of time. That “they” are coming. Cyborg tells all of the Leaguers to “run.”
Suddenly, we see a portal open up in front of Wonder Woman, Dr. Face and Kendra “Snake Eyes” Saunders and suck them up. We see a similar portal open in front of Mr. Terrific and Hal Jordan and suck up those two heroes. We then see another similar portal appear and suck up Aquaman and Deathstroke. Aquaman exclaims that this is worse than any tide drag he has ever encountered. Deathstroke quips, “My rate is going up!” (Yeah…still not Deadpool.)
We then see a portal open up in front of Flash and Steel. Out come two evil Batmen: Murder Machine and Devastator. (I am having a horrid 1990’s flashback right about now.)
Murder Machine (A Cyborg styled Batman) says that Steel is his. Devastator (A Doomsday style Batman) says he is okay with that since he has already killed a Superman. Steel locks horns with Murder Machine. Flash battles Devastator.
Murder Machine quickly gains the upper hand on Steel. Murder Machine says that there was no version of Steel on his world. That is because Steel was not important enough. Murder Machine takes down Steel and then snaps Steel’s hammer in half.
Devastator says that he will present the Cosmic Tuning Tower to his master after he rebuilds it. Devastator then smashes the Cosmic Tuning Tower. (Not sure I get the logic in this move.) Barry is stunned and says that Superman and Batman are not trapped since the portal has been destroyed.
Steel barely regains consciousness and tells Flash to get out of here and go find help. Murder Machine says that the only thing the Barry Allen of his world only had one great accomplishment: dying.
Barry replies that he has a bad habit of racing death and winning. Barry takes off running and a portal suddenly appears in front of him and teleports him to Central City. Barry curses himself for allowing Murder Machine to taunt Barry into a trap.
Barry sees the residents of Central City suffering from the powers of Red Death. Iris comes up to Barry. Barry holds her and apologizes for judging her like he did. Barry says that Red Death’s powers have made Iris so brittle. Iris replies that she misses Barry so much. Iris says that he is sorry that she killed Thawne.
Barry says that he knows. Barry says that he won’t let another moment pass without Iris. Barry says that he will get Iris and Wally out of Central City and save everyone.
Suddenly, the earth under the Flash splits open and Barry falls into the opening. We see five different panels showing possible futures. A voice says, “…In the end…All roads lead back…to darkness.”
The first panel has what I am guessing is an Old Man Barry Allen holding a dead or dying Iris Allen in his arms. The second panel shows Reverse Flash shaking hands with Captain Cold. We see Mirror Master, Golden Glider and Weather Master also in the scene. A third panel has Reverse Flash character with a Luchadore style mask holding a defeated and unconscious Flash. A fourth panel has Thawne in a Monitor style suit and holding four earth-like globes in his hands. A fifth panel has Barry standing over the corpses of the real Wally West and the New 52 Wally.
We see Barry landing on the ground. He is surrounded by pure darkness. We see Aquaman, Hal Jordan and Wonder Woman in the exact same situation. Cyborg then contacts the Leaguers and tells them that he is using every bit of his programming to keep them talking. But, it is getting harder for him to do that. Cyborg says that everyone has been taken to Gotham. That Barbatos wants the four of them together. Cyborg says, “It’s…bad…It’s..He wants to…” and then Cyborg’s communication gets cut off.
Hal comments how the darkness is impenetrable. Suddenly, we hear a voice that says, “Don’t worry, Hal. Everything is going to be okay.” Barry exclaims that it is great to hear Bruce’s voice. Barry asks if Bruce is in the darkness with them, too.
Bruce replies for Barry to let him show Barry the light. Suddenly, the lights get turned on for each of the four Leaguers. We see that Barry is in a Batcave with the outfits of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery hanging in glass tubes. Hal is in a cosmic looking Batcave. Aquaman is in an underwater Batcave. Wonder Woman is in a Batcave full of weapons of war including Rocket Red suits of armor.
Bruce says that he is not the Bruce that the Leaguers were looking for. Bruce says that on his world he developed ways to eliminate the Justice League. Bruce says that when the Leaguers discovered this that they were disappointed in him. That he had violated their trust. Bruce says it was a dark time for the Justice League. Bruce says that the truth is that he was holding back.
Bruce asks for the Leaguers to imagine what seven Bruce Waynes could accomplish. What horrors they could be capable of creating. Bruce says that each of them developed their own unique murderous Batcaves meticulously designed with each of the four Leaguers in mind.
Bruce says that he hopes that the four Leaguers appreciate their work because the Leaguers are going to die here. We see that the Bruce Wayne who is narrating this scene is the Joker Batman.
Joker Batman starts laughing like crazy. We see Flash battling a Flash styled Batman. Hal is battling a Green Lantern Batman. Wonder Woman is battling a Medieval knight looking Batman with a Wonder Woman logo on his chest. Aquaman is battling a pirate styled Batman.
Barry narrates that he can hear Bruce’s voice. But, for the first time it is not telling him to go faster. It is telling him that there is nowhere to run. End of issue.
The Good: The Flash #33 was a fun read. This issue felt like a Silver Age comic with modern sensibilities. This issue does everything that a quality super hero title should do. Williams places an emphasis on action and adventure. The main objective of this issue is to entertain the reader. It is a pure and simple approach that is a winning combination every time.
Williams treats the reader to a story where the various Justice Leaguers exhibit good teamwork. The Leaguers have faith and trust in each other. Such a refreshing break from the constant deconstruction of super heroes where they devolve into distrusting and unlikeable characters that make it hard for the reader to decide who are the villains and who are the heroes. I am looking at you Marvel.
No, Williams is not delivering avant-garde story with The Flash #33. Williams is not trying to shatter the medium of super hero comic books. What is Williams doing with this issue? Fun. Williams cranks out a super hero story that is fun. Pure and simple. I am more than fine with that. This is one of the main reasons that I purchase a mainstream super hero title anyway.
Williams builds The Flash #33 around the theme of hope. This is evident in the opening scene where Barry refuses to give into the seemingly hopeless predicament that our heroes find themselves in. Barry then uses hope to try and rally the Leaguers around him including Steel whose pessimism is shown to be useless when confronting a dire situation.
The continuing theme of hope in this issue plays nicely into Barry’s core personality traits. The theme of hope also provides for a nice contrast with the end of this issue. Even though the hook ending places our heroes in ever increasing hopeless peril the reader is on the edge of their seat wondering if Barry will be able to keep his heart in the battle and find a way to win.
Williams delivers some solid character work in The Flash #33. Williams displays a nice feel for Barry’s character. Williams taps into Barry Allen’s core personality traits in The Flash #33. Barry is a classic hero with a positive attitude and a strong will to fight the good fight until the very end. It is great to see a super hero who has heart and spirit and keeps a positive outlook despite how grim the situation may be around them.
I particularly enjoyed how Williams employed Superman’s character to get over with the reader the positive attributes of both Superman and Barry Allen. Williams has Barry commenting how inspiring it is whenever he sees Superman fly. This was a neat way to continue to build up Superman’s role as the main source of inspiration within the DCU. It also served as a way to emphasize Barry’s positive attitude.
What was also cool about this moment was that it takes place during an action scene. I love when writers use action scenes as a vehicle to perform character work. It helps to give the action scenes more depth and meaning.
Speaking of action, Williams loads up The Flash #33 with plenty of fighting and tension to keep this issue a lively read. There is never a dull moment in this issue. Williams makes sure that the reader never has to go too long without some sort of action or excitement in the story. This is much appreciated when so many super hero comics deliver nothing more than an endless stream of talking heads.
Williams’ dialogue is solid. It is nothing spectacular. However, it gets the job done and effectively gives each of the characters’ their own unique external voices. What I appreciate is that Williams is not trying to impress the reader with his ability to generate TV sitcom level witty banter. Williams is not concerned with getting himself as a writer over with the reader but, instead, is focused on getting the characters and the story over with the reader. This is much appreciated. More comic book writers need to realize that it is not all about them and their agendas. That it is always about the characters. That is why people buy mainstream super hero comic books.
The plotting and pacing in The Flash #33 is excellent. The issue starts fast and never lets up until the end. Williams treats the reader to a nice blend of dialogue heavy scenes and action scenes. There is plenty of fighting to keep the issue lively. Williams employs good scene transitions that provide a nice flow to the story.
The pacing in this issue is brisk. Williams keeps the tension going throughout the entire issue. The reader has the constant feeling that something bad is going to happen at the turn of every page. Williams moves the story forward with a purpose. The Flash #33 is a fairly quick read. There are no slow or dull moments.
The Flash #33 starts off issue with a one page splash shot full of energy. Williams then gives the reader a great four page scene that fills in readers as to what has happened with Dark Nights: Metal. This four page scene also kicks off the initial plot line of Superman rescuing Batman which serves as the basis for the story for the remainder of the issue. I appreciate that Williams makes sure with this opening scene that The Flash #33 is new reader friendly. You do not need to have reader Dark Knights: Metal to enjoy this issue.
Williams then gives the reader a nice three page scene filling in the reader on the structure of the Multiverse and the Dark Multiverse as well as establishing where all the various Leaguers are located and their missions. Again, this issue is new reader friendly and does a nice job explaining how the Dark Knights: Metal storyline fits into the context of the DCU at large.
We then get a six page scene of the Leaguers being sucked through portals and Flash and Steel being defeated by Murder Machine and Devastator. This was an enjoyable scene that provides plenty of action for the heart of the issue.
Williams then gives the reader a two page scene with Flash in Central City horrified by what is happening. In middle of all of the chaos, Williams has a small reconciliation take place between Barry and Iris. Again, this was some nice character work places organically in the middle of tons of action and chaos.
We then get the one page scene with the five teaser panels. This was an interesting page. These could be scenes from alternate Earths in the Multiverse that Barry witnesses as he falls through the portal. Or, these could be teaser scenes for Barry’s future in upcoming issues. They are all pretty intriguing little teasers. Hopefully, these teaser scenes get expanded upon at some point in the future.
Williams ends The Flash #33 with a good final 4 page scene. This closing scene properly unveils the main villain and creates an excellent hook ending. Williams gets the reader invested and excited for the second chapter of this story arc that will unfold in the pages of Justice League #32.
Howard Porter delivers some excellent artwork. Porter’s art is dynamic and eye catching. The action leaps off the page. The vibrant art helps to pull the reader into the story. Porter also packs plenty of detail into his panels. The panel layouts are varied and creative. There is plenty of variety in the panel layouts and points of view in each of the panels. Porter definitely serves up the proper artwork for a mainstream super hero story.
The Bad: The Flash #33 is a bit cheesy at moments and slightly over the top. But, it is all done purposefully in embracing the fantastical roots of the super hero genre. Having said that, this approach will not appeal to readers who prefer more serious stories or indie style comics.
The Flash #33 is also not a terribly intelligent story. The character work and dialogue are not going to blow you away. There is also the stink of the 1990’s all over the various Dark Nights: Metal characters.
There are also a few moments that lack internal logic. An example of this is Williams having Devastator being sent to bring back the Cosmic Tuning Fork to his master and then having Devastator destroy the Cosmic Tuning Fork while saying as an aside that he is going to rebuild it when he delivers it to his master. This moment is action for the sake of action and it sacrifices the logic of the story.
I was also unimpressed with Williams’ take on Deathstroke The Terminator’s character. Williams has Deathstroke quipping witty lines in this issue. It was awful. It was completely out of character with Deathstroke’s long established no-nonsense and ruthless personality. Deathstroke is not Deadpool and it seems that Williams forgot this fact.
Overall: The Flash #33 was a fun read. I would definitely recommend this issue to readers who enjoy super hero comics that focus mainly on action and adventure with the primary goal of entertaining the reader. I would certainly recommend this issue to any readers who have hopped about the Dark Nights: Metal title. This is an enjoyable tie-in issue that will flesh out and add some depth to what is already going on over in the Dark Nights: Metal title.