The Flash #34 kicks off the new “Black Hole Rising” story arc. Based on the cover, it appears that we are in store for the dramatic return of Fast Track who was supposedly killed by Godspeed. Hopefully, this new story arc has something exciting in store for us. Let’s hit this review and find out.
Words: Joshua Williams and Michael Moreci
Art: Pop Mhan
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin “a few months ago” at S.T.A.R. Labs in Central City. A massive storm is going on outside. We see Meena Dhawan working inside the lab. Her co-worker, Warren, tells Meena that they should try to get authority to do some experimenting with the Speed Force. Meena says that what Warren wants to do is forbidden by S.T.A.R. Labs. Meena asks if Warren is still hearing voices in the Speed Force. Warren says that it is no joke. He has heard the voice in the Speed Force.
Meena and Warren walk outside of the S.T.A.R. Labs building. Meena asks Warren to ask the voice why it is raining on a day when the forecast said it would be sunny. Suddenly, lightning strikes Meena and transforms her into Fast Track. Meena narrates that she was hit by lightning from the Speed Force storm. That she never liked mysteries. Only facts. That is why she volunteered to set up the Speed Force Training Center.
We cut to the present with Fast Track standing in front of Barry Allen. Meena says that Barry helped her. That he shared his knowledge of the Speed Force with her. Meena says that she has done everything she could in order to find Barry again.
Barry says that none of this makes sense. Barry says that Meena was killed by Godspeed. Suddenly, Fake Wally West arrives on the scene. New 52 Wally is stunned to see Meena alive. New 52 Wally gives Meena a hug. New 52 Wally asks how is Meena alive after Godspeed killed her.
Meena explains that the Speed Force absorbed her into it. That she does not completely understand. But, the things she say and what she found out during that time were amazing. Meena says that she has learned so much. Meena says that the Speed Force nearly trapped her forever but she fought against its pull so that she could save Barry.
Barry asks “From what?” Meena replies that Barry is dying. That the negative Speed Force is killing Barry. Barry answers that Eobard Thawne had the negative Speed Force for years and that it did not kill him. Meena answers that Thawne did not have the negative Speed Force and the normal Speed Force at the same time. That they are clashing with each other and it is tearing Barry apart. That Barry cannot control it.
Barry asks if Meena knows this because the Speed Force told her. Meena answers that she is not lying when she said she was in the Speed Force. Meena says that her powers have an extra ability to track the Speed Force inside of people. That she can sense what the negative Speed Force is doing to Barry.
Meena asks if Barry is feeling how much of a drain the negative Speed Force is. How much it hurts. New 52 Wally says that he thought the powers were just destructive to things on the outside. New 52 Wally asks if what Meena is saying is true.
Barry replies that after he used the powers he would feel exhausted. Meena says that Barry trusted her enough to tell her his secret identity. So did New 52 Wally. Meena says that she is still the same person. That they can trust her. Meena says that she can explain everything. Meena asks Barry and New 52 Wally to come with her.
We hop over to the Central City Demolition Derby. Meena explains that she picked this spot because Barry can go as fast as he wants and crash into anything he feels like and no one will notice the damage. Meena gives Barry a device to wear. Meena says that the device will let her monitor Barry while he runs so she can collect data on the negative Speed Force and how it affects Barry when he uses it.
Barry puts on the monitor. Barry says he feels more like the livestock they sell here every other Sunday rather than a demolition derby car. Meena replies that Barry smells much better than livestock. And is much more handsome. Meena then tells Barry to go run.
New 52 Wally then says that he is going to run with Barry, too. New 52 Wally says that if Barry needs to run for Meena to help him with the negative Speed Force then he will make sure Barry gets Meena what she wants. (That sentence made no sense.)
The Flash and New 52 Wally take off running. We see the negative Speed Force taking over Barry. New 52 Wally tells Barry to stop. That Barry is tearing himself apart. Barry replies that if Meena needs a test of the negative Speed Force then he is going to give it to her.
New 52 Wally says that he does not care what Meena wants. New 52 Wally says that he only cares about Barry. New 52 Wally tries to stop Barry from running. New 52 Wally asks if Barry is going to attack him. If Barry is going to send New 52 Wally to the hospital like Thawne did. (That…would actually be enjoyable. I vote for this.)
This snaps Barry free from the control of the negative Speed Force. Barry says that he would never hurt New 52 Wally. Barry then stops running and the negative Speed Force is contained back inside of Barry.
Barry apologizes and says that he thought he had a better handle on the negative Speed Force. Meena says that Barry did great. That the more Barry unleashes the negative Speed Force then the better she can understand it and then they can get Barry cured.
New 52 Wally asks, “What’s your deal, Meena?” New 52 Wally says that Meena shows up out of nowhere and will not really say where she has been and all she can think about is the Negative Speed Force. New Wally asks what Meena is up to with all of this.
Barry tells New 52 Wally to give Meena a chance. Meena says that she only wants to help Barry. Barry says that it is okay. That he and New 52 Wally have just had a lot of trust issues lately. Barry says that it feels like they need friends more than ever.
We cut to a local pub in Central City. We see the Central City Police Forensic team hanging out and drinking. Kramer is stressed about her new job at Iron Heights. She says she misses the Central City Police Department and she misses her forensic lab. Kramer says that she has to be there with Barry Allen who somehow manages to get along with their insane boss Warden Wolfe.
Kramer says that she is going to relax and just forget about her job at Iron Heights for the rest of the evening. Kramer asks her friends to give her some juice about what the CCPD is up to lately.
Burns says that they have been chasing a ghost lately. That there is a turf war going on and they do not know who is causing this war. Their information has been filling them in on Copperhead’s operation ever since she got into town. Now someone is moving in on Copperhead’s turf and that person is playing dirty. However, they do not know who the identity is of this new mystery crime boss.
We shift to Barry and Meena holding each other and watching the sunrise. New 52 Wally is staring at one of the old demolition cars and says that he could totally fix it. (With what? It is an old car. You have no tools on you. You have no parts on you.)
Barry says that this morning reminds him of the day that Meena “died.” Barry apologizes to Meena. Barry says that it was his fault and that there is nothing he can do to change it or make it right.
Meena replies that Barry needs to stop being so hard on himself. That the Speed Force and Godspeed were not because of Barry. Barry says that he told Meena his secret identity and then he lost control over what was happening with her, him, and August. Barry says that he has lost control over so much and he has hurt people that he cares about because of that. Barry says that he needs to be more. But he is struggling to figure out how to do so.
Meena says that she used to center her life around things that she could control. It made her feel safe. Then she got struck by the Speed Force Lightning. She has had to allow some chaos in her life and learn to let go of things. Meena says that Barry should do the same.
Barry says that part of him is afraid if he eases up that someone he carries about will get hurt. Barry says that the last time he took a day off was when they watched the sunrise together and Meena died.
Meena then says that Barry is so gullible. Suddenly, a bunch of Black Hole soldiers arrive on the scene. (Oh shit! Heel turn by Fast Track!) The Black Hole soldiers shoot Barry and New 52 Wally with some sort of black energy lightning that immobilizes them. The Black Hole soldiers then place Barry in some special restraints that inhibit his speed.
Meena then says that Barry is so predictable. That he always let his big heart get the best of him. Barry asks why Meena would be working with the Black Hole. Barry says that Meena does not want to do this. Barry says that he never meant for her to get hurt.
Meena says that if Barry wants to be more and to stop hurting people then he needs to see past himself. Meena says that this is not about Barry. New 52 Wally screams “You were lying to us the whole time?! That isn’t the Meena I knew!” (What an amazing observation, Captain Obvious.)
Meena puts on her mask and says that this is the real Meena. Fast Track says that both Barry and New 52 Wally wanted answers. Fast Track says, “Well, here they come.”
Fast Track begins racing around Barry and drawing the negative Speed Force out of him. Barry realizes that Meena was not testing him. Barry screams out in pain. New 52 Wally screams that Fast Track is killing Barry.
Fast Track finishes running around Barry. Barry tells New 52 Wally that he is okay. We see the regular Speed Force crackling through Barry. Barry asks Meena what has she done.
Meena responds that she came back to save Barry. Meena says, “And now the negative Speed Force is mine.” End of issue.
The Good: The Flash #34 was an average read. There is not much here to get excited about either positive or negative. This is one of those standard-issue superhero stories. It neither pleases nor offends.
Having said that, there were several positive aspects to The Flash #34. Yes, this is a basic superhero story, but it does the basics in a solid fashion. From a technical standpoint, The Flash #34 is a well-paced and plotted issue. The writers move this story along with a clear purpose in mind. The story moves forward in a logical and methodical fashion. While the story does drag a bit in the middle the pacing is largely good enough and the reader never feels like the writers are stalling for time.
The story is clearly plotted. There is nothing complex or particularly creative with the plot lines. But, the story moves forward in a clear fashion. Each scene builds logically off the previous one.
The basic construction of The Flash #34 is a time-tested formula. A character mysteriously returns from the dead. Then that character pulls a heel turn on the unsuspecting hero. Then the story ends with a good hook ending with the hero betrayed and in peril.
The Flash #34 begins with a two-page scene delivering Fast Track’s origin story in a concise fashion. This was a smart move to bring new readers up to speed.
This scene is followed by a five-page scene with Meena explaining how she died and how she came back to life. Again, this scene effectively fills new readers in on GodSpeed and Meena’s story.
These two scenes lead me to one of the positive aspects of this issue. The writers placed an emphasis on making sure this issue was new reader friendly. And it is done in a fashion that does not bore long-time readers. This is something that is vitally important for mainstream superhero titles so that readers feel like they can hop aboard a title anytime there is a new story arc.
We then get a four-page scene at the demolition derby track. This scene presents the reader with the first real action of the issue. This scene was needed in order to keep the issue lively after focusing on dialogue-heavy scenes to kick off the issue.
The writers then deliver a two-page scene at the pub. This was the low point of the issue. This was a boring scene. I appreciate that the writers were attempting to lay the foundation for a B plot-line for future issues after the A plot-line involving Meena and the Black Hole is resolved. However, it would have been more effective if this B plot-line was developed in a more interesting and exciting fashion.
The Flash #34 ends with a seven-page scene at the demolition derby track. The final scene is easily the best part of the issue. This scene delivers some action, a big plot twist with the Meena heel turn, and a nice hook ending. You cannot ask much more from a final scene.
I enjoyed the ending to The Flash #34. I like Meena more as a villain than as an ally of Flash. Meena was rather one-dimensional as a supporting hero. But, as a villain, she now has the potential to gain a bit more depth and texture to her character. I am interested to see where the writers go with Meena’s character.
Another aspect of The Flash #34 was that it is an all-ages story, but it never reads like a “kiddie” story. This is so important for a mainstream superhero comic book. In order for the industry to attempt to grow DC Comics needs to make sure that most of their superhero comics are relatively all-ages in terms of content.
Pop Mhan delivers some dependable artwork. Mhan’s art really shines in the action scenes. This is where his style of art seems most at home.
The Bad The Flash #34 is not a bad read. The problem is that it is painfully ordinary. In general, The Flash #34 is a shallow story. There is not much depth or texture to the story that pulls the reader deeply into the issue. There is really nothing beyond the surface of the story.
Compounding the shallowness of the story is the fact that this issue is rather repetitious. The writers seem to recycle the same discussion of how Meena returned, what she is up to, and that Barry is sorry for her getting “killed” in every scene. We retread this ground several times in the issue.
The dialogue is average at best. None of the characters have anything resembling a unique external voice. The dialogue is delivered in a bland and stiff manner. There are moments where the dialogue verges on being cheesy.
To compound problems, the character work is also lacking. None of the characters have much of a well-defined personality. All of the characters are rather vanilla. The lack of any quality character work or well-crafted dialogue results in there being absolutely no chemistry at all between the various characters.
The reader is told that Meena and Barry have a deep connection, but the reader never feels it. The reader is told that New 52 and Barry have a deep connection, but the reader never feels that, either. The writers simply tell the reader rather than take the time to show the readers the supposedly deep connections between these characters. Dialogue is very ordinary. Character work is average at best.
Speaking of characters, it is time that New 52 Wally goes away. DC is in the middle of the massively successful DC Rebirth reboot that is tossing most of the N52 continuity into the trash bin. As Rebirth continues, New 52 Wally no feels more and more pointless. New 52 Wally simply does not fit into the Rebirth DCU. This character sticks out like a vestigial appendage that no longer serves any purpose at all.
Mhan’s artwork is weak in the dialogue-heavy scenes. The artwork lacks detail at times and looks rushed and hurried at other parts of the issue.
Overall: The Flash #34 was an average read. There is not much in this issue that would make me recommend that readers run out to their local comic shop and purchase this issue. I would only recommend The Flash #34 to die-hard Flash fans. For everyone, there are plenty of DC mainstream superhero titles that are on the market that offer a far superior bang for your buck.