Flash #42 is part four of the Perfect Storm story arc. Joshua Williamson continues to impress with his incredible work on The Flash. The Perfect Storm is accomplishing its task of setting the stage for the upcoming Flash War and getting readers excited for this big event storyline. I am sure that The Flash #42 is going to be another strong read. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Joshua Williamson
Art: Dan Panosian
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Wally West beating up Raijin. Grodd watches and thinks how there is something about Wally West that Grodd remembers. Like a memory in the back of his mind. Grodd says that Wally is too skilled and experienced to be one of the new Flashes that were hit during the original Speed Force Storm. Grodd thinks that while Barry Allen has always been a master of the science of the Speed Force that Wally is a master of the spiritual aspect of the Speed Force. (I love that distinction between Barry and Wally.)
We cut to Grodd and Negative Flash watching Wally beat up Raijin. Negative Flash points out that they have a bigger problem. That is finding the Lightning Wand in order to harness the Speed Force Storm. Grodd says that they have nothing to worry about. That the call fo the Speed Force is too strong for Barry to resist. That Barry will bring the Lightning Wand to them. Grodd begins coughing up blood. Grodd notes that his time on Earth is running out.
We hop back to Wally beating up Raijin. Wally demands to know where Multiplex took Iris West. Raijin replies that Iris is safe. That Grodd needs the girl as bait for Barry Allen. Wally tells Raijin to tell him everything otherwise Wally will bash his face in with his super speed punches.
We zip over to Lower Central City where Godspeed is still surprised over the fact that Barry Allen would break him out of Iron Heights. Godspeed and Barry are in a hidden S.T.A.R. lab. They are looking at a cave drawing from Gorilla City. Godspeed talks about his mission to track down and destroy Black Hole. Godspeed says that he never got to investigate the mystery of the cave drawing in Gorilla City because Barry caught him and threw him in jail.
Barry says that the Elders fo Gorilla City showed him the same cave drawing. Barry said that Grodd must have been controlling Black Hole for years. Barry says that Grodd claims that he needs the Speed Force in order to live. Barry says that he can relate to that.
Barry reviews the schematics of the Lightning Wand and says that he should be able to alter the Wand enough so that he can still the Speed Force back from Grodd. Godspeed says that he now realizes why Barry freed him. Godspeed says that this is not about Black Hole. That this is about Barry’s powers. Barry says that he needs his powers in order to save Central City.
Godspeed says that Barry is sounding really familiar. Godspeed removes his mask. August says that Barry is sounding like him. August says that he knows what it is like to be obsessed with the Speed Force. That Godspeed killed for the Speed Force. Yet, Barry freed him from Iron Heights.
Barry says that he needs August’s help in getting the Lightning Wand to work. That Grodd will do to the world what he has done to Central City. That Barry has to get his powers back to stop Grodd. And Barry has to get the Lightning Wand to work in order to get his powers back.
August says that Barry could have gone to all sorts of people for help. Barry says that he needs August because of his knowledge of the Black Hole and their secrets. August says that Barry is lying. That Barry just wants his bad friend to give him a pass. That Barry does not want August’s help. Barry wants August’s permission. This way Barry cab place all the hard choices on the guy behind bars.
August mocks Barry for Barry’s unhealthy fixation on getting his powers back. August says that he knew Barry before Barry had powers. That the Barry August is seeing right now is not the same Barry that he knew before Barry had his powers. August asks if Barry ever thought he could do this without his powers.
Barry replies that what happened to Central City is his fault. Barry says that getting his powers back is the best way for them to stop Grodd. Barry says that if they get close enough to the Lightning Rod Tower then Barry’s remaining connection to the Speed Force will lock in on the Lightning Wand and give Barry his powers back. August says that this is a mistake. Barry says that he broke August out of prison because he trusts August. Barry asks August to trust him.
We hop back to Grodd at the Lightning Rod Tower. Negative Flash and Multiplex are with Grodd. Grodd says that he can feel Barry’s obsession. That Barry has finally learned the value of the powers that he took for granted. Grodd mentions that Meena learned to embrace the chaotic power of the Negative Speed Force. Meena replies that Black Hole saved her life and she owes Grodd. Grodd says that Meena is lying. That power is everything. Power changes lives. Meena says that Grodd is right. Meena then excuses herself while she runs her final calculations on the Lightning Rod Tower in order to complete it.
We cut to Avery and New 52 Wally deciding that now that Meena is separated from Grodd that this is their best change to get through to her. We see Meena by herself. Suddenly, New 52 Wally and Avery appear on the scene. The adolescent heroes try and plead with Meena to stop helping Grodd. New 52 Wally says that Meena is a good person and that Grodd is in her head. Avery says that Meena’s Lightning Rod Tower will do more then just drain speedsters once it is fully activated. That the Lightning Rod Tower will kill everyone in Central City.
Meena says that Grodd getting the Speed Force is a good thing. New 52 Wally says that Grodd is messing with Meena’s mind. New 52 Wally says that Meena can fight back. Meena replies that after Godspeed killed her that she was lost in the Speed Force. That Grodd used the Black Hole to bring her back. That since she has come back that she cannot keep her thoughts straight. That something happened to her in the Speed Force. That she is free but still scared.
We cut to Wally West trying to contact New 52 Wally. He is trying to tell them to not go anywhere near Grodd.
We hop back to Avery saying that they will help Meena. Meena asks if they will help show her how Barry taught them to be as gullible as him. Meena says that she does not need their help. That she is right where she belongs. Beside Grodd. Negative Flash goes to attack New 52 Wally and Avery, but they suddenly disappear. We see that Godspeed have moved the two youngsters out of the way. Barry is with Godspeed.
Godspeed says that he is super sorry about killing Meena and asks if they are still friends. N52 Wally is shocked that Godspeed is free. Suddenly, Wally West races onto the scene. Wally tells Barry that he has to get the Lightning Wand far away from here. Barry replies that this is his only way of getting his powers back so he can save them.
Godspeed asks Wally, “Who are you supposed to be, rookie?” Wally gets pissed at being called a rookie. Avery and New 52 Wally are stunned that Barry would break a murdered like Godspeed out of prison. Negative Flash then says that Barry is no better than Godspeed. Negative Flash then calls out for Grodd to send Multiplex to her.
Suddenly, Multiplex appears on the scene and with that we have a braaaaawl. Barry asks “Team Flash” to cover him so he can get close to the Lightning Rod Tower. Wally, New 52 Wally and Avery start punching the various Multiplex clones hoping to find the real one. One of the three heroes must have punched out the real Multiplex because suddenly all of the clones disappear. Negative Flash continues to fight Godspeed. Wally, New 52 Wally and Avery do not know which person to help in this fight.
Wally then looks around for Barry. We see Barry next to the Lightning Rod Tower. Barry apologizes to Wally. Wally yells, “Barry, don’t!” Barry says that this will save all of them. Barry punches the Lightning Wand into the Lightning Rod Tower.
There is a massive flash of red lightning. When the smoke clears we see Barry Allen as the Flash once again. Barry says, “My name is Barry Allen. Fastest. Man. Alive. Now and forever. I am the Flash.” Barry says that he knows Grodd can hear his thoughts. Barry says that he is coming for Grodd.
Grodd replies that Barry is right where he wants him: All alone. Barry then calls out for Wally and New 52 Wally. Grodd says that Barry got what he needed and so did Grodd. We see Grodd all powered up with the Speed Force. Grodd says that Barry bringing the Lightning Wand back increased Grodd’s mental connection to the Speed Force. Grodd says he no longer needs to control the storm. Grodd is the storm now.
Barry says that he underestimated Grodd before and that he won’t make that mistake again. Grodd says that Barry risked it all because he believed he was the only one who can protect his city. That Barry’s hubris gave Grodd a new army. One that Barry can’t possibly defeat.
Barry looks up and sees Wally, New 52 Wally, Avery and Godspeed all controlled by Grodd. They all say, “Worship Grodd or die.” End of issue.
The Good The Flash #42 is another exiting read! Joshua Williamson continues to impress me with his handling of the Flash franchise. Williamson is doing an excellent job of building off of the Flash’s past while crafting something unique for the Flash’s future. I respect that Williamson is looking to place his own stamp on the Flash franchise.
The Flash #42 is a technically well written issue. The plotting and pacing are spot on. The story is focused and moves with a purpose. Williamson knows when to ease off the gas for dramatic emphasis and then stop on the pedal for the more frenetic action scenes. The plot lines all slide together in an organic manner. Williamson also displays a talent for being able to easily juggle such a large roster of characters.
Williamson’s biggest strength so far has been is superlative handling of the Flash family. Williamson is adding several layers of depth to the Flash’s mythos in constructing the Flash’s family and his villains. I find the plot threads that bind Negative Flash, Godspeed, Barry, Wally, N52 Wally and Avery to be fascinating and well done.
Williamson is able to add new layers to the Flash’s continuity, but, more importantly, is able to do it in an organic fashion. Most writers seek to add their additions to a character’s continuity by either trashing the prior continuity or simply awkwardly shoving their current take on the character into the prior continuity regardless if it makes sense. Williamson is taking the Flash’s continuity and treating it with respect and then skillfully adding is own layers and additions to the Flash’s continuity in a natural manner. It is so impressive and makes for an enjoyable story to read.
A hero is only as good as his villains and Williamson comes through in spades in this category. Raijin and Multiplex are the only weak and rather generic villains in this story. They do not matter and Williamson clearly indicates that to the reader by not spending much time on either character. Instead, the three compelling villains are Godspeed, Negative Flash and Gorilla Grodd. What makes this even more enjoyable is that Williamson not only gives us three strong and compelling villains but he makes each of the three villains different from each other in terms of how the reader should view them.
Gorilla Grodd is obviously the biggest of the three baddies. And Grodd is the villain that has no redeeming qualities nor is he sympathetic. Of the three villains, Grodd is the villain that Williamson is casting as an unlikeable heel and giving the reader the signal to completely root against Grodd at ever single step of the story. Grodd is a fantastic big baddie and is one of my all-time favorite Flash villains. Williamson handles Grodd’s character with aplomb. Grodd is supremely confident and arrogant. Grodd is also imposing and intimidating. By the end of The Flash #42, Williamson has built Grodd up from a daunting opponent to a nearly unstoppable monster.
The second main villain is Negative Flash. Williamson casts Meena is the role of a fallen hero who engenders the reader’s sympathy and hope for an eventual face turn. Williamson is able to create enough doubt in the reader’s mind as to whether Meena is a full villain or if she is operating under Grodd’s mind control. Williamson also gives Meena an understandable motivation to be fighting by Grodd’s side. Having Meena feel an allegiance to Grodd for bringing her back to life allows the reader to understand, but not approve, of Meena’s action. Williamson is able to make Meena sympathetic enough that the reader is actively rooting for Meena to break free of Grodd and join the heroic Flash Family.
The third main villain is Godspeed. Williamson makes Godspeed the cool villain. The villain that is badass and charismatic that the reader simply cannot help but to like. In this current story, Williamson moves Godspeed from villain to the role of a tweener. Godspeed is another villain nor hero. His allegiances shift depending on the situation around him. In this given moment, Godspeed is siding with the Flash family. The reader is fine with rooting for Godspeed because he is a cool character. However, Williamson is able to create uncertainty inside of the reader’s mind. The reader is left wondering at what point is Godspeed going to decide it is in his best interests to turn on the Flash Family.
The uncertainty of both Negative Flash and Godspeed’s role in the conflict creates plenty of wonder and tension in the reader. This helps to make the story even more exciting than if Grodd was the only villain in this tale.
In general, the character work in The Flash #42 is excellent. And it is not just limited to Grodd, Negative Flash and Godspeed. Williamson also does a great job with Barry in this issue. Williamson’s handling of Barry’s character continues to be fantastic. I love how Williamson is able to tap into Barry’s obsession over his speed powers. This enables Williamson to add another layer of texture to Barry’s otherwise rather clean cut classic hero image.
But, what makes it even better is that Williamson brings this obsession out of Barry in a normal and natural fashion. This is not an incongruent personality change in the protagonist. Williamson has taken the time over the past several issues to stress how important Barry’s powers are to him. To stress how bland Barry’s life was before he became the Flash. To emphasize how much things have changed for the better for Barry since he became the Flash.
Williamson uses Godspeed in an excellent manner to highlight Barry’s obsession. I loved the scene between Barry and Godspeed where Barry is forced to realize that he is turning to Godspeed not for help but for absolution. This was a brilliant scene. It also helped to underscore how Barry is more similar to Godspeed than he would ever want to admit.
Williamson then takes the theme of Barry’s obsession and brings it to a crescendo with the powerful final page of this issue. Barry realizing that his obsession lead him to not only empowering Grodd but also placing the entire Flash Family under Grodd’s control was a gut punch moment. This was a dramatic hook ending that offered a stunning and satisfying result of the core theme of the issue that is Barry’s obsession with his powers.
The hero’s hubris is a popular concept. Williamson plays with it nicely in this issue as he has Barry’s hubris over his belief that he and only he can save Central City lead the fall of the Flash Family.
I dig that Williamson is trying to evolve Barry’s character and give more texture and nuance to his personality with this story arc. No matter what it is clear that Barry will forever be changed by the events of this story. This is a nice way to continue to evolve a character and try to keep them fresh and interesting. It is also going to be interesting to see how Barry can earn the trust back from the Flash Family after this issue.
Speaking of the Flash Family, Williamson continues to do an excellent job of growing the Flash Family. While I may have my problems with New 52 Wally and Avery, I have to admit that Williamson is doing an impressive job growing the Flash Family and creating quality chemistry between all of the characters. The Flash Family serve Barry Allen well by making his character even more interesting than if he was on The Flash by himself. The Flash #42 is a critical step in the evolution of The Flash Family. Barry has managed to create a wedge that threatens to tear the Flash Family apart. It is going to be interesting to see where Williamson goes from here.
The Bad: Dan Panosian’s artwork is hit or miss in The Flash #42. There are panels that present nice dynamic action. Then there are panels where the art looks rough and rushed. The up and down quality of the artwork does not help the excellent story at all.
Overall: The Flash #42 is another strong read. Williamson continues to impress with this title. The Flash has become one of DC’s better and most consistently good reads on the market. Williamson is setting the stage for what should be an excellent big event story in Flash Wars.