The Flash is one of the few DC titles that I actually read after the New 52 reboot. I am a huge mark for Barry Allen so not even the stench of the odious New 52 could keep me from purchasing The Flash. One of the strengths of The Flash is that it was one of the few DC titles to eschew the dark and gritty 1990’s vibe of the New 52. The new DCYOU directive has not impacted The Flash that much at all. We are still getting largely the same type of story that we have always gotten on this title. Currently, this title is knee-deep in a story arc involving Zoom. I like Zoom, but I am getting a bit tired of his character. Hopefully, The Flash #44 will spark my interest and get me more invested in this story arc. Let’s hit this review.
Words: Robert Venditti & Van Jensen
Pencils: Brett Booth
Inks: Norm Rapmund
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the Folded Man teleporting the Flash 2,000 feet deep into the Pacific Ocean. The Flash uses his arms to create a massive speed whirlpool to propel him to the surface and onto the beach before he drowns. Of course, traveling such a massive vertical distance of the ocean in an instance causes all sorts of internal bleeding and injuries to the Flash. Luckily, Barry’s accelerated healing ability kicks in and in a few seconds he is as good as new.
Barry, all fired up and angry, then races off to go find Professor Zoom and his cohorts. We cut to Central City where Zoom, Folded Man, Roscoe Dillon, Magali, Block and Alexander Selkirk are planning their next move against the Flash. The Folded Man wants to drop Barry into a volcano or the moon and kill him. Zoom replies that killing a hero only makes them martyrs and statues are constructed in their honor and the deceased hero serves as an inspiration to others.
Instead, Zoom says that Barry must be fully dishonored and discredited as a hero. Then they can kill him and nobody will notice his death or care at all.
Zoom then visits Barry’s dad, Henry, who Zoom has locked up in a room. Henry sees Zoom and yells that Zoom murdered his wife. Henry attack Zoom. Zoom then swats Henry to the ground with what looks to be a rolled up newspaper. (Seriously? Did Zoom just swat Henry to the floor with a newspaper like Henry was a puppy who had just peed on the floor?) Zoom says that if Henry does not do exactly what he says then Zoom will murder Barry.
We cut to “Elsewhere in Central City” and see the Flash arriving at the scene where Zoom’s cohorts freed Henry Allen from the police van. Barry hides in the distance and whispers that he promises to find his dad. (Who actually talks out loud to themselves like this? Now, this is exactly why we need thought bubbles to return to comics. They are a great literary tool and make characters seem less crazy for always talking out loud.)
We then shift to another location and see David yelling at Harley for showing up at the police precinct. That people might suspect something. Hartley yells that he does not care what people think. We see Harley dumping out a batch of freshly baked cookies. (Uh, what? Did Harley show up at the precinct and bake cookies? Is it common for precincts to have full kitchens complete with ovens? Wait, are we at their apartment? I have no idea where we are. This is weird.) David yells that he could get fired if people find out about them. Hartley says that he is not going to be in a relationship where he has to hide. David grabs his jacket and says that it looks like Hartley has already made his choice.
David exits the room and runs into a dark hallway where Barry is standing. (So, they were in their apartment! Ok.) David says that he just got Barry’s call about his dad. David tells Barry to stay away from the scene. Barry asks if David is okay. Barry said that he heard shouting.
David says that Hartley thinks he can visit David at work. But, Hartley is ignoring the repercussions that David will have to deal with. Barry then awkwardly interrupts that David and Hartley’s relationship is cool with him. Barry says that he knows David is trying to hide, but before Barry can finish David interrupts. David says “Gay? I love who I am.” But, if it leaks that the head of the Crime Lab is dating a former criminal then David will get fired. (Ha! You thought that David and Hartley were arguing about keeping their relationship a secret due to them being gay! Wrong! It is 2015! It is the fact that David is dating a former criminal that could cost him his job! Oh, what a really creative twist this was. Actually, no…no it wasn’t. Not creative at all.)
Barry replies that Hartley is not a criminal anymore. (Exactly! The guy BAKES COOKIES!!! How can anyone who makes delicious fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies be a criminal?!?!) David says that the truth does not matter. That it is all about perception. David wonders how bad it would get if someone like Iris West got ahold of the fact that David and Harley were dating. (That bitch. She always ruins everything.)
We shift to next morning in Downtown Central City. Barry meets the character who claims to be Wally West but is clearly not Wally West nor will he ever be Wally West. Period. Bring back the world’s fastest ginger now. So, “Wally” is reading a comic book and rolls it up as Barry and he walk to the police precinct. Barry makes a comment how he thought “Wally” was supposed to seal the comic and preserve it. “Wally” says that he reads comics. He is not a collector. (Yes. It is always wise for a writer to mock a large percentage of the people who support that writer and the writer’s family.)
“Wally” dispenses some wise advice to show how he is so much more mature than other kids his age. “Wally” says that Barry can’t fix everything and all he can do is try to stay in control of his own life. Barry then takes “Wally” to the mechanic shop in the police precinct. “Wally” is an engineering prodigy. (Of course he is. “Wally” can’t just be a normal teenager. Kind of like how he can’t just be a damn ginger, either.) Barry got “Wally” into a work-study program with the police precinct’s mechanic shop. Tim, the head mechanic, is introduced to “Wally.” Barry leaves. Tim tells “Wally” that safety always comes first and hands “Wally” some safety goggles.
Tim then motions to a magnesium engine block (Who uses magnesium to make an engine block these days? What kind of odd and rare engine is this? Engine blocks are normally made out of aluminum! What type of vehicles is this police precinct using? Air-cooled Volkswagens?) that is hanging from chains in the air. Tim says that the magnesium engine block burns so hot that a fire crew could not put it out. That they just have to let it run its course. (What? This makes zero sense. Run its course? You mean just cool down? Something every single engine does each and every time you turn your car or truck off? And why in the hell would you ever pull a boiling hot engine out of a vehicle? That makes no sense? Why wouldn’t you just let the engine block cool down and then proceed to dismantle the engine and then pull the engine block out of the car?)
We zip outside of the police precinct and see that Block and Roscoe are on the scene. Roscoe activates Zoom’s device. Block then starts yelling that Central City has been failed by the Flash and that they are here to hold him accountable. The Flash then appears on the scene and attacks Block. Block and Roscoe get the upper hand on the Flash. Block mocks Flash by saying that they know more about Flash’s power than he does. That Flash has thought that his power has no greater purpose than allowing him to run fast. Block says that Flash’s understanding of the powers of the lightning are pathetic.
Block then controls the density of the air molecules around the police precinct in order to form an unbreakable dome. The Flash and Zooms machine are inside that dome as well. Block and Roscoe are on the outside of the dome. Flash attempts to vibrate his way through the dome. The use of his power lights Zoom’s device’s fuse. The device is a bomb that is powered by Flash’s power. The Flash realizes this fact.
Zoom narrates that the Flash will predictably try to solve the problem with the bomb by trying to move faster. That this is how Flash approaches any problem. We see Flash trying to move faster to disarm the bomb. However, in this case every increase in speed increases the damage. We see the bomb letting off a massive explosion that takes down the police precinct. (Maybe “Wally” is dead and we can now get the real Wally West! Hope springs eternal.) End of issue.
The Good: The Flash #44 certainly has its fair share of warts. However, there were certainly some positive aspects to this issue. The strength of this issue is the general tone and vibe of this title. Flash #44 is certainly an all-ages friendly comic. Everyone knows that I have been ringing the bell for more and more of DC and Marvel’s super hero titles to be as all-ages friendly as possible. The only way Marvel and DC can stem the tide against ever shrinking audiences is to aim for newer readers. It is never a good thing when the average age of a comic book reader is north of 30. To remain vibrant and to grow in the future, it is imperative that DC and Marvel target younger readers so that each generation grows up with an interest in comics. The Flash #44 certainly is one of DC’s titles that can easily be enjoyed by adult readers as well as children.
I love that The Flash #44 has an almost Silver Age vibe to it. The writers clearly are placing a lighter tone on this title compared to so many of the darker and grittier 1990’s Image style comics that have come to define DC since the New 52 reboot. The Flash #44 embraces a more classic super hero style story. The emphasis is placed on fun and adventure. While there are some more serious themes the emphasis is always on fun. I love that The Flash #44 never takes itself too seriously and that it never apologizes for what it is. This is a fun super hero tale with a Silver Age flavor wrapped up in a modern package. Not much to complain about that style of approach.
The Flash #44 is definitely a fast paced issue. This was another one of the strengths of this issue. I loved how the writers move the story along at a brisk pace yet the story never felt rushed. There is plenty of action in this issue. There are no dull moments as the reader never goes more than a few pages without some type of action or tension. I also loved that The Flash #44 was a compressed read. The reader gets treated to plenty of plot progression in this issue. The story never meanders nor does the reader feel like they spent money on a filler issue where nothing important happened at all.
I liked the hook ending to this issue. That was a well done classic style hook ending that leaves our hero in a seemingly hopeless situation. So many old school comic books ended in this manner. It is great to see The Flash #44 rolling out this type of catastrophic ending where the reader thinks there is just about no way in the world the hero can survive or save his friends. Yes, it is a false peril finish as we know that our hero is going to get out of this predicament in some way with the next issue. But, it is a fun way to end an issue. I know that when I was a kid this type of hook ending would have gotten me all hyped up for the next issue.
I like the villains in this story. Zoom and his cohorts present interesting and varied power sets. The writers did a nice job using the various powers in creative and entertaining ways. I dig the fact that the villains also derive their powers from the same source as the Flash but that the villains have learned to use that power in different forms and manners. This demonstrates that there is more to the Flash’s powers than pure simple super speed. I would not mind seeing the Flash’s power set slowly mature and expand as this title progresses forward. I love Japanese manga and the concept of a hero who trains and “levels up” and unlocks new power sets has always appealed to me.
Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund combine to deliver some nice looking action scenes. Booth is able to effectively portray the sense of speed and kinetic energy that is mandatory in any title starring the Flash. I have always enjoyed Rapmund’s inks and The Flash #44 is no exception.
The Bad: Despite the positive aspects of The Flash #44, there is no way to get around the fact that large portions of this issue were nothing more that bad writing. Pure and simple. There is no way to sugar coat it. This issue is poorly constructed. The actual composition of the framework for this story is a hot mess. This issue had a terrible flow. The story feels scatterbrained as the scenes crash into each other due to clumsy transitions.
There are points in this story where the reader is flat-out unsure where they are within the context of the story. Particularly terrible is the part of the issue where the writers start a new scene on a new page with the narration box that says “Elsewhere in Central City” and give us two panels of the cops at the scene of where Henry Allen was taken by Zoom. Then the writers give us a third panel on that page that takes place between David and Hartley at an unknown location. No caption box was located in that third panel to let the reader know what was going on. Then the rest of the page continues with the argument between David and Hartley. This was as clumsy and poorly constructed as possible. Then it gets even with the third panel of that page and without a new caption box telling us what location we were now visiting.
The writing in and of itself was unintelligent at several points where the reader is presented with gaps in logic. The result is that the reader is taken out of the story. The scene in the mechanics shop at the police precinct is a good example of a moment where the writing seemed to lack intelligence. There is a difference between all-ages friendly writing that has a wacky Silver Age vibe to it and unintelligent and lazy writing. Unfortunately, most of the writing in this issue veered more toward the latter than the former.
The writing felt sloppy at points as certain scenes felt superficial and lacked any details in order to truly flesh out the scenes. This issue is shallow and lacks any real depth or substance to engage the reader’s mind and to hook their interest. Yes, there is certainly a nice amount of plot progression. But, none of the plot progression has any weight or importance to it.
It does not help the fact that the dialogue is about as bland and generic as you will find in comics. All of the characters speak in the same external voice. Zoom has the stereotypical villain style dialogue. The dialogue has no flow to it at all. The dialogue vacillates between dull at points to rather cheesy at other points. The dialogue fails to capture the reader’s attention and does nothing to inject any real emotion to the issue.
Absolutely none of the characters in this issue possess anything that would be confused with an actual personality. The character work is utterly absent. The Flash #44 delivers characters who are either caricatures, stereotypes or cardboard cut-outs. None of those three make for anything that would constitute an interesting character. I am a massive Flash fan and I love Barry Allen, but damn, even I cannot get into any of the characters in this story. There is zero chemistry between any of the characters in this issue. They interact with each other with all the intensity and appeal of a show room full of mannequins.
While Booth did a fine job with the action scenes I still am not all that impressed with his work. Booth’s art reminds me too much of 1990’s Image. The characters’ facial expressions are catoonishly over-exaggerated at certain points. And, of course, we get the patented 1990’s Image gritted teeth look from several characters throughout the issue. Also, I continue to dislike the dumb looking costume design for the Flash. It is way too busy with all the lines and lightning bolts on it. Of course, this is probably Jim Lee’s fault since he is the Fashion Czar of the New 52 and si largely responsible for so many of the hideous looking redesigns.
Overall: The Flash #44 was an average read. There are some nice aspects to this issue, but I cannot recommend spending $4.00 for this title. This is a great example of how the rising cost of comics can turn away readers. At $2.00, I would be more likely to recommend giving The Flash #44 a try. But at $4.00? No. I expect a higher quality of writing and a better reading experience once I start shelling out $4.00 for a comic book. On top of that, I am not sure any other readers other than loyal Flash fans would find the story in Flash #44 all that interesting.