Finding the Light at the end of the Tunnel

April 27, 2004

The Flash #201-206: Ignition

By Avi Green

Flash #201: Driven
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Alberto Dose

Wally West has been living cloaked from his knowledge of being the Flash for two months now, while at the same time, aside from the fact that the Rogues have been going on the loose without his interference to some extent, it would seem that one of the most notable, Captain Cold, has been freezing cops to death. And then, when the new Trickster, Axel Walker, causes a whole accident on one of Keystone City’s streets, not only does a lightning bolt strike the car he’s bought, but his powers kick into gear again, and he rescues pretty much the whole crowd from being injured. Some time later, a guy in a coat and hat gives him – the kind of power ring that Barry and even he used to store their costumes in years ago!

This was a pretty good start to the arc in focus here, as we see further as to how Wally’s taken up a job working in the KCPD’s auto repair shop, the depressing thing being that it’s at midnight, whereas lovely wife Linda attends medical school during the day, so it’s not as if they get to see each other much during the week, except for weekends. And it’s not as if everyone’s acting like they never knew who the Flash had been before the Spectre caused the memory loss, everybody in town knows that they once did, and are puzzled as to why they no longer do.

Likewise, cast members such as detectives Fred Chyre and Jared Morillo are still here, but the setup’s been changed for now, and it’s amazing as to how well it’s pulled off. The story introduces at least two new cast members, the repair shop team of Wheeler and his daughter Reece, the latter who’s quite an expert in car repairs, as her dad tells Wally at one point. And while at the local small resturant Wally’s been going to after work, he also meets up Leonard Snart, alias Captain Cold, but having his memories under wraps at the moment, he doesn’t recognize his uncle Barry’s longtime foe.

And the artwork by Dose is to be commended for being appropriate to fit the story’s intentionally dark approach. Plus, he draws a very good Linda Park West, and certainly knows how to draw her Asian too.

So here’s a good starting point. Now, let’s get onto the next.

Flash #202: Shifting Gears
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Alberto Dose

Wally’s beginning tp realize that he’s got super-speed, though not necessarily that he’s the Scarlet Speedster, and is practicing to see if he can master it well, while the investigation into the freezing deaths of several Keystone City officers continues (including that of the main forensics scientist Perkins, murdered last issue, and whose assistant, Alexander Petrov, is introduced here), and later on, avoiding some rowdy motorists doing dare-driving around the slum streets of Keystone, is menaced by some hoodlums, and while he doesn’t manage it at first, he soon uses his super speed to catch a bullet in mid-air, and accidentally causes a sonic boom vibration that sends down debris from an old apartment next to them. When emerging from under all that, Wally accidentally presses the ring-spring and ejects the Flash costume.

This too proves an interesting issue, as we see that Captain Cold, watching from nearby as the police investigate a cop killing they suspect is his doing, and get a beginning clue that he’s being framed. For no way, Len Snart wouldn’t stoop that low when it comes to crime. Yes, he killed a few gangsters a few years ago, in his quest to find Chillblaine, the copycat criminal who knocked off his sister Lisa, the late Golden Glider, but when it comes to innocent law enforcers, he most certainly wouldn’t go that far.

As for Petrov, he’s not so impressed with Wally when meeting him at the garage, and when Wally leaves, he’s calls him a “hothead” behind his back. I do wonder, what else lurks in Petrov’s mind? We’ll see about that soon enough.

Flash #203: Crash & Burn
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Alberto Dose

Upon discovering that the ring contains a Flash costume, Wally’s heart begins to sink, knowing what this could possibly cause Linda to think, but tries to be calm about it, and decides to do what he can to help out in the investigation into the cop killings that have been plaguing the city. And wouldn’t you know it, the culprit, it appears, is actually Mr. Element, who’s been trying to frame Captain Cold for his crimes. He slows down Wally when cornered in a warehouse where he’s taken out two more police officers, using tar effects to do the job, and then freezes him in a block of ice before splitting.

Well now, isn’t that a surprise, to see that the role that the character by the name of Albert Desmond took up when he first began a life of crime in the Silver Age, Mr. Element, is being put on view here again, as it seems that there’s a “fan” out there who’s also fascinated by the elements just like Desmond himself was years before. Desmond of course also took up the second criminal career of Dr. Alchemy later on. One difference is that this protagonist here is wearing a mask without the long air nozzle on it, and it still looks a lot more advanced than the one that Desmond himself wore.

And who else should enter the picture but Ashley Zolomon, wife of the now and new Reverse-Flash, Hunter, now locked away in Iron Heights, who’s now taking up the job he vacated as the city Rogue profiler. What her exact purpose will serve while she makes her appearances here remains to be seen, though knowing that Linda blames the Flash for her termination of pregnancy at the hands of Zoom, it does make me wonder if this signals something like a “conflict triangle”. Does it? The following parts should reveal more.

Flash #204: Cold Reality
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Alberto Dose

The Flash is rescued from his icy prison by none other than Captain Cold, who’d like to know who it is who’s framing him, but Wally isn’t so eager to cooperate, and so Cold tries to menace him with an ice field. Wally tries to charge him, but ends up crashing into the seat lines at the hockey stadium where Cold’s taken him to defrost. He goes back to the Keystone police precinct where he meets Ashley Zolomon, who angers him after she indicates that she’s feeling sorry for her husband, and thinks that this had something to do with what he went through when she left him after the foul up that led to her father’s death. And with this, he storms out angrily, without wanting to be interviewed in her quizzing, and telling her to stay away from Linda. And then, back at the apartment, who should turn up but…Batman!

Well, there’s one example of how Wally starts to have a conflict with one woman, that being Hunter Zolomon’s ex, and who’s got her own problem of taking the culprit’s side even after the wretched crime he committed. And it’s interesting. It certainly does look like he’s being given some kind of a rival for now, and she’s not very understanding of his being irked at her.

In fact, when looked upon by today’s post-Crisis standards, it does make sense to some extent that one of the reasons the Rogues might avoid putting even the Flash to death is because they know it could draw the attention of Superman and Wonder Woman, among other JLAers who’re even more challenging for them than the Scarlet Speedster himself is. But also of course because they had respect (though of a begrudging kind) for Barry in his time, and as of today, it does go over to Wally as well.

And interestingly enough, it appears that Len Snart may have realized that the Flash is really Wally, since, as he notes to him, the Rogues’ had fought even against him when he was Kid Flash. Given that this is Captain Cold, that’s why Wally won’t really have to worry about Len giving it away.

Flash #205: Secrets
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Alberto Dose, Howard Porter

So now Wally’s being confronted by Batman, mentor of his best pal in crimefighting when he was Kid Flash, former Robin and now Nightwing, Dick Grayson. And here’s where we discover a very amazing “back door” effect to the Spectre’s amnesia spell: by revealing his secret ID to Wally, Batman causes all the full memories to flow back into the Flash. He argues that the JLA is imploring him to attend the Watchtower so that they can find out how and why exactly he was MIA for the past two months, ditto why they couldn’t remember his real ID, but he balks for now, mainly because the new Mr. Element is still on the loose. Then, at the police station, as Ashley is going back inside after a day at work to speak to Alexander Petrov, she discovers that he’s the new Mr. Element, and the culprit behind the murders.

Wow, who would’ve thought that, at least in a case like this, that the Spectre’s effect could be undone more easily than one would think? But that’s what happens, and knowing some of the news regarding the status of Hal Jordan lately, that’s why I wonder if this going to end up leading to quite a conflict between him and his former partners in the JLA.

This also reminds me, and I have to laugh, at how I once came upon two people on another, fairly politically correct site who thought that this was going to be another one of those tales in which the hero’s literally got to relearn his superpowers, one said he “knew it’d suck” because he didn’t want to see the hero having to undergo relearning, which he thought was going to be overall story of this arc, and the other went absurdly and foolishly out of his way to claim that Johns doesn’t have any real surprises to offer. Say again? With this part here, Johns has proven otherwise in fairly effortless style. And I have to laugh.

A neat part is that the two page segment in which the amnesia wipe is undone is that it’s drawn by Porter, the now current artist of the Flash, and it’s quite a neat concept alright.

There’s also a part where Linda is visiting aunt Iris, and we see that she’s talking to first Flash Jay Garrick on the phone, about current Kid Flash Bart Allen’s wanting to meet up with his older cousin again. I can only wonder, did Batman and the other JLAers let them in on it too? Probably.

Flash #206: Up to Speed
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Alberto Dose, Howard Porter

The Flash breaks in on the new Mr. Element while he’s explaining his crazy motives for killing all those cops and causing a reign of terror around Keystone (mostly because he’d wanted to climb the corporate ladder and ascend the position held by Perkins before him). After beating him in the nearby junkpile by the precinct garage however, Captain Cold turns up, freezes Flash so he can’t stop him, and puts Petrov to death in revenge for trying to frame him. After freeing himself from that occupation, Wally decides to go home and let Linda know he’s the Flash. And while she’s angry at first, the returning memories help her to realize he’s not at fault, and that he did try to help her. However, as it turns out later on, she didn’t take to the news all that well, and left home to ponder the whole matter by herself, while on the other side of town, Ashley Zolomon goes to see her former husband at Iron Heights.

It’s a nice wrap-up, though as we see here, not all that happy a matter for Wally now that Linda’s taken off to be alone. The latter focus here is on how Wally braves up and lets Linda know his superhero ID. Upon realizing all this, she’s no longer mad at him, but it’s understandable, I guess, if she’s feeling shaken up.

Until it gets to that part though, the way Flash turns the tables on Petrov and breaks the element forming gun that Albert Desmond sometimes used whenever he took up the role of Mr. Element years ago was a very neat feat. And I guess, considering what a character Petrov is, that’s why it’s best that he be knocked off, since it just doesn’t fit the bill for a series like this.

Dose certainly is quite a good-girl-artist, with the way he draws Linda as she takes her beauty nap here when Wally gets back to the house. And in another neat gimmick, just like in the 200th issue, the last few pages are drawn by a different artist, that being Howard Porter, as he does the part where Wally finds his way back into the brightness of the day, in what you could call a “fade-out, fade-back-in” sort of scenario.

So there we have it, and with a pretty good surprise to it as well, now bringing us back to the sunny world the book comes in.

2010 update: as of this writing, I no longer stand by this review. I have since changed my opinion and written this off as garbage, as explained over here.

Copyright 2004 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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