Friday, April 4, 2014

Flash #92

Reckless Youth Chapter One: Speed Kills

Mark Waid, Story
Mike Wieringo, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letterer
Gina Going, Colorist
Ruben Diaz, Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

So there it is. Our first full look at Bart Allen. He hasn't officially been named Impulse yet, and in fact, the cover seems to imply that he will be the new Kid Flash. But not quite yet. I have to say I really enjoy this cover by Mike Wieringo. The explosion creates some great colors and puts the frantic Flash in the shadows. All this helps accentuate the new featured character, Bart Allen. And I really like Wieringo's design. I think the costume is very sleek and neat. I don't understand the purpose for the fingerless gloves, but I do think they look pretty cool. Plus, it helps make Bart more unique. I don't know why I think his yellow eyes are cool, but I do, and I actually get pretty upset whenever his eyes aren't yellow. And of course, perhaps the most important part of Bart Allen is his hair. Giving him a lot of hair that's all over the place really helps illustrate his movement. In fact, it makes me wonder why the previous Flashes kept their hair covered. True, it does help protect a secret identity better, but it looks so much better on a comic book page to see a guy's hair blowing wildly in the wind. Anyway, Wieringo's basic design will remain largely unchanged for next decade or so. The biggest difference we'll see in the short term will be the slimming down of Bart. He looks quite bulky here, but then again, this is 1994, when everybody had muscles on top of their muscles. Well, enough with the cover and on to the story!

We begin two weeks ago with Wally West's girlfriend, Linda Park, who is (surprise, surprise) a reporter. Seriously, there is an awful lot of superheroes who date reporters. Superman has Lois Lane, Barry Allen's wife, Iris, was a reporter, and I believe even Batman has dated his fair share of reporters. Are superheroes naturally attracted to reporters or are reporters naturally attracted to superheroes? Or do comic book creators make the girlfriends reporters to keep them involved in the action somehow without actually being heroes themselves?

Anyway, Linda is working on a story about strange cults around the city mysteriously disappearing. She interviews a landlord whose tenants preached some new age philosophy, but were harmless for a few months. Then one day, the landlord came across them performing a dark ceremony for some serpent god. The next day, the tenants left without a trace. The landlord then opens a cabinet to get some records for Linda, but a whole bunch of cobras suddenly pop out and attack the man. I'm not sure if he died, but it sure seemed like it. Linda, however, escaped unscathed.

So two weeks pass, and presumably Linda hasn't told her superhero boyfriend about watching a man be devoured by snakes. Instead, she's working on her story on a park bench, while Wally tries to impress her by playing basketball really fast.

I was at first startled by Wally putting on such an obvious display of his powers in public, but then I remembered that Wally had made his secret identity public at this time. I'm still confused, though, why Wally thought playing basketball really fast was supposed to impress his girlfriend. Luckily, Wally quickly catches on this isn't working, so he begins talking to Linda about her story. She tells him there must be a connection with all the disappearing religious groups, and then she drops her papers because she insists on sitting on top of the back of the bench instead of sitting on it properly like a normal human being.

Wally quickly scoops up the papers and notices one of them is a death threat to Linda. She brushes it off by saying threats like this come with the territory of being a reporter, and if it means anything, it means she's close to unearthing something big. Wally, however, insists that he likes protecting her and wants to be involved in her life. As they prepare to run home, a white blur zips by them. Linda didn't notice anything, and it was moving too fast for Wally to see what it was.

So Wally takes Linda home, where they find his Aunt Iris waiting for him. Iris feels like she needs to explain how she isn't dead, but Linda cuts her off, saying she's already read Iris' book, "The Life Story of the Flash." So Linda and Wally already know, and most comic book readers should have known in 1994, that Iris technically did die in the 20th century, but her soul was transported to a new body in the 30th century. Yeah, it's weird, unfortunate continuity stuff we have to deal with, but Mark Waid makes the best of it and/or pushes it to the side when it doesn't matter. And people wonder why we needed the New 52!

Anyway, Iris is quite distraught. She tells Wally that she has come back in time for her grandson, who'll die unless Wally can save him. So they all sit down on the couch and Iris tells them her convoluted origin story — apparently there were a few details that even Wally didn't know. Like the fact that Iris was actually born in the 30th century, sent to the 20th century to grow up, then brought back to the 30th century after she died. She says she spent only a month in the future with Barry before he died, but he did leave her with his children — twins, a boy and a girl. And what happens when you've lived a crazy life like Iris and find yourself suddenly single with twin infants? You give them terrible names. Iris named the boy Don and the girl Dawn. Sure, that looks neat on paper, but can you imagine actually saying those names? "Hey, Don!" "Yes?" "No, not you, the other Don!"

Terrible names aside, Don and Dawn each inherited a fraction of Barry's power, and they became superheroes in their time, battling the evil alien Dominators. The twins grew up, got married, and had kids. Don's son, Bart, was born with full super speed, and the Dominators tried to experiment on him. Fortunately, he was rescued; unfortunately, he was rescued by the corrupt Earthgov, which kept him in tight isolation and discussed cloning him, but not curing him. Apparently, Bart can't shut down his hyper metabolism, which has rapidly aged him since birth. At age 1, he looked 2. At 2, he looks 12, and Iris fears he'll die of old age within the week. And since Don Allen had been killed, Iris became responsible for Bart, and she decided to enter the time stream so Wally could help Bart. However, Iris and Bart became separated on their journey through time.

Wally then realizes the blur he saw was Bart. So he gets on his computers in his war room and contact the Justice League and the Titans, but they haven't seen him. He then gets his first clue — a sudden tornado in Spain. Iris wants Wally to take her with him because she's Bart's only connection to the real world. In order to prevent the rapidly aging toddler from going insane, he was constantly plugged in to a virtual reality that educated and entertained him at super speed. Wally, however, tells Iris to stay behind since she probably wouldn't survive being ran around as fast as he needs to go to catch Bart. Once Wally takes off, Linda asks Iris why she chose to return to Wally in 1994, and not go back earlier to her husband. Iris basically says it would be too hard on her emotionally, and she reveals that special times are ahead for her nephew — it's his destiny to save Bart.

Once in Spain, Wally pretty easily follows the trail of Bart's destruction. He even comes across Bart's footprints on the water — that's how fast he's moving. Bart then stops for a quick breather, and when Wally approaches him, Bart suddenly begins attacking Wally.

Linda then goes to work and delivers her report on the enigmatic serpent cults on the air. Her editor warns her that she might be chasing a dangerous story, and hidden in the shadows, a man dressed like a cobra is watching Linda's every move.

So there we have it. The first full appearance of Bart Allen. Officially, technically, Flash #91 was Bart's first appearance — despite what some people may say — but this issue is the first one to truly feature Bart and lay out his origin story. I don't know why I love his origin so much, and I guess I don't have to justify it. It's really cool. Being in the future, aging too fast, being raised in a virtual reality. It's all neat. And it definitely was the highlight of the issue, even though Bart really didn't do anything other than run around the world and randomly — or should I say impulsively — attack the Flash. And yes, that is the first of many impulse jokes you'll see on this blog. Get used to it now.

This wasn't a perfect issue by any means, though. I'm not a fan of Iris' overly complicated backstory, but that's hardly Mark Waid's fault. I would have liked him to add a line about Don Allen's death, though. But really the biggest weakness with this issue is how separate and disjointed Linda's subplot feels from everything else. Knowing what's coming ahead, I realize this serpent cult will play a big role pretty soon, but Linda's reporting seemed to simultaneously occur too slowly and too quickly. It was rather odd to jump ahead two weeks after the harrowing scene of a man being killed by cobras. It also felt rushed for Linda to go deliver her report right after Iris arrived and Wally went in search of her grandson. The polite thing would have been to stay home with your guest and wait for the speedsters to return. I mean, how long would it take for Wally to run to Spain and back?

But these are minor quibbles in a very fun and exciting issue. And it only gets better from here, starting in Flash #93!

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