Thursday, June 19, 2014

Flash #97

Terminal Velocity Mach Three: The Other Side of Light

Mark Waid, Story
Salvador Larocca, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr., Inks
Gaspar, Letterer
Tom McCraw, Colorist
Ruben Diaz, Assoc. Editor
Brian Augustyn, Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr. From left, we have Wally West, Bart Allen, Jay Garrick, Johnny Quick, and Max Mercury up in the sky. It is a powerful image to have all the main speedsters running side-by-side, but it looks like Max Mercury has died or something. Actually, his origin story is told in this issue. I wish Wieringo could have come up with a better way to demonstrate that.

Our story begins with a black-and-white flashback to 1838, with a cowboy holding a dying Indian in his arms and crying out in grief while a lightning storm rages behind him. The narrator explains that this was the night he became Ahwehota — he who runs beyond the wind. We then find out the narrator is Max Mercury, who is out training Bart along with everybody else we saw on the cover, plus Jesse Quick, Johnny's daughter.

Max continues his story, saying the cowboy was a young fort messenger who was friends with the local Blackfoot clan. He came across the scene of a massacre one day, and held the dying shaman in his arms. The shaman told the messenger that the fort commander had laid out an ambush for the rest of the Indians in the area, and the messenger needed to warn them quickly. Using his last bit of magic, the shaman painted a lightning bolt on the young man's chest and whispered a prayer to the god of the storm and the wind.

As the young man ran, he learned he had gained super speed, which he used to prevent the ambush by  disarming both sides. He then vowed to protect all people, and in the years that followed, he quelled massacres and uprisings as the the legend of Ahwehota spread.

Wally says he's never heard of him, but Jesse has, knowing him as Windrunner through her research of past speedsters. Johnny, however, doesn't believe in the magical elements of the story, while Wally is more concerned with how the story applies to him. So while Bart continues to practice vibrating through objects, Max resumes his story.

One evening, at the absolute peak of his powers, Windrunner felt  the night lightning calling him. He sensed a beckoning and chased it. He ran faster than the speed of light and was drawn into the Speed Force. But he was afraid, and ejected from the Speed Force. Still traveling at light speed, he was thrown into the time stream, and ended up about 50 years in the future, always regretting the one moment of hesitation that cost him heaven.

We then cut to Iris West helping Linda Park with her investigation of Kobra. They're not sure exactly what he's up to, but they're matching his activities with reports of Keystone City being on a fault line and a good source for hydro and geothermal power. Linda is even more concerned with whatever horrible truth Wally is hiding from her. And from the shadows, Kobra continues to spy on the Flash's girlfriend.

Max Mercury concludes his story by saying Windrunner tried repeatedly to return to the Speed Force, but could only manage to travel further through time. And in each era, he was known by a different name, Blue-Streak, Quicksilver, and (as Wally realizes) Max Mercury. Max says the lightning called him once before, and now it's calling Wally. But Wally has a hard time believing some guiding force gave him his powers. Jay, however, admits that he has felt a summoning, but was too embarrassed to admit it to anybody. He wanted to talk to Barry about it, but never got around to it.

Johnny again dismisses the existence of the Speed Force, but Max insists they are all connected to it. This starts to make Wally feel uncomfortable, and luckily, he gets just the diversion he needed in the form of a villain named Chillblaine robbing a bank. Wally explains that it's quite common for aspiring criminals to get a hold of Captain Cold's technology. So he begins unthawing citizens while the other speedsters take out Chillblaine's henchmen.

Impulse uses the enemy's weapon against them, knocking out a goon with a big snowball. Wally decides that this is the perfect training opportunity for Bart, so he actually helps Chillblaine knock Impulse down with a blast of his cold gun. Impulse says that hurt, and Wally mockingly asks him to hold back the tears. Impulse quickly recovers, saying the only one who's going to be crying is Chillblaine. He charges at the villain, who retaliates by firing several razor-sharp icicles at Impulse. Bart vibrates through the onslaught, which earns him a round of applause from his fellow speedsters. But instead of being pleased, Bart immediately turns on Wally, saying he could have been killed if he hadn't vibrated. Wally says, "Now you're getting it. Yes. Though we would have caught them." Bart answers, "You would not have ... !"

A thoroughly confused Chillblaine then tries to escape inconspicuously, but Jesse destroys his car before he can put his key in the door. Impulse then gets in the final punch, and Max is eager to resume their conversation about the Speed Force. But instead, Wally suggests they check in with the Pied Piper to see if he's learned anything from the power pack he took off one of the Kobra goons.

Turns out the pack is actually a receiver, and Piper suspects Kobra has a nearby power plant beaming energy to his men. He says he should be able to track it down in a day, but Wally wants to find it now, deciding to look for ultraviolet light by trying something called the red shift. The faster he rushes away from light, the longer its wavelength appears, and the more its color shifts to his eyes, enabling him to see ultraviolet light. He races faster than Max and Impulse, and begins to transform into energy again, but it does work. He sees Kobra's energy field covers the entire city.

The other speedsters catch up to Wally, and he begins to freak out again, calling Linda's name. Max and Johnny calm him down, and he says he touched the Speed Force again, learning that once you cross over into it, you can't come back. And now Wally realizes that he'll inevitably end up there, which is why he's been training Bart. But Wally says Bart isn't ready to replace him. Instead, he confers the mantle of the Flash to Jesse Quick.

As is the standard, that was another great issue by Mark Waid. Terminal Velocity is shaping to be a fantastic story — not just for the Flash, but all the speedsters in the DC Universe. This issue focused mostly on Max Mercury, which is great, since he will be an important character in Impulse's solo adventures. And even though we only got a little bit of Impulse here, I really enjoyed it. I loved having all the heroes nonchalantly use the wannabe villain as a training exercise and pausing mid-battle to give Bart a round of applause.

Sadly, none of the letters in Speed Reading talk about Impulse, since they were all written right after Flash #0, which didn't have Impulse in it. So we'll move on to the ads.

Instantly win one of a million free The Pagemaster T-shirts, check it out ... game pieces are hidden inside Nabisco Oreo and ChipsAhoy! packages.

WWF Raw is war. For Super NES, Game Boy, Genesis and Game Gear.

Nothing will prepare you for the Megaverse of Rifts! Palladium's Megaverse of role-playing games uses one basic set of rules, which means you can combine characters, villains, monsters, weapons and entire world settings from one game with another (or combine several, like Rifts). These role-playing games are 8 1/2 by 11 paperback books, sewn and glued so pages won't fall out, and are easy to carry and use.

Wanted: New Sheriff. (Our last one died laughing.) Poor fella had his funny bone tickled once too often. He shall be missed. Tinstar. Only for Super Nintendo.

Metropolis is alive in '95. Showcase 95. A 12-issue miniseries.

NBA Jam. Now on Sega CD and Game Boy! "It sizzles." Electronic Games. "... This is one you gotta have!" Game Pro. "The best hoops game ever created ... " Electronic Gaming Monthly. "The hottest video basketball game around." Game Informer. Every single one of those words is true and more. I absolutely love NBA Jam, which I played on my Super Nintendo. I could probably dedicate a whole blog to how amazing that game is, but I'll keep things focused on Bart Allen here.

Next time we move into February 1995 with The New Titans #118.

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