Saturday, June 28, 2014

Flash #98

Terminal Velocity Mach Four: Hit and Run

Mark Waid Story
Salvador Larocca Pencils
Jose Marzan Inks
Tom McCraw Colors
Gaspar Letters
Alisande Morales • Assistant Editor
Ruben Diaz • Associate Editor
Brian Augustyn • Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr. From left, we have a very disgruntled Bart Allen, Jay Garrick trying to make peace, Jesse Quick looking a bit unsure of herself, an encouraging Wally West, and a contemplative Max Mercury.  I love all the emotion Wieringo was able to put here, and the basic pose in front of a lightning storm is great, too. I just wish there wasn't such a thick white line around each character.

The story picks right up where Flash #97 left off, with Wally naming Jesse as his successor. Johnny Quick and Jay Garrick, who are both quite old, had to bow out from the adventure. The rest of the speedsters, meanwhile, are searching for Kobra's remaining secret power plants. And Bart is none too happy with Wally.

Bart tells Wally he sucks, and Wally dismisses his bitterness, saying he tried to train Bart, but he wouldn't open up and learn, and that is everybody's loss. Jesse, however, is a student of super speed, and more qualified to serve as Keystone City's protector after Wally is taken into the Speed Force. Like her father, Jesse needs to recite a speed formula — 3x2(9yz)4a — which Bart thinks sounds stupid. But Wally doesn't care. He knows the formula works — as we saw in Flash #91 — and his decision on Jesse is final. The four speedsters then separate, with Bart and Jesse heading to the north, while Wally and Max check out the west. But then Wally decides to go off on his own real quick.

We then see Kobra himself torturing one of his lackeys, who he blames for exposing his operation to the Flash. Now Kobra believes his hand is forced, and he needs to launch Project Morpheus before Flash finds the remaining stations.

Meanwhile, Pied Piper is continuing to work on the Kobra power receptor to trace it back to the super villain himself. Wally pays him a visit, and pulls Linda Park aside to warn her about Kobra, but she confronts him about the information he's been withholding from her. So he finally tells her that he believes he'll soon be sucked into the Speed Force, but he still holds back something. Linda begins to cry, they kiss each other, and Wally gives her his Flash ring. Wally then takes off, again warning Linda to not get involved. But as soon as he's gone, Linda asks Pied Piper and Iris Allen to help her help Wally.

We rejoin Bart and Jesse, and Jesse is surprised with how quiet Bart is being. He says he thought he had a reason to put on this stupid suit and put up with Wally. Bart then quickly assure Jesse that he does care about Wally, and he'll still stick by him, even if Wally won't stick with him. They then visit the rundown Keystone Garden, and Bart is perplexed by all the stuff inside. Turns out it's just trees and flowers, something Bart has never actually felt, having been raised in a virtual reality in the 30th century. And he tells Jesse he just might go back there once all this business with Kobra is over.

Bart and Jesse then come across a large greenhouse, and Bart vibrates his head inside to see it filled with tons of large solar panels. Jesse immediately wants to bust inside, but Bart shocks her by telling her to wait. In an extremely rare moment of thoughtfulness, Bart decides to come up with a plan, which involves vibrating the outside walls of the greenhouse to cause it to explode.

Wally then catches up with Max, and they discover a fake cornfield, which is concealing wires and cables leading to a bunch of wind turbines. So Max and Wally destroy the turbines with a couple of tornadoes, which attract Bart and Jesse. Amazed by the level of destruction, Bart exclaims, "Holy grife! You mean business!"

Realizing two of his power plants have been destroyed, Kobra hastily launches Project Morpheus Stage Alpha, which envelopes Keystone City in a large forcefield. The four speedsters, on the outside of the city, see the forcefield coming down and race to get inside before they're trapped out. But only Wally and Jesse are able to make it. Wally begins to freak out and start screaming again. Jesse tries to calm him down, but he tells her that he needed everybody to help him save Linda. Turns out, the most troubling aspect of his vision of the future was not his own death, but that of his girlfriend's.

Things are really starting to move now. Kobra is finally on the move and everything is heading toward a huge throw-down at the end. Wally is continuing to freak out at alarming rates, and Bart is actually beginning to grow up a bit. I loved his interactions with Jesse. They're the youngest speedsters out there, and are more likely to relate and open up to each other. And I think Jesse, being a girl, is a little more empathetic and able to help Bart explore his feelings about Wally.

Bart's concerned with being perceived as a failure, and he's so frustrated, he's even considering returning to the future, when not too long ago he staunchly refused that idea during Zero Hour. I don't think Bart was necessarily expecting to become the next Flash — he just had hoped for something good to result from his efforts. Mostly, I think he's frustrated with Wally's rudeness. Altogether, I loved seeing Bart explore these feelings and use his anger to focus him. He actually came up with a plan for once, and it worked. And how fun was it to learn that Bart has literally never stopped to smell the roses?

The Speed Reading letter column only has one page, and none of them mention Impulse. But we do have a very special letter from one Geoffrey Johns, of Clarkston, Mich. I am 90 percent convinced that this is THE Geoff Johns, who has written several high-profile Flash stories and is currently one of the most powerful and influential writers at DC Comics. The timing and location match, since Johns went to Michigan State University in the early '90s and didn't have his first official interaction with DC until 1997. This is a rare glimpse of a celebrated comic book creator when he was still merely a fanboy. Here is his letter in its entirety:

Dear Speedsters,

Whoa! Mark Waid has truly outdone himself. We are actually going to find out what the lightning did to Barry and Wally, how speed ties these characters together; in fact, everything that is still a mystery about the Flash's origins will be revealed. I thought I knew everything there is to know about Flash and company. After reading this one issue I suddenly feel like I'm in the dark. I can't wait to see how this storyline proceeds and finishes. I trust you, Brian, and Mark with my favorite character so I'm not worried about the outcome, I'm excited.

The only thing that was lacking was the art. I really am going to miss 'Ringo. I understand that there will be a new art team after issue #100. Any idea who? And exactly where did 'Ringo go? Another DC title, I hope.

I recently heard Mark is working on another Flash project and a project with Alex Ross! I also heard that DC was finally going to push Flash since sales on the zero issue were higher than most. This is great! Let's get Flash back in the top ten DC titles — where it belongs.

Good luck. Anyway, I just thought I'd drop you a line and let you know how much I appreciate your hard work and effort; it really shows.

And Brian Augustyn's response:

Flash is definitely in the DC top ten, Geoff — with a bullet. Expect great things from the fastest comic alive.

Among the great things you can expect is the debut of new penciller Oscar Jimenez Garrido, a tremendously talented young artist from Spain. Oscar broke into comics working with Carlos Pacheco, so count on truly amazing super-speed visuals!

There is indeed another Flash project in the works from Mr. Waid. Even as we speak, he's busily planning the previously mentioned Prestige format special — which will feature the artwork of both Mr. Wieringo and Mr. Pacheco. Keep your eyes peeled for details as they become available. Speaking of Mr. Wieringo, he is indeed staying with DC — as the penciller of Robin. Watch for it.

Mark's project with the awesome Mr. Ross is absolutely top secret, but definitely under way.

Now for the ads.

Street Fighter. Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raul Julia.

This is the price of failure. Caution: Red Zone Radioactive Desert of Death. Play at your own risk. For SEGA Genesis.

Lufia's got everyone talking ... but playing is believing! For Genesis and Super Nintendo.

The Dark Knight finally returns in Batman #515. By Doug Moench, Kelley Jones and John Beatty.

Black Lightning. Blasting the criminal landscape to ashes — one piece at a time. Tony Isabella, Eddy Newell, Ron McCain. Ongoing series beings in December.

The Dark Knight finally returns in Detective Comics #682. By Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Scott Hanna.

Rise of the Robots. For Super Nintendo.

Next time, we'll wrap up Feb. 1995 with Damage #10.

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