Monday, July 7, 2014

Flash #99

Terminal Velocity Redline: Ultimate Rush

Mark Waid – Story
Carlos Pacheco & Sal Larrocca – Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr. – Inks
Kevin Cunningham – Letterer
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Ruben Diaz – Associate Editor
Alisande Morales – Asst. Ed.
Brian Augustyn – Editor

The cover is by Mike Wieringo and Jose Marzan Jr. It definitely is an explosive cover, but for some reason, I'm not totally in love with it. I think that's because I'm not a big fan of the target-crosshairs bit. Although it is pretty neat to see Flash is moving 800 miles per second.

Continuing from Flash #98, we rejoin the Flash and Jesse Quick separated from Impulse and Max Mercury by Kobra's force field. As Bart tries to break through, he and Jesse realize that Wally was playing them. By pretending to choose Jesse, Wally was hoping Bart would get more serious. Max tries to explain to Bart how desperate Wally was, but Bart still thinks he's a jerk.

We then cut to Linda Park, Iris West and the Pied Piper, who have commandeered a news van to track down Kobra. Linda explains that not all earthquakes are on the west coast, and there are actually some major fault lines in the midwest. (Having grown up in Utah, I always new the state was in danger of an earthquake, so I find it surprising that Mark Waid needed to explain this.) Linda deduces the truth, which is Kobra's final power plant is geothermal. Kobra learns that Linda is approaching him, so he has a soldier teleport directly in the van, but luckily Iris slams on the brakes to cause the goon to go flying through the windshield.

Linda then gets on the radio to tell Wally they've found Kobra, and she asks her boyfriend to join them so they can take him down together. But this only upsets Wally. Piper, meanwhile, has a breakthrough with Kobra's technology, and he successfully prevents the super villain from teleporting away. So Kobra retreats to a rooftop and arms a large laser gun, which further panics Wally, since everything is now playing out exactly in the vision of the future he saw, which ended with the death of Linda.

Wally rushes forward, willing to sacrifice himself to save Linda from the laser. But Jesse pushes Wally out of the way at the last second, and the laser slices open her leg. As Kobra keeps firing, Wally realizes the laser is calibrated to track his speed. So he lures the laser blasts away from Linda, willing to run faster than the speed of light, which would send him on a one-way trip to the Speed Force.

Suddenly, Bart appears at Wally's side. He was able to overcome his anger long enough to vibrate through the force field, and he decided to try to confuse Kobra's laser by adding his speed to Wally's. Bart's plan works, and Kobra's laser gun's circuits are fried. Bart prepares himself to be lectured by Wally, but for once, he has nothing to criticize, and says he's actually proud of Bart. But then they see that Kobra's gun had enough juice left for one more blast, which is heading right toward Linda.

Wally runs at his top speed to save Linda, which he does, but running too fast has caused his body to become pure energy again. As he feels himself being sucked into the Speed Force, Wally uses Johnny Quick's formula to stretch out his final second with Linda. He grasps her hand, which is wearing his Flash ring, and his life flashes before his eyes. And in a burst of light, Wally disappears.

Linda is left in a state of shock, but a suddenly serious and angry Bart tells her that Wally wanted him to wear the lightning, and as long as he's around, the Flash will live on. Bart then charges Kobra, calling him a ratbag. He easily takes out the remaining Kobra goons, telling Kobra that he's no pushover just because he's a kid. But Kobra gets the best of Bart, blasting him with a flamethrower. Engulfed in flames, Bart falls off the roof and lands at the feet of his screaming grandmother, Iris.

Kobra then gloats that one should never send a boy to do a man's job, and he triggers an earthquake, which will give his plant enough power to make his forces around the nation unstoppable.

Wow. Now that is how you write the penultimate issue of an epic story arc. Max Mercury is still trapped outside of Keystone City, Jesse Quick is seriously injured, Wally West has disappeared, and just when it seemed like brave little Impulse was going to save the day, he got hit with a flamethrower in the face and fell off a building. But before that, Bart was more heroic than he'd ever been before. Seeking to avenge the Flash and prove to everyone — including Kobra — that he's a competent hero, Bart became pretty badass. But still not as focused as he could have been. I think he could have avoided the flamethrower had he not been so intent on yelling at Kobra. But, it is natural for Bart to make that kind of mistake.

I also need to do a quick shoutout to the art. Larroca needed help on the pencils in this issue, but I honestly couldn't tell you which pages he drew and which ones Pacheco did. The only difference I noticed was that Wally suddenly had five-o'clock shadow, but that was consistently carried through on each page. It helps that Marzan inked the whole thing himself, but the main credit really goes to the editors who were able to find multiple artists whose styles didn't clash too much. That is an attribute that many current comic creators sadly don't care about anymore.

In Speed Reading, Harry Simon, of Las Vegas, Nev., says that Impulse is rapidly becoming one of his favorite characters, and he requests a Mark Waid Impulse limited series to be drawn by Carlos Pacheco. He then asks exactly how Bart and Wally are related, then complains about Bart not understanding Wally's reference to pro wrestling.

Brian Augustyn explains that just because Bart doesn't know what pro wrestling is, it doesn't mean that pro wrestling doesn't exist in the 30th century. Bart just has a limited world view. Brian also attempts to tackle Bart's relation to Wally, pointing out that the two of them aren't related by blood, only by marriage, and even then that's a stretch. Brian ultimately says that "Wally and Bart are second cousins by marriage, adoption, cloning and two-way time-travel. Sort of." The way I see it, though, Wally and Bart are first cousins once removed, as I detailed in my review of Flash #93. But whatever. Surprisingly, Brian didn't say anything about Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos starting an Impulse ongoing monthly, which will start one month from now. I guess he figured that was already common knowledge by then.

Stuart Brynien, of Brooklyn, N.Y., says he's still not sure about Bart. He does admit he's an interesting character, seeing what he's capable of doing while acting impulsively, and the mischief and mayhem he can cause makes him even more appealing. But Stuart wonders whether Wally is ready to have a sidekick. But then Stuart kind of changes his mind again, conceding that Bart partnering with Wally brings him full circle, since Wally was Barry's sidekick. Stuart points out that Wally sees too much of himself in Bart, which brings a grittiness to their relationship that should make for some mighty interesting reading in the months ahead.

Now for the two new ads we haven't already seen this month.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. Hardware #25. A 48-page Milestone special. Fully painted color.

School's in! Now sit down and read! Justice League Task Force. Monthly by Priest, Velluto, Albrecht.

Next time, we begin April 1995, with Impulse making a guest appearance in The Adventures of Superman #522.

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