Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Flash #105

Through a Glass, Darkly

Mark Waid and Michael Jan Friedman – Writers
Ron Lim – Penciller
Mark Stegbauer – Inker
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Kevin Cunningham – Letterer
Alisande Morales – Asst. Editor
Brian Augustyn – Does it with mirrors

So Impulse leaves The Flash for a little bit and look what happens — the art falls to pieces! No offense to Lim and Stegbauer, but this is not the quality I've come to expect on this title. But from what I understand, this was just a fill-in issue, which didn't even warrant the full attention of Waid. And that is a shame, since the premise of this issue is so great.

So here's some comic book history for those who may not know. This is the second issue to be called The Flash #105. The first one came out in 1959, and was notable for being the first appearance of Mirror Master. Of course that was a different Flash (Barry Allen) and a different Mirror Master (Sam Scudder). This story involves Wally West and Evan McCulloch, but history tends to repeat itself, especially in comics.

Our story begins with Flash falling helplessly through the Mirror World. I'm not exactly sure how he got here other than the Mirror Master simply pulling him in. As it stands, Flash can't find his way out and needs Mirror Master's help. And Evan is willing to help Wally, but only if the speedster is willing to help the Rogue first.

Evan launches into a tragic backstory of how he once had a girlfriend named Emelia. He loved her so much, he even considered giving up a life of crime for her. But suddenly, tragedy struck, and Emelia died. But recently, Evan spotted a reflection of woman who looks just like Emelia — the double that everyone has. Evan was able to make a holographic image of this woman, but has since lost that reflection. He knows she isn't his girlfriend, but he wants to visit her to say the goodbyes he would have said to Emelia. But to do so, he needs the Flash to check each mirror until he finds her.

Wally is overcome by this love story, and he starts looking for this woman. He can't find her, but he does find his girlfriend, Linda Park. So he has Mirror Master help send a message to Linda to have Oracle track down this mystery woman. Evan then suggests they contact the original Flash — the one in the shiny helmet — to bring the woman to a neutral location to meet her. But Wally insists that Jay Garrick is retired, and says he'll have Impulse retrieve the woman instead.

So we return to the real world, where Impulse is waiting on Linda and Oracle, who are both taking way too long for him.

Luckily, Bart doesn't have to wait too much longer, as Oracle identifies the woman as Mary Anders, of Costa Grande, Calif. So Bart picks up Linda and runs her to the address, explaining that Linda isn't too heavy for him as long as he maintains his momentum. When they arrive, they find an isolated house with all the windows covered up. Mary barely peeks out the door, demanding Linda remove her earrings, watch and purse, leaving nothing shiny. Bart's goggles got pretty dirty on the journey from Kansas to California, so he took them off.

Linda and Bart explain the situation of the Flash and Mirror Master, which causes Mary to go into hysterics. She admits that her real name is Emelia and she really was Evan's girlfriend. But when she learned her boyfriend was a criminal, she turned him in to the police and testified against him in court. The police then placed her in witness protection, and she has lived in isolation ever since, removing all reflective surfaces from her house.

Bart notes that Emelia is a prisoner and then, without thinking (surprise, surprise) he cleans the gunk off his goggles, making them bright and shiny again. Mirror Master immediately appears in the goggles and switches places with Impulse.

Bart is reunited with Wally, who immediately begins chewing him out for falling into such an obvious trap and endangering Linda. But Bart points out that Wally fell for Mirror Master's trick first. And then, because we need some action, the two speedsters are attacked by giant mirror monsters. Apparently, whenever a mirror breaks in Mirror World, the shards reform themselves into a monster because ... I don't know. It's all very strange.

Anyway, Wally notes that each time they smash a monster, another is created, and if they keep going at their current pace, all the mirrors will be converted into monsters. Wally then realizes that's exactly what he needs — to eliminate all the mirrors to leave the one non-mirror portal to escape. So Wally quickly smashes everything in sight, and escapes with Bart before the mirror shards reform into an unstoppable army.

Meanwhile, an enraged Evan knocks out Linda and begins beating Emelia. But before he gets too violent, he notes the look of terror in Emelia's face, and realizes he never wanted to scare her or treat her badly. In this moment of hesitation, Flash and Impulse arrive on the scene and knock out Mirror Master. The cops soon arrive and take him away, while Bart asks to return to Mirror World because it was so cool. Linda also tells Wally that she asked Bart to take her to California, so he can stop blaming the teen.

So that wasn't a bad little story. This was Impulse's first encounter with one of Flash's classic Rogues, and this story did a good job of showing just how terrifyingly powerful Mirror Master can be. If he has a grudge against you, you need to avoid all mirrors, glass, chrome, aluminum — anything that could possibly be reflective. Mirror Master is the ultimate stalker, but as with all Rogues, he's not 100 percent evil.

I think Impulse was handled very well in this issue, although I doubt we'll ever hear him complain about his goggles getting dirty on a cross-country trip. It is realistic — he would get a lot of bugs and dirt splattered on his face — but I think most comic book writers don't want to spend valuable time delving into minutia like that. I would have liked this issue a lot more had all the Mirror World stuff made more sense. What is the purpose of the monsters? And if all the mirrors break in the Mirror World, wouldn't they break in the real world, too? And how come there's only one way out, which happens to not be a mirror? I'd say I expect more from Mark Waid, but he wasn't the solo writer on this issue, so Michael Jan Friedman gets some of the blame as well. And Ron Lim gets all the blame for the awful artwork. This was almost as bad as some of those Darkstars and New Titans issues I can't stand.

Well, I only own the digital copy of this issue, so you won't get any letters or ads this time. Next time, we'll return to the main series, with Impulse #6.

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