Saturday, March 7, 2015

Speed Force #1

This cover by Craig Rousseau and John Dell features Wally West as a young Kid Flash, running side-by-side with his mentor, Barry Allen. It's a nice, happy image; unfortunately, the Kid Flash story inside features an older Wally, practically an adult. But it's still a fun cover. Max, Jesse and Jay look great, and the inclusion of all these characters made this cover a natural choice to be the advertisement for Flash Month. The only change they made for the ad was to replace the Mystery Flash with a Jeff Matsuda Impulse from the cover of Impulse #29. My biggest complaint with the cover is actually the font they used to spell out Speed Force. It just looks too light and goofy for what is actually a collection of some rather serious stories.

Now, Impulse does not technically appear in any stories in this issue, so I am cheating a little bit. But I figured this was a significant issue to cover anyway. Plus, we do actually see one nice image of Impulse in this comic, so I'm not stretching my rules too much.

Our first story is called Burning Secrets, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Jim Aparo. This features Barry Allen as the Flash and a nearly adult Wally West as Kid Flash. They battle the mysterious Cobalt Blue, who has an energy sword that can steal their super speed. Barry figures out how to turn that against Cobalt Blue, actually overloading the villain in energy, which manifested itself as blue flames, which consumed him. By doing so, Barry felt for the first time that his power came from something beyond him, and he began to worry whether he was still human.

The second story is called Like Straws in a Hurricane, written by Bill Messner-Loebs and drawn by Kenny Martinez. This features Jesse Chambers, who is frustrated over her inability to get several large media moguls to meet her at QuickStart Enterprises. So she turns into Jesse Quick and pulls the three CEOs into her office and also brings in two men who were laid off due to the CEOs' unethical business practices.

The third story is called Childs Play, written by Brian Augustyn and drawn by Dusty Abell. This takes place in New York in 1893 when Max Mercury operated under the name of Whip Whirlwind. When Whip learned of a corrupt factory owner mistreating his child workers, he paid a visit to the owner to scare him into changes his practices. Unfortunately, the encounter had the opposite effect. The owner decided to get Whip Whirlwind off his back by getting out of the business by burning down his factory and taking the insurance money to start over again in Metropolis. The corrupt owner also colludes with the corrupt orphanage worker, who convinces him to burn the factory with the children still inside so he'd get more insurance money. Luckily, one of the kids is able to escape and find Whip Whirlwind, who saves all the children, puts the corrupt adults in jail, and makes sure the orphans are sent to a proper orphanage.

We are then treated to a beautiful two-page spread of practically everybody in the Flash family, drawn by Phil Jimenez.

I really love this splash page, and I think Impulse looks great. I do wonder, however, who he's covering up with his hand. Is it possible that Jimenez made a mistake and decided late to cover it up with Impulse's hand? Regardless, this is a really neat image that could make a fun poster.

The fourth story is called A Stranger with My Face, written and drawn by John Byrne. This features a young Jay Garrick in 1942. His girlfriend, Joan Williams, has been kidnapped by the Fiddler. By trying to save her, Jay falls right into the Fiddler's trap, a circle of deadly violins specifically set up to counteract Jay's super speed. Suddenly, Jay is visited by his future self, who tells him to simply walk out of the trap at normal speed. And an editor's note tells us to check out Wonder Woman #129 to find out how Jay went back in time to help his younger self.

The fifth and final story is called The Sacrifice, written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, and drawn by William Rosado. This takes place on the planet Petrus in the year 2754. The Flash of this era is Blaine Allen, and his son, Jace, has been poisoned by this era's Cobalt Blue. Since Jace did not inherit his father's super speed, he is unable to hyper-metabolize the poison out of his system. So Blaine attempts to keep his son alive a little while longer by absorbing all molecular motion on the planet to freeze everything in place. But when he realizes that everyone, including Jace, will die in this state, Blaine comes up with another plan. Having heard legends of the Speed Force from his ancestors, Blaine decides to take Jace there, where he could live in a heaven-like state. Unfortunately, Blaine's plan failed, as he got sucked into the Speed Force himself, leaving his son behind. But Jace's exposure to the Speed Force granted him super speed, which saved him from the poison. Realizing that his dad sacrificed himself to save him, Jace races off in the distance, presumably to become the next Flash.

All in all, I really enjoyed this issue despite the lack of Impulse. The Whip Whirlwind story got the strongest reaction from me, as I really wanted the bad guys to suffer more than simply being thrown into jail. I mean, they tried to burn alive a bunch of orphans! How evil is that? I also was interested in the final story, and I wish Mark Waid would have explained how Blaine and Jace are related to all the other Allens. Are they descendants of Bart? Last issue's family tree implied that Bart will have children, but I need the specifics! The low point of the issue was probably the Jesse Quick story for me. I really needed to see her do something super-heroic instead of going on a minor social crusade.

Jason Hernandez-Rosenblatt wrote an editor's note at the end, explaining that this issue was the result of many readers requesting more stories with Max Mercury, Jesse Quick and all the other underserved speedsters in the Flash family. Jason said that if the response to this book is big enough, they'll probably make another Speed Force special or turn it into its own miniseries. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, those plans never came to fruition. I feel like a Speed Force title like this could have had a lot potential, but I guess in the long run, the market could only sustain The Flash and Impulse at the time.

Next time, we'll finally, finally see how Impulse rescues Max from Dr. Morlo in Impulse #31.

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