Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Flash #139

The Black Flash: Part 1 The Late Wally West

Mark Millar • Writer
Pop Mhan • Penciller
Chris Ivy • Inker
Gaspar • Letterer
Tom McCraw • Colorist
L.A. Williams • Asst. Editor
Paul Kupperberg • Editor

The cover by Steve Lightle shows Linda Park being struck by lightning, much to the horror of her boyfriend, Wally West. The attempt at shock and sentiment is there, but it misses the mark in my book. It's just too busy and cluttered of an image, with an odd color palette and sloppy pencils.

Our story begins four hours to the death of the Flash, with Max Mercury trying to take a group photo of Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, Wally, Linda, and Impulse. The occasion is the wedding anniversary of Bart's grandparents, Barry and Iris Allen, and on this emotional day, Iris decided to interrupted her self-imposed exile for a picnic with friends and family. Max wants to preserve the moment on his "Pauloroid" camera, but Bart got distracted by some ants.

As you can see, Bart has finally given up on trying to keep his head shaved. But even with his heightened metabolism, it'll still take a while to get his hair back to what it used to be. Max persuades Bart to try to hold still for one pico-second so he can take another picture, which Bart also ruins when he finds a quarter. Linda asks Max if Bart has worn down the patience of the Zen Master of Speed, but Max says Bart is actually making great progress, despite all appearances.

Bart then rushes Linda back inside to play some video games before he has to return to school, while Wally tries to convince Iris to come to more get-togethers. But Iris is worried she'll one day drink too much wine and accidentally reveal secrets from the future that could have untold consequences. Linda then gets a call from the station about Captain Cold offering an exclusive interview. So she takes off, confirming her dinner plans with Wally. As everyone leaves, a sudden downpour hits, which only seems to worry Wally. Jay is too busy asking when Wally's going to finally marry Linda, and Max seems oddly transfixed by the group photo he took.

Three hours to the death of the Flash, the original Flash is tracking down some criminals on motorcycles in Japantown, San Francisco. The current Flash unexpectedly joins Jay, just as it begins to snow even more unexpectedly. The two speedsters make quick work of the crooks, and Wally reveals his motivation behind tracking down Jay. His recent race across the cosmos gave Wally a new perspective on life, and he has decided to propose to Linda that night. Wally asks Jay how he's able to juggle being a superhero and a husband, and Jay basically tells him to not live his life in fear and do the best he can.

Two hours to the death of the Flash, Wally goes on a worldwide patrol, helping people wherever he can, while also noticing odd weather patterns everywhere: monsoons in Nevada, snow in Rio de Janeiro, and high temperatures in the Yukon. So Flash finally decides to take a serious look into this odd weather, and gets to work on the computers in the JLA Watchtower. With the help of Oracle, Wally is able to pinpoint the source of the disturbances — just outside of Mogadishu, Somalia. Using the satellites to zoom in on the scene, Wally sees none other than the Weather Wizard at the heart of all this.

One hour to the death of the Flash, Max Mercury interrupts Jesse Chambers at QuickStart Enterprises. As usual, Jesse is quite busy and a bit annoyed, but Max insists she look at the picture he took of Wally earlier that day. At first, Jesse thinks there's just a black smudge on the print behind Wally, but Max shows her the last photographs taken of her father, Johnny Quick, and of Barry Allen, and both speedsters had identical black streaks behind them. Max believes this is a sign that Wally's going to die tonight. He explains that the Indians taught him about the Slow Lightning or Black Flash, the personification of death for all speedsters, and Max says he even saw it once when he had a near-death experience. Ever the avid student of the Speed Force, Jesse readily believes Max and cancels all her meetings so she can help him save Wally.

At the death of the Flash, Wally breaks the Weather Wizard's nose and prepares to snap his wand in half. But Weather Wizard explains he wasn't hurting anyone — he was only trying to grow some vegetation in the desert. He acknowledges his experiment caused some strange weather around the globe, but he knows it wasn't anything big enough to kill people, something he's vowed never to do again since his trip to the underworld. Weather Wizard then convinces Flash to put on the finishing touches of his experiment by using his wand to think of sunny thoughts. Sure enough, when Flash uses the wand, the weather calms down, and a huge field of wheat springs up in what was once a desert.

So Wally rushes back to Keystone City for his important dinner date with Linda. But Jesse and Max intercept him along the way. Wally's a bit mad about being late, so Max pulls out the photo to explain. However, the black blur behind Wally has disappeared, leading Max to believe that whatever they interrupted Wally from saved his life. Wally says he was supposed to meet with Linda 30 seconds ago, and everyone silently realizes that whatever was supposed to kill Wally is likely to put Linda in danger.

We see Linda waiting for Wally in the rain. There's a flash of lightning, and Linda sees the face of the Black Flash. Wally, Max and Jesse race there as fast as they can, but they're too late. All that remains of Linda is a smoking section of pavement where she stood, and Wally falls to his knees shouting her name.

And thus begins one of the bigger, more interesting chapters in Wally's career. It is interesting to note that Grant Morrison has stepped away from the title for whatever reason, making this solely a Mark Millar story. And he certainly has turned on the drama. I mean, Linda Park just died! But the story is far from perfect. I felt the Weather Wizard stuff was a worthless diversion, and the timing of the countdown was way off. Wally was supposed to die/meet with Linda at 8 p.m., and the story began four hours earlier, at 4 p.m. So there shouldn't have been any talk of rushing Bart back to school — he should have already been done for the day. And later, Wally finds out Weather Wizard is causing the disturbances at about 6 p.m., but takes almost two hours to confront him. Did he decide to catch a movie on the way?

And I was very glad that Pop Mhan drew Impulse with short hair, but he and Millar really made Impulse look and act like someone half his age. I know he's easily distracted, but playing with ants? And later, he's seen making sick faces behind Wally kissing Linda. C'mon, Bart's 14, not 7! And come to think of it, why was everyone wearing their superhero uniforms at the picnic anyway? And where was Jay's wife, Joan? All these little complaints combined with the lackluster art really put a damper one what should have been an amazing, exciting issue.

I only have the digital version of this comic, so there's no letters to the editor or ads this time. Next time, we'll return to the main series with Impulse #39.

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