Monday, June 22, 2015

The Flash #140

The Black Flash Part 2

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

Our cover by Steve Lightle is a pretty haunting image. Wally breaking down on the tombstone of his girlfriend. And the stark black background is a really nice touch. It's simple, yet effective, and says everything that needs to be said. I'm not necessarily a Lightle fan, but I do wish he would have done the inside pages instead of Pop Mhan, who's really getting on my nerves lately.

Once upon a time, Wally thought he lost Linda to a bolt of lightning. But to his amazement, Linda survived the strike, having been pulled to safety by Jay Garrick at the last nano-second. Wally chides Linda for scaring him, and, at Jay's prompting, Wally pulls out the ring and proposes to his long-time girlfriend.

One month later, the two lovebirds were married at a star-studded wedding. Afterward, Nightwing told Wally that some super villains tried to disrupt the ceremony, but Superman and Martian Manhunter took care of them. Batman was the only hero who didn't show up, but he did send a bouquet bigger than Swamp Thing.

During their honeymoon, the Mirror Master trapped Wally and Linda in a reflective surface where they hated each other, but they eventually figured it out, freed themselves, and enjoyed a real honeymoon the next week. Shortly afterward, Linda became the host of a TV show where husbands confessed to being super villains and super girls turned out to be schoolboys (not sure how that last one works). Wally admits it's not serious journalism, but he was happy for Linda when she became more popular than Oprah. But then Linda became pregnant, and because of Wally's super speed, the nine-month term was reduced to nine minutes.

Linda gave birth to three boys, each with super speed. They became known as the Tornado Triplets, and helped their dad battle the Rogues and their kids — Cadet Cold, Mirror Miss, Heat-Whelp, Weather Whiz-Kid and Captain Slingshot. Later, Pied Piper turned evil again, and tried to hypnotize Wally's kids into following him. Over the years, the boys lost their memories and their powers, turned evil, turned blue, transformed into classic Universal horror monsters and even wasps. They fought the nuclear family, the sixth continent, the Scout Master and Roy, Ra's al Ghul and Barry Grodd, who attempted to thwart Linda's bid for Congress. Wally and Linda lived a long, happy life, until Linda revealed a terrible confession one day. She really did die when that lightning bolt hit her. Wally was too late.

We return to the real world, where Wally, Max Mercury, Jesse Quick, Nightwing, Jay Garrick and Green Lantern are pallbearers at Linda's funeral. And since this is a comic book, the funeral is being held in a downpour. The funeral is attended by the entire Justice League and more. Wally bemoans the fact that Linda was completely vaporized and they had to bury an empty casket. He acknowledges Max's role in Linda's death, but he doesn't blame him, knowing Max was just trying to save his life. But since Linda died, Wally lost his connection to the Speed Force, and a general interest in life.

Mirror Master was able to attend the funeral with a police escort, but Wally doesn't care about his condolences. Superman apologizes for Batman's absence and gives Wally a rose Batman sent in his place, but it only makes Wally more upset. Green Lantern gives Wally a prayer someone gave him after his girlfriend died, but Wally finds it rather awkward. Hartley Rathaway tells Wally he's contacted all his old super villain buddies and arranged for a one-day ceasefire on Wally's behalf, but Wally doesn't care. Captain Boomerang, also escorted by police, has nothing nice to say. Jesse tells Wally she's taken time off work to take Wally's place in the JLA and Jay promised to protect Keystone City until Wally get's his powers back. But Wally doesn't even see the point of being the Flash without Linda.

All Impulse can do is give Wally a hug, but the mourning man can only bitterly criticize everything around him. Wally's mad at all the heroes showing up in costume and all the wannabes and celebrities showing up who didn't even know Linda. Some are surprised the vice president showed up instead of the president, and Weather Wizard contemplates improving the weather, but Captain Cold tells him it's fine. But there is one person more upset than Wally at the funeral — Linda's mom. She slaps Wally and shouts at him for murdering her daughter. And like Wally, she's also upset that no one at the funeral is actually talking about Linda's accomplishments.

On the JLA Watchtower, one month later, Steel and Aquaman congratulate Jesse for reprogramming a Manhunter sleeper agent. She then teleports down to Waynetech Enterprises in Keystone, where Captain Boomerang is stealing electric car blueprints for the Germans. Jay tried to stop him, but fell into Boomerang's trap and became attached to a giant boomerang propelling him out of Earth's atmosphere. Jesse runs up the side of Infantino Tower (a nod to former Flash artist Carmine Infantino), and manages to free Jay. He then immediately dives into the reservoir to stop Captain Cold's anthrax bacilli bomb.

Wally, who's grown a stupid goatee in the past month, watches the whole thing happen from TV. Oddly, Weather Wizard was shown being arrested, even though he wasn't mentioned during the fight, and the previous issue of this series made a big deal of him being reformed. Anyway, Jesse pays Wally a visit, and is surprised to see his whole house packed up in moving boxes — she was hoping Wally's absence would just be a temporary thing. But Wally insists it's time to move on. He's accepted a teaching job at Edinburgh University, looking to do something useful with all the scientific Flash facts he picked up over the years. Jesse says being a superhero is a useful occupation, but this only makes Wally angrier. He says Linda's death showed him this isn't a game, and he's ready to leave the world of Halloween costumes and code names before someone else gets killed.

Wally then gives Jesse the ring he wanted to give to Linda, which causes Jesse to break down in tears. After one final hug and plea for Wally to stay, Jesse takes off in a flurry, causing a bunch of papers to fly up in the air. These are all little notes Wally has made to himself, mostly to send thank you notes to various people. These include the JLA, and a bunch of Flash creators: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, Paul Ryan, John Nyberg, Grant Morrison, Gaspar Saladino, Tom McCraw, L.A. Williams and Paul Kupperberg. There's also a note to read Impulsive Reactions (the letter column in Impulse) and Views of L.A. I'm not sure what Views of L.A. is, but this is the second time I've seen mention of it — the Trickster also had a copy of it in a recent issue of Impulse. Perhaps it was another letter column from L.A. Williams.

Wally then heads to the airport, passing a big poster of himself as the Flash, causing him to wonder when they'll replace it with one of Jay. Wally tried to not draw attention to himself, but too many people recognized him and tried to talk about his Flash career with him. Suddenly, Wally finds himself wrapped in ropes and chains. This causes a small commotion, but it turns out to just be the work of Impulse, who didn't know how else to get Wally to stop. So Wally offers to have dinner with him before his plane takes off.

We then have a quick Max Mercury interlude, where the Zen Master of Speed is having one of his regular meditation sessions. At the periphery of the Speed Force, Max senses Linda's presence. He also sense the Black Flash, and feels it's anger that it ended up with Linda instead of Wally. Max then realizes that the Black Flash is coming back.

We return to Wally and Bart who are eating at a Booster Gold burger place. Bart is snarfing down tons of hamburgers and sodas, and telling Wally he should have said goodbye before he left. But Wally points out he's only moving 5,000 miles away, and Bart could traverse that distance quicker than it takes a normal kid to cross the street. While Wally was blinking, Bart wrote a goodbye note and drew a picture of everyone at the barbecue a month ago. Except Bart added his mom, Meloni, who's still in the 30th century. Bart starts to ask why everyone he meets disappears, but he freezes in mid-sentence.

Wally looks around and sees everyone and everything in the airport has stopped moving. From Manchester, Alabama, Max cries for Wally to get out of there, but it's too late. The powerless Wally West has come face-to-face with the Black Flash.

This wasn't a bad issue, although I must admit my favorite part was Wally's dream sequence at the beginning. It's the outline of a wonderful Silver Age series that never ran. The funeral scene itself was all right, if a bit clichéd. I wish the Weather Wizard really would have improved the weather to help remind everyone that he has reformed. But watching Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick step up for Wally was nice. However, my biggest problem lies at the root of the story. The Black Flash is supposed to be the personification of death for speedsters, right? Then how did it accidentally kill Linda instead of Wally? And why was Wally destined to be killed by a random lightning bolt? The Black Flash hovered over Barry Allen and Johnny Quick right before they both sacrificed their lives to save others. So Wally getting struck by lightning while meeting with his girlfriend is a very lame idea.

But I did like how Impulse was handled in this issue. He's still acting just a bit young for his age, but I guess emotional moments like this bring out the little kid in him. He is, after all, just two or three years old in reality. And he did make a good point with everyone around him disappearing — his parents, his cousin, and even his grandma, who has chosen a life in exile. This issue also gives us the first instance of Impulse showing an inclination toward drawing, something he will be doing a bit later in Young Justice. I almost wanted to see Bart's drawing, but then I remembered it was Pop Mhan's artwork, so I figured it's best to pass on that.

Next time, we'll return to the main series, where Bart is still mad at Max in Impulse #40.

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