Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Flash 80-Page Giant #1

The Speed of Life

Mark Waid Writer
Pop Mhan Pencils
Chris Ivy Inks
Tom McCraw Colors
Gaspar Letters

Our cover is unfortunately by Mhan and Ivy, who are simply incapable of drawing anybody in a flattering way. And this is a real shame, since several other more talented artists worked on this issue. But Mhan was the regular Flash penciller at the time, so I guess the honor defaulted to him. But a lackluster cover does not belittle how exciting and awesome this comic is. We have seven separate 10-page stories, one all about Impulse, and he makes a quick appearance in two others. And the other stories aren't bad, either. However, I do wish this could have been Speed Force #2, since that's essentially what it is. And calling it an 80-Page Giant seems a bit misleading when there's actually only 70 pages of content.

Our first story entirely takes place in the short amount of time it takes for Linda Park to strike a match. As she slowly drags the match across the box, Wally receives a bunch of different visions of what his life could have been like had he not become the Flash.

His first dream is a sad tale, where he's a paraplegic and trying to visit the Flash Museum after hours in the rain. He doesn't know why, but he feels like he belongs there, but is unable to enter. In his next dream, Wally works at Go West Travel Agency in Blue Valley, Nebraska. He spends his days sending people to exotic locations that he's never been to, and while he boasts of his speed, he's still not fast enough for at least one client.

The third dream has Wally catching his dad cheating on his mom. He tries to protect his mom from this secret, but she discovers it, and ultimately both parents blame Wally. In his fourth dream, Wally is chasing down his girlfriend, Frances. But he's too late. She's already on the plane, taking off. In the fifth dream, Wally tries to run away from home as a young man, but he's caught by his dad.

The sixth dream has Wally failing miserably at running the hurdles in track. In the seventh dream, Wally jealously watches a news conference where the Flash introduces his new sidekick, Kid Flash, who looks a lot like Bart Allen and is wearing a really stupid red-and-blue suit.

In the eighth dream, 14-year-old Wally is sent away to visit his aunt Iris. She arranges for him to meet the Flash, who tells Wally how he gained super speed. Wally is then struck by lightning, bathed in strange chemicals, and acquires superpowers just like his mentor. Wally becomes Kid Flash, then the Flash, and for the first time in all his dreams, he is happy.

Linda finally finishes striking the match and lights the lone candle on Wally's birthday cake. She asks if he's made a wish, then stops herself, knowing Wally will say what he says every year — he already had his wish granted when he was a boy.

So Linda asks a different question: Has Wally ever thought about what his life would have been like if he hadn't become Barry Allen's successor? Wally says, "Once. And only for a second."

It was really fun to have Mark Waid come back for this introspective story of alternate possibilities. And it's interesting to see who showed up to Wally's birthday party. It looks like we have Jay and Joan Garrick, Bart Allen, Jesse Chambers, Hartley Rathaway and his boyfriend and Iris Allen (just cut off). Max Mercury is the only notable absentee. Overall, the story was very fun, although Mhan's art really brought it down for me.

Our next story is called Dark of the Sun, written and drawn by John Byrne. This is a flashback to Barry and Jay, battling the Shade. It's a nice enough story, but there's no Impulse, so we'll move on to the third story, which is all about him.

"The 5,000 Rats of Bartholomew Allen"

Todd Dezago – Writer
Ethan Van Sciver – Artist
Albert T. De Guzman – Letterer
Tom McCraw – Colorist
Impulse created by Waid & Wieringo

Our story begins with Bart on a Friday morning field trip to the Manchester Animal Husbandry Facility. Bart has a hard time focusing on the tour, wishing he was still in bed. He strays away from the group a little bit to play with a white mouse, which he accidentally frees when Carol surprises him with a loud protest against the treatment of these animals. Carol says all the poor rabbits, rats and mice are going to be subjected to cruel torture and death. The worker tries to explain that most of these animals are involved in intelligence studies, but Carol's not convinced. Bart, meanwhile, follows his runaway mouse, and is shocked to see the small rodent hop up on a keyboard and access the computer's mainframe.

Somewhere else, somewhere dark, Gorilla Grodd reveals he has been behind the animal testing in Manchester, exposing the rabbits, rats and mice to intelligencia radiation and programmed to retrieve classified government secrets and email them back to Grodd. All that remains is for the animals to be delivered to the government facilities.

The next morning, a couple of Grodd's gorillas, disguised as men, arrive at the Manchester facility, only to find all 5,000 animals are missing. The disappearance is reported on the morning news, which Max and Helen happen to be watching. Helen remembers that Bart took a field trip to the husbandry facility, so Max wakes up his young ward. Bart frantically gets dressed and tries to explain himself, telling Max everything Carol had said. Max tells him to put his Impulse suit on, and they take off.

Max explains to Bart that even though his intentions were noble, what he did is still considered stealing. So he has Bart lead him to the animals so they can be returned to their rightful owners. Bart tries to explain that these mice are smarter than they look, but Max doesn't buy it. So Bart takes him to the school gym, which he thought would be a great place to hold 5,000 animals on a Saturday. However, when Bart opens the doors, all the rodents are gone.

After a quick sweep through the town, Bart and Max discover the animals are everywhere. Bart begins to panic, but Max calms him down, saying they can gather up all the critters and put them in the old abandoned water tanks behind the school. So Impulse gets a big bag and starts shoving all the rabbits, rats and mice he can into it. When he sees a lady frightened by a mouse, he decides to keep one for himself to scare Jesse Quick.

Max, meanwhile, finds a couple of mice in a computer store, accessing America Online. Finally understanding what Bart was trying to tell him, Max comes up with a new plan. Instead of returning the animals to the husbandry facility, they'll play it safe and spread the animals to various pet shops across the nation. Soon, shops in Greensboro, North Carolina, Appleton, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, find a sudden, mysterious arrival of rabbits, rats and mice.

Days later, Grodd is furious to find that his trained animals are sending him nothing more scintillating that emails to grandma. And in Manchester, Bart has decided to keep a pair of mice for himself. And those mice just happen to be very similar to the stars of that great '90s cartoon, Pinky and the Brain.

This was a fantastic Impulse story, and not just for the Pinky and the Brain reference at the end. We've already seen what a great handle of the character Todd Dezago has, and I am happy to say we will see him again before too long. And with this story, we're introduced to the amazing artwork of Ethan Van Sciver. He fills each page with lush, realistic detail, while also keeping things goofy enough for Impulse. And I'm very happy to say we'll also be seeing Van Sciver again before too long.

The Professional

Christopher Priest – Writer
Mike Collins – Penciller
Tom Palmer – Inker
Gaspar – Letterer
John Kalisz – Colorist

This story focuses on Jesse Chambers, who's trying to balance her life as CEO of QuickStart Enterprises with her superhero career as Jesse Quick. She responds to a bank alarm one morning in Philadelphia to find herself face-to-face with Captain Boomerang. He starts with a bunch of small boomerangs, which Jesse easily destroys in a cloud of smoke. But then Boomerang reveals that was only the first part of his two-part attack. He throws a second boomerang that emits a static charge to ignite the metallic particles from the first boomerangs. The result is a painful, self-sustaining electric shock for Jesse, as the second boomerang feeds off Jesse's super-speed kinetic energy to continually circle around her and keep electrocuting her. With great effort, Jesse is able to fight through the pain and cause the electric field to spike by rubbing her hands together at super speed and directing all the electricity at a nearby power pole.

Jesse wakes up 12 minutes later surrounded by police and paramedics. She immediately asks which way Captain Boomerang went and how much he stole. When Jesse learns Boomerang only made off with $75,000, she realizes that the crime was only a setup for something larger. Boomerang was counting on Jesse to fry the bank's power grid so he could rob a residential address. But it takes Jesse nine and a half minutes to check all the potential houses, and when she finally finds Boomerang's target, all that's left in the safe is a boomerang and a note that reads "Clever girl!"

Jesse returns to work and tries to make it through her day. But her mom, the former Liberty Bell, saw the fight on TV and decides to call up her daughter to tell her everything she did wrong. Jesse is so distraught by this conversation, she doesn't even notice when Impulse drops by to eat all her candy and leave a mouse behind to scare her.

But then Jesse gets a rather welcome visit from a cute EMT she met earlier. She thinks he wants to ask her out, and he admits he is interested, but says he first wants to check her vitals from her electrocution earlier. After all, Jake says, he is a professional. That reminds Jesse that she is a professional as well, which means not being too stubborn to admit you need help. So Jesse excuses herself from the cute boy and calls up Wally to ask for some superhero advice.

I really liked this story. Jesse Quick is forgotten all too often, and she's really a fascinating character. The daughter of two superheroes, a student of superheroes and speedsters herself, and the head of a major corporation. But she still isn't very experienced herself, so it was appropriate to have a veteran like Captain Boomerang kick her butt. And, of course, the best part of this story was the unexpected Impulse cameo. It not only stayed true to Impulse's character, but it created a bit of continuity between these short stories. I wish more comics would have random Impulse cameos just like this. Bart zooms in for no reason at all, grabs some candy or something, and is gone before anyone can react.

The last three stories do not involve Impulse, but are still fun all the same. Thunder and Lightning, by Michael Jan Friedman and Craig Rousseau focuses on Max Mercury back when he was known as Lightning in 1921, and saved Babe Ruth from a group of gangsters. Split-Seconds by Brian Augustyn and Oscar Jimenez takes the future Flash John Fox to 2945. He doesn't meet Bart, who won't be born till 2980, but he does meet Eric and Fran Russell and their infant daughter Iris. And John helps them send her back in time to be raised by Ira and Nadine West. And the last story, Your Life Is My Business by Mark Millar and Ariel Olivetti, has Wally West meet up with the real Mark Millar in a bar in Scotland to help him right the story.

I absolutely loved this comic. It was so rich and dense. Each story was great and unique, while all working together to build the Flash mythos. Almost all the art was rock solid, and all the writers were pretty big names in the world of Flash and Impulse. Although William Messner-Loebs was oddly absent from this compilation. Luckily, this 80-Page Giant sold well enough to launch a second issue in the series, even if it really was a 70-Page Giant.

Next time, we'll see what's going on with Wally and Linda in The Flash #140.

No comments:

Post a Comment