Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Flash #145

Chain Lightning, Chapter One: The Gathering Storm

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Gaspar, Letters
Tom McCraw, Colors
L.A. Williams, Asst. Editor and
Paul Kupperberg, Editor ...
... welcome the new Flash art team of
Paul Pelletier, Pencils and
Vince Russell, Inks.

We have a new art team, but the covers are still being drawn by Steve Lightle. It's a pretty standard group shot of the Flash family, but it's a strong way to indicate that we're starting a big event involving everybody. And as we move throughout Chain Lightning, we'll see this basic cover adapt and change to match the story.

Even though this is the first chapter of Chain Lightning, I feel like we're kind of jumping right into the middle of the story. But things do begin to clear up as we get going. We start by seeing Flash wielding a mystic gem belonging to a villain named Cobalt Blue. With the gem, Wally West somehow sees scores of future Flashes being attacked by future Cobalt Blues. Determined to put an end to this thousand-year killing spree, Wally decides to recruit some help.

Wally first visits the original Flash, Jay Garrick, who's battling a group of goofy villains in robot suits called Team Turmoil. The two Flashes easily defeat the criminals, and Wally tells Jay to meet him at the Central City Police Headquarters in an hour. Wally's next stop is in Philadelphia to contact Jesse Chambers. Her company, QuickStart Enterprises, is being hacked by a rival, but Wally uses his speed-lending ability to overload the outgoing computer lines and crash the rival's computers.

Wally tells Jesse Quick to also meet him in Central City, then he heads to Manchester, Alabama — in particular the Manchester Savings & Loan, which is still undergoing maintenance from the Green Cigarette fiasco. The poor bank is once again being robbed, and one of the gunmen has taken a hostage. Luckily, Max Crandall is there, but before turning into Max Mercury, he issues a warning: "Wait, take it easy. There's no need to do anything rash ... no need to resort to anything foolish. Do you understand me ... Bart?"

That's right, the hostage was our lovable Bart Allen, and Max is more worried about Bart's actions than the gunman's. Suddenly, all the civilians disappear, leaving just the robbers, Max and Bart. Max growls at Bart, but he says he didn't do anything. But now, with everybody gone, Bart begins to fight back, grabbing the gunman's nose. Wally then zooms in to formally take out the robbers, and reveals that he took all the hostages to safety. Max thanks him for helping them protect their secret identities, but Wally is more concerned with this Cobalt Blue business, saying that Bart is a potential target in this futuristic feud.

An hour later, Jay, Jesse, Max and Impulse arrive at the basement of the Central City Police Headquarters, where they find a large electric cube. Max warns Bart not to touch it, but he does anyway, and receives a big shock. But he's unharmed, and wants to do it again. Wally explains that the cube is a new trick of his — a vibrational prison for Cobalt Blue. Wally manipulates the walls to show the others the face of his prisoner, who looks just like Bart's grandpa, Barry Allen. But he's actually Barry's twin brother, Malcolm Thawne, who was stolen at birth by a lunatic doctor and grew up hating everything about Barry and the Flash.

Wally explains that Malcolm studied magic and poured all his hatred into his gem of cobalt blue, and vowed to never rest until he killed his twin brother. Wally acknowledges that Barry did sacrifice himself during the Crisis on Infinite Worlds, but he reminds everyone that Barry spent some time in the 30th century before his death. So it's still conceivable that a descendant of Thawne's could still cause Barry trouble. Plus, there's the troubling matter of a prophecy that two Flashes will be consumed before Cobalt Blue kills Barry.

Wally admits he doesn't have all the answers yet, but he proposes the speedsters do what they can in the meantime. By using Cobalt Blue's gem, Wally is able to pinpoint some of the future Flash/Cobalt Blue battles. And his plan is for all of them to travel to these battles, save the future Flashes, and then enlist their help in warning other future Flashes, forming a human chain letter.

So they all load up on the cosmic treadmill and head to different eras. Jesse Quick arrives in the year 2764, where the current Flash is Jace Allen (we saw him briefly in Speed Force #1). But Jesse arrived a little too late, as Jace's battle is already in progress. And before Jesse can help him, she is blasted from behind by this version of Cobalt Blue.

This was a pretty strong beginning of another great Flash story. First and foremost, though, I have to say I am so, so happy that Paul Pelletier has replaced Pop Mhan. I absolutely could not stand Mhan's work, and it almost baffled me that he was allowed to be the regular artist on The Flash. Pelletier is head-and-shoulders above Mhan, providing a classic, clean, consistent and exciting style. That's the way this series is supposed to look!

I laughed out loud at the joke with Bart in the bank, and I am so glad that these creators acknowledged the continuity of the bank nearly being destroyed not too long ago. I am excited to see all these future versions of the Flash, but I'm still a bit confused as to why it's so imperative for Wally and company to travel through time to warn their descendants about Cobalt Blue. I mean, they're superheroes, can't they take care of themselves? I guess the biggest worry is that Barry Allen will be killed before he can save all reality from the Anti-Monitor, but this issue didn't explicitly state that. I guess I need to read those few issues before this Chain Lightning story officially began.

Speed Reading only contains one very long letter from Alan Vickers, of Malden, Mass. He shares my general dissatisfaction with the Grant Morrison/Mark Millar run, particularly the Black Flash arc. Alan then lists several theories about Cobalt Blue, many of which are accurate. But he doesn't mention Impulse, so we'll move right along.

There aren't any new ads, so that's it for now. Next time, before we dive into Chain Lightning, we'll take a quick detour with Young Justice #6.


  1. Now that I think about it, who in the Flash family was actually aware of Bart's lineage (being half-Thawne and therefore descended from both Cobalt Blue and Professor Zoom)? Definitely Iris and her parents, probably Max and Helen, but I can't recall Wally or Jesse and any of their other allies ever making note of it. Every time it's explicitly mentioned (which admittedly is maybe a handful of times), it's ALWAYS by a Thawne, never a West/Allen/whatever.

    1. Just remembered Zolomon from Flash #224, but apart from that, my question still stands.

    2. Yeah, I don't think Wally knows. Or at least he has never really cared to find out.

      I feel like if Todd Dezago had started writing Impulse a few issues earlier, he could have worked with Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn to tie in Inertia's origin with Chain Lightning. There was a connection there they left on the table.