Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Flash #149

Chain Lightning, Chapter Five Whirlpool

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Paul Pelletier, Pencils
Vince Russell, Inks
Gaspar, Letters
Tom McCraw, Colors
Frank Berrios, Asst. Editor
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

Steve Lightle continues the Chain Lightning format on the cover, but this time, it's just Wally West and his former mentor, Barry Allen. And it looks like they've just about reached whatever it is they've been racing toward — this is the penultimate issue of the story, after all. The cover is alright, but the biggest problem — as we'll see inside — is that Wally and Barry are wearing exactly the same costume. The only way to tell them apart is by the color of their eyes, and even then that's not always reliable. And, as I am want to do, I must once again complain that Paul Pelletier's superior pencils didn't grace this cover.

What Has Gone Before: Cobalt Blue — a.k.a. Malcolm Thawne, twisted twin brother of Flash's predecessor, Barry Allen — has sworn vengeance against all Flashes past and present. Using a magic gem of incalculable power passed from generation to generation, Thawne's own descendants targeted Flashes for the next thousand years — until Wally West and his allies moved through time to stop them.

Unfortunately, Thawne's revenge has taken a chilling twist. Using fragments of his gem, he has possessed the bodies of all speedsters save Wally — and Barry, who is living out the last of his days not in the past, but in his new hometime of the 30th century. Now, Wally and Barry face their final showdown with an army of former friends under Thawne's command.

Because Barry is destined to perish not her but in the cosmos-spanning Crisis War, Wally is confident that his uncle will not die before his time. Wally himself has no such assurances, however ...

We pick up right where we left off with Barry and Wally battling all the possessed speedsters, led by Jay Garrick, who has turned white and blue under Cobalt Blue's possession. Wally and Barry hold their own for a little bit, despite being outnumbered. But that soon changes when Cobalt Blue uses the gem's ability to steal speed from Wally and Barry. Before completely running out of speed, Wally creates a diversion by vibrating the ground to cause a large explosion, which he and Barry use to escape.

Barry and Wally use the last of their speed to reach the Flash Museum and battle past its robot guards. Barry admits he's never been in the museum before since he doesn't want to find out how he dies. Things get a little awkward for Wally, who know that his uncle sacrificed himself to destroy the Anti-Monitor's weapon during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. So Wally apologizes for taking Barry to the museum, but he said it's the only place they can hide until they get their powers back.

Wally grabs some of Mirror Master's mirrors to cloak himself and Barry from XS and a very large Flash. Once they're gone, Wally and Barry continue their awkward conversation, which escalates into Wally angrily apologizing to Barry for stealing his identity. But Barry clears things up by saying he's proud of Wally, and he had the same feelings of fear when he first met Jay Garrick, whose identity he basically stole. Barry said that Jay was actually relieved to see someone else be the Flash, and he feels the same way about Wally.

With all that sappiness out of the way, the two Flashes feel their powers returning, and they decide to load up on the Rogues' weapons to help them defeat Cobalt Blue. Their first priority, though, is releasing Jay, which Barry accomplishes by blasting him with Captain Cold's gun, while Wally fends off the other speedsters with boomerangs and tops. The ice shatters the gem on Jay's chest, and the original Flash returns to normal. Barry warms him up, but the other speedsters remain under Cobalt Blue's control and move in to attack.

The Flashes then move on to the second part of their plan. Since time travel is a vibratory process, Barry came up with the idea of vibrating the ground to counteract the speedsters' vibrations, relax them, and send them back home. Barry, Wally and Jay place their hands on the ground and begin vibrating it, absorbing all the blows from the possessed speedsters. Wally worries about this, telling Barry that everything he vibrates explodes, but Barry exhorts him to focus. Eventually, their plan does work, and all the speedsters disappear, leaving the shattered gem fragments behind.

Wally, Barry and Jay take a moment to savor their victory, failing to notice the lingering blue flames around them. Jay is the first to leave, saying he's exhausted by the adventure. Wally continues to linger just a bit longer with Barry until they're suddenly approached by a strange man called Pariah. He delivers a dire warning of eternal night and says the end is here before he begins to fade away. A confused Wally says the Crisis already happened, which, in turn, confuses Barry even more, since he hasn't heard about the Crisis.

Amidst all this confusion, the flickering blue flames grow in strength and form a humanoid figure. Cobalt Blue says he'll go out in a blaze of vengeance, and uses the last of his strength to blast Barry from behind, killing him. Wally holds Barry's disintegrating corpse in his arms as the world around him fades to white. As Wally realizes that Barry's death now changed the Crisis, the world reforms to a dystopian landscape, with the Anti-Monitor standing right in front of Wally.

Now that's what you call a cliffhanger. After an exciting battle with Wally and Barry against all the other Flashes, aided by weapons from the Rogues, our heroes still failed, and the ultimate evil won. It's also really neat that Chain Lightning ties into perhaps the biggest crossover event of all time, Crisis on Infinite Earths. As an Impulse fan, though, I am disappointed that we only got one image of the "evil" Impulse — but it was a pretty awesomely creepy image! And, sadly, Impulse was safely sent home right before this story wrapped up, so we'll have to skip the conclusion in The Flash #150.

I only have the digital version of this issue, so no letters or ads this time. Next time, we'll see an unexpected weakness of Impulse's in Young Justice #9.

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