Monday, July 4, 2016

The Flash #157

Setting the Stage

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Paul Pelletier, Pencils
Jose Marzan, Jr. and Doug Hazlewood, Inks
Tom McCraw, Colors
Gaspar, Letters
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

I'm so sad that these beautiful Paul Pelletier issues have to come with such lame Steve Lightle covers. Granted, this is far from his worst work, but it just comes off a bit bland for what's supposed to be a striking, emotional moment. Now, maybe I'm being a bit harsh of Lightle. The biggest reason this cover carries no emotional weight is because of the absurd tombstone. We've seen Linda "death" before, so why should we care this time? Also, why wouldn't they commit to a birth year for Linda? If they really wanted to hide that date, then they should have put the tombstone on the left, with the depressed Flash on the right, leaning on the grave marker, and conveniently blocking the years with his hand.

Impulse didn't appear in the last issue, but that's OK, since this one does an excellent job of recounting the whole story for us. Our story begins in Venice, where Walter West and Angela Margolin are celebrating their recent engagement. (I know he's the Flash, but that sure was fast!) The couple are attacked by Replicant, a villain that has a suit that has absorbed the power of all the Rogues' weapons. Walter eventually gains the upper hand on Replicant, but before he can deliver the final blow, Replicant is teleported away by Abra Kadabra, who was watching the battle from afar.

In Keystone City, Jay Garrick has commissioned the Pied Piper to build a device that he believes will be their only defense against what's coming, although he doubts they'll have a chance to pull it off. Hartley suspects Jay is withholding information from him, but Jay assures him he's told him everything he knows — more than he's told Max Mercury, Impulse, Jesse Quick or even those who deserve most to know. As Jay talks, we see Linda Park's mom, still distraught by the sudden disappearance of her daughter.

Jay then heads over to the Flash Museum in Central City, to talk to Max, Jesse and Impulse in Walter's secret underground hideout. We don't hear everything Jay says, but he does conclude his speech by telling the other speedsters they need to choose their words carefully since they could be under surveillance right now. Jesse is a little doubtful about being asked to risk her life for someone she doesn't know, and she asks Jay how solid his information is. Jay says the answer to that has been under their nose the entire time. He glances at Impulse, who is having an animated conversation with the wall: "— so then Max looks at me like a goldfish — and Jesse shakes my head 'to see if anything's loose' —"

Max and Jesse both correctly guess that Bart is talking to Linda. Bart freezes for a moment, then leaps into Max's and Jesse's arms, rejoicing that they finally believe him. But Bart's joy is short-lived. Max and Jesse still think Linda is Bart's imaginary friend. Bart kind of freaks out and explains the whole situation. Kadabra kidnapped Linda and caused the whole world to believe she disappeared before she ever met Wally or the other speedsters. According to Bart, Linda told him that he remembers because he's from the future — outside of time. And now Bart warns the others that they have to help Linda or she'll be lost like a ghost forever. Sadly, Bart's pleas fall on deaf ears. But as everyone leaves, we see a ghost-like image of Linda crying and thanking Bart.

We then check in with Abra Kadabra, who is clearly explaining the whole story to Replicant. Kadabra figured out that Linda is Wally's "anchor." Whenever he gets lost in the Speed Force, he is naturally drawn to his love and can always find his way back home. So Kadabra kidnapped her and caused the world to forget — just as Impulse said. But Linda escaped from Abra Kadabra and ended up in a parallel world — Walter West's world. In Walter's timeline, Linda was killed by Kobra, which made him emotionally unstable and violent.

To Kadabra's surprise, Wally was still able to find his Linda on Walter's Earth. Kadabra says he battled both Flashes before he finally killed Wally and Linda. Kadabra and Walter then engaged in a vicious fight, which left both of them wounded and scarred — Walter even had to age himself during the battle to recover from his wounds. Kadabra fled to this Earth (Wally's world), but was surprised to see Walter had followed him here.

Meanwhile, Walter has finally decided to tell his fiancee everything, admitting that he was hoping to just take Wally's place in this world. He kept the mask on until he could make his way through all of Wally's journals and chronicles so he'd never be found out. Even after saying all this, Angela still seems to love Walter.

Before Kadabra and Replicant can plot their next move, they're suddenly joined by Professor Zoom. He says he wants to help them kill this new Flash, and he shows off a neuron gauntlet, specifically designed to take down speedsters. Eobard Thawne also suggests they stop going after Flash's girlfriend and instead target his speedster friends, since they actually pose a threat to them.

We check in with Max Mercury, who is lecturing Bart about his imaginary friend, saying he wished the teen would put this much focus into his homework. But when Max turns to face his ward, he sees Bart has been transformed into a wooden puppet. Max reaches out for Impulse, but he turns into a liquid that envelops Max and hardens into restraints around him. Abra Kadabra and Replicant reveal themselves, and Professor Zoom sneaks up from behind to hit Max with his neuron gauntlet, which redirects Max's speed energy from his muscles into his nervous system, paralyzing him with intense pain. And we see these villains have also captured Jay, Jesse and Impulse, who are also suffering the effects of Zoom's gauntlet.

This is pretty awesome. This is a big, sprawling, complicated story, but it's broken down and explained very clearly. Wade and Augustyn have been building to this for a while, and now it has reached an exciting, terrifying conclusion. (That Impulse puppet was downright creepy!) I have complained in the past about how often Wally gets "trapped" in the Speed Force. But this story gave us a villain that noticed this, and tried to take advantage of it. Brilliant.

And how can I not praise the art? The panel I posted is probably one of my top 10 favorites images of Impulse — it's just so random and wonderful. But I also loved the shock and wonder and rejoicing Impulse showed when he thought the others believed him, followed immediately by panic and outrage. And that puppet ... man! I've said it before and I'll say it again — this is the best Impulse has looked across all the titles he appears in. Between Pelletier, Todd Nauck and Ethan Van Sciver, Impulse is being drawn at a consistently high standard.

Next time, we'll get some bad nose puns and an escape attempt in Young Justice #17.

No comments:

Post a Comment