Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Flash #158

Reverse Flash

Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, Story
Paul Pelletier, Pencils
Doug Halewood, Inks
Tom McCraw, Colors
Saldino & Oakley, Letters
Joey Cavalieri, Editor

Our cover by Steve Lightle is typically disappointing for such an exciting story. Against a bland, green background, we have Replicant holding both the Flashes by the throat, underneath the giant floating head of Abra Kadabra, which is emanating pink energy beams? There are some good ideas here, but there are too many strange, vague things going on. And this is a really good issue, I swear!

Our story picks up with Max Mercury, Impulse, Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick being tortured by Professor Zoom and his neuron gauntlet, which uses our heroes' speed against them to cause crippling pain. Meanwhile, Kadabra is practicing his magic on images of Walter West by burning them, stabbing them, and slicing them in a million pieces. Kadabra then suggests they now go after Walter's girlfriend, Angela. Zoom objects to this, saying Kadabra already allegedly got rid of one of Flash's girlfriend's (Linda Park), and that they need to go straight to the target. Kadabra turns on Zoom, but Replicant pulls him off, saying he agrees with Zoom.

Walter then finds the hideout of these villains — an abandoned theater conspicuously covered in ice. Walter easily vibrates through the ice, only to encounter a field of absolute zero. It takes Walter a moment to accelerate his system through this, but once he does, he ignites the potassium Replicant laced the ice with. But even though he's now on fire, Walter still charges ahead toward the three villains. Kadabra turns Flash into pure light, and entraps him in Replicant's mirrored suit. However, Walter is able to pull himself out of this, demonstrating complete molecular control like Barry Allen had, according to Zoom. Professor Zoom complains about working with amateurs and their overly complicated death schemes. He grabs Walter as soon as he pulls himself out of Replicant, and hits Flash with his neuron gauntlet.

With Walter now incapacitated by searing pain, Abra Kadabra takes a moment to gloat, reminding Flash of how he ruthlessly took away Linda just when Walter thought he had her back. But to Kadabra's astonishment and fury, Walter asks him who Linda is. Zoom mocks his ally, saying he always suspected that Kadabra made up the story about Linda. But Kadabra is mad with rage, demanding to not be robbed of his greatest victory — torturing two Flashes with the loss of their girlfriend. Since Kadabra insists that everybody appreciate what he's done, he decides to undo the spell that caused everyone to forget Linda Park. But once this spell is complete, Linda Park materializes in front of everyone, bringing a big grin to Impulse's face, even though he's being electrocuted. And, to add an even bigger surprise to the mix, Professor Zoom removes his mask to reveal himself as Wally West.

Wally discards the neuron gauntlet, grabs hold of Kadabra, and slams him against the wall. Replicant immediately seizes this opportunity to absorb the neuron gauntlet, but it immediately begins to electrocute him. The other speedsters then reveal they're just fine, and Wally explains that the lightning effects from the gauntlet were just a light show. The true purpose of the device was to contain a nanovirus created specifically for Replicant by the Pied Piper. Impulse references a classic Superman cover to describe the electricity that was supposedly hurting the speedsters.

With Replicant incapacitated, Kadabra surrounds himself with a force field to work up another spell. The Flashes understand they need to stop him from casting this spell, but they can't vibrate through the bubble. So Linda suggests they fight the magician with his own tricks and use mirrors. So Walter and Wally race around Kadabra with a couple of mirrors as he unleashes his spell to erase the two of them from human existence. The spell rebounds off the mirrors and hits Kadabra, who appears unharmed by the blast, but has completely forgotten who he is.

Once Kadabra and Replicant are in custody and under the care of prison doctors, everybody meets up at the Central City Police Department to figure out what the heck just happened. Wally explains that when he and Linda were on Walter's world, Kadabra thought he incinerated the two of them. But Wally managed to vibrate himself and Linda into immaterial wraiths so they'd survive Kadabra's blast and hopefully find a way back home. But Wally and Linda had a hard time navigating through all the different worlds. Among the places they saw was a world where Linda loved Kyle Rayner instead, one where Wally was homeless, one where Wally was a dictator, one where Linda had super speed, one where Wally died in Linda's arms, and one where they were married and had a baby.

After a week of shifting through all these different dimensions, Wally and Linda came across one where Jesse, Jay, Max and Impulse were wondering aloud who Linda is. Wally and Linda initially thought this world was another dead end, but then they heard Impulse tell everyone that Linda is Wally's girlfriend who helped them fight Kobra. Wally and Linda realized that this was their home world, and that Impulse, their little chronal misfit, would be able to remember Linda since he was pulled out of time. As Wally explains this part of the story, Impulse is kind enough to not gloat out loud. But inside, he imagines himself as a genius, and Max and Jesse as stupid apes.

But even though Wally and Linda found the right world, only Wally was able to come back in a tangible form. Kadabra's spell was so powerful that Linda remained a wraith, unknown and unseen by everyone except Wally and Bart. As Wally tells his story, a strange thing happens. For a brief moment, everyone's clothes change, and he refers to Jay as Jack. But things quickly return to normal, and nobody really noticed it. Returning to his story, Wally explains that he still didn't completely trust Walter, so he went to Jay first, told him everything, and asked him not to tell anybody else that he's alive, since Kadabra could be watching them. Wally spent the next few weeks living in secret and searching the city until he found Kadabra's hideout. He then devised his plan to disguise himself as Professor Zoom, and, working through Jay, had Pied Piper create a device that could take down Replicant.

After Wally's story, Max congratulates him on his brilliant plan, then turns on Walter, saying none of this clears him of the charade he pulled on them. But Walter brushes him off and tends to his fiancee, Angela, who now feels like Walter will leave her to be with Linda. Walter explains to Angela that his Linda is gone, and he still wants to marry her. He tries to put the engagement ring on Angela's finger, but his wrist is suddenly caught in Wonder Woman's lasso. Accompanying the Amazon is Superman, who doesn't look too happy.

This issue, and the whole story, is a wonderful culmination of everything Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn (both as editor and co-writer) have done on The Flash. The Wally-Linda romance, Wally's relationship with the other speedsters, the idea of the Speed Force and alternate realities, the time-travel aspect of Bart Allen and the sheer power of Abra Kadabra are all the result of the years Waid and Augustyn put into the book. It makes for a rather complex story, but these guys do a really good job of explaining everything. And those who have been reading The Flash for a while gain a greater sense of appreciation for having everything come together in such a fun, exciting way. And the best part is we're not done yet!

Next time, we'll see how Impulse and his friends handle the press after accidentally destroying Mount Rushmore in Young Justice #18.

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