I wasn’t too keen on the first issue of this mini series – yes, I see writer Geoff Johns’ point that Barry Allen has never been written as a man living in a post-Crisis world, but he was far too gloomy for me. This issue gets credit for having Barry recognise that he’s a little off, that the sense of doom he’s feeling isn’t natural to him. It also gains Silver Ancient points for featuring Barry’s old lab partner, Patty Spivot, for about the first time in three decades. I also liked that the lab rats apparently include Al Desmond, the future Mr Element/Dr Alchemy, and a guy who looks like a relative of Wally’s long unseen pal Chester Runk aka Chunk.
I must, though, award several Roy Thomas demerits for explaining something that doesn’t need explaining: why Barry Allen wore a bow tie.
He wore a bow tie because it was the Silver Age and that’s how some guys dressed; by the Seventies the thing was pretty much gone. If, in bringing the date of Barry’s hero history forward, his past escapes the Silver Age and the bow tie seems less likely, well, there you go. If asked to think about why Barry might have wore a bow tie my reasons would be a) he liked bow ties, as some guys do and/or b) it was smart workwear that didn’t dangle in his scientific experiments (UK surgeons often wear bow ties for the same reason).
But really, you don’t need to address it – if the bow tie is considered outre, simply don’t draw it in flashbacks. When was the last time we saw Tony Stark with a pencil tache, Bruce Wayne with a pipe or Tom Kalmaku referred to as Pieface? If you don’t like something from decades ago, sidestep it.
Oh, and since when did Iris West work for something called the Central City Citizen? It’s a clever title but since her first appearance Iris was a journalist for Picture News? It’s not the snazziest title, but who even noticed it? Arbitrary changes really get on my wick. (And I demand an explanation as to why Iris is seen with long hair rather than a swept-up bun jobby – it’s sooooo confusing!)
The issue pretty much keeps last issue’s structure, mixing the mystery of Barry’s return with flashbacks to his beginnings as a superhero and retconned childhood tragedy. I still find the latter terribly annoying, injecting Barry Allen with a grim motivation he never needed, but it’s a thread that looks to be here for the duration so I’m at least interested to see how things turn out. Plus, where do super-scientific gorillas who can only manage cave paintings fit in? The main plot is advanced as we see that Barry’s return is definitely hurting others connected to the Speed Force, even killing some. This makes for a surfeit of speedsters that is pretty annoying in a series I expected to focus on Barry – the Speed Force was Wally’s thing, seeing it slathered all over a Barry story is weird.
The focus leads to a predictable ending, with Barry becoming something awful, but at least gaining a cute new logo. I did find it rather funny that one scene has Barry asking ‘How do you kill Death’ when he did that very thing in the Sixties story Death Stalks the Flash (if you’re not familiar with that gem, Thomas Katers recaps it to fun effect on #176 of his Tom Vs The Flash podcast – accept no substitutes).
Ethan Van Sciver’s Showcase #4 cover homage is a keeper and the interior art is pretty decent – my only real problem is that the speed force effect dancing around Barry and Wally are hideously faffy; I like my speedsters with clean lines.
In all, a decently daft comic, typical of Geoff Johns in its preoccupation with death. It’s not nearly good enough, though, to convince me that Barry’s wonderfully heroic ending should have been undone.