The Flash #51 review

You know how you’ve not read someone’s series for awhile, but you miss that character and are really in the mood to get reacquainted with an old friend? That was me with The Flash this week. I’d dropped off the book, bored with the constant speed villains, but seeing that this issue featured The Riddler, it seemed time to pop back to Central City. 

Blimey. While I’ve been away, the comic’s gone all TeeVee. Barry’s blond hair has turned Grant Gustin brown, his face is being drawn to resemble the actor’s, there’s an anti-Flash police task force… it’s a bit jarring. Iris is still Caucasian, but let’s see how she looks come DC Rebirth. 
I wouldn’t mind if the story was good, but it’s depressing, disappointing stuff. Things apparently kicked off last issue, and as we join Barry, he’s at the mercy of the Riddler. Barry starts to take the floating guns above him apart but it turns out Riddler has filled the skies with the killer drones and could target hundreds of citizens at once. 
The impotent Barry has to be whisked away by Hartley Rathaway, the Pied Piper, who shows up on a souped-up bike (Hartley on a Harley?). There’s a bit of a chase as drones attack the heroes, but Piper ensures they get to the safety of a tunnel. You might expect the Pied Piper to use his trademark sonic pipes, but no, apparently he’s a regular Johnny Blaze. 
Barry? He’s a passenger, nothing more. He does mention to Piper that they need more firepower… before showing up at the end of the issue to surrender to the Riddler. Hopefully this is some kind of trick, but I could easily believe it isn’t, given Barry’s lacklustre performance up to now. 
Shouldn’t this be the issue in which The Flash fights back, shows just what super-speed allied to his own not-inconsiderable brain can do? The Riddler is, of course, smart enough to give Batman a good fight, but Batman hasn’t got unimaginable super-speed. Rather than a classic confrontation, Barry disappears from the book for several pages while the Riddler frightens Captain Frye; Iris, Wally and Henry fret about Barry; and the Rogues hover around a poorly Golden Glider’s hospital bed. It may be fascinating for regular readers, but I doubt it – there’s not much in the way of tension in Van Jensen’s script, while Gus Vazquez and Joe Eisma’s art is pleasant, but pedestrian – when the biggest kick you get is noticing Henry Allen is wearing a Golden Age Green Lantern tee shirt, you’re in trouble. And I realise the artists didn’t design the current hideously fussy Flash costume, but surely it doesn’t have to look this weird?
When this series began with the New 52, writer-artists Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato had all kinds of ideas as to what Barry could do with his powers, there was a real energy to the book. I don’t know what the upcoming DC Rebirth relaunch of the Flash has in store but it has to be better than this slow death. 

11 thoughts on “The Flash #51 review

  1. I almost picked this issue up. I'm a longtime Flash fan, but Brett Booth's art (and general storytelling drudgery) finally drove me away (only for the second time since 1977…and the first time was the Bart Allen run, which might give you an idea of how dire things were getting). But Flash versus the Riddler? Sounds like a pairing with a lot of potential. But I gave it a flip-through, and I realized this wasn't the start of the story… and I got the impression that the Riddler was behind Flash being declared an outlaw, which might or might not have been accurate. Regardless, I couldn't bring myself to buy it, what with recent Flash comics being so unimpressive.

    I'll definitely be there for Rebirth, though… Joshua Williamson is writing — I really liked his GHOSTED series — and Carmine Di Giandomenico and Neil Googe are trading off the art chores for the bi-weekly series. I'm not familiar with Di Giandomenico's work — although kicking off a Flash series with a Carmine seems appropriate! — but I know Neil is putting his heart & soul into his pages. I think it'll be a great book.


  2. Yeah, Iris and Wally are definitely going to resemble their TV counterparts after Rebirth. Wally is going to be DC's Spider-Gwen – he's 'Wally West', but a kind-of-new Wally.


  3. That costume is hilariously over-busy – like a kid who's found out how a colour dodge layer* works in Photoshop and has decided they're going to keep using it until their eyes bleed.

    The Riddler's plan is also a complete rip-off of a two-panel bluff Prometheus used on Flash during Grant Morrison's JLA run. This either says something about the amount of ideas Morrison would go through in his comics, or it says something about how few ideas are in this Flash comic that it has to stretch two panels from a 15 year-old comic over several issues.

    * basically the effect that makes lines look like they're “glowing” or a different colour other than black


  4. I've been re-reading Mark Waid's Flash for the last little while, and everything else just pales in comparison, unfortunately. Sigh. I miss Wally-Flash, Impulse, Max Mercury.


  5. I think I pre-ordered this ish for my brother, a big Riddler fan, and I thought it was so different having him as a villain for Flash, I was excited. Reading your review, and looking at the makes me regret it I did.

    While I can understand wanting to sync up the book to the TV show, why do they have to alter the character's hair. That may be a little thing but still, Barry's blonde. If Gustin can't pull it off, that doesn't mean one should just change a character because of a show. I know what I just declared there.

    The first storyline of Rebirth has a whole bunch of speedsters being created, and the first villain is touted as being a serial killer speedster, as if that's something new. Didn't Pre-Flashpoint Barry's series have him and Bart on the trail of one of those. Isn't Reverse-Flash one? Wasn't Zoom one?

    Since the TV series has its own version of “Jesse Quick,” I wonder if she, as a speedster, will appear in comics. I'm not happy that Jay Garrick/ Flash is actually evil Zoom, as I find it disrespectful to the creator of “The Flash,” but hopefully in the comics this won't be the case if we ever get the JSA back.


  6. Having everyone look like their TV versions just underlines that since the Eighties we've been jumping from alternate world to alternate world. I loved loads of post-Crisis, such as the triangle Superman Family of books, but I think my heart is on Earth One. Which isn't to say I won't give the Rebirth books a fair crack – just give me a tempting mix of legacy and originality, done with style and respect.


  7. Rob, I like Neil G, and Carmine DG did some very nice work as regular artist on the last run of X Factor, so he's even done a super-speedster. And yes, Williamson is excellent, so hopefully it'll be good times.


  8. Me too Tom, that was a fantastic period. I realise DC made a creative misstep with giving Wally kids but heck, I just don't understand why they would throw him out of their continuity so completely. Waid had shown us that multiple Flashes was doable, the idea that a returned Barry (he's a zombie, I tell ya!) must be the sole adult speedster us risible.


  9. Hmm, so there's a … brother Screensaver as well as Nephew Screensaver? I bet you lot have a magic word.

    I'm only on the first series of the Flash, so LA LA LA I can't hear you.

    (If I could, I'd say you're probably right – off to Google pics of TV Jesse Quick.)


  10. Oops, sorry about that spoiler. 😦
    Yep, a whole lot of us Screensavers. It's a legacy thing, my mom was into comics as a kid (she doesn't read them now but is a fan of certain characters and watches TV shows and movies) and her mum, my Grammy, actually was the one who got me into comics. I wish we had a magic word, instead we just have a weakness for having our money taken for pop culture characters … well, mainly me anyway. 😛


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