The Flash #68 review

‘Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess’

So sang the late, great British comedian Ken Dodd. It’s not a sentiment Barry Allen agrees with when old foe The Trickster pulls off his latest trick – using a machine connected to the mysterious Sage Force to make most everyone in Central City feel like it’s Christmas, their birthday and payday rolled into one.

Barry is forced through James Jesse’s Happy Machine and the conversion therapy seems to work.

The Flash, though, is a modern Mercury, a god of speed, and like the Greek deity is a bit of a trickster himself. He sounds like the Ugly Sisters in Into the Woods, but it’s a feint – he used his ability to vibrate at super speed to bypass the mind control.

Soon, he’s fighting back, with the aid of future cop Commander Cold.

Then the Trickster shows our hero just how big a problem he’s facing.

That is one wonderful panel from illustrator Scott Kolins and colourist Luis Guererro. The level of detail is hugely impressive, and I love the silliness among the chaos, with participants including a chef in his whites and a parasol-brandishing circus performer. And what, I wonder, can a wheelchair from Star Labs do? Probably blow up a small city. The cute touches may come from the sharp mind of Kolins but could equally have been suggested by writer Josh Williamson; whatever the case, Kolins and Guerrero do a splendid job of conjuring a special kind of urban madness. And at Iron Heights, there’s a real sense of carnival as the Trickster’s sound and light show explodes through the prison that’s become his lair, his fellow rogues either henchmen or prisoners.

Kolins just gets better with every passing year, while semi-regular colourist Guerrero, a newcomer by comparison, is proving a more than capable partner. A small detail that works well is the lack of black panel borders, while the sound effects on the art are pretty delightful.

I think said onomatopoeia is down to Kolins, though it could be the work of seriously skilled letterer Steve Wands, who lays down Williamson’s script with his typical talent.

As for Williamson, I’ve really liked the last couple of fortnightly instalments; my enjoyment of recent issues has been slightly lessened by them being so tied to the tedious new ‘forces’ released into the DC Universe by the Justice League. The Speed Force is long established but sudden sister forces Sage, Strength and Still are so nebulous as to be not so much thrilling new ingredients as horrendous hobblers. I’ve got to the point of sticking my fingers in my ears whenever they come up and thinking ‘mmm, stuff’. I’m just enjoying the struggle between the Flash and the Trickster, who’s back to being a bad guy for reasons that make no sense to me. I like this issue despite the fact Barry is being played as less competent than he is traditionally – the ‘can anticipate a thousand outcomes to any situation’ Flash of the early New 52 is long gone. This issue, especially, he takes a back seat to Commander Cold in the smarts and competence department, but I fully expect Barry to save the day come the conclusion… well, once he gets past the cliffhanger… I’m stumped as to how our hero will proceed.

Meanwhile, we have here a very readable comic, full of colourful characters and gorgeous visuals, one I can heartily recommend to lovers of solidly stylist superhero sagas.

7 thoughts on “The Flash #68 review

  1. I love what Mark Waid brought to the Flash as much as anyone, but his invention of the Speed Force?
    If I never have to read another story about the Speed/Sage/Strength/Still force, I’ll be a happy man. Surely there are other types of stories to tell about the character. I mean, heck… not even the trial of the flash lasted this long.
    I run hot and cold on Kolins’ art, but I can’t deny that he’s got a distinctive flavour and style all his own. Props to him for staying true to his vision and not giving us more of generic house style art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you! The Speed Force is the worst thing that’s ever happened to the Flash. The only possible upside to me is that Barry can, maybe, choose to share his power with others (Like Captain Marvel/Shazam does) but these other forces make no sense. Still force? WTF is that? Wouldn’t stillness be the lack of all forces?

      The writing on this book is entertaining, though, which is why I have stuck with it, even if I hate the actual concepts at work. I think at this point DC is just letting Scott Snyder run roughshod over their universe with his overly complicated views on these heroes and their powers. Seems no character can ever just be what they are anymore, they have to be part of some cosmic force or cosmic destiny.

      Can’t Batman just be a tough guy with lots of money who kicks ass? Can’t Flash just be fast AF? Does Hawkgirl have to be a map to the whole Multiverse?

      I’m getting burned out on it. Reading fewer and fewer books as a result.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Murray, Comics Geezer, I agree – I was good with the Speed Force when it was an occasional plot device, but it’s far too much a magical catch-all now, overused and boring. It’s like when all the heroes of the DCU were being pegged as elementals. Just let everyone keep their own origins rather than be linked. And let Barry be motivated by his mother only in that she and Henry were good people, not due to her being horribly slain.

        And there are far too many speedsters around, there needs to be a culling of powers. Bring back Wally, keep Impulse and occasionally have Jesse, Max and Johnny show up… I don’t need super-gorillas and top-themed villains to be connected to the Speed Force.


  2. I agree about all these other forces out there. HATE them.
    The way introduced by Wait was fine. John’s fitting in and out and other adjustments just watered down and all but destroyed the original premise

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was fine with the speed force, but these other forces are groaners. I’ve still been able to enjoy the stories around them — I treat all mentions of the “sage force” or whatever like I used to treat those weird Thanagarian diseases in 70s JLA comics — just nod along, and hope we get to the fighting soon. I’ve liked the characters Barry and Iris met during the “Force Quest” — another awful name — but the framework seemed oh, I dunno… forced?

    I’m enjoying this Trickster story a lot, though — even if he’s working with the Sage force too. These forces are basically the 2018 equivalent of Neron’s power-ups…at least, until Luthor gives us the 2019 version this summer.

    (And speaking of Neron, it was nice to see Trickster reference his history with him!)

    And Kolins is doing a great job. When last issue came out, it occurred to me that his career with the Flash is comparable in longevity to Infantino’s — he did a lengthy run decades ago, and has now come back for another round, like Infantino did in the 80s. Kolins was never gone as permanently as Infantino was, but it’s always good to see him back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now I’m scared, Rob – what if the fact that everyone here is agreeing is a symptom of the Equaliser Plague? Eek!

      The nod to Neron WAS a nice callback, though it reminded me of the Trickster’s Nineties look, which was more nightmarish than any DC hell.

      Great point on Kolins! He was here in Edinburgh the other weekend… and I was on a press trip to England. Bah.


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