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Subj: The Flash #39 (aka The Flash #700!)...
Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 at 08:38:06 pm EST (Viewed 908 times)
If reader accessibility is a concern of writer Joshua Williamson then the content and flow of The Flash #39 does not a thing to support such a thing.
Oh Certainly the opening sequence does its job, after a fashion, with some unknown narrator musing over mankinds historical hunger for power. Their game mumblings amount to nothing however as the confusing set of visuals that go with illustrating this monologue are a largely incomprehensible mishmash with the common theme being the presence of lightning, culminating in an altogether pompous and wasteful third page of interspersed three horizontal panels set on a page of white space and the bold statement accompanying these panels that informs us that DC is proud to present the 700th issue of The Flash!
turn the page and a double-page spread of the Scarlet Comet as he races through the city, the lightning symbology being continued here as Barry Allen is, bafflingly, musing over some long lost love named Sally Sherman... interest finally arrived for this reader as we segue to a meeting between Barry and Iris West at the side of the grave of his mother. Quite why anyone would arrange a meeting of romantic apology at a venue like this goes unmentioned by anyone involved. But it IS a very effective sequence, one I shall return to anon.
So let me be clear this isn't a book without some points of genuine interest and worth, but it nevertheless a book to hold up if wanting to demonstrate how not to write a superhero book that will leave an audience feeling alienated by the flow of unfathomable names and events of which they cannot possible process in such a stream of steady arrival. As said the problem in this could be taken as being there right from the first page and that meaningless monologue on 'power', shift forward a couple of pages and there is the stilted and grindingly formulaic meet and apologies between Barry and Iris, with mentions of some prior engagement with Eobard Thawne, but then on the same page is a reference to something called "Red Death"? Follow the narrative and we shift to Kid Flash and his interest in a Dr Karver, Wally references something called "Black Hole" and the sequence of events between he and Karver, not all of which can make sense to the new reader unfamiliar with any of this story. Onto this scene abruptly appears some girl dressed in a garish purple costume, whom Wally recognises as "Avery" and whom is involved in something called "Justice League China", except she's from Central City? And there was some meeting between this group and the American Justice League... lots more exposition with more talk about the Speed-Force, something happens and Dr Karver is left dead as the two watch, while out in space Barry has taken Iris on a tour of The Watchtower headquarters of the Justice League and we are led to believe this is some stretching of the groups rules, a peculiarity as the League have been seen to have a perfectly relaxed attitude to such visits from family and friends.
Yes, there lies a good deal of unwarranted and unnecessary weight in of Joshua Williamson's script for this issue. A baffling succession of non-descript characters and names appear from page to page and come and go without much explanation as to the who and why of their existence. The script fair cries out for an edit. But in amidst all of this soup the endeavors of Barry Allen to repair his relationship with Iris West anchors the readers attention and lends some backbone to the unfolding story. The aftermath of a Superhero's Secret Identity being kept secret to his nearest and dearest is not a subject often explored in the genre, certainly not in recent years at least, and while Iris West's reaction is one of feeling some betrayal at Barry's secrecy and assumed selfishness is somewhat forced if taken at face-value, and yes the scene at he gravesite of Barry's mother is Soap-opera at its most basic level, the execution of it all is really a fine exercise from all concerned - artist Carmine Giandomenico and Colourist Ivan Plascencia in particular.
Within the world of Superheroes rarely does the fundamental wonder of their existence, their larger than life hope-inspiring nature, ever gain as evocative a representation as the creative team above manage for the scenes of Barry Allen's arrival and brief conversation with the estranged Iris West on pages 6,7, & 8. On external view there is little here that is at all original, none of the dialogue is of any particular note, even the situation unfolding on these three pages is of no inherent originality or excitement in itself. But what the books Colourist, Ivan Plascencia, performs on these pages handed him by the deceptively gifted Carmine Giandomenico is nothing short of extraordinary. A setting directed by the writer of the interior of a graveyard, placed within the context of a wounded relationship and damaged faith, sets the imagination of Ivan Plascencia a challenge, and whether this tone was expressly asked for by of the writer or whether the colourist himself culled forth the pallette from his own study and thoughts on the scenes in question the effect of the gray depressive colourlessness of that cautious meeting between Barry Allen and Iris West unfolds akin to something from MGM's Wizard of Oz or Gary Loss' Pleasantville. A world of drab dreariness, of sheer mundane ordinariness, is transformed by the arrival of something really rather wonderful, magical. As Ivan Plascencia imbues Iris' own doubts and hurt that air of bleak depression, that outlook, the feeling, colours hers and our perceptions of how the world looks around us by how we feel. How magical then that the arrival of The Flash, in his bright scarlet and blaze of light, dispels all of that and suddenly bring Iris' and our world to vivid larger than life reality! Everything can be better and safe now. More Real.
The development of the scenes if highly effective. The Flash #39 itself isn't anything special as an issue, just another go around as it turns out with Gorilla Grodd when all is said and done. And yet the book does offer these occasional moment of visual splendor, the sight and experience of an artist and colourist both firing the others imagination and abilities to test both themselves and the books visual range.
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