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Flash #196

Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Phil Winslade

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens at the hospital where we see the fugitive Peek-a-boo has arrived to visit her dying father, but when a security guard makes the mistake of striking the young woman, the resultant explosion is enough to bring Keystone City detectives Morillo & Chyre to the scene. We then look in on Wally who is paying a visit to the recently paralyzed FBI profiler Hunter, but when Hunter asks Wally to use the time traveling abilities of the cosmic treadmill to jump back in time & prevent the accident that crippled him, we see Wally has to refuse as he's not prepared to muck around with the time-stream. As Hunter makes it clear he's not happy with Wally's answer, we see their conversation is cut short when Peek-a-boo makes a return visit, but we see her efforts to save her dying father prove to be fruitless, and she can one watch helplessly as he dies of kidney failure. We then see the upset young woman starts to lash out at the world, and Wally catches the full brunt of one of her explosive attacks. However, we also learn Linda, Wally's wife, was also caught up in the blast, and we see the impact might've harmed her unborn children. With Wally in bad shape & unable to get Linda to the medical attention she needs, we see his plea for help manages to reach Peek-a-boo, and she teleports Linda to safety.

Comments:
In addition to the reworking of the original Rogues, Geoff Johns has also created a handful of new villains during his run, and while the wonderfully disturbed Murmur is far and away my favorite, Peek-a-boo fits into the number two slot quite nicely. Her power is certainly an interesting match for the Flash, as he can't make physical contact with her or else she'll teleport away, and leave him with an explosive wake that could endanger innocent bystanders. Now this issue does effectively do away with the primary motivation that Peek-a-boo had for her villainous activities, as her father dies after he received the kidney transplant. However with her inability to be touched without triggering an explosive counter-response makes her too good a match for the Flash for her to be sitting in jail cooling her heels, so I imagine we'll see her again, most likely as a member of the Rogues. My one quibble with how this issue handled her power is that we do get a scene where the Flash is standing right next to next when she teleports away, and he's unable to get away from the explosive aftermath. However aside from knocking him off his feet, and providing Peek-a-boo with an opportunity to show us she's not all that bad, this sequence doesn't really convey the raw power of the explosions that Peek-a-boo generates.

The other major plot thread that plays out in this issue is the situation with the recently paralyzed Hunter, as we see the man comes up with a plan that result in a fairly emotional confrontation with Wally. Now I'm sure other reviewers will be quite content to list off close to half-a-dozen other methods that Wally could've thought of that would give Hunter a glimmer of hope that his condition could be cured, but from a creative standpoint I can understand why Geoff Johns would want to avoid diluting the impact of this scene by offering up all the various healing purple rays, and magical mumbo jumbo that other writers have introduced to miraculously "cure" the various ailments that had befallen their brave heroes. The idea that Wally had to come out and say no to Hunter's plan results in a nice intense, highly charged encounter, and there are time when I'm more than willing to chuck aside continuity concerns if it results in such strong confrontations. I mean one has to be able to accept that idea that characters don't have instant access to miracle cures, or else writers will never be able to generate any concern for the characters they are writing. Plus, the rejection of his plan does have Hunter doing something that in turn results in a fairly dramatic cliffhanger.

Phil Winslade steps in to provide some fairly strong work, and while I missed the work of Scott Kolins, I have to admit the darker look that this issue adopted with its heavier shading & coarser line-work did a nice job of lending the material a more serious edge. The art also delivered Peek-a-boo's explosive departures with a nice sense of impact, with the credit page shot being a wonderful method of instantly pulling the reader into the story, while the encounter that the Flash has with the explosive wave on page 13 is equally impressive in how it slows everything down. Plus, on the subject of explosive visuals I also have to make mention of the final pages of this issue, as we see events playing out at the Flash Museum that trigger the start of what looks to be an truly amazing four-issue arc. I also rather enjoyed how Phil Winslade conveyed the idea of Wally's speed, as while the multiple body & the slow motion effects are hardly new to these pages, they are a little more difficult to convey than the simple use of speed lines. However both these effects allow the reader to get a better look at just what Wally is capable of. One also has to smile at the rather cute panel on page 16 where we see Wally is being a mother hen when he deals with Linda.

Final Word:
A fairly entertaining issue, that brings back Peek-a-boo for a brief visit, before using the final pages to offer up an exciting cliffhanger that leaves one quite enthused about the upcoming arc. Now Peek-a-boo isn't exactly the most evil of villains and Geoff Johns doesn't really come up with a scenario that really pits her against the Flash, but the character does have an interesting ability, and there is a fairly harrowing moment where one is left a bit concerned about the health of Linda & the twins. The book also offers up a pretty solid secondary plot, as we see Hunter, the resident expert of the Rogues also has a bit of knowledge about the Flash as well, and the scene where he asks for something Wally isn't willing to give made for a fairly intense encounter. We then see Wally's refusal to help results in Hunter doing something that could very well endanger everyone Wally cares for. I do have some questions about the logistics of Hunter's plan though, as I always felt this device was powered by the speed force itself, and as such could only be operated by speedsters.



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