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Flash #197

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Scott Kolins (p), Doug Hazelwood (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens in the ruins of the Flash Museum as we see place has been utterly destroyed. We then jump to the hospital where former FBI profiler Hunter Zolomon wakes up and we see he decides to look back on the events that lead to his current situation. The flashback opens with a rather harrowing event, as we learn Hunter's father was a serial killer, and when the police were closing in on him he made his wife his final victim. We then see this tragedy led Hunter to become a profiler with the FBI, as he was haunted by the question of what made his father a killer. We also see that it was about this time that he met his wife, and they both moved through the ranks of the FBI, with Hunter making his specialty the profiling of costumed villains, a course that was taught by his wife's father. However, when a flaw in one of Hunter's profiles results in the death of his father-in-law, we see he is punted out of the FBI, and his wife divorces him, as she blames him for her father's death. We then see he made his way to Keystone City where he became part of this book's cast. It is here that Hunter makes a rather odd discovery. When the dust settles we see the Reverse-Flash is back in the DCU, and we see the evil speedster is ready to make the Flash's life a living hell.

Comments:
It's been quite some time since Wally had himself an equal when it came to pure speed, but if this issue is any indication Wally is going to have his hands full. What's more the final couple pages do a fairly chilling job of showing us where this character's head is at, as well as establishing why this character would actively target the Flash. Now since the character is on fairly prominent display on the cover I don't think I have to hide the fact that the villain I'm talking about is the Reverse-Flash, but there is a twist to the character that I don't really want to spoil. I will say that this issue is all about setting up this character's back story, as the Flash is nowhere to be found within these pages, and up until the last page itself the Reverse-Flash's presence in the story isn't overly evident either. However, this issue does a fairly solid job of building toward its big moment on the final page, and if nothing else Geoff Johns has added yet another member to Wally's rogues gallery that I can't wait to see in action. This issue also does some nice work giving us a look at how the world appears when one is moving at super speeds, and one can only imagine the damage a person could do if one was operating at these speeds, which in turn make the statements on the final pages so utterly chilling.

It's a little difficult to go into much detail about this issue, I do want to preserve the big surprise but this in turn makes it rather difficult to discuss the real meat & potatoes of the issue. I will say that I do like how the issue developed this character's back-story, as the flashback material pretty much fills in all the gaps that had existed in the character's past, and the tragedies he's come across make it far easier to understand why he would make the decision they does in the final pages. The issue also does some nice work detailing the motivation for why this character would target the Flash, as I've always been a big believer that a hero is defined by their villains, and many times I honestly feel a hero is nothing without their villains. I mean I'm not a huge Batman fan, but his rogues gallery is one of the best there is, and part of my lifelong devotion to Spider-Man is due largely to his cast of villains. It's great to see a villain finally realize the role they play in a hero's life, and what's more this idea is effectively used as the character's underlying motivation. Having this villain so familiar with the Flash & his world also makes this character a very dangerous threat, as he knows which attack will make the greatest impact, and often times what the Flash's reaction will be.

Scott Kolins recent announcement of his impending departure is downright depressing, as he's such a perfect fit. Still, I'm delighted that he'll be on board to deliver this current arc, as I don't thinks there's an artist who I'd rather see deliver a battle between two speedsters. Now this issue doesn't really have any big impact moments, but we do open with a fairly impressive look at what remains of the Flash Museum, and the last page arrival of the Reverse Flash is also a visually striking piece of art. This issue also has some fun playing with the idea that there are actual courses being taught that study the minds of heroes & the villains they face, and the art offers up some fairy solid moments of insight by showing us the various notes that are taken down. The art also does some strong work detailing the idea that time has effectively stopped in the final pages of this issue, as there's some solid visual cues. The one complaint that I would make about this issue is the coloring job. I realize that it's a common practice to deliver flashback scenes in a single color scheme, but given this issue devotes roughly half of its page count to flashback material, I must confess the single tone became rather tiresome. I also feel that the lack of color robbed the more dramatic scenes of their impact.

Final Word:
This issue is all about setting up the latest villain that Wally is going to have to square off against, and while it's not as impressive as the Captain Cold issue, it does the job it needs to do, as one can't help but be excited by that final page. Geoff Johns does seem to understand that strong villains make for strong heroes, and out of all the writers working today I have to say Geoff Johns has worked wonders for the Flash's rogues gallery. I mean I enjoyed the Rogues before, but since Geoff Johns' arrival Wally is easily sporting the best collection of baddies on the DC side of the fence, and what's even better is that the book isn't shy about using these villains. This book is action heavy, and it's one of the few titles that is able to rival the "Ultimates" when it comes to the delivery of edge of your seat excitement. Plus, this book has one up on the Ultimates due to the simple fact that it arrives on a monthly basis. In any event this is a very exciting start to what looks like a barn burner of a story.



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