Current Reviews

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Flash #201

Posted: Monday, September 8, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Alberto Dose

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with a drastically altered Keystone City as we see the Flash is nowhere to be found, and at least one of the Rogues looks to be enjoying their newfound freedom to commit crime, as several members of the city's police department have been frozen solid. As the criminal element begins to overrun this working class city we look in on Wally West who like the rest of the DCU has completely forgotten that he's the Flash, as he looks upon himself as just a regular joe. As we learn Wally has found himself a job working in the city garage repairing the vehicles of the police force, we see he's not exactly earning himself a princely wage, and he's stuck working the graveyard shift. After having a chance run in with an out-of-costume Captain Cold, we see that Wally's memory loss is far more extensive than simply forgetting he was the Flash, as he fails to recognize his longtime enemy, and the same holds true when it comes to Captain Cold recognizing Wally. We then see Wally is busy driving home, when he becomes involved in a multiple car crash, but things get a little strange when time appears to stop, allowing him to escape the impending wreck, as well as rescue all the other drivers who would've been caught up in the nightmarish collision. The issue then ends with a thoroughly confused Wally being given a familiar looking ring by a passing stranger.

Comments:
To say that the events of the previous issue made an impact on this book is a bit of an understatement, as this is essentially a completely new title. Now the characters are still the same, but now that no one knows who the Flash is (including Wally himself) several of the relationships that Wally had with his supporting players have effectively been erased, and all of them have been fundamentally altered. I mean with one fairly major change Geoff Johns has effectively changed the entire feel of this book, as it's gone from a bright celebration of super-heroics to a fairly dark character study where it feels like there's danger & menace lurking around every corner. However the real interest stems from the new status quo that has been established as there a wonderful sense of discovery, as we see Wally rediscovers his power during the nightmarish setting of a multiple car wreck. There's also a nice side mystery involving a string of murders where the Keystone City Police Department finds itself being targeted by a villain with cold-based powers, though I have to say this sequence reminded me a bit of the opening arc we saw over in "Gotham Central". The issue also adds a couple new supporting players as we're given a quick introduction to a father & daughter duo who run the Keystone City police garage.

The idea that the entire world has forgotten Wally West is the Flash has made a huge impact on the book, as well as the character's place within the DCU. I mean from his most personal relationships such as his marriage to Linda, to the more sweeping changes like his placement within the JSA, and his relationships with the other DCU speedsters, it should be a lot of fun seeing how this new picture all fits together. I mean from what I understand from the comments that were made by Geoff Johns during a recent interview, the people that knew Wally was the Flash are aware that they used to know his secret, and as such the friendships & working relationships that were in place previously should still exist. However, there should also be a nice undercurrent of confusion & distrust, as it wouldn't take much work to put together the idea that they had been subjected to some mental tampering, which I suspect many would actively object to. However, just using this issue as an example of what to expect, it would appear that the memory loss has extended beyond Wally simply forgetting he was the Flash but also any knowledge that he learned as a direct result of his being the Flash, such as his failure to recognize Captain Cold, or his confusion when his powers kicked into gear. Watching him relearn how to use his power should also be interesting.

Much like the book's new status quo the new look that we're treated to in this issue is also going to take some getting use to, as the work of Alberto Dose is a radical departure in both style & form from what we had been getting. In fact a large part of this book's new darker mood stems from the art, as we now have a book that is constantly steeped in heavy shadows, and distorted figures that have a slightly inhuman look about them. However, while the art is a big change from what we had been getting, it's still very solid work, with the big action scene where Wally rediscovers his powers being a well crafted display that captures his confusion, as well as the sense of wonder as we see him moving though a highly chaotic environment. Now I'm a little concerned with the figure work, as the character's bodies & faces do seem to be somewhat inconsistent from panel to panel. The faces are also a bit flat, and there doesn't look to be all that wide a range of facial expressions. However, the art does do a solid job presenting this new, decidedly seedy environment, as when we're first introduced to Wally he looks anything but the square jawed hero figure he's normally presented as. The art also does some nice work on the quieter scene where Wally & Linda share a moment of sadness regarding her recent miscarriage. The cover visual also nicely done, as it cleverly hints at the story we find inside.

Final Word:
I have to say that this is one of the rare moments when a comic writer has managed to truly surprise me with a plot device, and I have to give Geoff Johns full credit for keeping the big surprise under wraps until he was ready to spring it upon unsuspecting readers like myself. In any event in addition to the simple surprise factor I also have to say that I love how utterly sweeping this change is, as it impacts every single element of this book, from Wally's interaction with every member of his supporting cast, to his role as a hero in the DCU. I mean there's some huge questions that need to be answered, and it's utterly fascinating to see how this new status quo is coming together. There's also a wonderful little moment that acts as a reminder of how cool Wally's powers can be as the entire sequence where he's rescuing people from the tangled wreck that is playing out before our eyes is a wonderful display of his power. The mystery killings, and the stranger who hands Wally his costume ring are also solid little plot devices that I can't wait to see explored further.



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