Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing the Flash 18, originally released March 27th, 2013.
Scott: Use your gifts to help in every way you can. This is what Barry Allen believes being a superhero is all about. Or so he claims. In The Flash 18, Barry contradicts himself, telling the eager-to-help members of team “Speed Force” that they must not use their newfound powers. Despite having gifts and wanting to help, these men are not superheroes in Barry’s eyes, at least not yet. So what does it take to truly become a superhero? Does it require a fine-tuned sense of when and how to use your powers? Does it even require having superpowers at all? Looks like Barry’s about to find that out the hard way.
Suspended from the police department, Barry has taken a job at Keystone Saloon, a notorious hangout spot for criminals. The police burst in to arrest Trickster for murder, a crime Barry believes he did not commit. Trickster breaks free and Barry, as Flash, tracks him down, with the unwanted assistance of the aforementioned team Speed Force. Barry gets his hands on a police report that supports his belief that Trickster is innocent, but Trickster’s friends, The Outlanders, have issued an ultimatum to break him out of prison by force. Barry can’t convince Trickster to call them off, so he has to try to stop them himself. There’s just one little snag: his powers have suddenly disappeared.
The end of the issue provides two bits of information: Dial H 11 has answers about where Barry’s powers have gone, and Barry will not have his powers back in the next issue of The Flash. Like I mentioned above, the importance that possessing powers has in defining a superhero is a major theme in this issue. Trickster may have been the big story here, but the pivotal exchange was that between Barry and team Speed Force in the middle of the issue. Team Speed Force (as I will refer to the men) is comprised of Albert and Gomez, the two dudes who ended up in the Speed Force (boy, this could get confusing) along with Iris West and apparently came out of it with special speed powers, although Iris and Marissa seem not to have been affected. Flash has reason to be annoyed with team Speed Force for interfering with his pursuit of Trickster, but strangely, his response to discovering that they’ve inherited powers from the Speed Force is a rather unconvincing argument that they should ignore those powers altogether.
Gomez is right, Flash is being a complete hypocrite. Earlier, Flash says being a superhero is all about using your gifts to help, which is exactly what team Speed Force is trying to do. Sure, they’re in over their heads, but rather than suggest they hone their skills while helping rebuild the city like he was doing at the beginning of the issue, Flash hypocritically demands they stop using their powers completely. What’s worse is it seems like Flash is trying to avoid the responsibility of teaching Albert and Gomez how to become heroes. He claims he doesn’t know enough to be a mentor, but if he knows no more than them, why should he get to use his powers while they don’t? Rather than try to nurture what could become a mutually beneficial relationship, Flash coldly shuts Albert and Gomez down. Of course, he can’t stop them from continuing to use their powers, and their eagerness to help him has quickly turned into motivation to defy him.
This scene also marks the lone appearance of Iris West in the issue. Even though her interaction with Flash is completely non-romantic, her presence is enough to remind the audience of the potential love triangle between Iris, Barry and Patty, even as it seems like it couldn’t be further from Barry’s mind. He and Patty are happier than ever, and there’s no apparent reason to root against their relationship. Patty is as likable as Iris is sympathetic, but I think sympathy is the stronger emotion. When I see Barry and Patty together, I can’t help but feel bad for Iris. If the tables were turned, I’m not sure I’d feel the same for Patty. There’s a certain shallowness to the relationship we see between Barry and Patty that makes it harder to connect to. This issue didn’t delve too deep into Barry’s personal life, but I hope that both Patty and Iris will be given their proper dues as characters.
As for the Trickster, there’s some intrigue to his storyline, but I ultimately found it less compelling than the other parts of the issue. Someone is out to get him, although it’s unclear who or why. As he readily admits to strange bartenders, he used to be a member of the Rogues, and he now hangs with the Outlanders, so he has lots of connections to shady people. Barry’s investment in Trickster’s future is a little funny. Sure, Trickster may not be a murderer, but he still has a known bomb recipe. In other words, he doesn’t exactly seem like the kind of guy the Flash would want out of prison, but Flash is determined to help him. He even pretty much destroys the crime scene report, shedding it’s pages across town, which should make a conviction all but impossible.
Which reminds me, I haven’t mentioned the art in this issue, which was handled nicely by Marcio Takara in place of regular artist Francis Manapul. No one does a title page as awesome as Manapul, but otherwise I have no complaints. As for writer Brian Buccellato, I thought his work was solid, even if this issue didn’t click for me on quite the level that The Flash often does. But damnit if that last page didn’t get me excited for the next one. How about you, Shelby, are you hooked?
Shelby: Flash Fact: this is the first issue of The Flash that I’ve read. While I like what was going on here with Barry and Trickster and the rest, I am way, way, way more excited to talk about what happened to Barry’s powers.
For those of you who aren’t reading Dial H, the premise is there are these old rotary phone dials that, when you dial 4-3-7-7 (H-E-R-O), you suddenly turn into a random and usually bizarre superhero for a little bit. Way back in Dial H 0 we learned that the powers come from actual superheroes in other worlds, and when you get their powers, they lose them. I joked then about how much it would suck for Superman to lose his powers mid-flight, and Buccellato just went ahead and made that a reality. Of all the things I expected to get out of this title, a Dial H crossover was never even remotely on my list. It’s a bold move, I don’t imagine there’s a huge shared audience between these two titles. Hell, we here might be the only ones. Not only do we get to experience Barry figuring out what to do without his powers, we get to experience Nelson or Roxie figure out what to do with them. They will act as a character we recognize, and we’ll get to see the other side of this bizarre dial experience. That is some downright thrilling story-telling, right there.
As to the meat of the issue, Scott, I think maybe you’re being a little hard on Flash. His first and foremost reason for Albert and Gomez to stop what they’re doing is that they could hurt someone, or hurt themselves. He’s acting the father who tells his kids not to touch something hot. He’s looking out for them. It’s also true, however, that the best way to learn what “hot” means is to burn yourself; I think Barry’s concern is the amount of damage these two could do learning the hard way. As to not being ready to mentor the two of them, I can see where he’s coming from on that. He’s only been the Flash for five years, right? That’s not a ton of time to get a handle on being able to move faster than anything in the world. On top of that, he just had some sort of crazy gorilla-based incident to deal with, and has been burning the candle at both ends working to fix the city and just working. His confidence is low, and he just might be a little burned out; it’s understandable that he wouldn’t know what to do with these two other than telling them to stop. He just may have to eat his words and give the boys a trial-by-fire, though, depending on how long Dial H is going to be borrowing his powers.
I’ve been meaning to read this title for a long time; Patrick and Drew rave about it, and I have a lot of respect for both Manapul and Booch. I fully intend to go back and read the first 17 issues (with all that spare time I have lying around), but I’m glad Patrick forced me to just pick it up and start reading somewhere. This was an exciting first issue, and I am really looking forward to seeing where both Flash and Dial H are going to go from here.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?