Drew: It’s hard to pick a favorite thing about The Flash. Is it the bright tone? The vivid, thematically rich art? It’s penchant for clever meta-commentary? In many ways, it feels like it was designed for the kind of nerdy dissections we do here at Retcon Punch, giving us everything we look for in a comic. Nothing brings that feeling about more than the specific pop-culture references this series drops from time to time. Things like having characters from LOST pop up randomly, or building an entire arc up to a single Planet of the Apes reference feel like they were designed rather specifically for my nerdy mentalities. Those references were fun, if entirely disposable — they amounted to little more than throwaway lines and background characters — but with issue 19, writer Brian Buccellato goes into full-on homage mode, giving us an extended Die Hard tribute that plays a key role in the plot.
Or is it just the plot of Die Hard? Barry is trapped in Iron Heights prison without his powers (which are currently zipping around the pages of Dial H), which means it’s one regular guy forced to take on an entire gang of armed-to-the-teeth baddies on his own. Of course, these baddies aren’t German thieves posing as terrorists, they’re the Outlanders, here to spring Trickster from his sorta wrongful imprisonment (he still broke the law, but is incarcerated in relation to a murder he didn’t commit). Barry makes up for his lack of powers by collecting the Rogues’ confiscated weapons from the evidence room, taking down groups of outlanders with Weather Wizards wand and Trickster’s stun bombs. Oh, and climbing elevator shafts and crawling through the ducts.
Meanwhile, Albert — one of the guys who was given Speed Force powers after being stranded there — is attempting to take matters into his own hands. Unfortunately, the Outlanders rather quickly catch him, and his ability to turbocharge technology ends up making things easier for them. Thinking quickly (get it?) Barry, busts in, and uses Albert’s powers to freeze the Outlanders AND Marissa Rennie, who it turns out was behind the murder Trickster was wrongly accused of. Don’t remember who Marissa was? She was another of the folks stranded in the Speed Force — one we didn’t think had any abilities — which makes Barry suspicious of Iris.
That resolution comes about a little too suddenly — a feeling that is only exacerbated by the fact that Barry’s powers return at that exact moment — but the issue feels like such a riff on action movies, that the pat ending feels totally in place. In fact, we’re treated to an incredibly corny buddy-cop epilogue back in the watchtower, as Barry and Vic figure out just where Barry’s powers went.
Short of a freeze-frame high-five, this couldn’t be more cliche, but that’s really the point. Sure, this scene takes care of acknowledging Dial H, but it’s mostly an excuse to cram in as many buddy cop tropes into a single scene as possible. Is one kind of goofy while the other is a total stiff? Check — Vic is literally mostly a robot. Are the two characters of different races? Check — again, Vic is mostly a robot…and black. Does the scene feature a totally cheesy moral that isn’t earned at all by the rest of the story? You bet.
This kind of tongue-in-cheeck homage might get kind of annoying as a series, but all signs point to this being just a goofy one-off, which I thought was a blast. De-powering Barry was a fun experiment, and a crossover with Dial H was an unexpected pleasure. A second epilogue — more of a post-credits teaser, really — shows the Reverse Flash killing (and maybe un-killing) Albert, but it feels like a retread of the ending of issue 17, which also featured a final-page reveal of the Reverse Flash. I suspect that Buccellato and Francis Manapul (who co-writes and draws those last two pages) simply needed a surprise to pimp on the fold-out-cover — a thought that I’ve unfortunately had a few times this month. Still, it was thrilling to see Manapul return to the artist’s chair — even if Marcio Takara was a fantastic match for the Die Hard scenes.
This issue is so unlike the rest of Buccellato and Manapul’s run, but I think that’s part of why it works so well. I’m such a big fan of this series, I’m kind of surprised that I liked this anomalous issue so much. Mik, were you as pleased with the action movie tributes as I was? Oh, and how long do you think it will be before we get a super-powered Iris West?
Mikyzptlk: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.” Die Hard is easily one of my favorite movies and is probably the greatest action movie of all time. To see even the tiniest reference of that anywhere is a treat, but to see that in one of my favorite superhero comics is almost an embarrassment of riches. The pop culture references seen in this title definitely add to this series, even if, as you say Drew, they are disposable. Even with that though, I couldn’t help but feel just a bit disappointed that we didn’t get more from Reverse-Flash in this issue. Can you really blame me though, who wouldn’t want to see more of this guy?
I’m referring to Reverse-Flash of course, but actually, this page is perfect as it features more than one character that I’ve become interested in following in this series other than the Flash. Let’s talk about Reverse-Flash for a second though. I still cannot get over this guy’s design. I love it! It is definitely the most fierce version of the character I’ve ever seen and even though we don’t get too much more out of the character we do get an interesting tidbit. The character asks the reader to believe that he’s actually a “good guy” that sometimes has to do a “little wrong.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of Hunter Zolomon, the Reverse-Flash that Wally West once faced. That Reverse-Flash didn’t consider himself a villain either, and tried to make the Flash a “better” hero by killing off members of his family. His twisted way of thinking led him to believe that tragedy made heroes better, and since next months issue of The Flash promises that this new Reverse-Flash will be going after anyone connected to Barry Allen, I wonder if this new enemy’s motivations will be similar to Hunter Zolomon’s. Either way, the peek into the motivations of the new Reverse-Flash may be quick, but it’s enough so that I don’t feel completely ripped off by the “WTF” cover.
With Reverse-Flash out of the way, let’s talk about the other character featured on the above image: Albert aka Turbocharger. First of all, the name is totally silly, but in a charming kind of way. I was sad to see him dead in the penultimate page of this issue, but relieved to see his death reversed on the last. Now, I’m not sure if Reverse-Flash means to kill him again which he could easily be implying, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that he doesn’t. I think Albert has a lot of promise as a character as he’s a bit goofy and completely unsure of himself, but he’s also shown to be brave in ways that he doesn’t even realize. I think that is something a lot of readers can relate to, even without awesome tech-enhancing powers.
I hope to see more of Turbocharger, especially considering that I believe he’ll have more company soon. Drew, you asked when I think we’ll be seeing Iris sporting Speed Force powers and I’ve got to assume the answer has to be soon. If the threat of Barry facing Reverse-Flash isn’t enough, imagine him dealing with that on top of a group of recently Speed Force-powered wild cards. To that I say, let’s turn it up to 11!
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?