The Flash 26

flash 26

Today, Scott and Shelby are discussing The Flash 26, originally released December 31st, 2013.

Scott: I recently watched the first episode of BBC’s Sherlock. After just a few minutes it was clear that the show is awesome- compelling characters, great acting, cool editing, etc. Then, something strange happened: halfway through the episode, I lost interest. I couldn’t figure it out; I had enjoyed everything about the show so far, but I couldn’t keep my head in it. It dawned on me that the show wasn’t following a typical format. The 90-minute episode is the length of a feature film, but with the slowly developing characters and relationships you’d expect from a new TV series. There’s nothing bad about the episode, it just doesn’t fit with what I’ve been trained to expect from a TV show. The beats were coming in the wrong places. I had the same feeling about The Flash 26. A stand alone issue of Flash? Something doesn’t seem right.

Barry’s mentor, Dr. Carlson, has died in an apparent lab accident. Barry, however, suspects foul play and follows a trail of evidence that leads him to Spitfire, a stunt-pilot turned stunt-criminal. After learning Spitfire has stolen vials of deadly diseases, Barry does some crazy Flash stuff and makes his way onto her moving plane. Sick of his shit, Spitfire tosses the vials off the plane, so Barry does some more crazy Flash stuff to snatch them all out of the air and land safely on the ground. In one last crazy Flash maneuver, Barry directs Spitfire’s burning plane into an empty stadium and arrests Spitfire, who concedes that Barry is, in fact, very fast.

As you can probably tell, this issue is a good fix for some crazy Flash feats. Everyone probably knows that he can vibrate through solid objects, but he has other tricks up his sleeve, some so outrageous they require special explanation via “Flash Fact”.

Flash Fact

There’s no shortage of sort-of-explanations for Flash’s obscure powers. In an issue about tracking down a stunt-woman, writer Christos Gage saves the most extreme stunts for Flash himself, all of which are as fascinating as they are nonsensical. In terms of providing over-the-top thrills, this issue succeeds greatly.

Elsewhere, however, the issue has little success. What might have developed into an intriguing detective story is derailed by Barry immediately discovering Spitfire was at the scene of Dr. Carlson’s murder (and the fact that Spitfire is fingered as the murderer in the cold open, before we even get to the crime scene). Spitfire isn’t all that compelling as a villain, either. She performs stunt-heists seemingly because she knows how to do stunts and she’s pure evil. Perhaps that’s enough motivation for a comic book villain, but Spitfire is so exceedingly evil that all of her dialogue sounds clunky.

%22My name is Spitfire. I am bad.%22

The real flaw of the issue is simply that it is a one-off story. For a title where everything is part of some major arc or crossover event, trying to fit any entire contained story into one issue just feels wrong. It’s unfair, really, that Gage and artist Neil Googe are tasked with creating an issue like this in the wake of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccelatto’s departure from the title. The whole story feels rushed, and it all comes together a little too easily for Barry. By the end of the issue, when Spitfire just lets Barry catch her, it’s abundantly clear that this story will have no bearing on the series going forward.

Nothing about this issue is particularly bad. Googe’s art, in fact, is quite good. It would be impossible for any artist to step in and replicate the amazing work Manapul and Buccellato did on this title, but it feels very much like Googe has captured their essence. He doesn’t depict motion as excitingly as his predecessors, but there is an impeccable clarity in all of his panels and some beautiful scenes set in the clouds.

Shelby, what did you take away from this issue? Am I too caught up in my preconceived notions of what a Flash issue ought to feel like? There’s certainly plenty to behold- crazy stunts and pretty art. Is spectacle enough to make up for an issue that is essentially filler?

Shelby: You just might be, Scott. The problem with serialized stories is that it’s so easy to develop a notion of what a particular story ought to be. I had a hard time on that first Charles Soule-penned Swamp Thing. As an issue on it’s own, it wasn’t bad, but it definitely didn’t feel like what I thought an issue of Swamp Thing should feel like. When we are spoiled by great creative teams, it is that much harder to adjust to someone new.

That being said, I agree with a lot of what you have to say about this issue. It suffers from a classic case of one-off disease. Gage has the daunting task of crafting a story with meaning and relevance to the character, but fitting it into one single issue. Ultimately, the issue just serves to remind us just what exactly Flash can do with his power. On the one hand, it flirts with that Golden Age sensibility, when it seemed super-powered heroes could do anything if you manipulated their powerset enough. Flash needs to chase a plane? Have him vibrate his feet enough to run on clouds, that seems reasonable, right? Overpowering heroes is a dangerous trap to fall into, because you end up with the same sort of rushed “I give up!” endings like we see here.

On the other hand, man do I love Flash Facts. Seriously, I was hoping there would be more than one. They’re just so goofy, Patrick and I have taken to declaring any obvious statement as a “Flash Fact.” While this issue has that hokey Golden Age feel to it, I kind of like that about it. I certainly wouldn’t want the whole series to be written this way, mind you, but this is where the one-off approach works nicely. Googe did a great job with the art this issue; his style is just cartoonish enough to match the tone Manapul and Bucellato established for this book. I love the pin-up style Spitfire has going on; I would have no problem with her jumping out of planes and being totally evil in the future. This issue turned out to be a fun enough little jaunt, but I’m looking forward to really getting back into the life of the Flash and seeing what’s next for my favorite speedster.

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?

8 comments on “The Flash 26

  1. Shelby, I didn’t even make the pin-up connection on Spitfire until you mentioned it right now, but she sure does have that kind of “dame drawn on the side of a WWII jet” sensibility to her.

  2. I really like Gage as a writer but I agree that this issue was not the strongest. I don’t think it had to do with it being a done in one but the fact that as stated above the villain was silly without being at all fun. She was just unlikable and never really felt like a person. The flash needs good villains as ridiculous as he is just in different ways.

    One thing I did enjoy was just how heroic Flash felt in the issue. It was all about the safety of folks and this helped to keep him in check against a character that he should have no problem taking down with his power.

    I would be very happy with some more Flash done in one stories that feature fun heroics. You can still work in emotional long arcs during those issues that reward the ongoing reader.

    • It’s a challenge, but it is indeed possible to write a bunch of one shots which still build towards a greater story, as exemplified by Paul Dini’s run on Detective Comics.

      As for the Flash, this issue was kind of middle of the road, it wasn’t terribly bad, but I don’t think I’ll be re-reading it much. Curious as I am to see Booch’s cut story in the next 3 issues, I’m extremely curious to find out who the next regular creative team will be and where they take this book. It’ll be a deciding factor in whether I keep getting this title or not; I’ve been dropping a lot of superhero comics to make space for indie stuff on my pull so now all my DC/Marvel stuff has to justify its place!

  3. Scott, I know exactly what you mean about Sherlock. I also started watching it recently, and I know that it became much easier to watch when I decided to stop thinking about each one as an “episode” of a series. Instead, I just think of them all as movies, and try not to let my experience watching the previous episode effect my expectations for the next. Like, sometimes the mystery drives the story, and sometimes it’s more incidental to the character work, and there’s no way to know which it is until the episode is over.

    • I watched the first episode of Sherlock a while back (and have inexplicably yet to get around to watching the rest despite enjoying it and having full access to the series) and ran into almost the same exact problem Scott did as well; despite really enjoying it, I started losing focus about half-way through and had to take a break before watching the rest of the episode. I think there’s just something off with the pacing with that episode, although I can’t judge whether the same holds true for the rest of the series).

      • I can’t remember which is the first one I watched, but it definitely wasn’t the first episode, which may have helped — I skipped all of the pilot-y character introductions and jumped right in with what felt much more like a movie.

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