Today, Drew and Scott are discussing The Flash 27, originally released January 29th, 2014.
Drew: As a society, we emphasize “truth” above all else — even as we often acknowledge the necessity (or at least convenience) of small lies. We tell lies to beg off of social invitations, or to save face after doing something stupid — I once even made a fake email account just to avoid having to explain a too-complicated truth. These lies are generally pretty transparent, but we feel compelled to maintain the facade because “actually, your band sounded terrible,” just feels cruel. Of course, all of those lies flying around make it possible for people to get a false sense of themselves (or at least a false sense of how interested coworkers are in looking at pictures of their cats), that is, those little lies can become a bigger truth, upon which someones own sense of self might be based. Its those kinds of truths that seem to be in play in The Flash 27, as Barry begins to chip at the finish of his candy-colored world.
Okay, maybe “candy colored” is an overstatement for a kid who was effectively orphaned when his father was arrested for killing his mother, but the point is: it looks like the truth is actually worse than Barry ever suspected. The issue opens with a straightforward jewel-theif apprehension, but in true Law and Order fashion, leads directly to the discovery of a body. Or thirty. Back in his civies, Barry is working the case with the rest of the crime scene team, but is mysteriously ordered off of it by Frye, who suggests that the bodies are the undiscovered victims of the Broome Hill Butcher, a serial killer apprehended twenty years ago. Only, it looks like many of these victims are more recent than that — and a few of them were killed around the same time and in the same neighborhood as Barry’s mother. Barry rushes to visit his father to share the news that he may be on to who actually killed Nora, only his father is just as discouraging as Frye was.
There’s clearly a bigger truth here that Barry isn’t privy to, and writer Brian Buccellato is strongly hinting that Barry’s dad really did kill Nora. If this were another writer, I would assume that those hints were clunky transparency, but I trust Buccellato to subvert my expectations here. Maybe they’re all just trying to shield Barry from the truth that there’s a ghost running around murdering people with a pickax.
Oh right: that’s happening. The issue’s prologue introduces a pair of squabbling miners, and one kills the other with a pickax over a perceived slight. The end of the issue finds Barry being pickaxed in the back by a skeletal ghost — who may or may not be the ghost of Barry’s only lead.
That it’s not clear who the ghost might be is kind of the point. Is it the pickax-wielding miner from the beginning (who we know as “Marshall”)? Is it his victim (who we know as “Sutter”)? Is it the person whose body Barry was looking for (whose body wasn’t in the coffin, and who we know as “Archibald Dylan”)? As yet, we don’t know who “Fletcher” is, or what his connection might be to any of these suspects.
That’s a lot of mystery, which is basically the recipe for making me happy. The Flash makes for a great detective: in addition to training in crime scene investigation, he can plow through the more tedious procedural tasks faster than even the most cunning montage.
As much as I love seeing detectives at the crime scene, there’s something incredibly satisfying to jumping straight to deductions. More importantly, it allows Barry to get several steps into the case very quickly. This issue finds him talking to his father, interrogating a suspect (and quelling a prison riot), confronting his mentor, and exhuming a body — and that’s after single-handedly apprehending jewel thieves and discovering a mass grave of unsolved murders. That’s a lot of action for a single issue, and gives this story enough ballast to support all of the potential twists in now has in its back pocket. Seeing how deftly Buccellato navigates a mystery also has me more excited than ever for his upcoming run on Detective Comics — if it’s anything like this, I’m going to be very happy.
Scott, I’m hoping you enjoyed this issue as much as I did. I know you were also a big fan of Francis Manapul’s art on this series, and while Patrick Zircher’s style is decidedly different, I think it’s a great fit for this darker story. Both the art and the plotting are a sizable departure from Buccellato and Manapul’s run, but I’m loving every panel here. How are you feeling about pulling back the facade of Barry’s (and the Gem Cities’) history?
Scott: I love it. I knew Barry’s mother’s murder case would come back into play at some point, and I felt it should — Barry’s a detective, unsolved murders are supposed to be his obsession. That said, I’m glad the case was reintroduced as part of a larger investigation. No one could ever blame Barry for wanting to know who killed his mother, but when put in this context I feel much greater sympathy for him when his father and Captain Frye tell him to leave it alone. This is shaping up to be a huge case for Barry’s department, one that will be looming over him even if he’s not assigned to it. If it has ties to his mother’s case, he be crazy not to obsess over it.
You’re right about my love for Manapul, Drew. He’s one of a kind, and his art during his run on this title was brilliant. But I’ve finally made peace with the fact that he’s gone, and I’m very happy with what I saw in this issue. Zircher captures the tone perfectly. It is very, very dark. Skeletons with pickax wounds? Prison suicide attempts? Barry digging up someone’s grave? Holy smokes! This title has taken a turn into very dour territory, and Zircher is more than up for the challenge. What makes this issue great, though, is how those dark elements are broken up by real character moments.
There’s a lot of emotion in Frye’s eyes. It’s the kind of look that says, “I slept with your mom, Barry. You’re my son. When your father found out he went crazy and killed her. That’s why you need to stop investigating. It’s really messed up stuff that will have irreversible psychological repercussions for you.” Or something like that.
Drew, I don’t know if you caught this, but “Fletcher” appears to be the name of the pickax-wielder on the first page. Still, that’s far from a solution to the mystery. Is that the ghost of the other miner, or perhaps another of Fletcher’s victims? Maybe, but that doesn’t explain what it’s doing in Archibald Dylan’s grave, or why it also has a pickax (get your own weapon, Ghost). The link between Fletcher and Dylan is very much unclear.
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Guys, this issue was really fun. This is a huge departure from the previous 26 issues, but I love the tone here. I’m a sucker for detective stories, and I would LOVE it if this was the template for this series going forward. I think it’s more likely to be the template for Detective Comics going forward, but I think I’m going to like that, too.
Part of what I love about this story is that there’s no hint of super natural or super human threats until the very end. Yeah – Barry has to deal with that two B-listers at the beginning, but that’s business as usual. What’s hard is solving a more-or-less real crime with real emotional stakes.
“Get your own weapon, Ghost.” is maybe the best sentence of Scotty’s I’ve ever read.
Thank you. It’s also the title of my debut album, which I wrote entirely about this issue of The Flash, and is terrible.
Yeah, super loved this issue. Glad I kept reading this series instead of dropping it (though the Wally West news had me certain that I was going to pick it back up once that goes down anyway).
With the impending return of Wally, I’m glad we’re going to apparently get at least SOME resolution to what Buccellato and Manapul have built for Barry in the New 52. When Wally returns I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t hog the spotlight for a while (which, given his total absence, I am entirely okay with), it’s nice that Barry gets his last hurrah for a bit.