Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Throwback Thursday: The Flash 50th Anniversary Special Review

In a Flash!

Writer: Mark Waid, Len Strazewski, Gerard Jones, William Messner-LoebArtist: Mike Parobeck, Irv Novick, Larmine Infantino, Grant Miehm, Time DzonPublisher: DC ComicsRelease Date: 1990Volume & Price: Collected in The Flash by Mark Waid Book One $24.99

When Jim unveiled his idea of Throwback Thursday here on Weird Science DC it gave me an answer to something I had been craving for a while: The chance to check out older story lines and having a direction and purpose to steer it into something productive. With the idea planted I immediately set out for what would be my first project and finally landed on the idea of Mark Waid’s first foray into comics with Wally West as The Flash. So as I begin my journey into the days of DC’s past join me below to find out just what I thought of The Flash by Mark Waid.

I’ll first start off by saying this task ended up being a bigger undertaking than I originally had thought. Book One of Mark Waid’s Flash came in at nearly 370 pages and included two annuals, two specials and seven full issues that started Waid’s original run. So instead of taking on the entirety of Book One I decided to see how it goes one week at a time, and this week I’ll be looking at The Flash 50th Anniversary Special. Which actually starts with a curveball as it’s not entirely written by Mark Waid and is more of a anthology issue connected by one story written by Waid. So that being said I’d like to take a look at each story individually and then how it’s all brought together.

After the kickoff of the issue, which I will go into detail on later, we get to our first story in “Sow the Wind!” which is a story of Jay Garrick written by Len Strazewski. We get a story of Jay working with the FBI as a possible “spycatcher” with a list of scientists and possible spys. With Jay himself included on the list he is inclined to help and sets on a plan, but not before realizing his own janitor may be helping a villain named the Atom Smasher. Eventually there is some detective work, and some random happenstance that ends up bringing the story to a close with Atom Smasher in police custody.

The first story I was able to enjoy quite a bit as almost a nostalgic and sometimes comedic piece of work, but overall the story was sub par. Flash seems to stumble upon picking the correct name from the list that is the Atom Smasher and when he does find it out it doesn’t much matter as the villain is robbing a bank right across the street to only be unmasked from a punch in front of the friend that can identify him. It was a fun read that ended up funny due to an old style cheese component, but I wouldn’t praise it as much else.

With the second story we get the most notable Flash, as of late, in Barry Allen. We jump in as Barry is looking to perfect his Cosmic Treadmill, and our ongoing villain Mota(Atom Smasher, now Prof. Fallout) is putting the final touches on his new persona that he devised while in jail. Of course Barry is late for a date with Iris West which eventually leads to some magnetic shenanigans that puts Barry on the path of running into a now powerful Fallout. Mota believing Barry is the same Flash he faced before he takes the opportunity to capture him and ransom the wellbeing of the entire city in the meantime. With no Flash and the city in jeopardy the city is forced to pay the ransom but Barry is eventually able to get himself free due to some quick thinking science saving the city and freeing Barry to finally return to his date. Sure, he wasn’t gone too long!

I like this second story a lot more, it still has a lot of random happenstance that leads to events moving forward but the motives are at least set before them. Mota thinking it would still be his Flash he’s facing is a nice touch and even the old schtick of Barry being late doesn’t really end up being too forced. It ends up being a quick fun read that explains itself without being taken too seriously or disregarded as being too hard to believe.

Finally we get to the Flash that I was first interested in this selection for: Wally West! Written by William Messner-Loeb, we get a story with this Flash not exactly with his life together. He seems to be in a broken down apartment, he looks to be in debt, and he doesn’t exactly seem thrown off by people showing up at his door looking for him. He ends up finding out that the knocks on his door are not due to a debt but in fact a search for help. This Flash’s secret identity is well known and it seems a woman who has been close with Meto has now realized the error of her ways and looking for help to stop something catastrophic from happening.

This story ends up probably being the meatiest of the issue as it deals with quite a bit of characters and different locales. Wally at first loses pretty bad when he first faces Mota, as he’s more powerful than ever equipped with fusion power and willing to kill at the drop of a hat, After first losing Wally goes on a search for help and eventually lands at a retired scientist tending bar. Barry, with the help of the bar tender and another scientist, is able to take Mota out with some science that ends up melting him into the earth's core using his own suit.

This last story follows suit with the Barry story in that it’s a fun and entertaining read that even though it misses a few steps in the details can easily be overlooked for the enjoyment of the story. I really like this Wally West and the little details it drops in with callouts to the JLA, his lack of secret identity, and his hints of bad habits. If nothing this story makes me antsy to jump into the rest of the volume.

What I skipped over earlier, and what actually takes place, in small details, throughout the issue is the actual part that is written by Waid himself. “Generations” a story involving an eventual future speedster created by Waid named John Fox. It seems in the far flung future the world was in danger and seeking the help of all three of the first Flash’s was the only possible help. So they send Fox on a mission to enlist each hero in their individual timelines. Of course it goes awry and the machinery making this mission possible malfunctions giving Fox less control over the time he has to seek out the heroes. In each of the stories we see Fox as he finds each Flash but unfortunately jumps again before completing his task.

Now jumping back into the future we find out the terror that sparked this mission in the first place is in (flash)fact a now evolved Mota that has become a molten core monster wreaking havoc on the world. As Fox makes his way back to the future he now finds himself afflicted with the Speed Force as we see the birth of a new Speedster. Taking on the evolved Mota Fox comes across the Cosmic Treadmill and a plan starts to take form. Mota is eventually dealt with by I assume throwing him into the speed force and possibly space. I say assuming because it’s a little hard to grasp what is actually being depicted. They jump through time and Mota is thrown into the wake of the treadmill and comes out in space as Fox returns to his time.

When it comes to the Generation aspect of the issue I would say I gained more from the connections than the wrap up itself. I enjoyed the glimpses of Fox in each story and enjoyed the single villain being portrayed through the different iterations of the Flash. By the end though Fox seems to quickly grow into his powers understanding every aspect including the cosmic treadmill itself with almost no time at all. The evolution of Mota and his drive is great and comedic at the same time and for him to eventually grow into a huge earth monster due to his own scientific undoing.

All together I’d say this issue was a massive undertaking for a single special issue. It got me really amped to dive in for more and I see why it’s the first thing delved up when it comes to the volume. This was Waid’s brain child as a collected piece and I can understand how it could possibly set up for his eventual run. I come out of this issue loving the idea of reading more Wally and seeing just what Waid can do with Flash given more space to tell his specific story than what seems like a limited space in this special issue.

Bits and Pieces:

If I was giving each story an individual rating I’d end up putting Garrick as the lowest followed by John Fox and the Generations wrapping, with Wally and Barry being pretty equal at the top. But overall I can’t much complain as even the low spots of the issue had fun and joy written all over them with me somehow having nostalgia for a character I hadn’t even read before. With this huge issue of decade spanning stories it left me slightly exhausted but clamoring for more of this Wally West.


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