In Reveiw: The Flash #51

An excellent, surprising villain in a smart story, though the visuals could have been better.

The covers: If you missed last issue of The Flash, the Main cover might be a bit of a mystery. The empty costume of the Flash, though it’s crackling with Speed Force, is being held up by his newest foe, the Riddler. The green of this criminal’s costume can be barely seen in the bottom right corner, and his question mark cane is bit hard to follow as it goes through the speedster’s cowl unless one knows what to look for. Well, okay, there is his familiar shadow on the wall, displaying his bowler, and there is that question mark in emerald. Still, this is a subtle cover from Ivan Ries, Joe Prado, and Alex Sinclair. It hints at things to come, but I’d rather see the villain in his entirety. The cover to purchase is the John Romita, Jr. Variant cover by the iconic artist, inked by Danny Miki and colored by Sinclair. This is a great shot of the determined hero racing along, with energy rippling off him against a background comprised of strong shades of blue. His speed is really captured on this cover. Overall grades: Main B+ and John Romita, Jr. Variant A 

The story: Surrounded by the Riddler’s deadly drones, an unhappy Flash has to hear the criminal proclaim, “This is how your story ends, Flash.” The Rogues are wondering what to do now that the villain has revealed himself. It’s pretty simple, “You and your friends have served your purpose. But this is my city now. Stay, and you die. Simple as that.” With the Rogues gone, the Flash thinks the Riddler will be easy to defeat, but the drone-guns were never for him: they are for the citizens of Central City. Each one is trained on a person; if he uses his Speed Force they fire. He’ll save some, but not all; some will die. The Riddler wants the Flash to stand still and take it, and he pummels the hero who doesn’t fight back. Just as it seems as though there’s no hope for the Scarlet Speedster, another hero arrives and races the Flash out of the city. Van Jensen deserves major kudos for coming up with a villain that doesn’t seem as if he has any chance of beating Barry, but his method was brilliant. And the way in which he’s going to keep Barry under this thumb is fantastic. The Flash would never leave a fight, especially if people were in danger, such as the entire populace of Central City is. There are some major high points to this issue, such as all of Page 6, the bottom panel on 8, the bottom panel of 14, the Riddler’s message to the city on 16 and 17, and the cliffhanger on 20. Of all the villains to bring the Flash down, you’d have thought it would be the Riddler? An excellent story that puts an unlikely villain in control of a hero that seems out of his league. Overall grade: A+

The art: The visuals are not to my liking. Gus Vazquez and Joe Eisma do an okay job, and are making this book their own, but there’s just not enough details in the visuals. The book opens with a full page splash of an unhappy Flash surrounded by the drones. The blurring of the background is unnecessary: he stopped running last issue — those speed lines, and that horrible blurring, are unnecessary. I’m really not liking the tails on the Riddler’s mask going almost to the back of his waist; for a guy who keeps bragging he’s so smart, don’t these seem like the obvious things for a hero to grab to yank him backwards? And the muttonchops? No. No hipster Riddler, please. The Flash and the Trickster look good; the artists are able to get quite a bit of anger out of them even when they’re not speaking. The buildings, however, are too generic looking; just basic geometry in action, and they’re incomplete sometimes, bottom panel on 8. Page 13 has two panels with too much empty space, the top and fourth panel; it’s almost as if the story wasn’t complete and the artist was assuming that more dialogue would be put in those panels. The Trickster’s hair grows at least six inches skyward in his final appearance, making him look as though he’s lost about ten years. Heat Wave is not as horrific looking as he was in the previous issue. Again, the details are missing that make his state look as though it’s incredibly painful. The Riddler’s legs are at least twice as long as his trunk in his final appearance. The more I look at this art, the more disappointed I become. Overall grade: C

The colors: Guy Major does a good job on this book. The opening page has got some terrific work on the Flash, from the muscles on body to the shade on his face. The lightning that streaks off the Flash is as bright as it’s very been and continues to be a terrific visual clue for the reader to show how fast the hero is. The coloring on the Flash is also cool in the bottom panel on 5. 6 really shows Major at the top of his game, with the muscles and clothes of the combatants fantastic. The colors really dim on 7 to emphasize the dire straits the hero is in, and with the turn of a page the colors brighten when a rescuer has arrived. The explosions that follow the heroes look very realistic in orange, and the powder blue used for the Riddler’s citywide proclamation excellent. Major is aces on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, the story’s title, the book’s credits, yells, a whisper, sounds, scene settings, the Riddler’s proclamation, and the tease for next issue are crafted by Pat Brosseau. I’m a sucker for killer sounds in a comic, since they were half the fun to say out loud when I was little, and these sounds look great. How could one not love the KARRUNNNK? The unique font used for the Riddler’s message to the city was a slick, needed touch; it had to be a different sound. Brosseau could letter any book and I’d be happy. Overall grade: A

The final line: An excellent, surprising villain in a smart story, though the visuals could have been better. Still, a very enjoyable Flash outing. Overall grade: B+


Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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