In Review: The Flash #21

Must reading for anyone who reads DC Comics.

The covers: A foursome to find for this issue of The Flash. The Regular cover is by Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. The Reverse Flash is paying the price for trying to take the button. White energy bursts out of the yellow smiley face, shredding the skin from the super villain. This is a disturbing cover, even with the illustration being a little sketchy. This is probably due to it being but one image of the first variant cover. The Lenticular variant of the Regular cover looks much better. By moving the angle of this cover, a reader can watch the villain’s body dissipate as he reaches for the button. Very, very cool. This is also by Fabok and Anderson. The next Variant cover is by Howard Porter and Hi-Fi, the artist and colorist of this issue, respectively. The Flash is running forward on his cosmic treadmill. Attached to the device is Batman, who looks like he’s flying. The heroes look sensational and the coloring truly makes this look cosmic. I am a wholly biased fan of this artist and colorist, and I love this cover. The International Variant cover by Mikel Janin is a wowser as well. Looking down upon Flash and Batman, the two heroes are looking at their reflections in a massive pool of blood that’s swallowing the bottom right of the image. Powerful and ominous. Overall grades: Regular C+, Lenticular Variant A+, Porter Variant A+, and International Variant A

The story: This is the second installment of “The Button”. Confession, I never read the first part; my local comic book store sold out before I could get one. I picked this up wondering if I would be able to follow Joshua Williamson’s story. I had no issues whatsoever. The book opens with senior citizen Johnny Thunder atop his senior center yelling for Thunderbolt’s return. He’s strong armed back inside the building saying, “The lightning said we need to find my friends! We lost the Justice Society! It’s all my fault!” The book then moves to the Batcave which shows massive destruction. Among the wreckage is the Flash standing over the skeletal remains of Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash. The body is surrounded by the markers used at a crime scene — Barry is using his forensic skills to determine what killed his arch-nemesis. As he looks upon the remains he thinks of all the trouble his man has caused him, including the death of his mother. “It’s over, mom…” He needs to speak to the one witness of Thawne’s death: Bruce Wayne. The two have a conversation about what Bruce saw, with the billionaire telling the Flash of the ghost he also saw. Barry admits he’s also had visions and comes to the conclusion that he has to go travel through time to find the answers. Naturally Batman isn’t going to let him go alone. They witness events that will be familiar to fans of the Justice League, but for these two it’s like looking upon alternate realities. Something occurs on Page 16 to stop their voyage, shooting them into a familiar, yet different, setting. The final page has a character return to DC Comics that will have fans of Batman screaming. To be continued…A fun read with two of DC’s most enjoyable heroes. Overall grade: A

The art: If you want detailed art, you get Howard Porter, and DC did the right thing by tapping him to illustrate this issue. The first page is a terrific opener, with ancient Johnny Thunder pleading atop a building in a downpour. As he is dragged back to his room, readers cannot help but feel sympathy for the character, and the text makes the visuals even stronger. Pages 2 and 3 is a double-paged splash of the decimated Batcave. Barry stares down at Eobard, but readers will scanning this page looking at every possible vehicle, suit, and souvenir of the Dark Knight. I know I spent a lot of time looking at these pages. However, Porter doesn’t just create the Batcave, he’s got six panels that show the battle between the Reverse Flash and Batman from the first part of this story. It’s in silhouette, yet it’s impossible not to feel the beating that Batman received. The close up of the deceased villain on 4 is haunting. As a fan, you want villains to go down hard, but Porter has made these remains look almost like they’re laughing at Barry — it’s like a curse from beyond. Bruce’s first appearance in the book is a shocking one, because this isn’t how anyone expects to see Batman after a fight. Page 10 has the heroes go to a new location and the bottom of that page rivals all the items seen earlier in the Batcave. I have to admit I had to look online to find out what every item was and it’s an incredible amount of history in one place. The Flash and Batman’s journey that begins on 14 is epic. The word cosmic gets thrown about often in comics, but it is truly deserved for the visuals that Porter has created. In the 1980s I thought that when Barry used this device it was fun, but now it comes across as a dangerous thing to use, and rightly so, given what happens on 16, which is given the appropriate space of a full paged splash to illustrate the danger. The final page has an outstanding reveal, with the book closing on the perfect reaction. To put it simply, if Howard Porter draws a comic, something important is going to happen and it should be read. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The perfect colorist for Porter’s work is Hi-Fi, who I first encountered when I first picked up my first Porter comic years ago. The opening page has a great change in colors from the raging storm (which has fantastic shading on Thunder) to the the brown lifeless corridors where the old man lives. After such a huge battle, the Batcave should be in utter darkness, but Hi-Fi smartly cheats, using cool blues to show the darkness, rather than obscuring Porter’s work. Using such colors allows the costumes of the Scarlet Speedster and his arch enemy to really pop off the page. Bruce Wayne’s first appearance has a neat lighting effect high above the hero that Hi-Fi makes lifelike with an appropriate glare. The setting that the pair go to on 10 is gorgeous for the colors used for all the items on display. The trip the pair take is a kaleidoscope of colors that is both beautiful and ominous: the perfect combination for their venture. This book’s colors are outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Steve Wands is this issue’s letterer, responsible for yells, dialogue, narration, the story’s title, the book’s credits, whispers, a scene setting, sounds, and the tease for next issue. With visuals as detailed as these, it’s impressive to see Wands put his work on the page without covering a key element in the panel. The whispers are neat for them being readable, but done so lightly as to visually make the words seem soft. My favorite sound occurs on page 16, and it’s just as fun to speak aloud as it is to look upon. Wands is also bringing his A game to this book. Overall grade: A

The final line: Must reading for anyone who reads DC Comics. Completely understandable on its own, this will have fans eating up the Internet until the next issue is published. Fun, cool, and awesome reading. Overall grade: A

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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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