In Review: The Flash: The Haunting of Barry Allen

The villains are terrific, but the ghosts are dull.

The Flash: The Haunting of Barry Allen by Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith

Published by Titan Books on November 29, 2016. Paperback of 416 pages at $7.99.

The cover: Using photos of Grant Gustin and Stephen Amell, the Flash and the Arrow are side by side as an orange and red miasma wind about them. I spied this cover on the shelf of my local book store and grabbed it immediately. These images, though not in the most original of layouts, are all that were needed to get my attention. Therefore, it’s a successful cover. Overall grade: A

The premise: From the back cover, “Speeding through Central City, Barry Allen is met with a startling sight — The Flash, older, battered, and badly injured. Before he can speak, the doppelganger is gone. Then Barry begins experiencing glitches in his powers — moments that leave him ghostly and immobile in the middle of missions. When a group of his enemies — including Pied Piper, Weather Wizard, and Peekaboo — chooses this time to launch a new assault, the Flash seeks help from his most trusted ally. Oliver Queen — the Arrow.” I was going to buy this book just because it’s an original Flash story, but including all these villains and the Arrow has me very excited at the possibilities. Overall grade: A

The characters: Barry Allen/the Flash wants to do all he can to help people. He wants to help people so much it may be creating the “hauntings” that are occurring to him. He’s in love with Iris West, who supports him when he needs a reality check, and she’s the daughter of Joe West, a police detective for Central City, where Barry works as a forensics officer. Joe also provides Barry needed reality checks. Helping him at S.T.A.R. Labs is Cisco Ramon, who’s the tech savvy quipster of the group, and Caitlin Snow, who’s the medical doctor. These four people are aware Barry is the Flash and do all that they can to help him. Appearing early in the novel are three characters from the television series Arrow: Oliver Queen (the Arrow), Felicity Smoak (Oliver’s computer savvy assistant), and John Diggle (an ex-military assistant). Oliver is the only other hero Barry knows at this point in his life, so he turns to him when the ghosts appear. Felicity says a few words and disappears to do computer stuff, and John doesn’t do much either, though he and Joe have an outstanding exchange, which left me wanting to see more scenes with them. The villains of the book are many: the Pied Piper (Hartley Rathaway), the Mist (Kyle Nimbus), Weather Wizard (Mark Mardon), Peekaboo (Shawna Baez), and Prism (Roy Bivolo). This is the big reason to pick up this book — there’s an actual Rogue’s Gallery to make the Flash’s life miserable. Rathaway is the brains, Nimbus craves acceptance, Mardon is a dumb bully, Baez is okay with crime but not murder, and Bivolo isn’t very memorable. This is a good collection, with several different personalities and powers, and any time they appeared they’re great. If one is a fan of The Flash or Arrow, he or she will enjoy these characters. If one has never seen either series, this is an enjoyable collection of characters who are defined well enough to serve the story. Overall grade: A-

The settings: Central City, as in the series, is the location of this book. Locations visited are Central City Police Station, the West home, S.T.A.R. Labs, and several locations where the villains wreck havoc. The location in Chapter 12 was a favorite, though briefly visited, it stood out for its grandeur. All the locations are described well so the reader has a clear picture of each. Overall grade: A

The action: Whenever Barry has to confront a villain, one or more, the book was terrific. The Flash has fought these characters one-on-one, but not in pairs or larger numbers. This requires Barry to do some quick thinking, as well as his allies who try to offer him solutions during the conflicts. A sequence at a dam is especially exciting. Adding the Arrow into Barry’s fights helps to equal out the battles somewhat, though the Arrow is still adjusting to fighting metahumans. What brings the action down are the interruptions by the ghosts that are haunting Barry. This is the crux of the novel, as made plain by the title, but they slow the action down and provide no interest. Instead, they have a reader wishing the villains would appear again. The scenes where Barry encounters the ghosts provided no real tension and couldn’t compare to when he was dealing with the Rouges. Overall grade: C+

The conclusion: Barry overcomes the ghosts in a very uninteresting way (too similar to Glinda’s solution for Dorothy) that doesn’t really contribute anything to the character. The final battle with the villains was terrific, but if the ghosts are supposed to be the focus, they fell flat. Overall grade: C+

The final line: The villains are terrific, but the ghosts are dull. Fans of the series will enjoy this outing, but this will not create new viewers or readers. As a fan, I would suggest skipping anything involving the spirits for a more enjoyable read. Overall grade: B

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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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