[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Scott Kolins
Colours: Luis Guerrero
Letters: Steve Wands
The Flash is running himself ragged trying to learn about the new forces, but all it’s done is tear his life apart. Now that he’s back from his Force Quest and home in Central City, he finds that the city was just fine without him, better even! His home is crime-free, and it doesn’t need the Flash anymore! But where has Commander Cold gone? Barry races to find him and hopefully figure out what’s happened while he was away!
The issue opens with the Trickster announcing the commencement of his plot against the Flash. He states that he is pitting the Flash against the “greatest horror of his life.” However, the specifics of his plan remain vague, but strange things are definitely afoot in Central City.
Upon returning to his hometown, Barry finds that everyone is acting strangely happier than normal. Even the perpetually angry Warden Wolfe greets Barry with a smile. Central City appears to be content, with no crime evident anywhere. How this fits into the Trickster’s scheme is unclear, but gives an eerie feel to the story.
I also like how the death cult that Barry dismantles gives a nod to the Blackest Night event. The aspect of death they revere is Nekron, and they adorn their hideout with the symbol of the Black Lantern Corps. Not only is it a nice confirmation that some version of Blackest Night is in continuity, but it also makes sense that a widespread resurrection of many of the world’s dead would inspire a fringe religious movements. It also makes me wonder what similar cults might have arisen from other major DC events.
I also find myself wondering what the Trickster wants from Commander Cold. The Trickster is aware that Cold is from the future and is demanding that Cold “use your knowledge of the future and give me what I want.” Does the Trickster want information from the future, future technology, or something else?
In his narration, Barry drops another revelation on the readers: “I’m getting slower. After I lost the race to Wally, I started to feel a drag. And it’s getting worse.” At first, I thought this was referring to the race in The Flash #49. But looking back at that story, it doesn’t seem completely clear that that race had a winner or loser. Could it instead be referring to the very first race between Barry and Wally during Wally’s Kid Flash days?
The idea that whatever’s affecting Barry goes that deep into his history is fascinating. Perhaps whatever is lying at the centre of all Barry’s troubles will entail a return to the very beginning. Could this be leading us towards the upcoming Flash: Year One storyline?
Barry’s life seems to be a repeated case of “one step forward, two steps back.” Every bit of progress he seems to make also comes with setbacks that leave him the same or worse off than before. His Force Quest has failed. As he tells us, “I wanted to learn from the new Force users and all I did was end up fighting them.” Also, in the wake of Wally’s death, Iris has left to “go on her own quest.” I don’t know if that means they have broken up, but I hope not.
This repeated pattern is somewhat exhausting for readers. I am sure that I am not alone in hoping for Barry to get a big win that is not immediately undone or overshadowed by a worse lost. Perhaps the return of Wally or maybe for Barry and Iris’ pre-Flashpoint marriage might fill this purpose. The hallmark of the Rebirth era was a return of hope to the DC Universe, but Barry’s life has seemed somewhat devoid of hope recently.
Regardless of Barry’s other problems, the Trickster poses a threat that keeps the reader guessing. Plus the return of the Trickster to his Silver Age roots gives the storyline a nostalgic note, but still presents the him as a real and dangerous threat to the Flash. I look forward to seeing how the Flash fares as the details of the Trickster’s plan are revealed.