The Flash #42 Review
The Flash #42, by writer Joshua Williamson and artist Dan Panosian, is the fourth part of the Perfect Storm arc, which probably should have been called “The Fall of Barry Allen”. Gorilla Grodd has invaded Central City with his Black Hole organization, intent on saving his own life by stealing the Speed Force. In the process, he has stripped Barry Allen of his speed and endangered the entire city. Now, Wally West has had to step up to save the day, along with Kid Flash and Avery Ho (the Flash of China). Barry, however, has been desperately trying to get his powers back, acting insanely out of character and making poor decisions such as releasing the speedster villain Godspeed from prison to help him.
Williamson has delivered an amazing arc up to this point in the story, but his characterization of Barry Allen still leaves much to be desired. It’s unclear if Barry’s head has been messed with by Grodd, he is suffering some kind of withdrawal from the Speed Force, or there is something else altogether going on. Virtually every character in the book has made mention of Barry’s odd behavior, so it can’t be considered a fault in Williamson’s writing, but it’s still hard to believe Barry would do the things he has done just to get his speed back. Even the criminal Godspeed questions Allen’s motives and bad decisions in this issue and his moral center is undeniably askew.
On the other hand, Wally West (the original) is portrayed in the best light possible. He is immediately seen as a major threat by Grodd and is even mentioned as understanding the Speed Force on a spiritual level, as opposed to Barry’s scientific understanding of it. He also figures out Grodd’s true plan well before Barry, who was too busy trying to get his powers back to think about how he might possibly be playing into his enemy’s hands. Williamson is, undoubtedly, making comparisons between the two Flashes in order to show the reader that they are on equal footing, in preparation for the upcoming Flash War story, but, at the moment, Wally is really looking like the favorite in the eyes of the writer.
Williamson’s handling of Godspeed in this issue is entertaining, as well. He’s the loose cannon of the Flash team, and nobody trusts him. His rescue of Kid Flash and Avery provides a laugh and, at one point while fighting the Negative Flash, the others aren’t sure what to do, so they just let them fight in hopes that they’ll take each other out. Alternately, when the others guess that Barry might have freed Godspeed hoping that he would kill Grodd for him, the former villain actually seems hurt at the idea that the Flash would use him like that. This is a complex character Williamson has crafted and, odds are, he is heading towards some sort of redemption/sacrifice by the end of this arc.
The art this issue was the only major negative to be complained about. Dan Panosian steps in to fill the shoes of previous artists Carlos D’Anda and Carmine Di GIandomenico and he just isn’t anywhere near the skill level of either of those guys. Right off the bat, his Grodd looks tragically awful sitting on his throne in profile. The artist of a Flash book should also be skilled at showing the kinetic nature of the speedsters, but every scene Panosian draws looks stilted. Even Hi-Fi’s normally great color work is hurt by this out of place art. Panosian would be better suited for a street level crime drama, but his style doesn’t work well on something as high-energy and action-packed as The Flash.
All in all, this continues to be a great arc, making fantastic use of all of the supporting characters, and even the villains that Williamson has set up over the course of his run. Hopefully, Barry Allen will snap out of his funk and start making the right decisions soon, but if the end of this issue is any indication, it might already be too late for him to redeem himself. Either way, the future of The Flash looks like it’s going to be a must-read.