The Flash #53 // Review
The Flash #53, written by Joshua Williamson, with art by Christian Duce and colors by Luis Guerrero, continues Flash’s investigation into the newly-discovered Strength Force and it’s current chosen avatar--the Trickster. To make matters even more interesting, Barry’s usual Flash Family members, Wally and Wallace, aren’t available to help out, leaving the Flash to team up with a cop from the future (Commander Cold) who has modeled himself after--you guessed it--Captain Cold. To say these two don’t get along is an understatement, but it makes for an interesting chapter in this exciting new era of The Flash.
Williamson’s take on Barry Allen continues to grow more complex by the issue, with him becoming more flawed and (sometimes) less likable. This time around, Barry is still struggling with the massive changes that have taken place in his life lately. Between Wally having to take time off to deal with PTSD, Kid Flash refusing to even talk to him, finding out he’s no longer the “fastest man alive,” and discovering three new Forces after breaking the Speed Force barrier, his one constant is Iris. This seems to have left him unsure of himself, and he finds it necessary to lean on Iris more and more. He brings her up several times throughout the issue, when referencing what he should do in a couple different situations. Whether this is a good or bad thing, readers are left unsure of. It’s certainly not healthy to use a loved one as an emotional crutch, but sometimes, a person is so hurt that they actually need something, or someone, to lean on.
Speaking of Iris, she has really become the hero of this book since rediscovering her memories of Wally and the pre-New 52 timeline. She’s not only become Barry’s number one supporter, but the rock of the entire Flash Family. Barry reaching a dead end on his research into the new Forces last issue has led to her starting her own investigation this issue, and even hinting that she believes Barry might need to do some soul searching about his connection to the Speed Force to get some answers. If that’s true, then Iris could eventually end up being responsible for sending him on the Speed Force quest that would restore him to his proper place as the fastest man alive. In the past, a speedster having an emotional lighting rod while traveling into the Speed Force, or timestream, has always been a must, so it looks like Williamson is picking up that concept and running with it in order to make Iris a more central figure to the book.
Williamson also provides some much-needed answers on Commander Cold and the Strength Force this issue. Commander Cold, as prickly as his predecessor, is not an easy person for Wally to get along with, especially in a time when he’s missing most of his support system. The readers find out why he is like that this chapter, with a flashback (forward?) that shows where he is coming from, and why he is so angry. His need to get a job done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and by any means necessary, stemming from a nightmarish incident in his past, comes into play several times in this issue, and even provides this week’s frustrating cliffhanger. Cold is also key in getting answers about the Strength Force, as his futuristic diagnostic equipment is able to do an extensive scan of the Trickster while he is in the thrall of it. And, while readers aren’t provided a full explanation of the mysterious Force, some explanation of how it operates and what it has domain over is given, which is enough to scratch the itch of curiosity for now.
Duce, while a very talented artist, just does not seem to be a great fit for the Flash. On a book like Batman, or Superman, where he could pose a character mid-air, and make them look cool, he would be great. Unfortunately, a Flash artist needs to make his lead look like he is always in motion. That’s a tough thing to do, considering each panel of a comic is basically a snapshot of action, but all of the greatest Flash artists over the years have had that particular talent, and it is a must on this title. Guerrero was also hit and miss this issue, providing vibrant colors on the first half of the book, but then becoming muddy in the latter half, when the setting moves to Iron Heights. Yes, this location is meant to be darker, but something about Guerrero’s colors seems to be working against Duce’s art in the second half, leaving most of the visuals to just be plain unappealing.
Overall, Williamson is still providing an exciting, groundbreaking era in The Flash, which was in much need of new material to explore. Mark Waid “discovered” the Speed Force in the 90’s, and set some pretty solid guidelines for what could be done with it. Since then, only Geoff Johns has really added to that, giving readers the explanation that the Speed Force originated from Barry Allen and flows out of him up and down the timeline. After that, the Speed Force was ignored, and became stagnant as a concept. Now, Williamson has finally picked up the baton, and boy, is he running with it. If you’re a fan of the Speed Force and like the idea of seeing it explored more, now is the time to come back to The Flash.