Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Flash: The Human Race Is A Mixed Bag Of The Flash Comics That Presents Villains Esoteric And Cool!

The Good: Second half of the book, Sense of imagination, Character, Some of the artwork
The Bad: Some lack of plot sense, Some of the artwork
The Basics: The Flash: The Human Race is half an imaginative concept with a somewhat ridiculous premise and half a terrifying and dangerous villain that is worth reading about.

As my Flash Year progresses, I have a sudden influx of new (to me) The Flash books and the latest that has come in for me is The Flash: The Human Race. Rather coolly for me is that The Flash: The Human Race introduces one of the villains I have only had peripheral knowledge of until now: the Black Flash. As a trade paperback anthology, The Flash: The Human Race is split between the Human Race story and the Black Flash story.

Grant Morrison, the author of The Flash: The Human Race, has a story that is a conceptually cool one that is hardly as effective as the second story by Mark Millar. “The Human Race” is an imaginative story that has a surprisingly easy resolution that is reminiscent of “The Gamesters Of Triskelion” from the original Star Trek (reviewed here!). On the other half of the book, “The Black Flash” is presented as a real threat to the Flash and that tale is engaging and has Wally West in a more compelling race for his life than in the first half of the book.

“The Human Race” half of the book starts as a very direct story. Wally West is preparing to propose to Linda Park when an impressive alien race arrives at Earth. Hovering over the Earth, giants reveal themselves and demand that Earth put up a champion for an interstellar race. The blue incarnation of Superman agrees with Wally that he is the man to race for humanity. Things take a turn for the weird, though, when Wally confronts the entity he is racing against: Krakkl, an imaginary friend of Wally’s when he was a kid. Now, both are racing for the survival of their planets and species and with the fate of Earth and humanity in the balance, Wally West makes a wager that could cost him everything.

The story continues with the “Black Flash” arc that has Max Mercury disturbed after taking a photograph of the living speedsters on Earth. He notices a black smudge behind Wally in the photograph and concludes that Wally’s days are numbered. It does not take long before Max’s fears are realized when the Black Flash – the killer of all Speedsters – appears. Determined to take a life, the Black Flash actually misses Wally and he instead takes Linda Park. Utterly distraught, Wally West goes on the defensive with Bart Allen, Max Mercury and Jesse Quick doing all they can to protect West from the Black Flash.

The Flash: The Human Race is a pair of very basic stories that are fairly disconnected from one another. The “Human Race” story is only marginally connected to the “Black Flash” story. On the character front, the writers do make a link, but it is a pretty weak one and the book is essentially fractured between the two very different stories. The Flash: The Human Race is interesting enough, though the gambling aliens who put Wally West in the race for his life are pretty monolithic and generic and pretty much have a Villain of the Week feel to them.

The “Black Flash” portion of The Flash: The Human Race has the Speedster confronting a pretty intriguing villain. Not to be confused with the Black Lantern Reverse Flash from the Blackest Night Saga, the Black Flash is a pretty monolithic villain as well. Racing through all time behind the Flash, he is a determined villain who is given no lines, no compelling aspects. He is simply a fast, vicious ghoul whose whole purpose is to put the Flash in the ground. The Black Flash would be a little more compelling if there were greater evidence of the Black Flash eliminating the other speedsters in the DC Universe.

On the character front, The Flash: The Human Race is the important turning point in the relationship between Wally West and Linda Park. In The Flash: The Human Race, Wally West finally gets around to getting a ring and moving their relationship forward. Despite something of a jerk around for fans with the moment that the Black Flash kills Linda, the story with Wally West needing to be protected from the Black Flash is actually going somewhere and it is interesting to see how West’s love of Linda continues to motivate him.

The artwork in The Flash: The Human Race is split. Krakkl and the Black Flash are intriguingly rendered and the detailing of them is pretty cool. Unfortunately, The Flash: The Human Race is not at all consistent. Wally West, for example, appears much more blockish than he does in other volumes. There is not a single iconic look for Wally West and in The Flash: The Human Race he looks unlike he does in other books (he’s been both blonde and redheaded and in this book, he is a redhead who looks more like the second Captain Boomerang than Wally West). The Flash: The Human Race also comes in an odd time in DC Universe history with the Blue Superman who did not last very long at all. Outside that, The Flash: The Human Race does not have a terrible sense of movement to it and the book is more consistent in that than it is with character design.

Ultimately, The Flash: The Human Race is a pretty average graphic novel. I like the resolution to the first storyline, despite how cheesy it might appear. But the execution of both stories is more problematic than attentive readers are likely to enjoy. The rescue of Linda Park is intriguing, but the whole running around the universe makes Wally West virtually invincible and there is no clear reigning in of the character after that. The Flash: The Human Race is a basically average graphic novel that is worth reading, if not picking up.

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Born To Run
The Return Of Barry Allen
Terminal Velocity
Dead Heat
Race Against Time
Emergency Stop
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Flash: Rebirth


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to visit my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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