Sunday, May 27, 2012

Geoff Johns Admirably Progresses The Flash Storyline With Flash: Blood Will Run!

The Good: Very well-written, Decent sense of continuity, Good character aspects
The Bad: Much of the artwork is unremarkable, This volume does not pay off all it implies!
The Basics: After two of the Flash’s ex’s resurface, Keystone City becomes a much darker place in Flash: Blood Will Run!

As I near the midpoint of my Flash Year, I am discovering why fans of The Flash were so excited about Geoff Johns’ tenure on the book. Ironically, I am actually leading up to the arcs that I began the year (and my study of the Flash) with with Flash: Blood Will Run. When Hunter Zolomon was introduced in the last chapter of Flash: Blood Will Run, I could not help but smile. More than anything else, Flash: Blood Will Run gives the reader the idea that Geoff Johns is painting with a larger canvass than most comic book writers. In Flash: Blood Will Run, Geoff Johns establishes and resurrects many villains from the Flash corner of the DC Universe.

But more than simply a pale retread of a story like Batman: Knighfall (reviewed here!), where the villains of Arkham Asylum are set free, Flash: Blood Will Run very organically introduces readers to the growing Rogues Gallery of villains that Wally West’s Flash will face. There is a dynamic sensibility to Flash: Blood Will Run and, even better, Geoff Johns has something most writers in this genre lack: a talent for including larger character aspects and more developed themes. As a result, Flash: Blood Will Run is not simply another superhero book, it adds up to something more significant and interesting, with a commentary on consequences that – I know from subsequent works – is actually going somewhere.

Flash: Blood Will Run forces Wally West to reflect upon some of the problematic aspects of his youth and that makes for a particularly compelling story. Both ex-girlfriends of Wally’s who show up – which could have turned annoyingly soap operatic considering he is now married, but thankfully Johns studiously avoids such melodrama – have a legitimate beef with how they were left. In a particularly compelling character twist, Wally West avails himself of the opportunity to apologize to the women he slighted as a boy. Fortunately, the story is a lot more than just that.

Following a hockey game where Wally West notices Leonard Snart in attendance, the Flash encounters his ex-girlfriend, Magenta. The magnetically-inclined woman professes to no longer be jaded about their break-up and even allows the Flash and the Keystone police to take her into custody. While waiting for the chance to debrief her, the new police detective, Morillo, and the hardened beat cop Chyre discover a connection between multiple murders around Keystone City. The connection is the Flash and all of the victims are people the Flash once saved.

As the body count rises to include Chyre’s partner and Wally’s ex-girlfriend Julie Jackam, Magenta turns and ensnares Wally. Bringing him to the lair of Cicada, West and the police discover a cult based around the Flash. Cicada, the villainous leader of the cult, wants to sacrifice Wally to resurrect his dead wife and as monstrous as the plan is, with Magenta working with Cicada, it appears to have a real chance of success!

Following the incident with Cicada, Wally and his wife, Linda, move into a new apartment, a process interrupted by the appearance of Tar Pit, a Rogue who has the dangerous ability to actually entrap the Flash! The interruption from Tar Pit is not the only one; Jackam’s funeral is disrupted by the Weather Wizard and the police begin an uncomfortable investigation into the Pied Piper, a villain-turned-hero who may have had a relapse. When Chyre reveals that Jackam’s son may be the child of the Flash, Weather Wizard turns up his attack, endangering both Linda and the baby. With the revelation of the baby’s true origins, it seems a perfect storm is brewing against the Flash!

Blood Will Run takes a detour then with an Iron Heights story. Introducing several Rogues as residents of Iron Heights, Wally learns that Iron Heights is suffering from a plague, one that is killing that police and visitors, but not the inmates of the metahuman prison. The evidence quickly mounts pointing to the demented Murmur, the first Rogue that Barry Allen put away. In trying to understand the nature of the outbreak Murmur has unleashed, Wally West encounters Girder, Double Down and the tormented Fall Out, who leads the hero to believe something disturbing is going on at Iron Heights.

Unfortunately for the citizens of Keystone City, the plague at Iron Heights leaves Murmur and two others at large. This brings Hunter Zolomon to town and, unfortunately for the readers, brings an end that leaves one only wanting more to Flash: Blood Will Run!

Flash: Blood Will Run does a decent job of painting the Flash’s world as a surprisingly dangerous one, though Johns drops the ball on some of the consequences. Throughout Flash: Blood Will Run, there is a thread involving the Pied Piper, who may have reverted to a life of crime again. That entire plotline is inelegantly weaved into the text and is not concluded by the end of the book. But, there are more pressing consequences that are not realized in Flash: Blood Will Run.

Foremost among these consequences, Flash: Blood Will Run is plagued by a baffling bit in the first main story. Cicada manages to stab Wally West and how that works is not satisfactorily explained. Sure, it is clear that Magenta is powering a chamber that keeps Wally from vibrating his molecules. That’s a cool idea, but how the chamber works so that Wally is incapacitated, but Cicada can swing a knife is not satisfactorily detailed. Even worse, West takes a lightning-drenched knife to the chest, apparently right to the heart. Ouch. This, however, does not kill him. The artwork for the panel has the knife sunk in, almost to the hilt, yet somehow Wally West survives this chapter of Flash: Blood Will Run! There is a scar in later chapters, but no explanation of how Wally survived a knife to the heart which, speedster or not, ought to have put an end to the character.

That said, once Wally West does survive that incident, the story takes off in a delightfully dark direction. With the near-death of Linda, the rise of the Rogues and the near-constant assaults on the heroic Wally West,Flash: Blood Will Run is a very fast-paced comic book adventure. Outside the serialized elements for the larger story, Flash: Blood Will Run is nicely self-contained, so readers are not stuck (for example) wondering long about whose baby Julie’s child is.

The artwork in Flash: Blood Will Run is fair. While well-colored, the book does not always have the greatest sense of movement within or between the panels and some of the panels are essentially underdetailed sketches of what the action is supposed to be.

In the end, Flash: Blood Will Run is an engaging story that has enough going for it to enthusiastically recommend, even if it never approaches the realm of great literature.

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 Human Race
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Flash: Rebirth


For other book reviews, be sure to check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the books I have reviewed!

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