Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wally West Gets Plugged In By The Thinker As The Rogues Rise To Power In Flash: Crossfire! (My 200th Graphic Novel Review!)

The Good: Engaging story, Decent artwork, Good villains
The Bad: Very light on character development, Moments that get swept under the rug
The Basics: Flash: Crossfire finds The Flash trapped between two exceptionally powerful forces in a decent graphic novel.

I’ve found I’m not a huge fan of team-up style superhero graphic novels. I like The Flash quite a bit, but the books very frequently rely upon team-ups in order to see Wally West through so many of his conflicts. On the flip side, I do tend to enjoy good villain stories and when compelling villains team up to try to defeat the heroes. Good villains make for more interesting heroes and when they are well-written and their alliances begin for compelling reasons, it makes for good reading. Flash: Crossfire is one such story of a supervillain coalition and it reads as a taut, engaging graphic novel.

In fact, all that Flash: Crossfire could really use is actual character development. Flash: Crossfire is a plot-heavy story that puts Wally West under siege by more enemies than most superheroes could handle. The primary story is an engaging assault on both Central and Keystone Cities and the book is enhanced by one-shots that follow up on The Flash: Wonderland that is akin to The Brave And The Bold. The “Crossfire” storyline puts the Wally West version of the Flash in between an army of Rogues and a villain from Green Lantern who attacks Keystone City.

Isolated from his most useful allies, Wally West finds himself at the mercy of a new Rogue calling himself the Trickster. The supervillain uses an attack on the Flash and Hunter Zolomon as an audition to join the Rogues Network. Allied with Blacksmith, Trickster joins a force that includes Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, Girder, Magenta, Murmur, and Plunder (a Rogue from the mirror universe that Mirror Master broke out of in one of the prior volumes. Trapped in Central City against this force, Wally turns to Keystone City, which has been taken over by the mysterious computer-generated Thinker.

Plugged into the hive mind, the Flash works to defeat the Thinker in a virtual world, but finds that the entities resources might help him take out the Rogues. Unfortunately, the Thinker is utilizing the brain storage space of the citizens of Keystone City and Wally West cannot directly confront his VR villain. In working to take out the two forces of villains, West puts both cities in serious jeopardy!

As one who loves character-driven stories, it is a weird thing to read a book like Flash: Crossfire that so studiously neglects the superhero as far as character development. Instead, Flash: Crossfire puts more stock in the secondary characters, namely detectives Chyre and Morillo. Morillo’s powers are still emerging and Chyre is working through the loss of his partner’s child (whom he wanted to adopt).

In fact, the elaborate plot to separate Wally West from all of his allies, results in many of the peripheral characters getting more significant cerebral airtime than he does. Iris Allen is diagnosed with cancer and taken out of the picture, just like Cyborg, Pied Piper, and Chunk. Even Linda gets a decent additional bit of character as she is stalked by a classmate who seems to want her more than as just a friend. Ironically, I have read the results of the surprise character twist involving Linda (at the beginning of my Flash Year) and reading the build-up to it now, Flash: Crossfire, it is a satisfying beginning to that character arc.

Unfortunately, Geoff Johns’ treatment of the villains in Flash: Crossfire is not even as remotely interesting. While the fights are, in every sense of the word, epic, Johns understates the effects of how cool some of the Rogues are. In one of the books climactic moments (fear not, no spoilers!) one of the Rogues is literally torn in half! And yet, despite how cool of an exit from the series it could have been for that character, Geoff Johns and Flash: Crossfire undermine the moment by having that character just fine in Iron Heights after the action. That was the only genuine disappointment in Flash: Crossfire.

The book is topped off with a full exploration of the character of Hartley Rathaway and even though the Flash has exonerated him for the murder of his parents as Pied Piper, he is on the lam. The character-driven one-shot is interesting, but not at all surprising given how most of the elements had been put out into the mythos in prior volumes.

There is also a “Brave And The Bold” style crossover with Hawkman and the Flash at the climax of Flash: Crossfire. Linda Park’s study buddy is revealed in the one-shot that finally ends the dangling elements from Flash: Wonderland. That story is all right, but nothing exceptional.

The artwork in Flash: Crossfire is consistently good. All of the villains are well-rendered and the heroes are equally distinctive. The colors are closer to monotonal than really deep or shaded, like with current books. But the movement in the book is exceptional.

Flash: Crossfire is cool and fits into the Geoff Johns Flash mythology well!

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
Blood Will Run
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Full Throttle
Flash: Rebirth
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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

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