Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Surprisingly Well-Constructed, The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse Finally Creates An Awesome Villain For The Flash!

The Good: Good characters, Awesome plot development, Much of the artwork
The Bad: Erratic artwork, Some thematic elements are oversimplified.
The Basics: The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse creates a New 52 incarnation of the Reverse Flash that is incredibly cool and well-developed!

Recently, I started reading The Flash again and picking the books back up have been decidedly mixed. The New 52 featured a number of reboots that left me more or less unimpressed. Sadly, The Flash was a book that lost me initially in The New 52. But, as I neared the end of The Flash, Volume 3: Gorilla Warfare (reviewed here!), I felt like there was some hope for the series; in seeding the next story, the Reverse Flash made an appearance. The proper return of the Reverse Flash comes in The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse.

The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse is an anthology of six books that may make allusions to prior volumes, but is remarkably accessible to new readers. Some of the allusions make it almost worthwhile to go back to the prior volumes to see if the evidence for the creation of the Reverse Flash was there, but The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse is complete enough on its own to not require that. The story introduces the Reverse Flash - or the latest incarnation of it! - in a full and compelling way, which is tough to do in a single volume. Fortunately, the New 52 incarnation of the Reverse Flash is pretty awesome and worthy of the mantle of his predecessors.

When Barry Allen and Patty Spivot move in together, Barry decides to put his past behind him. He returns to the streets as The Flash and soon thereafter, Barry Allen is able to come back to work at the Central City Police Department. In Iron Heights, Marissa is killed by the Reverse Flash, which comes shortly after Albert (another person Barry rescued from the Speed Force) appeared to die in a random accident. Barry hunts down Gomez, the only other person he rescued besides Iris, and learns that Albert was killed, too. But a device left behind by Albert clues Barry into the idea that a speedster murdered Albert and The Flash's initial evidence points to Kid Flash.

Chasing Kid Flash around the world, Barry Allen learns the young speedster is from the future, not quite tapped into the Speed Force, and not the killer he is searching for. After Sprint is murdered, Dr. Darwin Elias awakens from a nightmare, committed to developing a power source based upon The Flash and Barry figures out how to shield Iris from the speedster killer. When he goes to interview Dr. Elias, The Flash finds the Reverse Flash there depleting Elias's Speed Force capacitor and rescues the unethical scientist. In the ensuing fight, The Flash learns that his opposite wants to become master of the Speed Force in order to turn time backward. In protective custody, Iris learns the identity of the Reverse Flash and that activates her powers, putting her in the fray for the critical battle. But when the Reverse Flash is able to thwart the Flash, he pulls The Flash back in time with the intent to destroy all the wrong in his life, starting with killing his own father!

The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse culminates in a Zero Year story involving Barry Allen being in Gotham City during the formative event of Batman's career. As Barry Allen investigates the use of the new street drug Icarus, he meets Iris West, who is an intern reporter in Gotham City. Barry Allen is able to show off his heroic instincts, long before he had super powers, by rushing into a burning building in Gotham, which impresses Iris.

The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse includes wonderful characterization for Barry Allen. Allen finally reveals the backstory of his parents to Patty Spivot and he shows maturity by moving in with Spivot. The book is generally mature in that it does not make the tension between Patty Spivot and Iris West into something overly melodramatic. Allen has a decent amount of heroic potential even in the flashback chapter, which is well-developed over The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse.

The subplot with Iris and her estranged brother Daniel seems initially tacked on and like a divergence that is utterly uninteresting. Fortunately, The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse takes the distant subplot and makes it integral to the story of the Reverse Flash and the murders going on through Central City. The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse starts making Iris West important to The Flash in an engaging way.

What is not overly impressive is the terrible "move on" theme. The Flash presents a ridiculous notion that everyone should just "get over" their past and "move on" with their life. For anyone who has gone through real trauma, this is a truly insulting theme. Fortunately, The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse features a character who can't move on and that leads to a sense of realism that most graphic novels do not possess.

The art in The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse is very inconsistent. While some of the battle scenes are immaculate and the Reverse Flash is rendered in a cool and terrifying way, the art does not hold up throughout the entire book. For example, the art in the dance scene is decidedly sub-par.

That said, The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse is an engaging read that wonderfully creates a new villain and deepens the heroic character of The Flash.

For other The Flash volumes, please visit my reviews of:
The World Of Flashpoint Featuring The Flash
The Flash Archives
The Flash: Rogue War


For other Graphic Novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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