Thursday, March 23, 2017

Flash Forward, Flash Back: The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time

The Good: Good artwork, Engaging plot
The Bad: Predictable a-plot mystery, Dialogue that does not include any real wit to it
The Basics: The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is an interesting story, even if it fundamentally alters Barry Allen's character!

Every now and then when I read and review a graphic novel, I find myself considering what I would have done differently if I were the one writing the story. Usually, these days, I find myself thinking that I would give the books better artwork and I am pretty content to start with that. But when there is a book like The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, where the artwork is fine, I have to go deeper and it is a rare thing where I have so few critiques of a graphic novel that I cannot imagine changing much from what I read. In the case of The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, I probably would have made the dialogue zestier - the book is somewhat hampered by dialogue that is so straightforward it is sometimes boring - and an adversary in the a-plot that is not quite so obvious.

That said, The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is one of the New 52 books that actually popped for me.

The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time picks up after the events of The Flash, Volume 5: History Lessons (reviewed here!) and Forever Evil (reviewed here!). Those who have not read Forever Evil will miss a lot of the magnitude of consequence that is hanging over Central City in The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time. This is very much a book that relies upon readers having read and comprehended the world-shattering events in the prior volume and the ancillary work to understand what is going on with Barry Allen. The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is also the book that places Wally West in the role of The Flash for the first time in The New 52!

Opening five years in the future with Iris West and a teenager apparently dead at the scene of an accident that The Flash could have prevented, the narrative returns to the present, where the Central City Police Department has been ransacked in the wake of the Crime Syndicate's reign. Barry Allen has to visit the department shrink, Dr. Janus, to discuss the effects of the Crime Syndicate destroying Central City. During his session, he runs out and helps Forrest get through his trauma and brick up a hole in Iron Heights. Twenty years in the future, Barry Allen (in a very different Flash suit!) has an epiphany on how to change everything that went wrong in his life and Central City; saving Wally West's life from the car accident.

Barry Allen meets Wally West, Iris's nephew, when Wally is out graffitiing anti-Flash markings on a building. In the future, Barry reveals himself as The Flash to the wheelchair-bound Iris West and promises her he will save Wally. His first stop it to Gorilla City, where he executes the speedster Grodd! In the present, the Central City Police Department is overwhelmed with cases from the Crime Syndicate's reign and Barry Allen disappoints Singh by taking what appeared to be an easy-to-close case and proving that the prime suspect could not have committed the crime! When the Central City Art Gallery is attacked, The Flash runs into the robbery only to discover the thieves are armed with technology specifically-designed to take him down. Shortly thereafter, an attack is made in Central City using gear from the obscure criminal Black Mold; a crime Black Mold could not have done as he was in traction at the time! While Barry hunts down clues that make it appear that one criminal managed to get all of the super-weapons out of the crime lab storage during the Crime Syndicate's reign of terror, the future version of The Flash continues his trek back through time to thwart his enemies.

The Future Flash and The Flash ultimately collide in a battle that makes sense, even if it is not emotionally satisfying (though it is the least-predictable option for its resolution, which was nice!).

Fans of The Flash are likely to be split on the interpersonal melodrama contained within The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time. When The New 52 began and rebooted Barry Allen's story, the Barry Allen and Patty Spivot relationship was one that gave traditional fans of The Flash real issues. In reinventing the franchise, the writers actually worked to give Spivot and Allen a fair shake and for those who invested in it, it was reassuring to see that the writers did not simply mortgage that to reestablish the familiar dichotomy with Allen and West. In The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, there is far more interaction between Iris West and Barry Allen than there is between Allen and Spivot and the lengths Barry goes to to help Iris with Wally is somewhat unrealistic given the quality and character of his relationship with Patty and with Iris in the other books in the series.

That said, the Future Flash is an interesting one and his views on his younger self is pretty cool. The Future Flash bursts into the narrative not only with the weight of years of experience and guilt weighing upon him, but with training from some of the most dangerous fighters in the DC Universe, which makes him a formidable foe for all of the adversaries he encounters. There is a strong sense of irony throughout The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time in that Barry Allen evolves into, essentially, The Reverse-Flash.

As for the mystery of the weapons taken from the police evidence lockers, that is very insular to The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time and it suffers from a similar problem to most television mystery shows. On television, there is a habit - which was beautifully lampooned on Family Guy - of putting the most famous guest star in the role of the Murderer Of The Week. In The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time, there is a similar phenomenon where after several incidents that Barry Allen investigates, a new, named person pops into the narrative in a painfully obvious way and attentive readers will instantly recognize his purpose there.

The artwork in The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time is generally decent, which makes things like Grodd eating Eobard Thawne's brains particularly unsettling. The Future Flash looks awesome and for the brief time at the end of the volume that Wally West spends as The Flash, his costume looks pretty incredible, too!

While the dialogue in The Flash, Volume 6: Out Of Time might not pop in any interesting ways and there is the sudden obvious villain to resolve the mystery plot, the book is entertaining and has some deeper character themes that make it well worth reading!

For other The Flash volumes from The New 52, please visit my reviews of:
Move Along
Rogues Revolution
Gorilla Warfare


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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