Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop Blurs The Lines When Central City's Villains Become . . . Heroes?!

The Good: Decent artwork, Good plotting
The Bad: No character development, Very predictable plot arc
The Basics: The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop brings closure to the pre-Rebirth New 52 incarnation of The Flash with a crossover from Gotham City that (generally) works!

As with many fans of the television show The Flash, I was fairly disillusioned by the third season of the show. In fact, the third season was so unsatisfying that I have had a lot of trouble getting up the enthusiasm to rewatch and review the entire season. So, knowing that is on my list, I figured I would get in the mood for it by returning to the source material. That takes the form today of me picking up and reading The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop.

The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop is not the next volume in The Flash from where I left off, but I decided it might be a good book to pick up because I could fairly review it on how it stands on its own (as opposed to within any of the larger arcs going on at the time the story begins). And, the truth is, I have been out of a lot of the recent DC Comics arcs, so whatever post-New 52 reboot is going on in the larger DC Comics universe, I have not gotten into it. So, this is a pure review of The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop, which is an anthology of issues 48 - 52 of The Flash.

Barry Allen accompanies Captain Frye to the temporary police station in Central City where Allen learns that the Mayor has set up a task force to capture The Flash. The task force is led by Captain Cold and Snart has brought on his team of Rogues to accomplish the goal. The CCPD blankets Central City in drones to monitor for Speed Force Energy, so Barry knows he cannot use his abilities without falling into the CCPD/Rogues trap. But, when a chemical explosion is set off by a villain using a methodology to track and capture The Flash, Barry Allen is forced to spring into action. While the Rogues initially catch The Flash, Captain Frye tasks the team with actually preventing further chemical explosions, which gives Barry an opportunity to escape and stop the team hunting him.

Unfortunately, while Barry Allen works to cover up a blood sample that might give the task force an edge, Wally West's speedster powers begin to manifest. The drones detect Wally and lead the task force to Marshall Flecher Middle School and to protect the civilians there, The Flash intervenes. In the process, Trickster is able to deploy his new weapon, a restraining arm, against The Flash. But before Frye can properly arrest The Flash, the man pulling Trickster's strings shows himself and The Riddler reveals his ultimate plan to take control of Central City by eliminating The Flash once and for all!

The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop is a remarkably formulaic The Flash book, even if it has the traditional adversaries in the role of law enforcement. The basic set-up for the book makes a decent amount of sense; the Rogues are the most-equipped group capable of capturing The Flash for legitimate law enforcement purposes. Hiring them makes a certain amount of sense, especially given that Leonard Snart has been on a redemptive arc and had abandoned the Rogues for a turn in the Justice League. Returning to the Rogues, he tries to reorganize the criminals to work toward their common goal and Snart does his best to keep the various elements of his group in line.

Predictably, the Trickster is the leak link and the book begins with him happily under the thumb of the Riddler, who has long wanted to match wits with The Flash. The Riddler is an interesting adversary to use against The Flash as he is smart-enough to concoct a plan that would actually challenge Barry Allen. In fact, the Riddler's final mistake in The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop is uncommonly sloppy. He has stacked the deck in a remarkably sensible way through his drones; his poorly-executed endgame seems like more of a matter of plot-convenience than organic character work.

As it may be clear from the paragraphs about how the antagonists act and react in The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop, Barry Allen is something of a second fiddle in his own story in this book. Allen does not grow or develop; he is concerned with protecting his identity and he is willing to sacrifice in order to save lives in Central City. None of these ideas are particularly audacious or different for the character. In fact, the only real character difference in this volume is that Barry Allen has his father to rely upon as an emotional support and sounding board for his ideas. As a result, The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop feels underwhelming on the character front.

That said, the artwork in The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop is generally good. The colors are vibrant and sharp, the characters are all rendered in ways that make them recognizable and clear. Most of the panels have a decent sense of movement within them or between panels. The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop looks good.

In the end, The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop is an absolutely typical volume of The Flash; Barry Allen works as both a forensics detective and as The Flash, a new villain comes to town, the stakes are raised, good triumphs, the end. The Flash, Volume 9: Full Stop might dress the conflict up nicely, but it does not truly rewrite the formula; it embodies the formula.

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Flash Archives, Volume 1
The Flash Vs. The Rogues
The Trial Of The Flash
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
Rogue War
Full Throttle
Lightning In A Bottle
Flash: Rebirth
The Dastardly Death Of The Rogues
The Road To Flashpoint
Move Along
The Life Story Of The Flash


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

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