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Flash Fridays – The Flash #286 June 1980

posted on August 13, 2021

A new villain is introduced into the Flash canon as we meet (sorta) the Rainbow Raider on the cover. For all of the color on it, it’s an oddly lackluster cover. The tale opens with a tired Barry Allen leaving the police station. Tired because, as we all saw coming, the new police captain Darryl Frye has Barry working overtime to complete his work at the lab. Writer Bates wastes no time milking this new bit of shtick for all it’s worth.

The story itself is a one-off throwback to an earlier time.  As he leaves the station, Barry hears about a robbery at the art museum and when he shows up there as the Flash we get our first look at the colorful new culprit. The Don Heck designed costume isn’t bad and the Raider’s powers are interesting and varied. He can affect emotions with colorful beams that shoot from his glasses, such as blue beams to cause guards to have an emotional breakdown and a black one that ko’s the Flash causing along with causing him to lose all energy and color. And the Raider escapes by running off on a rainbow. As an all-white Flash (slowly) repairs to his apartment to figure out what to, we drop in on the Rainbow Raider’s lair to learn his backstory. In several pages of expository dialog we learn that Roy G. Bivolo was born colorblind thus putting the kibosh on an otherwise promising painting career. His father vows to create something to cure his son and on his deathbed gives a now older Roy a pair of special glasses. Turns out that the glasses don’t cure Roy’s colorblindness, but they do come equipped with all of those shooting beams that allow him to compensate for his loss by becoming a colorful criminal. So since he can’t see the color in the museum’s masterpieces, he decides to steal them so that no one else can enjoy them.

In one of the oddest Flash faux science leaps in a long line of faux science leaps, the Flash restores his color by running through a bunch of different colored cars in a junkyard. Yep, you read that right. He then goes on to capture the Rainbow Raider by snatching off his glasses and telling him that it’s the end of the rainbow. Not kidding there as well (Although, in all fairness, I couldn’t have walked away from that line either). I’m not damning with faint praise here when I say that this story would not have been at all out of place at the beginning of the Silver Age Flash run. The set-up, the colorful villain, the villain backstory, and the faux quasi sciency mumbo jumbo would have fit right in back in 1957. Problem is… it’s 1980. Oy!