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Flash Fridays – The Flash #287 July 1980

posted on August 20, 2021

Cary Bates dips way back into the archives to resurrect one of the Flash’s earliest villains from the Showcase days, Dr. Alchemy. The story centers as much on Dr. Alchemy’s alter ego Al Desmond as it does on the bad Doctor himself. Bates take us back to his origins as we see how Desmond was unique among Flash villains given that he emerged from his time in prison completely reformed, and has generally remained so except for a couple of extremely bad hair days if you get my drift. Barry and Desmond’s wife Rita are baffled as to why he would return to crime. As the Flash, Barry hunts down Dr. Alchemy only to discover that, when the Flash catches and unmasks his opponent, it turn out to only be someone hired by Desmond to play the role. On the final page, in Dr. Alchemy’s hideout, we see that the real Al Desmond is the prisoner of and being framed by a new Dr. A who happens to also be named… Al Desmond. Total lack of imagination or something more cooly Freudian like a split personality come to life? We’ll see next issue.

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!

Flash Fridays – The Flash #285 May 1980

posted on August 6, 2021

A nice Heck/Giordano cover kicks off the next phase in Barry Allen’s life and the book begins to explore life after Iris West Allen. Things are kept familiar by devoting the issue to a tangle with the Trickster. It’s a smart move in an attempt to mollify long time Flash readers following the existential turmoil that has embroiled the Flash’s life recently. We get to see some nice superhero super villain action and then it’s on to introducing new characters in the Flash’s/Barry’s life.

As Barry shows up at the police department lab a tad late after his Trickster tussle, we meet his new captain Darryl Frye, an efficiency expert who we find is timing Barry’s arrival time at work. Writer Cary Bates is setting the table for himself as he bakes in some potential problems for Barry in future stories. In an interesting interaction with Frank Curtis who drops by the lab to try and set Barry up with someone, Frank casually mentions that it’s been a year since Iris has been gone. So Cary Bates is looking for a hard reset with a year having elapsed between this issue and the previous one. It makes sense to do something like this if you don’t want to spend a year with Barry grieving, and if you want to get on with his new life right away. It’s interesting that no writer has ever picked up on the opportunity presented here to fill in the Flash’s missing year. Intriguing. Let’s just keep that thought to ourselves and not tell anyone else about it. Deal?

Later we see Barry moving from the house he shared with Iris into a new apartment and in the process meeting two new neighbors. The first is a beautiful but aloof woman named Fiona. The other is a black scientist with two first names Mack Nathan who is a scientist at Star Labs. Again, Bates is creating characters who come with story possibilities attached. In fact, we don’t have to wait long as the Trickster tries to rob Nathan’s safe  for some nuclear secrets with a toy robot that he had managed to get into the hands of Nathan’s son Troy. The cover scene is nicely brought into the story as the Trickster tries to retrieve his toy robot and inadvertently sends the car with Mack and Barry in it off a cliff. Another battle with the Trickster ensues. The Flash keeps the car from crashing and captures the Trickster. And so the new era of the Flash is off and running (pun not intended, it happened by itself).