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Flash Fridays – The Flash #239 February 1976

posted on November 29, 2019

This issue marks one of Cary Bates best outings yet on The Flash. It’s chockablock with all of the elements that go into making up a memorable Flash tale and then some. It’s tight, clever and ultimately very satisfying. Where to begin? Let’s start with the symbolic splash page where we see all of the elements of the story on full display. First there’s the large drawing of Paul Gambi, tailor to the troublemakers. I’ve always loved the conceit of having a tailor who makes all of the costumes for the Flash’s Rogues gallery, along with the fact that his name was a nod to a loyal Flash fan Paul Gambaccini. Next up on the splash are the Top, Pied Piper and the Trickster all chasing after the Flash who is running away from them with some of their stolen loot. And in a circle insert we see Kid Flash the guest star of the book length story. All nicely pulled off art-wise by Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin. I mean, seriously, right?

All of this roles out with the Flash foiling an armored car robbery by the Pied Piper. Problem is, all of the money suddenly disappears. The Flash then breaks up another heist where the money doesn’t disappear. The Flash is seen turning the purloined loot over to the police on a tv in Paul Gambi’s apartment. Gambi is musing with pride that the Flash is wearing a uniform that he made for the Flash while in prison and presented to him upon his release. His cellmate Sam Scudder aka the Mirror Master suspects an ulterior motive on Gambi’s part. Then the Flash stops a robbery by the Trickster where once again the stolen good disappear at the end. The Flash’s preoccupation with this problem leads to a blow-up with his wife Iris as he distractedly tanks a date night she had planned. Wally West aka Kid Flash drops by mid tantrum and he decides to follow the Flash as he heads off to stop yet another robbery by the Top where once again the stolen items, jewels this time, disappear. Kid Flash being Kid Flash notices that the jewels disappear because his uncle Barry takes them away at super speed to hid them in a tree stump along all of the items from the previous robberies. And then who should show up but the Mirror Master to reclaim all of the stolen goodies.

It turns out that that Gambi’s uniform gift to the Flash was legit, but that the Mirror Master had tampered with the trademark in the uniform installing a device that would all0w him to control the Flash’s mind whenever it came near the trademark in the uniform of one of the other Rogues. Which is why the money didn’t disappear when the Flash dealt with the average non Rogue crooks. Like I said, clever. Gambi’s going straight turns out to be sincere even as his handiwork is used to commit crimes.

The Stacey Conwell B story about the missing diary pages is teased but left for the next issue for us to learn the (in a full-on channelling of Stan the Man) spellbinding, mind-shattering, conclusion.

I have to admit that this story struck a wonderfully nostalgic chord for me and brought back happy memories of reading similarly well told Flash tales on the eve of holiday seasons way back when.

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash #238 December 1975

posted on November 15, 2019

The Flash tale in this issue is credited to Len Wein and Bob Rozakis. Hard to tell the reason for the Rozakis co-credit, but since Rozakis was handling the letter cols along with various and sundry duties at DC such as driving their ill-fated comic-book-mobile, it’s natural to assume that he provided the spark for the story that Wein wrote. Which in this case would be the fact that a hair dresser could, by the use of telekinesis, switch bodies with someone else by simply touching a lock of their previously shorn hair. No explantation is given for just how the hairdresser acquired these powers of telekineses, just that he suddenly realized he had them. The Flash dubs him Mr. Originality thus coming up with one of the most boring villain names in the history of coming up villain names, and, believe me, there’s some pretty stiff competition out there. The Flash trips him up because Mr. Originality also happen to cut Barry Allen’s hair. When Mr. Originality tries to use Barry’s hair to escape a crime by making a body switch, Barry as the Flash makes sure that he’s in a jail cell when that happens. As Flash stories go, there’s not a lot to chew on here. Which brings us to the crux of what bothered me about this issue. It’s just kind of well… boring. It starts with an uninspired cover, and rides a lame premise to a rather dull and obvious conclusion. Everyone has an off day now and again, and this appears to be one of those times when, as they say, Wein didn’t have an idea for a story but wrote one because he had an issue to finish. No colorful costumed foe, no clever origin story, no real character development, no nothing really. Frankly, the most interesting thing in the story is at the conclusion when we find that the Allen’s house guest, Stacy Conwell, is harboring a secret that she doesn’t dare tell anyone. And then she finds that some pages have been torn from her diary…

 

Flash Fridays – The Flash #237 November 1975

posted on October 11, 2019

The last part of this continued three issue story manages to quite nicely redeem the entire affair. Even though Doctor Fate tried to derail the Flash’s attempt to travel a thousand years into the future to rescue Iris, the Flash manages to outmaneuver him and show up there anyway. So Doctor Fate sends a mystic bolt to the Flash in the future warning him to stay away from Iris and explaining that any contact with her will cause a cataclysmic destruction of their world. No sooner does the Flash come to this realization than up shows the Reverse Flash and suddenly everything becomes clear to Barry, to Iris, and most importantly to the reader. We learn that the Reverse Flash planted the seeds of a lethal energy flux in Iris’s body that he controls with special vibrations. So we further learn that it wasn’t really a pestilence that Iris picked up lord knows where as Doctor Fate had claimed. We also learn that Doctor Fate apparently isn’t a real Doctor. The Flash is able to save Iris by simply countering the vibrations that RF placed in her.

The entire deadly charade was merely another attempt by the Reverse Flash to make Iris his wife. This clever turn of events suddenly makes the the entire three issue arc pull together in a completely logical way, and shows that writer Cary Bates knew what he was doing all along. I stand in line.

It also shows that the Reverse Flash is continuing to cement his claim to being the Flash’s arch nemesis. He’s beginning to lengthen the distance between himself and the other knaves and pettifoggers in the Flash’s rogues gallery. Whenever the rogues gallery appears en mass, the Reverse Flash is never there, implying a uniqueness to his role in the Flash saga. And, with each appearance, the level of his menace seems to increase. The story ends with Iris and Barry sitting down to dinner with her father and Stacy, and with everything, as earlier Flash writer John Broome once observed, settling neatly back into place. But for how long?