The Flash Vol. 2 #1-14, Annual #1 (June 1987 – July 1988)
Written by Mike Baron (#1-14, Annual #1), George Broderick Jr (#12)
Pencils by Jackson (Butch) Guice (#1-9, 11, Annual #1), Mike Collins (#10, 12-14), Gordon Purcell (#12)
Inks by Larry Mahlstedt (#1-4, 6-10, 12-14, Annual #1), Jack Torrance (#5), Romeo Tanghal (#11), Timothy Dzon (#12)
Coloured by Carl Gafford (#1-4, 7, 11, Annual #1), Shelley Eiber (#5-6), Michele Wolfman (#8-10, 12-14), Glenn Whitmore (#12)
Spoilers (from twenty-nine to thirty years ago)
I was pretty exclusively a Marvel kid when I was really young, but in the post-Crisis era, I found that DC titles were starting to catch my eye. I decided in 1988 to go all-in on the Millennium event, because it was the first weekly series I ever read. I got each of the tie-in issues, and that became my introduction to the wider DC universe. I wasn’t reading any DC books, but this gave me a chance to sample almost the entire publishing line.
One of the books that I remember really liking was The Flash, but for some reason, I didn’t keep reading it, only picking up one more issue within that year. I sampled it here and there over the time that Bill Messner-Loebs wrote it, and ended up becoming a big fan during Mark Waid’s run. I’d always meant to read Mike Baron’s original fourteen issue (plus an annual) tenure with the book. It’s just taken me until now to get around to getting those issues and reading them.
Crisis on Infinite Earths made a lot of huge changes to the DC Universe, in terms of continuity, characterization, and so much more. Earth 2 needed to be incorporated into the DCU. Superman’s power levels were lowered. The Justice League was completely different from anything it had been before. And Wally West had to take up the mantle of the Flash after Barry Allen sacrificed himself. It was an exciting time at the company, and it was a great place to jump in as a new reader. Let’s see how Baron did with establishing Wally in his role…
Let’s take a look at who populated the title:
- Vandal Savage (#1-2, 12-14)
- Kilg%re (#3-4)
- Speed McGee/Speed Demon (Jerry McGee; #5-6)
- Rudolph West (Wally’s dad, Manhunter; #5, 8)
- Boleslaw Uminski (Blue Trinity; #7-8)
- Gregor Gregorovich (Blue Trinity; #7-8)
- Christina (Blue Trinity; #7-8)
- Chunk (Chester Runk; #9-10)
- Nick Bassaglia (Wally’s mobster neighbour; #12-14)
- Dr. Light (#12)
- Voice (Annual #1)
- Dance of the Revolution (Annual #1)
- Cyborg (Vic Stone; #1-2, 4, 9, 12)
- Beast Boy (Garfield Logan; #1, 6, 12)
- Nightwing (Dick Grayson; #1, 12)
- Starfox (Koriand’r; #1)
- Wonder Girl (Donna Troy; #1, 6)
- Ronald Reagan (US President; #4)
- Black Canary (Dinah Lance; #8)
- Blue Beetle (Ted Kord; #8)
- Unnamed Guardian of the Universe (#8)
- Unnamed Zamaron (#8)
- Superman (Clark Kent; #8)
- Francine (or Frances) Kane (Wally’s girlfriend; #1-2)
- Professor Schmitz (STAR Labs; #3-4)
- Tina McGee (STAR Labs; #3-9, 11-14)
- Conrad Bortz (Jerry McGee’s boss; #6-8, 14)
- Anatole (Red Trinity/Kapitalist Kourier; #6-8, 12)
- Bebeck (Red Trinity/Kapitalist Kourier; #6-8, 12, 14)
- Cassiopeia (Red Trinity; #6-8, 14)
- Dr. Orloff (Russian scientist; #7-8)
- Mary West (Wally’s mother; #8-9, 11-14)
- Chunk (Chester Runk; #11)
- Marshall Lau (Annual #1)
- Connie (Wally’s girlfriend; Annual #1)
- Wizened Sage (Annual #1)
Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:
- It’s Wally’s twentieth birthday, and to celebrate he buys himself some chocolate bars and some lottery tickets. One of the cooler things Baron did with the character (unless this existed before) was establish that he needs to eat almost constantly to maintain his superspeed and restore energy he expends by running quickly. Wally goes to his apartment in Brooklyn, where Francine (his girlfriend?) and the Teen Titans are waiting to surprise him (although he already knew that). Wally gets a phone call and goes to St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital. He’s asked to take a heart from New York to Seattle, since the usual methods aren’t going to be able to get the heart there before it becomes no longer viable for transplant. The doctor is surprised that Wally treats this like a business transaction, asking for health insurance in return. He explains that it will take him three hours to run that far, as he has a top speed of 705 mph (this is part of the general post-Crisis push to keep the characters at more challenging power levels). He leaves with the heart in a backpack and starts running west, thinking along the way about how the transplant recipient, Eugenie Hegstrom, is a favourite science fiction writer of his. He doesn’t question why she’d be receiving a transplanted heart from a children’s hospital. He also thinks about Barry’s death, his hunger, how ugly some of the mid-West is, and after running past a man choking another to death, how that’s a weird thing to see. He stops running, returning to that crime, finding the man in bad shape. Dying, he tells him that he’s a PI and that he was investigating a guy named Varney Sack, revealing that he is actually Vandal Savage. Savage attacks, but Wally eludes him before Savage disappears. He tells the local police about the dead man, and gets back on the road, running over snow drifts that require a lot of attention. He gets to the Seattle hospital, and collapses. Seventeen hours later he wakes up, eats a lot of McDonald’s, and goes to visit Eugenie. He asks her who Vandal Savage is, since she apparently has also written a bunch of history books (why establish her as a sci-fi writer if you need her to be a historian?). Wally catches a commercial flight back to New York, and stops a pair of would-be hijackers, which damages his hand. Upon returning home, he finds that he’s won the lottery, and sees a present left from his birthday party. Opening it, he finds a human heart, and then sees that Vandal Savage is in his apartment.
- Savage explains how he found Wally’s identity, and that he’s used magic to isolate Wally’s apartment in some strange dimension. He also says he wants to drink Wally’s blood, and they fight. Wally tosses Savage out the door, into the other dimension, and his apartment returns to reality. Francine meets Wally at the hospital as he gets his hand bandaged up again. He tells her that he won six and a half million dollars in the lottery, and they go to her place. He talks to the police who dealt with the dead reporter, and using Francine’s computer, figures out that Savage owns a gallery in Manhattan. After collecting his money, Wally goes to Savage’s gallery, only to find it closed. Putting it all aside, he takes Francine out for an evening on the town. While at a fancy restaurant, they see that Savage is watching them. To bait Wally, he throws a random woman out a window, causing him to have to run down to catch her. He can’t get back into the restaurant through the door because of a spell Savage cast, but thinks he can get in through the broken window. Inside, Francine uses some kind of telekinetic powers to toss cutlery at Savage (is Francine a new character? Where are these powers coming from?). As Savage is about to choke her to death, Wally kicks him and they fight. Wally throws Savage towards the window, and Francine uses her powers to push him through. His body isn’t found. Later, Wally and Francine (who calls herself Frances) go to the Ritz, so they can avoid Savage, and talk about how Francine isn’t afraid to use her ‘gifts’ when she needs to. The next day Wally goes to Titans Tower to research Savage and confer with Cyborg. Wally picks up Francine in his new Porsche, and they drive out to Southampton where Wally has bought a massive house, and suggests she move in (or is he kind of proposing) with him.
- Wally gets stopped for speeding in his new Porsche. When he returns to his new home, he sees a note from Francine saying she’s left because things were moving too quickly. He gets a call from a Professor Schmitz in Salt Lake, telling him they are ready for him at STAR Labs. Wally runs out there, and we learn that he’s set up some tests to help him break the speed barrier. Awkwardly, when Wally asks for some food, Schmitz feels the need to discuss the computer system that runs the lab, and the need for Wally to ignore rumors he might hear about the computers. In the cafeteria, the chef starts talking about weird things in the desert that can only be seen when someone is moving quickly, and then up and quits his job saying he wants to be a dancer. It’s weird. Tina McGee, STAR’s nutritionist, is introduced to Wally, and he immediately hits on her. She shows him her wedding ring. It’s awkward. Later, they go to establish Wally’s baselines, but when he runs, he sees a big metal structure. When he slows down, a large metallic dome has appeared. He tells the others, but then a big tank-like contraption attacks them, before it becomes a dome again. When Schmitz touches it, his finger is cut or cut off. The dome burrows into the ground, and Wally gets everyone into the lab facility. It begins to communicate through the computers, identifying itself as Kilg%re. Through a Max Headroom like character (remember the 80s?) it says it’s going to take over the planet, and has no use for humans. Wally collapses and sleeps for a while, looked after by Tina, and it looks like they are about to kiss when the army breaks through the lab’s main door. They catch them up, but other than the dome outside, there appears to be no further threat. Schmitz insists on giving Wally a physical, and while he’s out running, Kilg%re takes over local television broadcasts, giving humans a short period of time to evacuate North America. It launches a missile to prove that it means business, but this missile is a dud. Schmitz wants to learn about the Kilg%re (sometimes a definite article is used in front of its name, sometimes it isn’t), and Wally notices that Schmitz’s finger has healed.
- As Wally, Schmitz, and McGee go to Salt Lake City to meet with some government representatives, Wally ponders Schmitz’s regrown finger. They discuss the Kilg%re situation with the President of the US over a secure line, but then Kilg%re comes out of the walls, having taken over all electrical systems in the US (which would not be as frightening or possible in the pre-internet era). Wally’s attempts to stop the robot figure it extrudes don’t go well, and he has the soldiers around him shoot out the cables that attach it to the wall. That causes the power to go out, which frees them. Wally tells Tina of his suspicions of Dr. Schmitz, and tells the National Security Advisor that he needs Cyborg’s help. Wally kisses Tina before leaving to run back to New York, thinking about Tina and their twelve year age difference, and her marital status, and stopping a guy from assaulting a woman while on the way. Arriving at Titans Tower, he learns that the world has freaked out since Kilg%re blew a fuse, plunging New York into darkness. They figure the only way to stop him is for every country to shut down its power grids, but Wally doesn’t think the Russians will agree. He goes to sleep for twelve hours, then flies with Vic to Utah. There, Wally and Vic explore the dome Kilg%re has left behind. Inside it, they find a cloning device, proving Wally’s suspicions. They keep that a secret still. Wally checks in with Tina, and it’s suggested they spend the night together. The next morning, they coordinate a global energy shutdown. Schmitz acts strangely and tries to run away. Wally goes after him, and finds a big Kilg%re robot trying to connect with him. He whisks the fake doctor, who struggles against him, away, causing Kilg%re to expend all of his energy and lie inert. Later he invites Tina to come back to New York with him, but she says she has to speak to her husband, who she is no longer with, first.
- The first Flash Annual came out after issue four, by the usual creative team. Wally is eating at a Chinese restaurant when some stick up guys try to rob the place, and in the course of stopping them, one that Wally didn’t really touch faints. One of the restaurant employees, Marshall Lau, explains that Wally used dim mak – the death touch – on the guy, and takes him home to tell him about negative kung, which he thinks Wally uses unintentionally. He also tells his story, about fleeing China and leaving his children behind. He sends Wally to Hong Kong to look for the Wizened Sage, and has him take a silver dollar to him. Back home, Wally’s girlfriend Connie (this is the first we see of her) is upset that he’s leaving. On his way to the airport Wally ruminates on the difference between men and women in ridiculously sexist language. In Hong Kong he has trouble finding the Wizened Sage (because you apparently can’t just go up and ask people for him). He almost gets robbed but fights the robbers off. Some street kids send him to the Wizened Sage who takes him to his home. A guy named Voice is there waiting for him. He wants the Wizened Sage to return to mainland China and work for the government, but the Sage refuses. The next day he gets Wally to stand still, which lasts for ten days. After, he is served tea by a servant girl named Lin Mei. Wally and the WS talk about Marshall Lau and the silver dollar. That night, Lin Mei visits Wally in bed. In the morning, during training, Wally asks if the WS sent the girl to him. He realizes something is wrong, and they race back to his home to discover Voice there to fight the WS. They fight, Flash gets involved, and to save him, WS stabs Voice in the head while Voice stabs him in the gut. A woman, Dance of the Revolution, shows up and starts fighting Wally. He uses his chi when he punches her, and she believes she is going to die, since he used dim mak. Marshall Lau shows up (really, at this point, I have no clue what’s going on here), we learn that Voice is his son, and just as everyone thinks that Dance of the Revolution, who Wally just punched without using dim mak, is his daughter. Marshall Lau needs his coin back to somehow heal WS, and then we learn that Lin Mei is his daughter. Wally flies back to the US, runs home, and hugs Connie. This was not a good comic.
- At home in Syracuse, the very angry Jerry McGee doesn’t react well when his wife Tina tells him that she’s going to leave him; he assaults her. She says he hasn’t been himself since he began to experiment with steroids; he goes to the lab where he works, and injects himself with more of an experimental steroid. Wally gets a call from Tina, who tells him what happened, and she’s in New York City. He runs to her, and she explains how he’s changed. While they talk, some guy watches them from a nearby rooftop and reports what’s happening to Jerry. Wally changes into his costume and runs off with Tina. The guy tells Jerry he’s lost them, but he says it’s fine. In addition to setting himself up with a costume that keeps pumping the steroid into his system, Jerry also has special polarized goggles that perceive the mixture of Tina’s perfume and sweat, so he can track her. Really. He also has super speed, and doesn’t feel pain, even when he runs into the side of a police horse. At Wally’s house, he shows Tina around, and she keeps mentioning their age difference. He leaves her in a bedroom and goes to soak in the tub when his father, Randolph West, shows up at the house, being very unclear about what’s happened between him and Wally’s mother. While they talk, Tina comes to show Wally that the town has had its liability insurance cancelled because he moved there. Wally and Tina go out for dinner, and Wally speaks to the president of the city council, who is worried that a superhero fight could bankrupt the city. They go home, and head off to sleep in separate beds. Tina comes to Wally, but just as things are about to happen, Jerry busts through the wall. Wally’s punches don’t hurt him, and he grabs Tina and runs off, right into a Texaco fuel depot that explodes.
- Wally finds Tina in the flames, and takes her home; Jerry has disappeared. They decide that they should move to a hotel after talking about the modifications Jerry’s made to himself. He calls the Titans to get some support, and Beast Boy and Wonder Girl come to pick him and Tina up at their hotel and fly them to Titans Tower. Tina suggests that Jerry might go after his boss, Conrad Bortz, who he paranoidly thinks tried to steal his ideas. Tina insists on returning to Syracuse when Wally goes there to protect Bortz. Arriving at his estate, Wally is captured in a room that is filled with gas, but because he can hold his breath for five minutes, he is fine and escapes. He talks to Bortz, who thought he was Jerry, and they discuss all that Bortz and Tina did to try to help the crazed man. Jerry shows up, looking more hideous and deformed than before. Wally keeps him from Bortz, and they fight until Jerry passes out. At the hospital, they learn that Jerry is in rough shape. Tina decides to go home, while Bortz wants Wally to travel to Siberia to retrieve a scientist named Orloff who is working with the Russians to develop superhumans, and whose work resembles Jerry’s. In Siberia, a military colonel arrives at a base to conduct an inspection, and is impressed when three super-fast people, the Red Trinity, arrive at full speed.
- Flash, Bortz, and Tina have travelled to Finland, near the Soviet border. The plan is for Wally to run around in Siberia until he finds the base where Dr. Orloff is, and to bring him back to Finland so they can take him to the US and he can save Jerry McGee. Wally begins to run, using some kind of technology in his head-wings to help him triangulate his position. As he runs, he questions his feelings for Tina, and we learn that his father has taken off somewhere. When he finds the base, he sets up a tent and sleeps for a while, before sneaking in and finding Dr. Orloff. Orloff is surprised to see him, and is reluctant to leave, wanting to help Jerry from there, because he does not want to abandon his “children”. He summons Red Trinity – Anatole, Bebeck, and Cassiopeia (who is a man) – three Soviet speedsters he’s helped to empower. They demonstrate their abilities to Wally, and tell Orloff that they want to go to America to be heroes. Cassiopeia does not agree with them, but as they’ve promised to stay together, he agrees. Their plans to leave the next day are ruined when a few soldiers come in and see Wally. He knocks them out but they learn that they are surrounded by soldiers. They bust out, running, with Cassiopeia carrying Orloff. As they run, Red Trinity talks about Blue Trinity, an earlier team of speedster who are not as fast, but are more ruthless. Jets chase them, Cassiopeia is hurt, but Bebeck carries him while Flash and Anatole pass Orloff back and forth between them. As they run towards Finland, we learn more about Blue Trinity. Bortz and Tina begin to worry about Wally, especially when they see the jets. Tina’s not sure if she loves Wally, but she knows she doesn’t want to give up on Jerry. Flash and the others arrive, but so do Blue Trinity.
- Issue eight is the first issue of this book that I ever read, as it was a tie-in to the Millennium event. When it opens, Blue Trinity try to stop Red Trinity from leaving the Soviet Union, and they fight, while the scientists escape in an Arctic vehicle. Blue Trinity takes off, and Flash and Red Trinity are confronted by the Finnish border patrol (who somehow managed to sneak up on four speedsters in a tank driving over deep snow). As things get sorted out, Flash is given a message from the Green Lantern Corps, who somehow knew he was in Finland talking to the military. Flash and Red Trinity all pass out. After the return to the US, the still-unconscious Wally is given to the Justice League off-panel; we only know about it because Tina, Bortz, and Orloff talk about it. They also discuss how Orloff hopes to help Jerry. In the Green Lantern Citadel, Wally wakes up and talks to Black Canary, until Blue Beetle comes and tells them that the Guardians of the Universe are ready to speak to the assembled heroes. We are given a quick overview – that before they created the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians used the Manhunters to police the galaxy. They thought they’d shut them down some three billion years before, but they are still active, and have a number of human acolytes embedded into various communities and power structures. They are convinced that the Manhunters are going to try to stop the evolution of ten immortals. Wally returns to his home to find his father waiting for him. Randolph explains that he’s a Manhunter and that he was ordered to sever all ties, so he arranged a boating accident to kill Wally’s mother. Randolph takes credit for Wally’s career, and says he wants to be closer to Wally. When Wally doesn’t agree, he calls out Blue Trinity (I have no idea how they got there either) to fight him. Once they subdue Wally, Randolph says they are going to take him to a Manhunter facility in Siberia. Gregor – the wonky-armed Blue Trinity member – gets angry when Randolph refuses Soviet transport and insists on waiting for Manhunter transport, and they are about to fight when Red Trinity busts through the wall and fight off Blue Trinity, who escape with Randolph. Wally is confused. We learn that Jerry has been stabilized but is in a coma. Bebeck offers to go buy a shortwave radio for Wally to use to contact the Green Lanterns (who I guess don’t have a phone), mostly because she likes Wal-Mart. Later, while they eat, the police arrive and tell Wally that his mother wants him to call. When he speaks to her from her hospital bed, she tells him that his father is dead.
- Clearly, a lot happened in Millennium between issues eight and nine that aren’t explained here. This issue, which is still branded as a Millennium tie-in despite having next to nothing to do with it, opens with Wally speaking to a therapist about his issues with his father, who is made to sound deceased. They are interrupted by the therapist’s secretary, who informs them that the diamond exchange across the hall is being robbed. Wally races over and confronts the very large man who is babbling while holding a gun. The man spits up a diamond that catches Wally in the head, stunning him, so that the man can take him down by spitting more diamonds at him. The man runs, and after a short earthquake happens, the man has disappeared. Wally returns home, where we learn his mother is staying with him. Mary does not like Tina, and makes that very clear. A police officer comes to tell Wally that he has to appear before city council; they want to convince him to leave town due to the liability costs of having him there. The three eat a tense meal, and later, by the pool, Tina talks about how Red Trinity hope to join the Teen Titans. The next day, the large man robs a truck full of gold, making it disappear with him in it. Wally investigates the diamond theft, and runs into his therapist, who puts him on the trail of a former patient of a colleague of his (and talks a lot about whether or not his shoes make him look taller – it must be an inside joke or something). Wally gets Cyborg to help him look into this former patient – Chester Runk. Later, at a restaurant, Tina and Wally talk about Mary’s drinking and attitude, and then go check out a local museum’s platinum exhibit. At the city council meeting, it is clear that the town wants Wally to leave before they are bankrupted by their liability insurance. They are interrupted by reports of problems at the art museum. Wally runs over, and confronts Runk, who goes by Chunk, and in his weird way, explains that he ended up eating a matter transmitter, and now he needs to try to fill a gap inside him with dense materials, hence the thefts he’s been involved in. Chunk’s body issues make him angry with Wally, and he decides to take him to the place that things go when he swallows them. They cause a minor earthquake, and then appear in a wasteland, where we see at least two people and the gold truck from before.
- Trapped in Chunk’s other dimension, Wally meets three people – Jarrett Parker, Chunk’s former therapist; Karin Preus, a woman who wouldn’t date Chunk; and Eric Gunderson, a typical alpha male type – who have been trapped in this world for years. They show him the boat that Chunk lives in, and the weird other singularity that Chunk has to feed all the time. Wally learns that they’ve lived off the weird flying lizards that populate this world, and that there are other people, including a gang of cannibal criminals, there. Some of them attack, but Wally stops them. He is taken to the small settlement where sixteen people live, meets them, and is invited to join them. They feed him, but Wally runs off to Chunk’s boat where he raids it for food, and brings it back. When he needs to sleep, Gunderson offers his bed, and Wally is woken up later by Karin, who wants Wally to pair off with her so she doesn’t have to become Gunderson’s girlfriend. Gunderson sees them talking and walks off. Parker gives Wally advice on how to reason with Chunk, but Wally mostly rejects it and runs off. Gunderson believes the cannibals are going to attack. Wally finds out that Chunk is building some sort of device. When Chunk finds him, Wally creates a bond with him, and then tries to convince him to take the people home, and to use his knowledge to do good. Chunk agrees, and wants Wally to bring the people to him, but for reasons that don’t make sense, gives him a twenty-minute deadline. Wally goes to get everyone, but finds them under siege by the cannibals. Wally joins the defense, but then Chunk shows up angry that Wally took so long.
- Chunk is not so much angry as about to implode if he doesn’t eat, and when he is attacked by the cannibal contingent, he absorbs them somehow. Chunk is upset about hurting people again, but Wally talks him into helping people again. When Parker irritates him, Chunk absorbs him too, but the rest of the “good” survivors go to Chunk’s boat, as he absorbs them all and attempts to move them back home. Off Long Island Sound, a police boat harrasses a garbage scow, and we learn that there is a landfill issue in Long Island. Suddenly, Chunk’s boat, upside-down, appears in the sky and drops into the water. Wally rescues everyone and loads them into police boats, while Chunk gets himself up on the garbage scow. We learn that Wally has been gone for a month, and that he wants to take custody of Chunk rather than have him get arrested. The guy from the city council feels like Wally should be allowed to stay in town, and Wally’s mom and Tina (who I guess were hanging out together while he was gone?) come to see him. We learn that Mary has been redecorating at Wally’s. After they have dinner with Chunk, Wally and Tina talk in bed about how Mary took over the house, and Wally tells Tina she can redecorate his bedroom. Wally meets with Chunk and the city councilman at the docks, where Wally has the idea that Chunk can absorb the city’s garbage, solving their problem while also dealing with his strange hunger. When he absorbs the gar-barge, he creates a whirlpool which Wally corrects, but both the police and the councilman are upset about this plan, which makes the city council reconsider allowing Wally to stay. Later, Wally goes to his therapist to talk about Parker, Chunk, and Wally’s sense of responsibility, but the therapist just wants to talk about the buck he shot and how much he himself weighs.
- Issue twelve begins with a guy in a suit taking a bunch of negotiable securities out of a Wall Street bank for a man named Mr. Bassaglia. As he approaches his town car, a guy comes speeding past on foot, yanking away the briefcase and the man’s hand with it. The speedster runs to a tenement building, where we see that his body is getting weird and Jerry McGee-ish, until a man in shadows provides him with a drug that restores him. Cops come to tell Wally about a string of super speed-related crimes, and Wally learns that this Bassaglia is his next door neighbour. Wally’s mom frets about the redecorating, and gets very upset when Wally suggests she move out. Tina comes and they talk about Wally’s mom some more. Anatole, formerly of Red Trinity, is now running his own company with his friends – Kapitalist Kourier. He picks up a package to run to Trenton; we learn that this is for Bassaglia. Anatole runs, but is overtaken by two guys in ski masks. They beat him and steal the package. Wally is informed that Anatole is in the hospital, and he and Tina go to see him, which angers Mary. As they drive, Tina says that Wally’s mom has to go or she will. Wally provides a lot of exposition about Velocity 9, a new street drug that gives its users speed powers, but wipes them out. Anatole tells Wally that he was working for an olive importer; Wally investigates. The guy that hired Anatole warns Bassaglia that the Flash is looking into his business; Bassaglia responds by inviting Wally to his house for a party. His wife extends the invitation, and Wally agrees to go. Tina stays at the hospital, so Wally takes his mom, but they argue about his desire for her to get her own place to live. At the party, Bassaglia pulls Wally aside, and while they discuss hypotheticals about mobsters and drugs, Bassaglia shows him the dried up body of a Velocity 9 user, and suggests that they work together. The two users who attacked Anatole fight in a tenement in New York, but then Vandal Savage shows up to supply them with drugs.
- In 1988, DC started publishing its monthly ‘Bonus Book’ – a sixteen page story by up and coming creators that was included in one title each month. My twelve-year-old self decided to buy all of these, thinking that this would be a great investment, as the next big artist would be launched from one. Flash #12 was the second of these Bonus Books, featuring a Dr. Light story by George Broderick, Gordon Purcell, and Timothy Dzon. Purcell and Dzon went on to a fair amount of work, but weren’t the next Liefeld or McFarlane. Anyway, the story has Dr. Light escaping from a prison transport run, and taking over the town of Radiance PA, until three kids take on the guise of Little Boy Blue and his Blue Boys, and defeating him. It’s a cute story, but not all that impressive.
- Vandal Savage gives his two goons their Velocity 9, and they become normal again. He has them go to Bassaglia’s party in Long Island with orders to take Wally West’s legs from him. At the party, Bassaglia chats with Mary, while his niece (who I’d previously thought was his wife), Trudy, starts to talk to Wally. We learn that Bassaglia adopted her after her father was killed in a mob hit. When one of Bassaglia’s lecherous friends bothers her, Wally uses his speed to strip the man to his boxers. They go to her bedroom, and are about to start making out (really Wally?) when they hear Savage’s two goons busting in. Those two are in the process of robbing everyone when Wally comes through, taking them down quickly. One escapes, but the other is captured. Bassaglia’s guys take the captive to the basement, and get ready to beat information out of him. Wally objects, but the guy dies quickly; they find an advertisement for a chemical study in his pocket with an address. Wally goes home to sleep, while Bassaglia promises to wait for him before responding. Bassaglia has a weird interaction with Trudy that makes it look like they are not uncle and niece, while Wally ignores Tina and goes to sleep. In the city, Savage prepares his men for the arrival of Bassaglia’s. He has his enemy’s people injected with Velocity 9, which makes them open to suggestion as well as very fast (which is convenient). He sends them to bring him Bassaglia; many of them die while racing back to Long Island, where the surviving two grab Bassaglia as he’s getting into bed with his niece, and race him back to Savage. Mary wakes up Wally, telling him that Trudy is there and upset; Wally runs off to save Bassaglia.
- Speeding into Savage’s apartment, he sees that Bassaglia appears fine (and is even wearing a suit now). Savage gets the drop on Wally, and injects him with Velocity 9, making him incredibly fast. Wally runs, while Savage explains to Bassaglia that they are going to work together. Wally, worried about the drug’s effects, decides not to go to his mother or Tina, but to Trudy at Bassaglia’s place. He passes out for six hours, and when he wakes up, Trudy tells Wally that she told Mary he’d be away for a bit. When Wally mentions Tina, he says that their relationship is over, which is news to me as a reader of the book. Wally discovers that his speed is gone. Bassaglia returns, and when he kisses Trudy, Wally starts to figure out that things are weird between them; Savage shows up and grabs Wally, sending him to be locked up by Savage’s goons. Wally sits in a nice room that has plenty of art but no furniture. After a bit, Dr. Bortz is tossed in to join him. It turns out that Bortz was unknowingly working on duplicating Velocity 9, and he believes that Wally is not suffering any ill effects of the drug. Trudy sneaks in to help Wally, even though she now admits to working with Bassaglia. She tells Wally he’s been locked up for three days (the storytelling really doesn’t make that seem even possible). He tells Trudy to go talk to Tina, but also reiterates that their relationship is ending (even though he now knows that Trudy is with Bassaglia). Savage and some goons come in after Trudy leaves, and he talks a lot about how he wants to use this drug to take over Wall Street or something. He wants Bortz to inject Wally with a stronger dose of Velocity 9, but instead, Bortz injects him. Wally kicks him hard, and Savage runs away. Tina and two thirds of Kapitalist Kourier show up. Tina helps Wally home, where they are surprised to see that the renovators have left. Mary explains that while Wally was away, she made a bad investment or two, and now all of his money is wiped out, and he’s in debt.
Okay, this is not what I was expecting at all. These books, including the Millennium and Bonus Book issues that I remember having liked, are pretty generally terrible. Wally does nothing to address Barry’s legacy, and he is portrayed as a flaky male bimbo, jumping from woman to woman.
In fact, there’s a strain of misogyny in this run that makes it pretty uncomfortable to read now. Early on, Wally shares some very sexist views of women, and how they react to things, and then he casually moves from living with Frances/Francine to falling for married, older Tina after one kiss, while he has a completely different girl living with him in the Annual. Finally, he’s ready to dump Tina and their relationship the first time Trudy looks his way. Wally’s mom is portrayed as overbearing and nagging, but there’s no depth to her at all, or any explanation as to why she’s like this.
The effort to limit Wally’s powers, making him eat almost constantly (which more or less disappears after the Chunk adventure), and having him sleep a lot to restore his speed, is used very inconsistently, and does not generate much story potential.
One thing that twelve-year-old me liked was the concept of Red Trinity and Blue Trinity, but they just fall by the wayside. The proliferation of speedsters is an interesting concept (and one that Waid returns to with his run, in a very interesting way that eventually leads to the concept of the Speed Force), but nothing is done with it here. Blue Trinity somehow get hooked up with the Manhunters, but that seems to be a product of their just being around.
And then there’s Wally’s father. He shows up, announces he’s a Manhunter, and then gets killed outside of the book (I think – I remember something about him in Cuba with Mark Shaw, the Manhunter, but that doesn’t happen until the Invasion event, so he’s not actually killed in Millennium). No one seems to care. It’s a minor plot point for one issue only.
I don’t feel like Mike Baron had anything to say about Wally. These stories were oddly structured, and Wally was never given a lot of personality or character. He more or less just goes through the motions after a strong first few issues. He starts therapy, but we don’t really know why. He seems proud of being in the Titans, but doesn’t really spend time with any of them or appears to respect them beyond Cyborg’s usefulness with computers. The entire reason why he met Tina was to help him fine-tune his nutrition intake and make his powers more efficient, but that just disappears from the book, like Chunk, who we thought was staying at Wally’s house.
Artwise, this was just as all over the place. Jackson Guice had, by this point, completed some incredible work in Micronauts, but here, his work feels very flat and bland. I wonder if it has something to do with Larry Mahlstedt’s inking, because Guice was great during this era (and is even better today). When he left the book, Mike Collins’s contributions were incredibly stiff and awkward. Look at any panel he drew with Vandal Savage in it to see what I’m talking about.
Flash’s costume is also incredibly problematic, and I can see why it was changed not long after this run, giving it some depth and texture.
I didn’t really like these comics, and I feel like I need to dig out the column Joe Casey wrote about them in the back of an issue of his comic Sex. I read this not all that long ago, and remember Casey praising this run, but now I don’t remember any of his reasons.
I think what I should read is William Messner-Loeb’s run, as perhaps that has some of the richer stuff that I remember. I think he did a lot more to bring a consistent flavour to the comic, and started looking at the Flash legacy, and Wally’s relationships, from a more mature angle. I don’t have very many of these issues though; this might be my next big shopping goal…
For my next batch of columns, I want to revisit the work of Christopher Priest, with one of the lightest titles he ever worked on.
If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.
If you’d like to read any of the stories I talk about here, it looks like you’re going to be digging through some longboxes – I don’t think these books have ever been collected.
Tags: Retro Reviews, The Flash, Wally West (Flash)