Monday, August 25, 2008
Flash v. 2 #5 and Flash v. 2 #6
Writer: Mike Baron
Artists: Jackson Guice, Larry Mahlstedt, & Jack Torrance
I use "On the one hand/On the other" formulations a lot in my writing not so much because I'm trying to see all sides of a work of art, but because I want my writing to convey the sense I have of working through art instead of passing judgment on it. If that makes me seem wishy-washy, well, then, so be it.
Anyway, the "On the one hand" operating here: it's in these two issues that everything Baron and Guice have been trying to do finally clicks into place. Wally goes up against Speeds McGee - a ragin', 'roid abusin' bad guy who seems like he could have come out of the darkest issues of Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme. There are quite a few good "spectacle" scenes that revolve around Speeds' lack of control of his super powers. Baron and Guice don't play this as slapstick, but rather as more sci-fi-ish detail.
The "On the other hand" is that the whole thing is kicked off by having Speeds beat up his wife, who is also Flash's girlfriend. That kind of thing usually strikes me as a bit of a cheap trick: an artificial way to ramp up the emotional stakes and an easy way to come off as serious.
Baron is on much firmer footing with his throwaway realistic details, like the idea that the town Wally just moved to can no longer afford liability insurance because of the fear that a super-hero's presence will attract attacks from super-villains.
And, though Speeds McGee isn't that original of an idea - he's another "Rival" Flash - Baron uses him pretty effectively. His 'roid rage and his lack of control make him a good foil for Wally.
It all leads to the best fight scene we've had yet, but, interestingly enough, it is, once again, somewhat anticlimactic: Flash doesn't defeat Speeds - Speeds just wears himself out through 'roid abuse.
These two issues definitely fit into the wave of "realistic" leaning super-hero stories from that time - Watchmen, the New Universe, the Wild Card stories, the Mike Grell's Longbow Hunters version of Green Arrow, and probably a bunch more. (I'll also mention Squadron Supreme, because even though it came out a year or two earlier, it's my favorite). Though Baron's work on Nexus and Badger probably helped to originate this trend, here he seems to be just riding the wave.
One of the reasons I started going back through my old issues of Flash is that I wanted to see what specific benefits creators have when working within the DC Mythos, especially since there are a lot of costs involved. However, so far, I don't get the sense that Baron is able to actualize much of that potential benefit. He obviously knows how to write super-hero comics, but, based on this series, it doesn't seem that he has a particular affinity for writing DC super-hero comics.