Sunday, February 21, 2016

Flash (vol.2) #1 (1987)


Flash (vol.2) #1 (June, 1987)

Writer - Mike Baron
Penciller - Jackson Guice
Inker - Larry Mahlstedt
Letterer - Steve Haynie
Colorist - Bob Gifford
Editor - Mike Gold
Cover Price: $0.75

With the DC Comics Rebirth announcement still fresh in my head, I decided to revisit an old favorite.  The Wally West Flash was the Flash that I grew up with.  I was quite disappointed when he (well, this version) didn't find his way into the New-52.  It's hard to forget this Wally, as he has ties to the Speedster family, the Justice League, and the Teen Titans.  I was excited to see an image featuring, not only Wally, but the very issue I want to discuss today during Geoff Johns' introduction to Rebirth video, and I am hopeful that perhaps come this summer DC will have filled that Wally-sized hole that has been in the fabric of their universe for the past half-decade.

I started reading the Flash because of my younger brother.  I had always been a Marvel guy, reading mostly the X-Men family of titles.  My brother wanted a superhero book to follow for himself (he was probably just barely of reading age at the time).  I went to one of our local shops (this was the mid-90's, we had A LOT of local shops), and found like a two-pack of Flash comics (Messner-Loebs run) and a used Flash action figure for a couple of bucks.  I grabbed them, thinking if he didn't dig the comics, at least he got a toy.

I eventually decided to read them, and found myself really enjoying them.  This was several years later, and by then we were a few issues into the Geoff Johns run on the title.  I snagged up what I could, and got hooked.  I have been reading the Flash ever since.

--


It's Wally West's 20th birthday, and the Teen Titans along with his girlfriend, Fran have planned a surprise party for him.  Wally is already well aware that this is going down, however plays along for their benefit, by leaving his apartment while they set everything up.  While he was out, he picked up some lottery tickets and a handful of candy bars.  This was something I always enjoyed about the Flash, it would stand to reason that he should be eating almost constantly to keep up with his metabolism.  This doesn't often come up anymore, but I'm glad it is here (even at the party he is shown eating a pile of hamburgers).

Chitlins and Gravy indeed, Vic.
Wally receives an emergency call from St. Mary's Children's Hospital.  They need a heart transplant delivered immediately, and know that the Flash is their only hope for successful and expedient transport.  The heart will travel from Manhattan to Seattle, and must arrive within five hours.  Wally takes the job under the condition that he receive health insurance.  He would do transports for them as long as they cover his medical bills.  He also requests a plane ticket home.  Of late, the Flash can only run at a maximum speed of 705 miles per hour, and that is with a struggle.

This is definitely one of those moments that illustrates that we are no longer dealing with the Barry Allen Flash.  Wally wants to do good, however, will make sure he still takes care of himself in the process.  Wally makes mention to hearing "muttering" from the hospital staff in regard to his requests... Certainly they never had to worry about any conditions from Barry.  Having Wally be somewhat less than altruistic at the get-go also allows the reader to watch as he grows and matures into what he becomes throughout this volume.

We join Wally on his cross-country trek.  He is reflecting on his predecessor's recent passing... even mentioning the money Barry owed in legal bills from the spanning "Trial of the Flash" story line that ate up the last few years of the Flash's first volume.  In Wyoming, Wally witnesses a man being beaten.  In another interesting use of speed dynamics, it takes an additional twenty miles for the image to fully register in his head.

He returns to the scene to find a man.  Most of his major bones are broken and he is writhing in the snow.  He tells the Flash that he is a private investigator tracking down a man named Varney Sack.  He tracked him down, only to find that Varney was in actuality Vandal Savage.  Still prowling nearby, Savage strikes.  Wally attempts a counter-attack, and Savage vanishes.

In a nearby town, Wally informs local law enforcement of the P.I. laying wounded.  They ask him to escort them out there and he refuses, as he still has to deliver the heart.  The police don't believe him, going as far as threatening to lock him up.

Wally's on the road again, now crossing the Rockies.  Vandal Savage's name is still ringing in his mind.  He passes a semi-truck that had been just turned on its side.  He cannot afford to stop and help, he must get that heart to Seattle.

Wally arrives at the Hospital to deliver the heart... and passes out.  He remains asleep for 17 hours.  He is informed that the operation was a success.  He heads to a local McDonald's (actually a McDonald's) to re-up his caloric intake before returning to the hospital to visit the heart transplant patient.  She is Eugenie Hegstrom, a writer.  Flash recognizes her from books he's read on European History.  He asks her if she had ever heard of Vandal Savage.  Savage is something of a legend, a myth.  His existence has not been confirmed.  Eugenie tells Flash what she knows about Vandal's lore, while Wally helps himself to a pound of mixed chocolates.

Wally catches his flight home, and wouldn't you know it... an attempted hijacking occurs.  Wally quickly beats up the aggressors, and returns to his seat.  During the fracas, Wally sprains his hand.  When he returns to New York, he visits St. Mary's for an x-ray cashing in on his favor from earlier.

Upon returning to his apartment, he turns on the television.  It is time for tonight's lottery numbers to be called, and we come to find that Wally West is now a millionaire.  Out of the corner of his eye, Wally spots a gift on the table he hadn't noticed before.  He opens the gift only to find that it contains a human heart.


A nearby lamp is turned on... Vandal Savage is here.  He tells Wally to put on his costume, because "live as the Flash, die as the Flash." and we are... [to be continued...]

--

This is a very interesting way to launch a series.  Wally West was one of those characters who did not seem to lose much of his history due to Crisis on Infinite Earths.  He is still the former Kid Flash and former Teen Titan.  Barry Allen's Flash still existed, still went on trial Pre-Crisis, and still perished during the Crisis.  That having been said, this issue did a fine job of giving the reader a good idea of just how different this version of the Flash would be.

No respect...
Wally is not Barry.  It was because (and through) Wally that I got into the Barry stories.  Barry Allen was depicted as something of a saint during this run.  He was the ideal that Wally would find himself struggling to keep up with... and that worked.  This Flash is not perfect, and is not respected.  During this very issue he is referred to as "Kid Flash" several times.  He has large shoes to fill, and an steep climb ahead of him if he is to be viewed in the same light as Barry.  This is such a fun series to follow, as Wally does mature and does grow into his role.

Definitely one to check out, especially if Rebirth delivers this character back to us.  It's available digitally for $1.99 and does pop up from time to time in the cheap-o bins.  I found my copy about 10 years ago for a dollar, and have seen it at that price and cheaper many times since.

--

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Trust me, one of their uncles works for Nint... er, M&M's.

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