Flash (vol.2) #164 (September, 2000)
“Lightning in a Bottle”
Writer – Geoff Johns
Penciller – Angel Unzueta
Inker – Doug Hazlewood
Letterer – Gaspar
Colorist – Tom McCraw
Editor – Joey Cavalieri
Cover Price: $2.25
I swear I must be in some sort of perpetual 2005 or so. I look at this cover (and most covers, admittedly) and think to myself… yeah, that was about five years ago. Then horrible reality sets in, and I actually do the math… sometimes requiring fingers and toes… and realize that these books actually hit shelves over half a lifetime ago!
Come to think of it, if we were to track back five years from today… we’d already be in the “bloom is off the rose” era of The New-52! Time is a helluva thing.
We open with the Flash being slammed onto a desk at the Keystone Police Station. He protests that he is, ya know… the Flash, but none of the officers have ever heard of him. Yeah, this is gonna be one’a those stories. Anyhoo, the officers get a positive ID on our man, and deduce that he is Wally West, a 26-year old school teacher (and track coach) from Blue Valley, Nebraska.
Wally breaks away, and makes a b-line to the door. Shockingly he learns pretty quickly that these either, (a) these officers have super-speed or (b) he’s moving in slow motion! They slap the cuffs on him and give him a wrap in the ribs with their billy club. He counters with a kick, knocking the riot helmet off of an officer… revealing him to be Mick Rory… Heatwave! Of note, the kick also leaves a bit of gross gray goop on Rory.
The officers finally wrestle West down… and as they beat him unconscious with their batons he sees some televised news report discussing the tenth anniversary of the death of Aquaman!
Wally’s tossed in a cell, and he’s still passed out. While out, he dreams of a giant (and demonic) Jay Garrick… who tells him Keystone City belongs to him.
He is awakened by a visitor. He initially thinks it to be his (new at the time) wife, Linda. It turns out to be a sorta-familiar social worker named Fiona. Hey, there’s only one Fiona we know in Flash circles. Anyhoo, she gives him a glass of water and starts asking him questions. Her face vacillates between kindness, indifference, and evil. She asks what the lightning bolt on his chest means.
From here we get a bit of a history lesson on the Flash family and legacy. We start with Jay huffin’ the hard water… onto Barry and his serendipitous lightning strike, and his time until the Crisis… and finally, onto Wally’s own bolty ballet. Turns out this was all in his head, because Fiona has grown impatient waiting for his answer. It also turns out that the water he just drank was spiked with truth serum!
Fiona appears to be trying to convince Wally that he is quite insane… and that he’s really just a school teacher from Blue Valley… and he’s also single… and still lives with his mother! She leaves Wally with his thoughts, and he has the sudden realization that he’s wearing all the proof he needs to assure himself he hasn’t lost his mind. He removes his left glove revealing his wedding band!
Just as he’s about to proclaim that he is, in fact, the Flash… he hears a familiar voice outside his cell window. It’s… Barry Allen, and he’s (as usual) running late for a date with Iris. Ya gotta remember, this was a time where we heard a whole lot about Barry… but didn’t really see him.
Wally attempts to rev up and vibrate through the cell wall… and, is unsuccessful. It’s revealed throughout the issue that Wally isn’t tapped into the Speed Force, but he does have some residual connection. The ruckus draws the attention of Rory, who threatens to shove his stick… somewhere. Well, actually, we never find out where he was planning to shove it because before he can finish his thought, he gets plastered with ice! The frozen Heatwave gets his head punched clean off his body, and it’s revealed that Wally’s savior might just be… Captain Cold?!
Well, that was the start of Geoff Johns’ “run” (like I’m ever going to resist an easy pun) on the Flash!
Annnnd, it was a pretty good issue. Full disclosure, the Johns run was the first time I ever put Flash on my pull-list. Not that what came before wasn’t any good… but this was the first “jumping on point” I was able to find during my “salad years” of spending ridiculous amounts of money on comics because I had lucked into a really good job while not yet having many bills. In fact, it took me forever to track down many of the issues that led up to this run! Actually, still missing a few.
I spoke about time being a helluva thing in the preamble, and it changes the way you look at things. When looking back, I hardly think about Johns as “the Flash guy” anymore… now, to me he’s “the Green Lantern guy” or more precisely, “the Hal Jordan guy”. Oddly enough, it’s his Flash work that I enjoy more! To be fair though, they’re both playing for second when put up against his Justice Society of America!
Anyhoo… onto the issue itself. It’s your basic Twilight Zone type of story with a tinge of Alice in Wonderland. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s done well enough. We get a nice bit of Flash history here… from the appearance of Rogues, to Wanted/Deceased posters around the Police Station, to even… Fiona?! That’s a reference I’m sure I didn’t get the first time around… and it made me to a double-take here!
Angel Unzueta’s pencils were really good as well. I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t (Johns’ usual “running” buddy) Scott Kolins, but Unzueta is certainly no slouch! Speaking of art, can’t go wrong with a Brian Bolland cover!
Overall, a great turn-of-the-century issue of the Flash. The start of one of the best remembered (and best-aged) runs with the character. Well worth checking out… though, I will say this does feel a bit “for the trade” (it’s a pretty quick read), so you might get more satisfaction just grabbing the collected edition… which is called Flash: Wonderland. Unsurprisingly, this issue (and run) is also available digitally.