Flash #184 (December, 1968)
“Executioner of Central City!”
Writer – Frank Robbins
Penciller – Ross Andru
Inker – Mike Esposito
Cover Price: #0.12
Another one from the Iconic Cover Collection… least I think so anyway. Will that help or hinder our enjoyment of the issue inside? Let’s find out…
We open with Iris Allen visiting the Mount Vista Ionospheric Observatory for Picture News. A Dr. Clark informs her that this might not have been the most opportune time for her to pop in as they’d just received word from their Mt. Everest station that a neutron-star pulsar-source has been picked up by their scanners… and threatens to collide with Earth, with Central City being Ground-Zero!
As the geeks begin to panic (one is literally banging his head against the computer equipment!), Iris heads out to her… adorable rotary car-phone (which I’m tickled to learn were actually a thing) to call her husband Barry. After hearing the news, Barry informs an officer to set up road blocks keeping all out-of-town travelers from entering Central City.
Once suited-up, Flash decides a good defense might serve as the best offense, and whips up a “cosmic force shield” by circling the city at incredible speed. While he’s running, Iris returns to the outskirts of the city (that observatory mustn’t have been all that far away!) where she is met by the police barricade. She exits her car and ducks into Central City anyway… just in time for the neutron thingamabob to hit… and bounce off the Flash’s “force shield”.
The day saved, Flash leans up against a car… and takes a breather. Upon opening his eyes, he realizes that… welp, Central City’s gone! His circling the city at great speed must have created an ionic vacuum which ultimately vaporized it! Barry Allen… the Flash is a(n unwitting) Mass-Murderer! Hope there’s no trial!
As the Flash sobs, he turns to look at the car he’d been leaning on… and wouldn’tcha know it, it belonged to Iris! Before he can properly mourn, he hears the sorta-mechanical sound of a transmission. From the muck rises… well, more muck, a humanoid muck. The mud-monster refers to the Flash as an “alien” (hey, that’s pronounced Allen!), and a fight is on.
Flash quickly learns that the baddie can read his thoughts, and so he takes to spinning, drilling himself into the Earth… creating a sort of quicksand to capture the beast. With the muck-monster in a prone position, Flash wipes it’s face revealing… a woman?
When the dust (and muck) settles, Flash learns that this woman is called Zoral… who hails from the Planet Terra-I… which is to say, what they call the Earth in the year 4005. To follow, we get some clumsy dialogue which amounts to… she’s from the future… the Flash’s sonic-vacuum brought her to 1968… at the same time that Central City was pulled into 4005 to be placed into the Grand Canyon Preserve so future-folks can observe and study life in the mid 20th century. Ya follow?
Suddenly Zoral begins to vibrate as she is pulled back to the future. Using her as a “human cosmic treadmill” Barry decides to tag along. During the “trip”, Zoral informs the Flash that people in the year 4005 are programmed “not to kill”… and the gun she carries is actually an “anti-violence emitter”, to quell any violent or murderous urges. Still with me?
Okay, so finally… or maybe instantaneously… Flash and Zoral arrive back in the 41st Century. In the distance, Barry can see Central City,.. safe and sound in the Grand Canyon. Before he can head over, however, they find themselves surrounded by the Terra-I Patrol. Believing Zoral to be dead, they assume this gal is an imposter… and as for the dude in red… they don’t know what his deal is, but they’re sure they don’t like it!
And so, a fight breaks out. Flash holds his own well against most of the gaggle, before entering into a struggle with the last one standing. Zoral takes aim with her “anti-violence emitter” and turns out to be a pretty poor shot, nailing Barry in the back. The Patroller then blasts her so they can both be delivered to their leader.
It’s here that we meet (via satellite) Dr. Yom… who is introducing, thanks to his “Quantum-Time-Shift-Resolver”, the delivery of Central City circa 1968 to the Grand Canyon Preserve. Flash thinks Yom’s a bit of a pompous jerk… and he’s right!
Yom shares some scenes of what’s going on in Central City… including one in particular involving Iris. She’s about the only city-zen keeping a level head… so sure she is that the Flash and/or Barry will save the day.
After some more bluster, the Flash and Zoral are finally stood before Yom in the flesh. The Doc recognizes Flash as a famous hero of yesteryear… and thinks to himself that he may prove to be his greatest threat. When addressed, Flash suggests that Yom’s Quantum-Time-Shift-Resolver is not actually responsible for the procurement of Central City… but instead, it was a result of the ionic vacuum he created. Dr. Yom doesn’t dig that one bit.
Giving credit where it’s due, however, Flash suggests that while Yom’s invention wasn’t responsible for bringing Central City to the future… it might just be responsible for keeping it there. He asks that Yom switch off the Quantum-Beam Machine to see if it will send the city back to the past. Yom now realizes that Flash was only playing along with the effects of the “play nice pistol”.
Deciding the Flash must be liquidated… Yom unleashes a barrage of beams (ya see, Yom never had his violence-level augmented)… which Barry manages to outrun… until, now this is where it gets even weirder… Barry realizes that he’s gona about this the wrong way. He needs to slow down… to the point where he can go… ugh… backwards in time a few minutes. Why didn’t he just do that in the first place???
Anyhoo… this time Barry still defies Yom, however, grabs Zoral’s “play nice pistol” and blasts the baddie in the head with it. Now, a compliant Dr. Yom is more than happy to switch off the Quantum Beam and send Central City back to the swingin’ sixties.
We wrap up with a Barry and Iris reunion… and all’s right with the world.
Maybe I just had my expectations too high, but… woof… this one dragged on.
I really can’t hold my expectations against a book, but… I really thought this was going to be a “bigger” issue. I mean, it’s just a Barry goes to the future story… which, feels like… ya know, Tuesday. Not sure why it warrants the “Tragic Day” cover treatment any more than the last… or next time Barry time-travels to “undo” things.
Plus, and I know… this is a Silver-Age comic book… and things were different back then, but we really don’t get much time to process the events here. Not that I’m looking for this to be the “six-part story” that it would be today, but maybe more than a panel for Barry to consider that, because of his actions, his wife and everyone he cares about are dead might’ve been nice.
I’m really not a fan of the fast and loose use of time like we saw toward the end. If Barry can, at any point, slow down and make time move backwards… what happens to the stakes? I mean, we’v got Barry nailed by a ray… and about to be taken out by Dr. Yom… when he just decides “nuh-uh” and reverses time? That’s awfully convenient… and feels like such a cop out.
I will say that I thought Iris came across really cool here… and I love that rotary dial car phone. Also, Ross Andru’s art was pretty great too! Love the image of the Central City crater… made me think of what happened to Coast City during The Reign of the Supermen.
Overall… I dunno. I suppose it’s worth reading, though I’d recommend not breaking the bank for it. It is available digitally, and (for more bang for your buck) has been collected as part of SHOWCASE Presents: The Flash, Volume 4. It’s a neat one to have in my collection, regardless of my feeling a bit let down by my own inflated expectations.
Silly trying too hard “lenticular”:
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