Flash (vol.2) #16 (September, 1988)
“The Adventures of Speed McGee, Part 1”
Writer – William Messner-Loebs
Pencils – Greg LaRocque
Inks – Larry Malstedt
Letters – Steve Haynie
Colors – Michele Wolfman
Editor – Barbara Randall
Cover Price: $0.75
Welcome back, folks. Christmas is in the rear-view, and it’s back to business as usual here at the Infinite Earths. In other words, it’s safe to come back…
Now, several months ago we took a look at an issue of Flash that introduced the character “Speed McGee”. Ever wonder what happened to him? Well, we’re going to find out anyway!
We open with Jerry “Speed” McGee recovering in his hospital room. He evidently has no memory of transforming himself into an eight-foot tall speed monster. He is visited by his estranged wife, Tina… who if you recall, has been fooling around with Wally. If you don’t recall, no worries… this issue mentions that she and Wally are “sleeping together” several times. Anyhoo, the McGee’s catch up, and actually have a pleasant conversation… lotsa laughing… so much so, that I thought for a moment might be revealed as a dream… or, like they were on the set of a sitcom. Wally’s mom pops her head in the room to call for Tina. We can see that they have a pretty frosty relationship.
We shift scenes across the hospital, where Wally is attempting to entertain some sick children his speed-antics. Unfortunately, his recent run-in with Vandal Savage actually stripped him of his powers! We get a pretty interesting look at Wally’s attempt at being a Superman-style hero, when he assures one of the kids that they’ll get better really soon. They reply that their parents already told them that they’re going to Heaven. Yikes.
Seeing Wally struggle with this unruly crowd, Mason Trollbridge (now there’s a name!) steps in and does the whole “hide a quarter behind the ear” gimmick… only he says that the Flash did it so quickly they didn’t even notice.
We jump ahead a little bit, and Trollbridge gives Wally an envelope that had been dropped off for him earlier. It’s an eviction notice from the apartment he’d been sharing with his mother. Elsewhere, Jerry McGee is visited by Russian Doctors, Orloff and Bortz for a bit of observation. They inform him that Wally’s speed is gone.
Back to Wally, who is making a frantic phone call to his landlord, Mr. Gilchrist. Dude tells him that his rent was too late, and it’s time to go. Trollbridge has posited that Gilchrist was going to utilize strong-arm tactics to evict every last tenant, before turning “condo”. Gilchrist gives Wally the “sucks to be you” before hanging up and attending to his baby daughter.
Then… we get this rather disturbing panel, where Gilchrist and the Flash are holding the child… and in the foreground are Vandal Savage and mobster, Nick Bassaglia. This is really quite off-putting.
Back to the hospital, where Wally’s mom is chatting with Tina McGee. Tina expresses a renewed interest in fixing her relationship with Jerry… but feels like she owes it to Wally to stay with him, after all, he did save her life. Mrs. West suggests that a forced sense of gratitude shouldn’t be what keeps a relationship together. Remember, she’s not keen on this coupling in the first place.
At the very same time, Wally is checking out the butt of a cutie-pie nurse, and lamenting the fact that he’s sort of “stuck” with Tina. He, like Tina, feels like this relationship is more a burden than anything else.
He is approached by Tina… who lets him off the hook! She tells him that she’ll always love and remember him, but a relationship just isn’t in the cards for them. Wally, in classic sitcom fashion, wonders how he might get Tina back. Wonk wonkkk.
Back to Jerry’s room, where Gregor Gregorovich of the Blue Trinity busts in and grabs one of the doctors to bring back to Russia with him.
Wally arrives on the scene to try and talk the baddie down. Ya see, the Blue Trinity got all tied up in the Rudy West/Manhunters thing during Millennium, and they ain’t happy. Wally, without his powers, gets beat up pretty bad. Gregor makes a phone call and talks in code for a bit before being told that his mission has been cancelled. He then charges toward “Speed” McGee… and collapses to the ground.
We wrap up with Wally and his mother returning to their apartment, where they are greeted by an eviction notice tacked to the door. The phone rings, and it’s Mr. Gilchrist. He tells Wally that his daughter has been kidnapped, and begs him for help. Wally, get this, apologizes and tells Gilchrist that “Wally West doesn’t live here anymore”! Stone cold.
Something about this issue kinda disturbs me. There’s an “unreality” to it, ya know? A couple of scenes in particular really kinda get to me.
First, the opening scene with the McGee’s. The conversation they had felt so hammed-up that I was really expecting it to be a dream, or that they were going to be on a stage somewhere. Didn’t help that the laughter got its own sound effect… I thought that might be from the “studio audience”.
The other scene that bugged me was the page with Gilchrist and “Flash” holding the child. It almost felt like it was something we weren’t supposed to see. As though a director shouted “Cut!” and we panned back to see the rest of the set. Gilchrist, who finds himself in a room with a scarlet superhero, a mobster, and Vandal Savage doesn’t seem all that bothered. In fact, he’s smiling!
Don’t get it twisted, neither of these scenes were “bad”… just felt really weird with or without context.
The Tina McGee relationship? Ehh. Never felt like it was going to go long-term, and I’m happy to see it end. I probably could’ve done without Wally having the goofy sitcom reaction to getting what you hoped for… but not the way you wanted to get it though. I guess that speaks to his youth and immaturity.
On that subject, I appreciated Wally’s fumbling and stumbling his way though that pep-talk with the sick kids. It really illustrates how young Wally is different from seasoned heroes like Superman, or even his own predecessor, Barry Allen.
The first few years of this series were all about Wally growing into his role as the Flash… so, seeing him have “growing pains” is really cool. These days, give a kid powers and a costume, they’ll be too busy telling everybody (and being told) how “awesome” they are to worry in the slightest about the tribulations before them.
Another illustration of Wally’s immaturity comes at the end. After receiving a frantic phone call from Landlord Whatshisface about his missing daughter, Wally tells him to go pound sand. That’s not something any other superhero would ever do!
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good issue. It’s definitely a different kinda Wally than we’d come to know and love in the decades that followed, but definitely enjoyable. This issue is available digitally.