Warning: This review contains spoilers.
The Flash #35 certainly lives up to the promise of its cover: Future Flash has finally made it to the present to take on – and take out – his younger self. Continuing from last month’s “Futures End” chapter, readers may initially experience a case of deja vu, though the crimson-clad Barry fairs much better this time around. Rather than a quick finish, readers get a knock-down, drag-out battle in the Utah Salt Flats that ends courtesy of a surprise guest.
The laws of physics and the events of a superhero comic book are not compatible, and most readers are able to tailor their expectations appropriately to reconcile the disconnect. Grant Morrison’s The Multiversity reminded readers not to argue with “cartoon physics.” However, that title also purports that the physics of a given world, no matter how ludicrous, should be portrayed with a degree of consistency. The Flash #35 fails to maintain consistency in its own science, resulting in story built up over the course of eight issues collapsing on itself.
In The Flash: Futures End #1, the presence of two identical speedsters in the time and space created feedback from the Speed Force that resulted in an explosion that killed the Barry of five years from now. This is a rule established by the current team of Robert Venditti and Van Jensen — not one they inherited from a previous writer. It is also a rule they ignore immediately from the start of The Flash #35.
The issue opens with present-day Barry Allen waking up to grab a quick breakfast before starting his day when Future Flash runs in and grabs him, smashing his cereal bowl in the process. Based on the writers’ own rules there should have been a Speed Force explosion, but there wasn’t.
After Barry is miraculously carried to the Salt Flats without combusting, he and Future Flash discuss the tear in the Speed Force which has been the cause of Barry’s “lost time” over the past seven six issues. The Future Flash, a product of a timestream which no longer exists, has concluded that the only way to fix the problem is by sacrificing a speedster — just not himself. Present-day Barry is clearly not a fan of this, and the two battle until an aforementioned feedback-fueled explosion ends it.
Despite the confusing nature of the pseudo-science at hand, the battle between the two Flashes is an entertaining deconstruction of the Scarlet Speedster. Future Flash reveals that he has taken it upon himself to learn how to actually fight, training under the likes of Deathstroke, Lady Shiva, and Batman. Though Barry’s associating with two of those individuals seems out of character, it actually makes sense given this version’s darker view of the world.
The issue’s conclusion sets the stage for the next arc, with the Future Flash trapped in the present and the present-day Barry trapped somewhere. It’s not clear if he’s in another dimension or the Speed Force itself. What is clear is that Barry’s predicament is reminiscent of The Flash #8, where he also found himself trapped within the Speed Force. Furthermore, Barry’s replacement by an older, darker version of himself will undoubtedly remind longtime readers of Mark Waid’s “Dark Flash Saga.” Unfortunately, given readers’ knowledge of this future version’s nature and motivations, there is a lack of mystery (and nuance) that causes the set up to be, at best, clunky.
Thankfully, not all is lost. Though the script has it’s share of problems, the art team continues to deliver. Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, and Andrew Dalhouse provide the dynamic visuals that The Flash demands. The fight choreography is brutal, with each blow possessing a physical weight that the read can feel through the pencils and inks. Though the musculature of certain characters – particularly the adult, time-travelling Wally West – is a little much, it’s a minor quibble compared to the narrative. Andrew Dalhouse’s colors complete the look of the issue, providing a vibrant and lively palate that serves to balance the issue’s generally grim nature. Truth be told, this is their best looking issue to date.
Superhero comics – particularly those produced within the last several years – are inherently derivative. That is not a criticism, but a fact. Writers and artists draw from and are influenced by past story arcs as they develop the latest chapters in the serialized medium, especially at DC and Marvel. When successful, these creative teams are able to put a fresh (or at least seemingly fresh) spin on an old concept. Unfortunately, this is not the case for The Flash #35. Most of the story elements come across as tired recyclings of previously seen concepts and contradictory character portrayals.
Note: This review was originally published at InfiniteComix.com