The Flash #36 offers more of the dual narrative storytelling that has characterized the title since writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen took over writing duties back in issue #30. This latest installment of The Flash sees more of Barry Allen and his future self, only now it is the titular hero that must battle his way to the present. Unfortunately, it looks to be more of a challenge for the heroic Barry, who finds himself trapped within the Speed Force. With dinosaurs. Meanwhile, the Future Flash begins living Barry’s life, repairing his tense relationships with Patty, Iris, and Wally. He’s also de-aged because of the Speed Force, and a bit more murderous.
There are two pencilers on this issue, with Brett Booth focusing on the Speed Force segments and Andre Coehlio handling those which star the Future Flash. Though Booth does an admirable job in his assigned area (and does he draw dinosaurs really well), it is Coehlio’s work that really shines. He makes this version of Barry Allen look like a slimey schemer – an unnerving revelation given Barry’s “nice guy” personality. His occasional smirks can make the reader’s skin crawl, especially when it comes to his interaction with Patty. Unfortunately, there are instances in which Future Flash (in costume) falls a little flat due to an awkwardly rendered mask.
Booth’s art maintains both its consistency and its dynamic nature as battle-worn Barry fights for survival. Those that do not enjoy the aesthetic look of his style may be turned off. However, beyond that are clean layouts and richly detailed panels that flesh out the issue’s settings. Like Coehlio, his character work is very expressive, which allows the reader to understand the shock or fear Barry is feeling on any particular panel.
For the most part, the script by Venditti and Jensen is character focused, with trapped-in-the-Speed-Force Barry acclimating to his new environment and future-but-in-the-present Barry reconnecting emotionally with Patty, Iris, and Wally. While Future Barry’s interactions with Patty and Iris can range from creepy to frustrating as the reader knows they’re being duped, the moments between him and Wally come across as genuine. Perhaps for the first time since his introduction, Wally is a likable, sympathetic character to the readers. Given the backlash that has persisted against this version of Wally, that’s quite a feat.
One has to wonder what the endgame for Venditti and Jensen’s story is. This issue marks the ninth part in their current story, and there does not appear to be an emotional hook to keep readers invested. The previous creative team’s run held to a theme of “moving forward” that was evident from their first issue to their last – a theme which this current story arc has contradicted. Barry has been cutoff from his supporting cast, first emotionally and now physically, resulting is an increased difficulty for readers to connect to him. Both Iris and Wally West have been made to be unlikable, a stark contrast to their past incarnations both pre- and post-Flashpoint. Lastly, Patty Spivot – the titular character’s main love interest – has been practically non-existent since issue #30 other than for a few panels to yell at Barry. With a cast of characters that are currently abrasive to readers, Venditti and Jensen are making it difficult to stay invested for the long-term.
Note: This review was originally published at InfiniteComix.com.