Note: This review was originally published at InfiniteComix.com
For the last several issues, The Flash has been stuck in neutral. With the present day Barry Allen trapped in the Speed Force and the Barry Allen of the future trapped in the present, the series appeared to have no clear direction as to where it wanted to go, other than provide artist Brett Booth an excuse to draw dinosaurs and robots… and robot-dinosaurs. Despite Booth’s best (and frankly awesome) efforts, the series refused to rise above mediocrity. Thankfully, the ship appears to be righted. The Flash #38 is not only the strongest issue of this current arc, but it is one of the strongest since writers Robert Venditti and Van Jensen took the reigns of this title back in issue #30.
What has made The Flash one of DC’s premier titles for the past couple decades has been its writers’ ability expand and fully embrace the mythology of the character. One such element to the Flash mythology is the ever-nebulous Speed Force. Since it first appeared back in Mark Waid’s run, creative teams were able to take this concept and play with it in a way that both served their story and added to the overall lore. While the Speed Force has played an integral role in the current story arc, Venditti and Jensen had up to this point failed to make it their own. The Flash #38 finally sees the writing duo taking that step.
Much of the issue is told via the narration Selkirk, whom present-day Barry has befriended while trapped in the Speed Force. Though it can be accused of further slowing down the story, it provides meaty new material for readers to sink into. Selkirk is revealed to be an archaeologist who has chased the mystery of the Speed Force as his life’s work. Like the Flash’s adventures, it turns out that the history of the Speed Force is not confined to a single period of time. The writers have taken a fringe scientific theory – that of the “ancient astronaut” – and replaced it with speedsters. Selkirk’s research led him to various cultures across the world that, despite having no means of communicating with one another, shared a mythology. How this unfolds, and the other secrets the Speed Force contains, is alone sufficient to bring readers back.
Outside the Speed Force, Venditti and Jensen push the story forward through Patty Spivot and Iris West’s interactions with Future Flash, both in and out of costume. The book’s leading women start to figure out that both Barry and the Flash are not quite themselves, which is a refreshing change of pace. Since the beginning of this run, neither Patty nor Iris had had much to do. Patty in particular shines. Going back to Geoff Johns’ run before Flashpoint, Patty has been referred to a brilliant analyst, but rarely is she shown doing anything. The work she does here sets up an interesting potential conflict in the next issue.
Brett Booth’s art continues to be the strongest facet of The Flash. Each issue is flush with energy and attention to detail that is fueled by his passion for the titular character. With a few exceptions, his work continues to be stellar in The Flash #38. There is a thrilling battle between the Future Flash and the duo of Mirror Master and Napalm – a replacement for the presumed-dead Heatwave. Brimming with a sense of fluidity and motion, Booth does an excellent job in conveying speed – a necessary quality for a book featuring speedsters. Unfortunately, there is a slip in quality during a scene between Barry, Patty, and Iris. In one panel, Barry’s face appears smushed into the page. Likewise, as Iris leaves the scene in a rush, her face is indiscernible from some of the males Booth has drawn. Luckily, these are the only negative instances of note. Plus, it’s difficult to hold that against him when he sneaks in a few of Marvelous mutants for the fans.