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The best lazily crafted costume and name ever – The Flash #139

August 4, 2010

The Reverse-Flash has always had a disproportionate importance to me. That’s probably due to his key role in the final arc of the original Flash series, when the Scarlet Speedster went on trial for his arch-nemesis’ supposed murder. And the negative, switched colors version of Flash’s costume might normally get an eye-roll, but I give the whole thing a pass. I like him as a villain.

So, it was no surprise that I picked this book up despite its in fairly rough shape. It fits firmly into that Good+ condition category. It’s intact, but it has creases and chips and a big ass tear on the back cover.

But it’s the origin of the Reverse-Flash!

A note on Carmine Infantino and his art — I’ve always enjoyed his take on futuristic cityscapes, with their soaring towers and the spiralling ramps, along with the tiled groundlevels that are always devoid of people. Have you ever noticed that? There’s hardly anybody on the streets in these futuristic settings. They’re as barren as North Korean thoroughfares. Just an observation. You can see some of this on the above cover as well as in the backgrounds of a few of the panels I’ve pulled out.

“The Menace of the Reverse-Flash” is scripted by John Broome with art from Infantino and Joe Giella, and it’s a wonderful Silver Age effort. The trouble starts when a scientist sends a time capsule into the future — no more using spades and shovels to bury them behind schools and then forgetting about the damn things! Unfortunately the scientist sends an atomic clock as part of the capsule’s inventory (along with one of Flash’s costumes) and he realizes after the fact that, to do such a thing, well, as Egon Spengler would say, “It would be bad”:

Flash volunteers to save the (future) day, and, luckily for them both, he has his iconic suped-up piece of exercise equipment handy:

All Infantino’s floors have those huge tiles!

Meanwhile (or futurewhile), the time capsule has arrived in the 25th century. A hood (who will soon name himself “Professor Zoom”) makes off with the Flash costume and, after some experiments and adjustments, reverses the costume’s colors and duplicates Flash’s super-speed powers for himself:

Zoom immediately goes on a crime spree, stealing priceless alien artifacts. Flash arrives in the 25th century and reads about Zoom’s deeds in a newspaper that’s *gasp* in color!:

Surely this must be THE FUTURE! As if newspapers are going to be around in 4 years, much less 400.

The two of them soon square off in a vroomy battle, replete with Infantino’s marvellous speed-lines:

Flash finally figures out that the only way to defeat this foe is to overwhelm the chemical shield that’s protecting him at high speeds:

The squat, page-wide panels are really handy when it comes to depicting Flash’s speed — and fortunately he has more streets with a Pyongyang-level of desertion to rocket through. Handy.

Hey, what about the atomic clock? With Zoom taken care of, Flash finally gets around to the whole point of this trip, and the clock has somehow wound its way into the possession of a random old biddy:

Flash returns to the present, his mission complete.

This was a very fun issue, though I’m a sucker for anything Infantino. There was something about The Flash in this time period that made it one of the better books — something about the adventures of Barry Allen made him a prime specimen of the Silver Age at DC. Even my jaded modern sensibilities can lap this stuff up. I think a lot of it simply has to do with Infantino and his rapid red creation — no shocker here, but they were made for each other. When it comes to drawing the Flash, Carmine is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.

Great stuff.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2010 11:05 am

    Wasn’t Carmine great? The only Flash artist.

  2. August 4, 2010 11:06 pm

    There’s the ideal character for just about each artist. It’s a pity when economics and the industry force them to squander their talent on titles that are a bad fit.

    • August 5, 2010 6:18 am

      It’s funny — I have a friend who was a big fan of the the old Nova book in the 70’s and he told me how excited he was when Infantino came on board, right up until Infantino, and I quote, “ran the f***ing book into the ground.” I suppose that illustrates your point.

  3. Thelonious Nick permalink
    August 5, 2010 8:56 am

    I have definitely noticed the lack of people on the streets in the future, at least the 1950-60s view of the future, and it’s not just in Infantino’s art. Presumably everybody gets around in futuristic jet cars or something, no need to walk.

    I wonder if it has to do with the architecture and urban planning at the time, where the trend was to build huge buildings set back from their environments, surronded by empty, wind-swept plazas. It must have seemed like someday everyplace would be like that.

    Sort of the opposite of the movies, where the future often seems to be some overpopulated dystopia like in Soylent Green or Blade Runner.

    • August 5, 2010 3:59 pm

      Yeah — it’s kind of hard to picture Charlton Heston running around with that scarf and screaming “It’s people!” at the top of his lungs in the Silver Age future.

  4. August 5, 2010 2:54 pm

    Note as well that the beautiful cityscape is far off in the background and from the foreground to there is apparently, well, either those floor tiles or a few miles of paved blocks. Another consistent theme with Infantino. But I agree with you that he captured the speed of the Flash perfectly.

    • August 5, 2010 3:54 pm

      That’s a great point — I never really thought about the distances. And now that I think about it, Infantino’s cityscapes (the whole thing — towers, distance, tiles) reminds me of an arcade game from the 80’s called Space Harrier. I dumped a lot of quarters into that one.

  5. August 5, 2010 8:21 pm

    Oh, and I’d submit that after “Flash”, Infantino’s claim to excellence is “Adam Strange”. Maybe he just resonates with red costumes?

    • August 6, 2010 12:11 pm

      I’d have to go with anything Carmine was allowed to ink himself, especially the first Elongated Man backup.


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