When you think of the Flash you think of speed, running, a red costume passing by in a blur. When you think of the Flash you don’t necessarily think soap opera. But soap opera is what you get in “Flash” issues 80-85 (September-December 1993) by Mark Waid and the late Mike Wieringo from DC Comics. It is a nice come back to reality for the Flash as he must deal with a jealous ex and shopping mall development tycoons.
Of course though it is the Flash and Waid and Wieringo are not delivering any ordinary soap opera shenanigans. To keep up the excitement over these six issues they mix in two former Teen Titans, a super powered criminal organization known as the Combine, a razor sharp new villain, and a concussion bomb capable of destroying one square mile of the Flash’s city.
The beauty of the stories is that they build a lot of action around the strong character beats that Waid is writing into the narrative that is the life of Wally West. His relationship with reporter Linda Park is deepening and the wrinkle of an ex-lover, who also happens to be mentally unstable because of her ability to manipulate magnetic waves, throws a wrench into their plans, especially when Wally kisses the ex on live TV. Linda starts to feel an outsider in Wally’s super powered life how can she compete with aliens from Tamaran and former Boy Wonders for Wally’s attention.
The villains provide a nice backdrop to keep the stories moving at a rapid pace, but also serve to heighten the importance of those character moments. Little things Waid does with the story come out in the artwork. Wally gets bored listening to scientists explain how a villain’s powers work so he in the blink of an eye organizes their shelves. It is moments like these that show just how slow the real world moves around the Flash. Other moments continue to show ordinary to the Flash is moving faster than the speed of sound.
Beginning with issue 80 of “Flash” Waid begins working with the uber-talented Wieringo as the series artist. Wieringo brings a completely new look to the Flash with a big lantern jaw and exaggerated body features that deliver a new level of excitement to the book. The artwork is influenced by a manga style that breaks from the comic book norm. Stylistically Wieringo includes a two-page, large scale, shot of the action in every issue. Today this type of shot feels excessive, but here Wieringo captures the largeness of the moment in gorgeous detail.
Wieringo’s style was very expressive and you can see the intensity of the situations on the Flash’s face as his gritted teeth work with a malleable mask that gives off everything you need to know about our hero. He also builds the world around Wally with good looking supporting characters and guest stars each with their own distinct look. With former Teen Titans, Starfire and Nightwing, showing up in Keystone to help wrangle in the Combine, Wieringo makes it clear that the Flash is the star while also highlighting how these other heroes are helping out.
“Flash” issues 80-85 don’t carry that epic – you’ll always remember them – feel but they are great character moments in Wally West’s life. Waid conveys why Linda Park is the right girlfriend for Wally. Her not having super powers works well not just to be different but also it allows Waid to slow down Wally and we see just how much the lack of speed affects him. Wieringo’s start on the series was the beginning of great things. Issue 84 has a fill-in from Barry Kitson who is an epic artist himself but it allows you to see a contrast in art between him and Wieringo, traditional look versus modern art.
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