THE FLASH #20
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Penciller: Neil Googe
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Steve Wands
Release Date: 4/12/17
A series of grave robberies put crime reporter Iris West on the path of investigating Godspeed and Black Hole once more, as The Flash #20 follows her adventures for a day. Though she tries to get some help from her trusty – and oh so honest – boyfriend Barry, he doesn’t appear to have any knowledge of the situation and so she must go it alone.
In order to discover what has become of the victims’ bodies, Iris infiltrates the Speed Force Training Center from The Flash‘s first arc, and winds up having to impersonate a Black Hole agent. This leads to some fun hijinks in which Iris gets some valuable information… while also getting herself in trouble, of course. Thankfully the Flash arrives on the scene to save the day, although he might need a little saving himself.
While fans are eagerly awaiting “The Button” crossover between The Flash and Batman, this issue is by no means filler. First of all, it’s an excellent exploration of what makes Iris West tick. Decades of Flash history have made her personality traits pretty common knowledge, but she’s usually shown only through Barry and Wally’s eyes. It’s rare that the comics give us an in-depth look at her perspective, but Joshua Williamson once again proves he knows how to cut to the heart of a character. Just as he previously did with Wally and with Barry himself, Williamson makes Iris three-dimensional without resorting to the usual tropes and cliches.
This issue of The Flash also shows off Barry’s more lighthearted side, not to mention his penchant for getting into scrapes. He’s always a hero, but sometimes he needs a little help to be one. Beyond shading in characters we already know and love, the Black Hole storyline ties back to the first Godspeed arc without missing a beat. Readers were left with several questions once August was revealed and sent to jail, and this issue answers a few while asking even more. The splash page at the end is especially intriguing, and I find myself in the unique situation of eagerly anticipating the upcoming crossover and wanting to get back to this story as soon as possible.
Iris ends the issue with doubts about Barry’s wholesome persona, making for a good bit of dramatic irony on two levels. Not only do readers know that the only secret Barry is keeping from her is that one of his identity, but by the end of the book they also know the identity of the “man on the inside” of S.T.AR. Labs and Black Hole. Like Godspeed, it’s a case of the story potentially being predictable but only because the clues might lead an observant fan to the right conclusion. And as always, I choose story consistency over shock value every time.
Neil Googe’s art is especially well-suited to the classic comic book shenanigans depicted in the issue, and Ivan Plascencia’s return to The Flash colors is more than welcome. The more kinetic energy of artwork in previous issues was missed, but as the story focused more on Iris than Barry or Wally it was appropriate. Furthermore, there were several interesting stylistic choices that helped the scenes come to life – including drawing characters outside of their panels so that they literally seemed to come off the page.
Verdict: 4.5 out 5 stars. The only reason I’m not giving this issue full marks is because my bias towards Iris West is so strong that I need to correct for it. That being said, this is a fast and fun issue that both pushes the overarching plot forward while taking time to check in on characters and their relationships.