REVIEW: The Flash #35 – Black Hole Rising

Writer: Joshua Williamson & Michael Moreci
Penciler: Pop Mhan
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Steve Wands
Release Date: 11/22/17

The Flash #35 continues unveiling Meena Dhawan’s origin story for the reader, starting with Godspeed’s attack and how the scientists at Black Hole saved her life. Right off the bat, it’s clear she harbors resentment towards Barry for not being the one to bring her back from the brink of death. She’s so resentful that she’s prepared to infect herself with the Negative Speed Force in order to study it and eventually control the Flash’s powers. The former is an understandable reaction, but the latter is an underwhelming motivation as far as villains go. Regardless of whether her explanations resonate – and personally, given how happy Barry was to teach speeedster students at the start of Rebirth, the idea that he is hoarding the Speed Force out of fear does not resonate at all – Meena and the Flash begin their lightning fast battle.

Though the fight is over too quickly, it looks amazing. Pop Mhan’s well-defined pencils mix very well with the powers of the Negative Speed Force. While the artists have been rotating for several issues, The Flash #35 maintains the iconic aesthetic of the run so far thanks to Ivan Plascencia’s colors. He and Mhan really make the Negative side stand out, as well as getting the first opportunity in awhile to draw the Barry we know and love rather than his infected side.

Wally joins the fray, and this is where the story gets a little more emotional. Even though the dynamic between Meena and Wally was not given much chance to grow, it it very easy to connect to the teen’s sense of betrayal over a mentor who has gone astray. Perhaps because he’s so young and just had to deal with the truth about his father, Wally’s rage and sadness are heartbreaking to witness. The only frustrating part is how much more powerful Meena seems in the moments after stealing the Negative Speed Force, but that can be explained by Wally and Barry still being in shock while their enemy doesn’t hold back. Despite how easily Meena gets away, there is still a Flash/Kid Flash team-up left in order to stop the Black Hole agents in the immediate vicinity.

There’s still a bit more road to travel before we reach the tag team adventures that have been promised since Wally’s powers were revealed, but their take down of the foot soldiers is a lot of fun. Not only that, but there’s also a heartfelt moment between them as people rather than as heroes near the end of The Flash #35, as Barry wishes he could go inside the West home and talk to Iris. Wally lets him know she’s still not ready, but thankfully the friendship between the boys is well on its way to being fully healed.

Once inside, Wally speaks with Iris and readers are graced with another look at her feelings about the trauma from nearly ten issues ago. The breach in Iris and Barry’s relationship is lasting longer than I’d personally like, but for now it’s a breath of fresh air to get her side of things and catch a glimpse of her sweet dynamic with Wally before speeding towards the next phase of this arc.

The Flash #35 introduces the being behind Black Hole in a lightning-filled panel that represents some of Mhan and Plascencia’s best work in the issue. Not much can be said about him other than his name is Raijin and he is very angry, but he’s sure to come back sooner rather than later. The story also checks in with Kristen at Iron Heights, and ends with a murder that better not be who it’s presented as. There’s been so much focus on Kristen’s view of CCPD that I would hope it leads to an interesting story about the CSI side of Barry Allen, but we will see next month.

Verdict: 3.5 out 5 stars. Though the confrontation was a little rushed, it’s good to have the Flash now divorced from the Negative Speed Force side effects as well as on the road to recovery in his personal relationships. The new plot threads introduced in The Flash #35 will have to blossom before judgment can be cast, however.

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