THE FLASH #53
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Penciler: Christian Duce
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Letterer: Steve Wands
Release Date: 8/22/18
While Barry and Commander Cold are in dire straits now that Trickster has been consumed by the Strength Force, The Flash #53 took a break from the action at the start of the issue to look back on Commander Cold’s past. In the 25th century, the was a police officer who wound up killing a villain (the aptly named Elongated Maniac) after the latter murdered far too many scientists to count. This flashback gives readers some insight into the leader of the Renegades’ reckless personality, and Williamson wisely intersperses it with Barry’s narration about keeping emotion out of his work. Though this is a vast difference between the two men, and something which clearly gets in the way of their partnership, it also may be the very balance they need to stop the Trickster and understand the various Forces.
Barry reluctantly keeping Commander Cold by his side at Iris’ request leads to a fun Buddy Cop vibe for the issue, and The Flash #53 emphasizes the overall Silver Age feel of the current arc by punning all over the place in the best way possible. While they battle the super-strength version of Trickster is a pretty exciting action sequence, Iris herself is investigating the different Forces in order to uncover something that might be of use to the Flash. While she doesn’t get very far in her research, readers do get more of a glimpse into her memories from the Pre-Flashpoint timeline. Speaking of which, her banter with Barry this week is also very reminiscent of that time period.
The artwork reflects the lighter, slightly throwback tone of the story as well. Christian Duce’s sharp lines and fluidity of motion are perfect for the Strength Force-inspired Trickster and the scarlet speedster respectively. There also remains a uniform look throughout The Flash #53 even as the artist makes slight adjustments for the tone of the scene or the setting of the plot. Luis Guerrero is once again an excellent addition to the art team, with bright colors that increase in intensity during the darker moments as is appropriate. There’s one sequence that is especially creative in the way it depicts Barry’s vibrational powers, and it’s something I hope to see more of from this creative team.
The squabbles between Flash and Commander Cold take a more serious turn when it comes to dealing with the Trickster in the aftermath of their fight, considering that Cold would rather shoot first and ask questions later. But eventually they agree to take the Rogue into Iron Heights penitentiary, which is where the Warden Wolfe storyline comes back into play. Not only is Williamson doing a good job of weaving various plot points into this arc, but The Flash #53 is visually dynamic simply because there are so many locations that it covers. Iron Heights is also where the science behind the Strength Force comes into play, which is a good thing if you’re interested in these mystical new forces. I have previously stated my dislike of this particular change, but in this issue it felt necessary and even a little enlightening.
The ending of The Flash #53 is shocking, but at the same time it’s the inevitable result of a story about a villain inherited an apparently contagious super strength. It also makes good use of the primary conflict, which is Barry’s rationality versus Cold’s trigger happy tendencies. As long as the new status quo doesn’t last as long as the Negative Flash arc did, this should make for an interesting face-off.
Verdict: 4 out 5 stars. The Flash #53 boasts an interesting storyline as well as the fun, classic humor of the Silver Age days. Williamson balances the current plot with some decent character development while still teasing out Rebirth mysteries, and the stellar artwork certainly doesn’t hurt.