Black Hole Rising, Part Two (Flash #35)

Meena Dhawan is The Negative Flash, Black Hole’s deadliest agent! And wait until you meet the mastermind behind that nefarious organization! The Flash races to stop them, but first Barry Allen has a murder to solve in the one place he never expected to find one!

Flash # 35
Writers:  Joshua Williamson & Michael Moreci
Artist:  Pop Mhan
Colorist:  Ivan Plascencia
Cover Artist:  Neil Googe & Ivan Plascencia
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:

Meena Dhawan has returned from the Speed Force.  Her first act is to lead Flash and Kid Flash into a trap.  She reveals she’s been working for the secret cabal known as Black Hole all along.  As the agents of Black Hole restrain Barry and Wally, Meena uses their technology to steal the Negative Speed Force that Eobard Thawne planted in Flash’s body.  Now she is the Negative Flash!

What You’ll Find Out:

Meena tells Barry and Wally that when Godspeed killed her and 2 of her colleagues that she was sucked into the Speed Force.  She wasn’t ready to die and was terrified.  Black Hole and its unseen leader used a device to pull her out.  This leader tells her that Barry let her die and that they should learn how to control the Speed Force so they can help the whole world. She agrees.

Flash is shocked and demands to know why Meena has infected herself with the poisonous energy of Thawne’s Negative Speed Force.  She retorts he’s only scratched the surface of its unexplored power because he fears it and thinks he should be the only one to control it. He denies that, but she mocks him as stuck on his mommy issues while hoarding its power.  Helping Black Hole is only the start of what she and they have planned.

She blasts him with lightning and Kid Flash cradles his limp body.  Meena is appalled that Wally tries to help him after everything Barry has lied about to him.  She calls Barry a hypocrite for saying he wants to save everyone, but he didn’t save her. Flash gets up and asks if she’s insane and is going to kill them.  She shouts that he let her die and never came for her.  He says he tried, but she corrects him that Black Hole rescued her; he didn’t.

That’s when he tells her that everyone with a connection to the Speed Force needs a lightning rod for grounding them and pulling them back.  She bellows she doesn’t have anyone.  He offers to be hers, but she sneers it’ll never be him.  Then she gives him a choice: catch her or rescue Kid Flash from the Black Hole agents about to shoot him.

Barry tells Wally he’ll get him to safety, but Wally says they will save each other.  This is when artist Pop Mhan delivers the goods in an action-packed 2 page spread that’s sleek and stunning…

Flash 35_pages 10 and 11

The new Negative Flash returns to Black Hole’s headquarters.  Scientists examine her body and warn her the Negative Speed Force is ripping apart her internal organs, but she doesn’t care.  They must learn everything about the Speed Force no matter what the cost.  Suddenly a bolt of electrical energy lands from above and kills the scientists.  A man now stands there berating Meena to not forget her place in his plans.  The first Speed Force storm was just a test and that with her help…

Flash 35_page 14

Meanwhile, Kristen Kramer is back at the lab inside Iron Heights trying to piece together clues to figure out who the new crime boss in Central City is.  A door slides open in the shadows and she barks at Barry thinking he’s trying to sneak up on her.  But when she sees who it is, she screams.

Barry and Wally are out of costume standing outside Iris West’s house. Wally feels stupid for not seeing through Meena’s lies.  Barry reassures him they both wanted to believe in her because they needed hope for a miracle after everything they’ve been going through lately.  They agree that if Black Hole could bring her back from her death and imprisonment in the Speed Force then they’re a bigger danger than they first thought.  Barry thinks Black Hole may be controlling her; Wally replies at least she freed him of Thawne’s Negative Speed Force.

Then Barry asks if he could help him talk to Iris.  Wally refuses and explains that she needs more time.  He adds he is grateful to Barry that they spent the day together.  Barry smiles and agrees and walks down the street.  As Wally quietly enters the house trying not to disturb Iris’s slumber, he finds her standing there.  He asks if she’s still having nightmares.  She stutters no, but he assures her he has bad dreams about Eobard Thawne, too, and that she did the right thing by killing him.  They head to the kitchen for some herbal tea.

Barry is back in costume as The Flash.  As he patrols Central City, he thinks to himself that Wally was right.  He should take it slow with Iris since he failed to do that with Meena trusting her too fast and too soon.  A call from Warden Wolfe comes in over his headset asking Barry to get back to Iron Heights.  There has been a murder.

What Just Happened?

This issue was better than average and reads very well.

Joshua Williamson and new co-writer Michael Moreci put a lot more thought into the characterization.  That attention to characterization did not detract from the action sequences in the least.

Meena’s actions and reactions are sick and twisted, but believable.  Her shouting that she has no one to ground her when she gets lost in the Speed Force is painful and makes her a sympathetic villain with the right shades of gray. It’s one line, but the understatement of it packs more punch by saying less and telling readers much more by tapping into human empathy for someone who has no one.

Moreci’s work on which scenes or dialogue isn’t known, but the finished script is stronger than Williamson’s previous issue.  Their writing on Wally West is a highlight.  His responses to Barry’s feelings and frustrations are more understandable. His explanations for his own behavior and his concerns about Iris and Meena are sensible and uncomplicated.  This is a more mature version of this character and it’s a pleasure to see such a straightforward evolution of him in a way that shows him a smart, practical hero.

Having Barry own up to trusting Meena too fast and trying to rush things with Iris shows his self-awareness has improved.  His concern for Meena when she becomes the Negative Flash rings true without sounding treacly.

Raijin, the new God of Lightning in Flash, is apparently from Japanese and Shinto mythology.  It’s too early to judge if he’s going to be a well-written villain, but his first appearance was forceful and dramatically illustrated.

Speaking of illustration, Thailand artist Pop Mhan turns in one of his best full issues in years.  It doesn’t look rushed which would hopefully indicate that DC gave him a little more lead time than they did last issue.  Some pages were truly larger than life the way a superhero book should look. The lustrous colors by veteran pro Ivan Plascencia make the art, pardon the pun, pop even more.

Rating:  7.4 / 10

Final ThoughtFlash #35 was one of the better issues from this creative team.  Nothing seems rushed and everyone was on top of it.  Characterization was convincing, dialogue reflects that and the plot moved at a fast pace where action and character were perfectly balanced.  Include some high quality artwork that ups the impact of a well-written script and you have one of the best issues of Flash in a while.  This is a good read and leaves you eager to see what comes next!

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