Running Hot & Cold—A Cold Day in Hell, Part 2 (Flash #37)

All kneel before the new kingpin of crime in Central City: Captain Cold!  Kid Flash and Kristen Kramer have helped The Flash get hot on the trail of his coldblooded foe.  Too bad someone at Iron Heights knows Barry Allen’s secret identity!

FLASH # 37
Writers:  Joshua Williamson
Artist:  Scott McDaniel
Inker:  Mick Gray
Colorist:  Hi-Fi
Cover Artist:  Barry Kitson & Hi-Fi
Publisher:  DC Comics

What You Need to Know:

Leonard Snart AKA Captain Cold is the leader of Flash’s Rogues Gallery.  The Rogues are currently incarcerated at Iron Heights, a metahuman prison in the middle of a lake.  But they found a hidden basement which Cold now uses to act as the kingpin of crime in Central City.  August Heart AKA Godspeed wants to join the Rogues, but Cold requires he prove he has something of value to offer them.  He tells them he will give them The Flash.

What You’ll Find Out:

Captain Cold’s sister, Glider, is supervising hired thugs loading crates into a truck inside a hidden tunnel beneath Iron Heights.  As she orders them to speed things up, her boyfriend Mirror Master embraces and compliments her. She smiles and says it really is amazing what they can accomplish when they’re not focused on The Flash…

Flash 37_pages 2 and 3

Barry Allen and Kristen Kramer are in their Iron Heights office reviewing evidence from a Rogue named Turbine who was strangled to death in his cell.  All books in his cell were law books since Turbine was trying to get paroled except for a copy of A Christmas Carol.  She wonders why he had that and Barry says because “It’s about redemption.

They decide to go to solitary confinement and interview his confessed killer, Axel Walker AKA Trickster…

Flash 37_page 5

Flash 37_page 6

Axel says Warden Wolfe had the guards remove his arm as a punishment and asks Barry what he wants.  Barry says if the guards are abusing him then they’re getting him out of there.  Axel scoffs and replies he deserves it for killing Turbine.  Barry asks why and Axel tells him that Turbine was going straight and planned to rat out the Rogues.  Kristen asks what for?  Warden Wolfe shows up, ends their interrogation and threatens to throw them in solitary confinement, too, if they don’t return to their offices immediately.

As they leave, Barry quietly tells Kristen he has one quick stop to make before going back to their office.  He goes to Trickster’s cell and finds August Heart there who doesn’t explain why he’s there—only whispering that “You gotta trust me.”  Then he yells at Barry loud enough for all the inmates to hear “Mind your own business!” and storms off.  Barry finds a note August planted with a map of the old railyard telling him to be there 6PM sharp.  He meets Kristen at their office who comments she didn’t expect him to keep his promise, “but maybe even you can change for the better.”  Barry thinks August’s note could be a trap, but he decides he wants to trust him just like Kristen gave him a second chance, too.

At 6PM, Barry is suited up as The Flash with Kid Flash at his side.  They go to the old railyard and surprise hired thugs working for Captain Cold’s rival Copperhead.  They’re unloading the crates we saw on page 1.  As the trucks race off, Flash opens one of the remaining crates to find freeze guns identical to those created by Captain Cold.  They capture and interrogate one of the thugs who informs them the guns are a peace offering from Copperhead’s rival, but he doesn’t know who that is.  Kid Flash chases the escaping trucks down the road while Flash goes down the tunnel in the railyard.

Flash finds the tunnel leads to the burned-out underground hospital ward beneath Iron Heights.  A voice from behind him says he’s figuring it all out a bit too late…

Flash 37_page 17

Flash replies he can vibrate through this prison, but everything around him is immediately covered in ice and snow.  His feet are frozen to the ground.  August tells him the walls are full of absolute zero energy to slow down his super-speed.  The Rogues surround August and welcome him to their ranks.

Captain Cold comes up behind the freezing, powerless Flash with his fists clenched and ready to rumble.

What Just Happened?

This issue runs hot and cold.  The story is heating up, but the art left me cold.

Normally, the rotating artists on this book are Carmine di Giandomenico, Howard Porter, Neil Googe and Pop Mhan.  But now they’ve added veteran Scott McDaniel to the mix.  Sad to say, though I usually love McDaniel’s work, this fill-in work by him is mediocre at best.

McDaniel’s been working at Marvel and DC since the early Nineties when he landed a major gig doing powerful work first on Daredevil and then landing the ongoing gig illustrating a landmark run on Nightwing that lasted for years.  But that’s the thing—McDaniel’s most impressive art has always been on non-powered street vigilantes, not godlike super-beings.  And The Fastest Man Alive who can travel through time and to parallel universes is definitely a super-being, not an ordinary man fighting common criminals.

Don’t get me wrong.  McDaniel turns in some nice pages in this issue.  But several times we see him draw characters with awkward anatomy where the limbs are at weird angles which took me right out of the story.  One panel, in particular, showed Kid Flash with a normal-sized head on a rail-thin neck and no mouth.  The next panel McDaniel tried to indicate shadows on Flash’s body as he enters the tunnel, but the poorly-placed black areas made him look more like an alternate version of Scarlet Spider.

Those oddly drawn scenes (and there are more than a few of them) were very distracting—and just plain ugly.  I can’t help but think McDaniel would’ve been a better choice for one of the Batbooks instead of one of DC’s more superpowered characters.  Like I said, this art left me ice cold.

That’s a damn shame because Joshua Williamson continues to give readers one of the better runs of Flash in the past decade.  Williamson continues to show off his knowledge of Flash history by featuring characters we haven’t seen in ages.  From the New 52’s Turbine to Brightest Day’s Kristen Kramer, he pulls in players from Flash’s deep bench and throws them into the mix in new and interesting ways.

Add to that, this take on Captain Cold and his plan to become crime lord of Central City while he’s in prison is inventive and a clever twist that to the best of my knowledge no one has tried with Cold before.  I also give kudos to Williamson for not falling into the very tired and overused trope of a person with knowledge of Flash’s secret identity exposing him to the whole world.  That gimmick has been done to death since the early Nineties and I was worried that Williamson was going to have Godspeed out Barry Allen as The Flash.  What a relief that he didn’t!

I confess, too, that I’m excited to see how Leonard Snart and Barry Allen match-up next issue in a face-off of fisticuffs with no freeze rays or super-speed.  Barry is, after all, a police officer as well as a CSI so seeing how he fights without his powers as a crutch will be a refreshing change.

One more thing:  I hope readers note and credit Williamson for not overextending the most recent arc where Barry got saddled with Eobard Thawne’s Negative Speed Force.  We all know most writers nowadays would’ve probably kept that going for months or even years forcing readers to suffer through endless issues of “dark” Barry Allen facing his negative self and being a shadowy antihero instead of the bright and hopeful superhero he truly is.

Williamson seems to know when to start and then end different segments of his overarching storyline without letting any development overstay its welcome.  He is to be commended for his canny economy in storytelling and his management of mileage on each leg of his run!

Rating:  7.3 / 10

Final Thought: 

Josh Williamson turns in another fine script and another entertaining chapter of The Flash.  His characterization of Barry Allen remains pitch perfect and I applaud his new take on Captain Cold which is a breath of fresh air.  The one problem with this issue was the disappointing fill-in by Scott McDaniel with screwy anatomy and bad lighting which took a lot of oomph out of Williamson’s otherwise enjoyable arc.

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