The Flash #53
Barry and Commander Cold stay on the trail of Trickster, who is ravaging Central City with his newfound Strength Force to get revenge for years of mockery. As the pair encounter Axel-Hulk, however, it quickly becomes clear that Axel’s control over the Strength Force is tenuous at best, so Barry and Cold escort Trickster back to Iron Heights and the sinister Warden Wolfe. At Iron Heights, both Flash and Trickster are placed in containment cells until it becomes clear that the Strength Force is rejecting Axel as a host and somehow manages to split itself, also bonding with Barry. Wolfe wastes no time ordering his men to shoot to kill, but more surprising is the speed with which Commander Cold decides to do the same!
In a parallel narrative, we see the beginnings of a young, 25th century Science Police turning towards his role as Commander Cold. Following an apparent mental break at the scene of a massacre at the hands of Elongated Maniac, the young cop is approached and presented with what appears to be a Cold Gun and a new mission that includes executing criminals in cold blood.
The central narrative of Barry and Cold helping Axel through his Strength Force induced trauma has the feel of a set-up arc. Williamson appears to be using this arc to explain what the Strength Force is and how it works while taking this opportunity to push a handful of side narratives forward gradually.
Among these side narratives is Iris’ push to understand the Forces, which she cites as seeming “familiar” thanks to her newly regained memories. Her sequence at the library, surrounded by books penned by prominent members of the DCU, seems conspicuous in its low-profile. A single page, but perhaps a page that holds the key to entire saga of the Forces.
Also among the side narratives is the aforementioned origin of Commander Cold that appears to be unfolding. A few key moments throughout this issue seem to be pointing to the notion that, once revealed, the name of Commander Cold will bear great significance. Barry notes that he doesn’t know Cold’s real name, Wolfe comments on him clearly not being smart and Trickster notes that Captain Cold would never stoop to puns. Given the historic significance of the 25th century to Flash-lore, it doesn’t feel out of the realm of possibility that Cold could actually be an Allen descendant, which would link nicely with the recent return of another Allen from the era.
Christian Duce is clearly an astounding talent in the field of comics narrative and art, but I can’t help but feel that the nature of this particular arc, particularly with the hulking figures of Beefy Barry and Abomination Axel, isn’t the best use of his talents. The moments in which Duce shines the brightest are the human moments, such as the Iris sequence and the slow investigation into Wolfe.
There are big things happening in Central City, but with so many mysteries arising, I am somewhat concerned with the future of the series. Where is Bart and when will we see him again? Who is the prisoner of Iron Heights in the 25th century, and are the rest of the Renegades alive? Who is Cold, really? What secrets does Iris still hide not only from Barry but from us as well? The coming months seem like a crucial time in the Flash mythos.
The Flash #53: Get a Grip!
Writing - 7/10
Storyline - 7/10
Art - 9/10
Color - 10/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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