The Collected Editions Flash Week continues! Today, we're thrilled to have a review from Kelson Vibber of Speed Force, your one-stop blog for all things Flash! Also don't miss Kelson's Flash reference site, Those Who Ride the Lightning.
Flash: Emergency Stop is the first of two volumes collecting the Grant Morrison/Mark Millar run of The Flash from 1997-1998 (the second volume is The Human Race). They stepped in for a year while the regular writing team of Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn took a year off to work on such projects as The Life Story of the Flash and JLA: Year One.
The first half of the book is the actual "Emergency Stop" storyline, while the second half is made up of three one-shot stories.
"Emergency Stop" is about a suit, or more specifically, it's about two suits. One: the ultimate super-villain suit come to life. The other: Wally West's Speed Force-based Flash costume.
The story also introduces an idea that shapes most of this volume and the next, a line that Wally West attributes to Barry Allen: "With powers like ours, you have to learn to fight the way a science fiction writer writes." The Flash is confronted with his own dead body and given an hour to solve his own murder. A sentient costume runs around possessing minor super-villains, draining their life energy and using their powers. Wally West breaks both his legs.
Wait, what? Yes, early in the story, the Flash is taken out of commission. What follows is a lightning-brigade story, with Wally having to act as strategist and send Jay Garrick, Max Mercury and Impulse out to do the actual fighting. As you might expect, he doesn't take well to being out of the action, and tries to find a way to fight through his injury.
There are a whole bunch of new villains who appear in this story, but most of them are incredibly generic. Only a few are even named, and I can't think of a single one who appears again. But then, they aren't really there to be individuals, or even a team; they're there to be a mob.
Next up is a tale of the Mirror Master in full-up "mad ideas" mode. A mirror dimension where time goes backwards? Check. Sending the Flash through a prism at light speed, splitting him into a whole spectrum of Flashes? Check. Mirror duplicates? Check. A second Earth about to crash into Keystone? Check!
The next two stories settle down a bit.
"Still Life in the Fast Lane" is a solo story focusing on Jay Garrick, and is one of my favorite single-issue stories from the series. It's a day-in-the- life story, but because Jay is the Flash, it's a very full day!
The main plot involves the Thinker, who is dying of inoperable brain cancer. Jay has been visiting his one-time arch-enemy in the hospital, and they've become friends. Not one to let go, Jay sets on the idea of tracking down the Thinker's old Thinking Cap to boost his intelligence and find a cure.
So in and around visiting most of the original Justice Society members, he also finds time to do nanotech research, fight three supervillains (including a single-panel fight with the "Golden Age Reverse Flash"), have lunch with Wally West and Nightwing, give a TV interview, give a talk at a school, and have dinner with Joan!
It's a fascinating look at the sheer potential of super-speed for living, not just for fighting.
The final story isn't really a stand-alone story, but the third part of a crossover with Green Lantern and Green Arrow, "Three of a Kind." It mostly works on its own, since it's structured as a courtroom drama with flashbacks to the incident set up in the first two parts, but it still feels like something's missing. It's an odd choice, and one which makes it clear that DC's real interest in these volumes was in the name recognition of the two writers. Still, there are nice touches, like Green Arrow Connor Hawke applying martial arts philosophy to a legal case, Linda complaining that Kyle Rayner's power-ring- created coffee mugs make everything taste like vinegar, and an explanation of how super-heroes testify in court while preserving their secret identities.
Over the course of Emergency Stop, it's interesting to see just how many elements introduced in these six issues have ended up sticking around. Jay losing Johnny Thunder's pen was deliberate setup for Jakeem Thunder. The speed-force suit that Wally uses to support his shattered legs is still the way he changes into costume, and was used to justify redesigning everyone's costume in Flash: Rebirth. The quest for the thinking cap became the setup for the new, completely computerized Thinker.
Looking back at Flash: Emergency Stop, from a time when DC is being accused of "bringing back the Silver Age," I can't help but think that Morrison and Millar did it a decade ago . . . and did it the right way. They didn't bring back just the trappings of the Silver (or Bronze) age -- the characters, settings and situations; instead they brought back the energy and creativity of a period in comics in which everything was new.
Join us tomorrow as we continue the Collected Editions Flash Week, leading up to the Collected Editions review of Flash: Rebirth!