Review: Flash Vol. 6: Cold Day in Hell trade paperback (DC Comics)

June 27, 2018

Flash Vol. 6: Cold Day in Hell is among the better of Joshua Williamson's Flash volumes. Not coincidentally, it involves Captain Cold and the Rogues, as did another of Williamson's better ones, Flash Vol. 3: Rogues Reloaded. Helpful here too is art by Flash series stalwarts Howard Porter and Scott Kolins, plus Scott McDaniel looking as good as he has in a while. There is still some detritus around the edges, but also three strong issues; every time that happens, I hope it signals a turnaround for the Flash title on the horizon.

[Review contains spoilers]

The two main stories collected here, "Black Hole Rising" and "Cold Day in Hell," are each connected to this title's earliest arc, making this book something of a direct sequel to Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice. That's auspicious, too, because as these long-running storylines come to a head, perhaps that means the coming end of this book's over-long Rebirth arc. I hope that between issue #50 and the "Flash War" story (and the Flash title, it seems, getting the elder Wally West back from Titans as a dedicated supporting character), we will finally see that conclusion.

The two stories are symbolic of some of the highs and lows of this title. "Black Hole Rising" lacks for suspense and nuance, with the title alone letting us know the returned Meena Dhawan is not all she seems, and then needing an entire second issue (mostly a fight scene) for that to be revealed. Meena's villainous about-face is silly, really, requiring a naïveté on her part that gives the reader no reason to support her or find her interesting. The characters' reactions are melodramatic and the dialogue sometimes sloppy (as when Meena refers to a "rhetorical question" that wasn't a question). There's also a wholly unnecessary two-page cut-scene that, featuring three Central City cops, would be very interesting except all it does is restate the book's basic status quo done up in stilted conversation. If "Black Hole Rising" was all there was to this book, it would be another too-padded story with no consequence, a la Flash Vol. 5: Negative's "Bloodwork."

But fortunately, this book has "Cold Day in Hell," which starts out with a litany of fascinating untold team-up mysteries Flash Barry Allen has solved, and just gets better from there. We've got Howard Porter on art, we've got Barry Allen solving a mystery using his CSI chops, and we've got Barry seeking help from Godspeed August Heart, his frenemy from the series' first volume. The question of August drives much of this story, whose side he's on and what his loyalties are to Barry, and indeed Williamson had me guessing to the end. Scott McDaniel's art for the second part, with inks by Mick Gray, is sharp, distinct, and dynamic (though Williamson's suggestion that Barry would be late to stop a crime because he had to wait until his work shift is over is unintentionally ridiculous).

Scott Kolins draws the third part finale, perfect especially given the emphasis on Captain Cold (with whom Kolins' Flash run was synonymous) in the early pages. Again, deceptively, this story really isn't Cold's so much as Barry and August's, but Williamson does well enough with a Cold trending slightly more evil, in line with his earlier appearance in this book and believably in-character. Moreover, in contrast to that this run sometimes pads out stories that could be shorter, Williamson does well here in giving the story a wholly deserved nine-page denouement.

The book ends with Flash Annual #1, a prelude to "Flash War" -- coming two trades hence, which is sheer torture and for that reason I might have liked to see this story in the next book instead of this one. The chest-thumping bickering between Barry and the elder Wally is very out of character (and Christian Duce draws Wally looking somewhere between Guy Gardner and the worst of Roy Harper), but I imagine some manufactured drama is going to be necessary for a story called "Flash War." I'm torn between how cool it is that Williamson brings back Magenta (looking like Kolins' version, just after we see Kolins) and how boneheadedly Williamson writes Wally to nudge the deranged Magenta without thinking something bad would happen.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Flash Vol. 6: Cold Day in Hell

I would note that Joshua Williamson's Kid Flash (the younger Wally West) is better in this volume than others, with less angst over this or that slight, and when he says he enjoyed spending time with Barry despite Meena trying to kill them, it's a surprisingly mature and heartening moment. In part what I take from Flash Vol. 6: Cold Day in Hell is that the series works mainly when involved in its own concerns -- Barry, August Heart, an intrinsic mystery -- and less so when tied up with how Rebirth has roiled this title for thirty-some issues now. Again, I'm hoping for big things two books from now (not till December -- jeez!).

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Flash Vol. 6: Cold Day in Hell
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

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