Review: Flash Vol. 18: The Search for Barry Allen trade paperback (DC Comics)


Regular readers know I often give big collections a break on the principle that if it’s not good, at least there’s a lot of it. Flash Vol. 18: The Search for Barry Allen is 11 issues long (10 plus an annual), so there’s a lot of it, but here it may not work in the book’s favor.

Jeremy Adam’s book is passably good Flash, certainly better than earlier books written by others in this Flash series, and for the most part treats Wally West and his family respectfully and portrays them in character. But perhaps due to the interruption of the Dark Crisis crossover, perhaps in marking time on the way to Flash #800, I was bored. The villains are not particularly worrisome, the stakes not particularly high, and it took me longer to finish this very long book because I could not stay engaged.

I’m all for the “Dawn of DC” if it means increased camaraderie among the heroes, but I’d hate to think the latest rebellion against grim and gritty will be an overcorrection toward “nothing happens.” As it is, Adams doesn’t have many issues left on his run; I hope the next volume improves on this one.

[Review contains spoilers]

If Adams' Flash Vol. 16: Wally West Returns was about Wally reclaiming the Flash mantle and Flash Vol. 17: Eclipsed was largely about reestablishing Wally’s relationship with his kids, then Search seems about reconnecting Wally with his allies in the DCU (perhaps not coincidentally also a theme of Dark Crisis).

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Bookending Search are two issues where Wally teams with Kid Flash Wallace “Ace” West, rerouting that partnership from Barry to Wally, and two that bring good friend Pied Piper Harley Rathaway back into Wally’s life as if he’d never left. Between that, there’s appearances by Jesse Quick, Max Mercury, Jay Garrick, Power Girl, and other members of the Justice Society. As with Dark Crisis itself, this volume feels the most legitimately like Flash picking up from where the DCU left off before Flashpoint since that time.

On Dark Crisis, Search offers far less to explain the crossover’s events than even I expected it would. I thought for certain the reference in Dark Crisis to Barry’s encounter with Worlds Without the Justice League’s Batman would take place in Flash, but it does not. Nor does the story contain anything to explain the Flashes' conversations in Dark Crisis regarding the disappearance or return of the infinite Earths. As a final word, no, none of the Dark Crisis tie-ins fill in the gaps in Dark Crisis (nor add much of anything) and indeed the multiverse material in that book turns out just as nonsensical as it seems.

Adams has no shortage of great ideas in Flash proper, to his credit. There’s a particularly clever throwaway gag early in the book where the Legion of Doom keeps building their headquarters and the Flash anonymously zooms by and knocks some rivets out of place so they keep having to start over. Either of Adams’ alt-universe Flashes have potential, and insofar as his alien wrestling issue was a little corny, I geeked out to see a Bloodlines alien, for instance (the whole issue is drawn in wonderful, inane glory by Fernando Pasarin). The mystery as to the true identity of Warden Wolfe was good (the mystery more than the revelation), and I appreciated Adams tying the resolution all the way back to Wally’s trials in Flash Forward. The book isn’t stuck in the past, but it’s not ignorant of it, either.

But again, starting from the front, Girder is really no threat; the Dark Crisis tie-in is assured to put all the pieces where they came from to mesh with the crossover; “Wrestling Across the Multiverse” is a rare example in comics of totally pure, non-abusive alien gladiatorial battles; and nobody even has any angst (for the better, perhaps) about the pre-teen West kids being out there fighting supervillains. When all the Rogues attack Wally at once, I was reminded of the same in that horrific scene from Flash: The Fastest Man Alive: Full Throttle where Bart Allen died; here, Wally’s got nary a scratch. The books fun and it’s funny, but Adams never did really hold my attention.

Among the Wests, Adams' Wally is good, and his Jai and Irey were less annoying in the last book even if more annoying here. But I was partial to Mark Waid’s intrepid TV reporter Linda Park that took on Kobra with a laser cannon, so Adams' Linda, pulp novelist, has never sat quite right with me. That’s even more so in the Flash 2022 Annual collected here, where Adams insinuates — via Linda’s novel-within-a-story starring a Linda analogue — that novel-writing was always what she wanted to do and television reporting was just a side gig.

What seems an uncertain understanding of both the news business and the writing process — including that Wally’s only reading Linda’s book at the point she’s already talking book tours — is only the start of that annual’s troubles. Though there is likely self-congratulation among the creative team that the in-novel Linda character saves analogues of the Flash and friends from alien doom, the story equally suggests that Linda’s life didn’t amount to much before her husband came along to give her direction.

The danger of a seemingly all-male creative team is that no one second guesses things like Wally’s meant-to-be-romantic speech at the end of the story, where his high praise for Linda is “for the way you care for the kids [and] me.” Not to mention whomever approved that Linda’s newfound speed powers seem to stem from her being pregnant with Wally’s child (what seems a super-team concept by way of a Matt Fraction/Chip Zdarsky book). Though, cheers to seeing Dr. Mid-Nite Pieter Cross as Linda’s doctor; I didn’t know he was back (and I’m not sure it isn’t a gaffe!).

I’ve taken so long to read Dark Crisis and Flash Vol. 18: The Search for Barry Allen that the next Flash volume, “One Minute War,” just arrived, so I’ll probably turn to that next. This is wholesome Flash family fun, not unlike Peter Tomasi’s “young Jon” Superman run; there’s just not enough going on for my tastes.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Rating 2.0

Comments ( 4 )

  1. What exactly woumd you prefer that matches your tastes! Because frankly it sounds lije you were bad mouthing jeremy and his work. His run is more than passable good dude and men can write female characters just as well as women so stop with the exist talk! I will agree that the dark crisis stiff holds the volume back but that does not make the Adams run lesser

    1. It hardly needs to be said, but I'm not impugning Adams' whole body of work; I'd liked his last Flash volume and I liked the next, and I didn't particularly dislike this one. You're right that authors can certainly write characters with backgrounds different than their own — Greg Rucka is one prominent example that comes to mind, among many. For the annual collected here, I can't know all the circumstances of its creation, but I perceive a certain tone-deafness and that leads me to wonder if sufficient due diligence was done in its production.

  2. Adams' run seems to have been very well received, but I also felt like it was a bit too... "comfy," I guess? Despite the (supposedly) lighter tone of Dawn of DC, the new Flash run is much darker than this.

    1. "Comfy" is a good description — maybe what we've got here in essence are "cozy" superheroics, like cozy mysteries; Tom Taylor's Nightwing and Son of Kal-El, too. I'm not philosophically opposed to that, so much as I wonder if the market will tolerate such for a series about one of DC's top-tier Justice League heroes.


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