The Flash #54 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Christian Duce, Artist; Ivan Guerrero, Colorist
Ray – 8.5/10
Corrina: Weird Tonal Shifts
Ray: The first of the three new forces emerged in this arc, and The Flash #54 brings the story of the Strength Force to a close for now. When we last left off, the Strength Force was killing The Trickster, who became possessed by it and was using it to exact revenge on his enemies. Flash got him to Iron Heights, where an experiment put a part of that force into him – transforming him into a massive, hulking powerhouse. I love the opening narration which talks about the time Flash was transformed into a puppet – one of the most iconic ridiculous Silver Age covers. Williamson knows his comic book lore! But this isn’t a jokey issue – the Strength Force is deeply unpredictable and it’s quickly threatening everyone there. Complicating this is the fact that the cruel Warden Wolfe has no issue with killing both of them, and Commander Cold is going along with the plan because he thinks it’s for the greater good. This sets up a tense opening fight as Flash has to stop their enemies, save Trickster – and of course, save himself.
Christian Duce is a great choice as a guest artist for this arc because he manages to make the Strength Force genuinely monstrous. Both Flash and Trickster look like something inhuman, growing to unnatural sizes and brimming with muscles and rage. Despite this, there’s still humanity under the surface of both of them, and while Barry manages to figure out how to use the Strength Force to master gravity, it’s Trickster who pulls off the issue’s most heroic feat. But it doesn’t come without a price, and he seemingly sacrifices himself in the process. I was not quite as interested in the conflict that developed in this issue – Barry not trusting Commander Cold after the events of this arc makes sense, but was also the most predictable way this could go. The rift with Iris that starts developing due to the secrets she’s keeping was more irritating to me – can’t Barry have one functioning relationship in this series? However, the big cliffhanger at the end of the issue won me back in a big way, with the return of one of my favorite obscure Flash characters. This title continues to unravel a long-game mystery with lots of highs.
Corrina: I like callbacks to jokey Silver Age covers. But it’s often difficult to integrate them into the more serious stories of today. And this is one of those times. I liked the Strength Force and how Barry learned to counter its effects, and I enjoyed the new Trickster’s determination to be a better person. His sacrifice had, well, weight.
But the two elements didn’t exactly integrate well. I’m not sure weight and gravity work like that, even with such an imaginary thing as the Strength Force, and it was taken too seriously in the context of the story. Pair that with Barry being angry and alone again, and this is a weird combination of stories that might work separately but don’t gel together.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.