Review – The Flash #81: Speed Force Sacrifice

Comic Books DC This Week
Flash #81
The Flash #81 variant cover, via DC Comics.

The Flash #81 – Joshua Williamson, Writer; Scott Kolins, Artist; Luis Guerrero, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 9/10

Corrina: End of the Speedsters?

Ray: “Death of the Speed Force” has been the biggest arc of Williamson’s Flash run yet, and Flash #81 doesn’t disappoint with a story that sets up some major developments for the next arc. When we last left off, Barry Allen and Hunter Zolomon were trapped in the Speed Force pitted against the Black Flash as we discovered that the four Forces could be combined into one – and Hunter’s plan was to gain control of time itself.

But big plans don’t usually work out for villains, and the dimension is quickly collapsing upon itself and threatening the very source of the Flash’s powers. One thing this issue does very well is that it goes back to the Geoff Johns run for its characterization of Hunter, reminding us that he was actually an honest cop once and was twisted into evil by the tragedies of his life. It makes his decision as the issue enters its final act make a lot more sense – and potentially sets up Eobard Thawne as an even more dangerous and insidious villain than he appeared to be.

“Rogue’s Reign” starts next issue, and Williamson has been keeping the villains mostly off screen for this arc – just teasing their presence as Wallace and Avery chase them. But that subplot takes a big step up this issue as the two young speedsters find themselves with their powers on the fritz as the Rogues discover them. While most of the Rogues avoid killing heroes – too much heat on the group? – but Golden Glider seems to have no such hesitation, and the scene where she shows off just how dangerous her new costume and powers are is one of the best action set pieces of the issue. Flash #81 doesn’t offer any firm answers to exactly what happened at the end of the issue, but it seems like a major shake-up that’s going to take the speedsters off the table for a while and set up the Rogues’ takeover of Central City. This is how you build a run to what’s likely to be an epic conclusion in the coming year – unless Williamson is having too much fun to leave after 100.

Speed Force showdown. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: Williamson’s run has had its ups and downs but lack of ambition has never been one of its’ faults. With this arc, he’s brought in the Reverse Flashes, the Rogues, the Speed Force, and the young speedsters–at least the ones  who are available to him. (Now if he’s just stop teasing Barry/Iris and pulling back before anything interesting is done…)

However, the pacing in Flash #81 seems a bit off to me, especially with Hunter’s arc. There was a ton of focus on the other Force users in earlier issues, not so much on Hunter, but Flash #81 is somewhat devoted to recapping his life and it feels like catch-up. It also relies on reader memory of what has gone before but, hey, I haven’t read those issues. I get most of it in context but not all of the emotions or callbacks that Ray does.

So what’s next? Things get worse, it seems, though I’ll be bummed in Glider turns out to be an out-and-out villain. The Rogues are an odd group. They’re popular with readers, some of them have even been heroes, but every now and then they do something so villainous that I wonder how writers can use them as anti-heroes ever again. But, again, I suspect things are not as they seem.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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