The Flash Archives, Vol. 5 Hardcover – Mar 31 2009
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Issue 133 has a fantastic cover of Abra Kadabra turnung Flash into a wooden puppet. The lead story, "The Plight of the Puppet-Flash," has Flash humiliated by a puppet creation of the magician from the future. The puppet-Flash must find a way to defeat the puppet Captain Creampuff and then capture Abra Kadabra. Silver Age silliness at its best. The Kid-Flash back-up story, "Secret of the Handicapped Boys," is a human interest story where Kid-Flash shows off his abilities to entertain handicapped children and learns that three of them can be trusted with a great secret.
Issue 134 sports another great cover, this time featuring Flash, Elongated Man and Captain Cold. "The Man who Mastered Absolute Zero!" has Flash and Elongated Man solving the mystery of a malfunctioning computer and battling Captain Cold. The back-up tale, "The Threat of the Absent-Minded Professor," introduces Professor West, the father of Iris West (girlfriend of Barry Allen, Flash's civilian secret identity).
Issue 133 has another classic cover showing how Kid-Flash got his new uniform. The full-length novel, "Secret of the Three Super-Weapons," is a perfect example of the creativity of the team behind The Flash. Once they decided that Kid-Flash should have a unique costume rather than a small version of The Flash's outfit, they created an entire story around it. The tale is another entertaining story of Flash and Kid-Flash saving the world from invaders from another dimension. At the story's end, Kid-Flash is shown using an "inter-dimentional letter dispatcher" to send a message to a female from another dimension who assited him in saving the earth. This device forshadows email decades before the internet came about!
Issue 136 features the return of one of Flash's first and most pesky foes in "The Mirror Master's Invincible Bodygaurds." While any siver-age story with Mirror Master is a treat, the back-up tale, "Barry Allen--You're The Flash!--and I Can Prove It!," is fairly forgetable.
Issue 137 is a true classic with a great cover and an important story written by Gardner Fox. "Vengeance of the Immortal Villian!" not only has The Flash and the golden-age Flash matching wits to save their worlds, but also the entire Justice Society of America. It also contains the origin of Vandal Savage. Fox ties in a golden-age story from "All-Star Comics" No. 37 and forshadows the re-activation of the JSA and their annual team-ups with the JLA.
Issue 138 marks the return of the Elongated Man, who assits Flash's battle with an old foe in "The Pied Piper's Double Doom!" Although author Gardner Fox did not create the Pied Piper, he effectively utilizes the rouge and his special powers to produce another winner. The Kid-Flash back up, "Mystery of the Matinee Idol!," is best know for its introduction of Dexter Miles, who would later become the curator of the Flash Museum.
Issue 139 introduces one of Flash's deadliest rouges in "Menace of the Reverse-Flash!" The full-length novel has Flash racing to the future to prevent an atomic explosion and encountering the man who would later wreck havic on Flash and Iris. The story provides a great origin story for the new villian, who is the opposite of Flash, even down to wearing a costune that is the reverse of the outfit worn by The Flash. Infantino effectively draws the battles between the red speedster and his evil yellow-clad foe.
Issue 140 gives us another great cover with Flash being attacked by Captain Cold and a new villian, Heat Wave. "The Heat is on...for Captain Cold" has a human interest angle and Flash using his mental and physical abilities to defeat two rouges. Flash must also use his brain and body to defeat "The Metal-Eater from the Stars" in the back-up tale written by Gardner Fox. It's a decent story, but it comes across more like an Adam Strange adventure than a Flash story.
Issue 141 features the return of the villainous Top in "The Mystery of Flash's Third Identity." It also introduces Paul Gambi, who we learn is the tailor who makes those colorful costumes worn by the super villains of Flash's hometown, Central City. The back-up sotry, "Slowdown in Time!," marks the return of Professor West, who is using Einstein's theory of relativity and time paradox to prove that Barry Allen and The Flash are one in the same.
As with all of the early silver-age stories of The Flash, these are fantasy masterpieces that you can read to a child without fear of encountering grisley murders. I enjoyed reading these stories as a seven and eight year old and find them just as entertaining now as I did then.
I remember one episode in particular, where Toy Man literally creates a universe inside of a black hole, trapping the Super Friends. At one point, he turns Wonder Woman into a pinball to play in a gigantic pinball machine. That's right - Superman's pesky Golden Age foe, the Toy Man, is the most powerful being in the universe. And you know what? I didn't care in the least. After all - I didn't watch Super Friends to be reminded of what I saw in school.
Silver Age Flash? He gets that. He doesn't care about physics, or science (despite what the editor's notes might have you believe). An advertisement turns him into a puppet? Ho hum. An enemy battles him with mirror images...that are literally inside mirrors? Just another day at the job. Despite the fact that he can run at light speed, he can't figure out a way to keep someone from seeing him change clothes? So what? He'll figure out a way to vibrate his molecules and fix everything.
The fact is, this is what comics should be. Pure, escapist fun. As another reviewer mentions, Flash doesn't worry about paying the rent. He might have some relationship issues, but only because that silly Iris West is always complaining about him being late. And sure - he is probably ruining the life of a child by demanding that he not even consult with his parents about his super powers, but so what? It all works out in the end. We're here to be ENTERTAINED, and the Flash understands that. So, we get the wildest, trippiest storylines with absolutely no basis in our reality, because honestly, why would we want to be based in our reality? A mirror world sounds so much more interesting! Why worry about science, anyway - we have a random, high-school dropout that can create temperatures of absolute zero! Cold fusion has been obtained...in the sixties!
Sorry - I got off track. The point is, the Flash archives continue to be great fun. I don't even knock a star for the somewhat mediocre physicals (this is a later archive, with the ultra-glossy paper that's very thin, as opposed to earlier incarnations). This comic is just too much fun! Feel free to read some of the other excellent reviews for more info on the stories. But I say, if you love comics, this is a great comic.
On the other hand, if you think superhero comics lost relevance and were only saved by the likes of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, well, what are you doing here, anyway?