Best Moments in Comics

Flash #305 vol. 1 January 1982
Story title: “Don’t take my Wife – Please!”
Writer: Cary Bates
Artist: Carmine Infantino

Barry Allen awakes one night after having a scary dream in which Joan Williams Garrick, wife of the first Flash, Jay Garrick, then depicted as living on Earth-2, was abducted into what looked almost like hell. The next morning, after spending some time at work, he changes into his Flash costume and vibrates himself through to Earth-2 to visit the Garricks at their home on the outskirts of Keystone City. Upon meeting Jay there, he learns that he was out searching for Joan, and worries that the tragedy that befell him when his own wife, Iris West Allen, was murdered by Professor Zoom in 1979, may end up repeating itself for Jay. Unbeknownst to them, a gang of hoodlums has rigged the house with explosives, and while the house is wrecked in the blast, Jay and Barry are lucky to have by-passed the impact by vibrating through it. They track down the criminals, but, as told by one of the gang members, and, as confirmed by Dr. Fate, who’s arrived on the scene to help, they weren’t the ones who kidnapped Joan: it was an evil sorceror called the Lord of Limbo, who ruled over a private dimension of his own, who had kidnapped her along with many other alien beings from different worlds and timelines. Dr. Fate is able to project an image from within the world that shows that Joan is thankfully alive, since death is largely an impossibility within the Land of Limbo, which Barry once accidentally traveled into some time earlier. Through a combination of super-speed and magic, the two Flashes manage to enter the Land of Limbo, where they find both the many alien prisoners who were kidnapped by the Limbo Lord, and whom Barry had promised to return and help if he could. Jay is especially happy to finally find Joan there as well. With her help, they discover the portal through which she was apparently sucked into this world, and together, Barry and Jay succeed in reversing the flow direction so that it can be exited from within, and Dr. Fate is waiting on the outside to take care of everything else. Everyone takes their turn in jumping out of the portal, but as the last is about to do so, Barry grabs him and identifies him as being the Limbo Lord himself, who is as much a prisoner of his own dimension as his now freed subjects were. The angry Lord of Limbo then tries to assault the Flash, and Dr. Fate sends down what appears to be a lightning bolt intended to stop the villain, who thinks it was intended for him and pushes Barry towards it, but, as it turns out, it was really a teleportation spell to help transport Barry out of the Lord of Limbo’s reach, and the latter is then sealed within his own dimension by Dr. Fate forever. With the freed prisoners of Limbo then returned to their own worlds and times, Barry, Jay, Joan and Dr. Fate then return happily to their own.

Of all the stories I’ve read of the Scarlet Speedster from the first volume, this was one of the most entertaining, and was a real joy to read. Barry and Jay had plenty of exciting team-ups together at the time when DC wrote there as being two parallel universes and of the earth, those being Earth-1 and Earth-2, respectively, and it was in the Flash’s book where this was first done, in issue #123 of volume one, when Barry and Jay teamed up to deal with villains like the Shade and the Fiddler in “Flash of Two Worlds!” in 1961, and then in issue #129 in “Double Danger on Earth!” in 1962, where this time, they had to deal with some Barry’s own nemeses, such as Captain Cold. It would be their last team-up together, but it was one of the best.

Barry had entered the Lord of Limbo’s private hell earlier by accident in issue #284, and was lucky to have escaped that time. Here, he came back to help rescue the other prisoners he’d left behind, along with his best friend’s wife, who’d been taken prisoner there too, and whom he realized had also been kidnapped in order to lure both him and his fellow Flash into there for the purpose of helping the villain, a very tough one indeed, what with his vast magical abilities, to escape from his own dimension.

One of the things that made it a pleasure was how it evoked the Silver Age in a Bronze Age lens, and was intended as a throwback to the adventures of that great era, one when many people read comics for simple entertainment. Another helpful factor was the work of legendary artist Carmine Infantino, who’d returned to working on the book after 13 years. While his work on this book was far from being as perfect as the time when he’d first begun, he still did a swell job in evoking that era visually, and certainly with the inclusion of then Dr. Fate, Kent Nelson, a very facinating sorceror in his own way, and I really like that golden helmet of his! It’s so marvelous in design, and it’s great to see the current Dr. Fate, Hector Hall, wearing it in the JSA today.

Barry even takes instinctive precaution by making sure that Jay is out of the dimension of Limbo first, “because you’re the one who’s still got a wife, pal, and if anyone’s going to stay behind here, it’s going to be me!” Happily, at the end of the book’s run, Barry would have his own wife back too.

One of the best themes and messages featured in this story is how friendship and cooperation can help things out for the better for those in trouble who need it the most.

And how could that message be described here? Simple. A Flash in need is a Flash indeed.

This was originally published as a retrospective guest review on Hero Realm on December 2003.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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