Best Moments in Comics

Flash #19 Vol. 2, December 1988

Story title: “A Meeting of Rogues”
Writer: William Messner-Loebs
Artist: Jim Mooney

Bonus book story: “Blood Ties”
Writer: Hank Kanalz
Artist: Bill Knapp

Synopsis (for Flash story):
Wally West, whose taken over as the third Flash for his late uncle Barry Allen, and Chester “Chunk” Runk, the overweight scientist who turned himself – literally – into a “human blackhole”, are watching some Laurel & Hardy videos during one winter afternoon when Connie Noleski, a model from west Texas who Wally’s been dating at the time, comes over to see him, and being the cynic that he was characterized as back then, Wally asks Chunk to take a walk around the neighborhood – when Chunk himself just so happens to own the house now – for about an hour, while Wally and Connie have a tryst indoors. Wally’s received a letter from the Rogues Gallery, then mostly retired from their criminal activities, inviting him to attend a reunion party being held for Captain Cold at a hotel in New York City, and since Connie would like go someplace else besides just making out indoors, so he decides to take her on a trip to join in the fun. The Rogues’ aren’t all that pleased at first, since it was actually a joke being played by the first Trickster, James Jesse, himself, who didn’t expect Wally to actually take it seriously, but they welcome him and Connie to join in the evening of fun.

The bunch of former crooks includes such former Rogues’ as Captain Cold and his sister, Golden Glider, Heatwave, Trickster, Captain Boomerang, Weather Wizard, Rainbow Raider, Dr. Alchemy, and even ones who weren’t actually part of the Central City cast, such as Doctor T.O. Morrow and the Gentleman Ghost. And they’re all both celebrating and having feuds at the same time, what with George “Digger” Harkness getting Roy Bivolo mad at one point, and Connie and Lisa Snart having a friendly girl’s chat on the other. Albert Desmond, who’s acted a bit boorish around Connie at first, apologizes to her by turning her bracelet into 24-karat gold with the Philosopher’s Stone, though because it was a present from her grandma, he sets things back to normal. Chunk later turns up to confront Wally about his taking advantage of him, and is calmed down when invited to join the party as well (“you don’t want to know,” Wally tells Cold when he asks what Chunk would’ve done if not invited). Things really start to heat up when Weather Wizard is found to be spying on them with a hidden camera/tape recorder for the National Snoop, and to cause distraction for the angry party members, causes a whole rainstorm inside the hotel dining hall they’re in, and Chunk accidentally brings a whole bunch of thugs he’d sent into another dimension for trying to wrong him into the regular world once again, causing more mayhem indoors. At the end, Wally, Connie, Captain Cold, Chunk and Golden Glider sit outside the hotel discussing themselves and what they thought of everything that night.

Synopsis (for Blue Trinity’s Blood Ties story):
The three young Russians, Boleslaw Uminski, Gregor Gregorovich, and Christina Alexandrova, who were trained to become super-speedsters when the USSR government wanted to try and come up with a formula to duplicate the Flash’s speed after seeing how he helped rescue a boat with local citizens from the sea in 1968, now confront their mentor, Pyotr Orloff, who defected to the US later on, about how they first began, and what led to their becoming speedsters just like the Flash himself. Orloff tells them about how his late partner, Krulik, had actually begun doing tests upon them, and even at one point stole some serum that wasn’t properly developed, trying it on himself, which turned out to be a mistake, since using the underdeveloped formula caused him to die from the lack of a full speed aura (or speed force, if to put it in Mark Waid’s later terms), and his own metabolism. Orloff then took care to bring up the three Russian speedsters himself so as to make sure they didn’t suffer the same fate. They later became agents for the Soviet army.

Now demanding an explanation as what really happens, Orloff tries to explain, but is unable to convince them, and soon, when his new Red Trinity arrives, the six of them together engage in a battle with each other, and Orloff has to shout to make them stop. Christina then tells him that she for one believes him, and then Blue Trinity decides to leave without causing any more hassle. Orloff sadly bids them farewell.

Comment:
This issue was unbelievably one of the funniest and most engaging stories I’ve ever read from the time since Barry Allen’s death involving the Rogues’ Gallery, mostly, but not all, out of the crime business then, throwing a party to honor Captain Cold/Len Snart. They’re all appropriately their flaky selves, and that’s where the story draws most of its humor – and impact – from.

Wally at the time was depicted as having deteriorated into being a jerk, and following the loss of the fancy villa he’d won in a lottery, was now trying to recover from his cynical ways of then. Until then though, he’d taken advantage of Chunk, whom he asked to take a stroll outdoors while he and his then ladyfriend Connie Noleski, a model from west Texas, made love in the living room (best part here is where he tells her that her Texas accent is sexy, and she plays up to that delightfully when pointing out that she’d like to go someplace more than just be inside the house). There’s even a great part at the beginning where Wally tells Chunk about how uncle Barry did have one certain fear in flying, and that was that if he’d been in a commercial airline flight, that what if it exploded in mid-air, while he may be able to suspend himself in time via his famous vibratory steps, he’d still be a goner, because up there in the sky, it’s far less easy to avoid an explosion than it would’ve been on the ground. Indeed, I can’t say I know of that many stories myself where Barry ever took an actual flight on an airplane, but either way, Loebs manages to make it sound very believable here. It was probably meant to reflect the time when terrorism became an even more growing threat to the world, and Barry, I’m sure, would’ve been just as aware, maybe even more, of the dangers that could come with it.

The retired-or-not villains group, which also consists of a few characters who weren’t actually adversaries of Barry’s, but may have fought him as well back in the day, includes also Doctor T.O. Morrow, whom Lisa Snart describes as possibly having seen the future himself, since he built himself a time machine once, and one of the most amusing things I noticed about Albert Desmond, alias Dr. Alchemy/Mr. Element, aside from making “evil twin jokes” was that his hair was red, in contrast to the yesteryear when his hair was actually black. No doubt about it, in all his goofiness, which came as the result of the Philosopher’s Stone, which had some nutty effects on his personality, he must’ve actually turned his hair color from black to red!

Golden Glider also has by far one of her best moments too as Barry’s only female nemesis, chatting with Connie and having some girl talk, and while hers may have only been a personal vendetta at the time, she too sounds as nutso as the rest. And Trickster/James Jesse is as prankish as ever, confronting Wally with a toy pistol, which gives Wally a chance to show off his speed in grabbing it away from him to show that, while his speed wasn’t as much then as it is today, he was still effective enough, and it proved a very amusing scene as well. The dialogue for all the crooks here was so perfectly timed, and in tune with their character as well.

The book also includes a pretty good bonus story in which the origin of Blue Trinity was told, who made their debut at a time when the then crumbling Soviet Empire was thought to be a good topic for social commentary in comics, not something you see too often in comics today. Christina Alexandrova, who had once had an affair with Wally, ended up becoming first a slave to Vandal Savage, becoming addicted to the Velocity 9 drug he'd been conconcting at the time, and then later a follower of Waid's villain called Savitar, another speedster. After the apparent demise of Savitar, she tried to find ways to bring him back by searching for a scroll that female speedster Jessie Quick took from his library, though of course, Jessie was able to thwart her.

The artwork by Mooney (and Knapp) is excellent, and Connie is drawn simply yummy and splendidly.

At the end, Len Snart gave a very touching speech to Wally about how they could’ve been kings, but instead, “we’re just clowns.” Maybe, but very entertaining clowns at that. And, as Wally tells him, “you sure know how to throw a good party!”

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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