Retro Review: The Flash #133 (December 1962)

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August is Flash Month in our Retro Review Corner!  This time around, we ask that musical question: What DOES it feel like when one is being mystically puppetized?  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Flash #133 awaits!

Flash133CoverTHE FLASH #133
Writer: John Broome
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Joe Giella/Murphy Anderson
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $300.00

Previously in The Flash:  It was a one-in-a-million accident: As police scientist Barry Allen stood in his lab, surrounded by “every chemical compound known to man”, a freak lightning bolt smashed through the chemicals, blah blah blah fishcakes.  Having battled world-beaters, petty criminals, goons with gimmicks and a telepathic gorilla, Barry Allen has been around the block a few times by the winter of ’62.  Just a few months prior, he first crossed swords with a man from the 64th Century whose dream of being a stage magician was rendered obsolete by the advanced technology of his world.  Traveling back to the present (of fifty years ago), the man now known as Abra Kadabra clashed with the Flash and wound up jailed for his troubles.  Of course, we all know that won’t last…

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It’s interesting, as one who watches old art, how much Joe Giella’s inks dominate the art in this issue, to the point where it almost doesn’t feel like an Infantino issue at all.  Anyway, thanks to a perfectly aligned array of kitchen utensils, Kadabra is legally released from custody, which catches they eye of young police scientist Barry Allen, who ditches his lady-friend Iris to leap into action as his crimson-cowled alter-ego…

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I’m bothered by a few things about this situation, but the biggest of them is that the governor of whatever state contains Central City is referred to by his underlings as “Your Excellency.”  Taking advantage of his newfound freedom, Kadabra sets off on a new career, a show using life-sized puppets to mock the Flash, repeatedly having him get beaten repeatedly by “Captain Creampuff.”  Believing that his effectiveness as a crime-fighter would be destroyed by such calumny, The Flash sets out on a campaign to take down even more crime than before…

Flash1333Flash’s efforts not only restore his good name, they cause attendance at Kadabra’s puppet-show to plummet, as no one believed that a… puppet…  could…  I dunno.  The whole thing makes as much sense as what happens next, which is to say, nil…

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The show is an even bigger hit with the new content, but Kadabra makes two fatal mistakes: He leaves The Flash his mind, to ensure that Flash knows how badly Kadabra has humiliated him.  Secondly (and most damning) he forgets that this is the Silver Age of Comics, where most problems are solved by the hero suddenly developing new powers…Flash1335

Is it just me, or is the puppet Flash really weird-looking in ways that don’t seem entirely intentional?  I really liked the intricate puppet-look from the cover, but this is… kinda creepy.  Indeed, I actually bought this comic years ago, based entirely on the promise of the puppet Flash, and remember being disappointed at how it didn’t look like the cool design on the cover.

Either way, Deus Ex Machina saves the day!

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Also, if you didn’t realize, Flash’s reporter girlfriend Iris West was nothing more than a shadow of Lois Lane, trying to get to the bottom of the Flash’s secret identity as her defining character trait.  Our backup story features Kid Flash (back when he wore an identical costume to his mentor) in a story that is rather inappropriately titled “The Secret Of The Handicapped Boys.”  Kid Flash has agreed to come and spend a day at a camp for kids with disabilities, but late in the afternoon, three of the lads slip him a note to meet him in the hills, so that they can share a shocking bit of news with their hero…

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Luckily for Dave, Harry and Freddy, Kid Flash is on hand to save them from a freak accident and a terrible crushing death, and leaves the scene in a blur, hoping beyond hope that his no-longer-secret identity won’t be revealed to everyone in Blue Valley…

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Wally puts the statue in a place of honor in his room, to remind him of three young men of great character to whom he owes a great debt.  The weirdest part of this issue is how bland it all is, lacking a lot of the wild ideas that I associate with the writing of John Broome, instead giving The Flash another ability that only vaguely relates to his speed, with a backup story that is cute, but ultimately forgettable.  The Flash #133 is memorable for its iconic cover, but ends up as the comic book equivalent of vanilla yogurt, reminding us that no matter what Geoff Johns tells you, not all Barry Allen tales are gems, ending up with a slightly below-average 2 out of 5 stars overall.  What madness will befall the Scarlet Speedster next week?  Watch the skies!

[rating=2/5]