Flash Month continues in our Retro Review corner!  More than any other hero (save perhaps Hawkman, whose history is a convoluted mess that makes calculus look simple) The Flash’s legacy is one of continuity and legacy.  But just how far will that legacy actually last?  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Flash Special #1 awaits!

FlashSpecial1CoverFLASH SPECIAL #1
Writer: Mark Waid/Len Strazewski/Gerard Jones/William Messner-Loebs
Penciler: Mike Parobeck/Irv Novick/Carmine Infantino/Grant Miehm/Paris Cullins
Inker: Jose Marzan Jr./Dick Giordano/Josef Rubinstein/Tim Dzon/Paris Cullins
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Letterer: Tim Harkins/Albert DeGuzman/Gaspar Saladino
Editor: Brian Augustyn
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $5.00

Previously in Flash Special:  Thus far during our Flash Month Retro Review Bonanza, we’ve been looking at the more bizarre Silver Age adventures of Barry Allen, the second and most prominent Flash in many ways.  But, regardless of what Geoff Johns might have you believe, he’s not the first hero to carry the Mantle of The Flash, nor is he the only one that will be remembered centuries from now.  To wit, we open in the mid-27th Century…


Why has John Fox chosen to pull the ol’ Quantum Leap looking for help?  It all boils down to one man, the alliterative and sinister person known as Manfred Mota.  We, along with Scientist Fox, leap back 700 years or so to approximately 1947 (back-dated from movie marquees and a character we’ll get to in a moment) as we find Jay Garrick, The Flash, rushing to Washington to answer a summons from one of the most powerful political forces in his world: J. Edgar Hoover.  Hoover hands him a list of names, all citizens of Keystone City who Hoover believes might be guilty of selling secrets of American technology to Communist regimes…FlashSpecial12

Jay agrees to help, but refuses to spy on men without proof (which plants a seed of doubt in Hoover’s mind that students of DCU lore will recognize as bearing fruit in 1951), and speeds off back home.  He quickly discovers, through the power of convenience, that the custodian at his own lab is the one selling secrets, and checking in with his old friend Elliot, discovers another problem name on the list: Manfred Mota.  Mota has created a super-identity of his own, and quickly, Flash and Elliot are crossing swords with Atom-Smasher!


During that battle, John Fox tries to communicate with Jay, only to get pushed further down the timestream.  This entire chapter is impressive work, aping the general tone and pacing of actual Golden Age books, with old-school Flash artist Irv Novick doing a lovely pastiche of Harry Lampert and E.E. Hibberd, original Flash artists.  Jump forward to the Silver Age (eternally 15 years ago, for varying values of “Now”), as Barry Allen experiments with his Cosmic Treadmill, preparing to make his first use of super-speed to travel in time.  (For those keeping score, that means a point sometime before Flash #125, which came out in 1951.)  Unfortunately for Barry Allen, while Manfred Mota was jailed by his predecessor years ago, the villain has begun planning for his epic return…


This issue features art by Carmine Infantino, one of the more notable artists of Barry’s original adventures, and even uses a slight variation in style to ape his earlier art, a detail that I very much appreciate.  Mota, dubbing himself Professor Fallout, quickly runs afoul of the second Flash, and once again gets in the first shot…


Mota holds the city hostage, placing The Flash (whom he believes to be the same man he clashed with back in ’47) in a death-trap and preparing to take his money…

…and THEN blow up the city anyway.  But, if you’ve been paying attention these last few weeks, you know that Barry Allen’s real super-power is pulling pseudo-science out of his back-pocket at precisely the right moment, and so his experiments with the Cosmic Treadmill prove to be the key to defeated P.F.


But, the adulation of the masses proves to be a problem for John Fox, who is once again stymied in his attempts to warn The Flash of the danger Manfred Mota poses to the future of their world…


The story even ends with a cute-yet-vaguely-misogynistic run-in with the lovely Iris West, before we transition forward to meet up with her nephew, Wally, early in his career as the third Flash.  (If you’re particularly worried, it’s probably somewhere between issue 25 and 50 of his own series, during a “down” period in his financial ups and downs.)


The door to Wally’s apartment suddenly bursts open, revealing not creditors, but a desperate woman, panicked beyond hope about her angry, radioactive boyfriend…


After years of captivity (though clearly not thirty years, as the story states, for a number of reasons), Mota has finally flipped his cork, burned his lid, dropped the cheese off his cracker and gone full bore El Bonzo Seco, and transitioned his power-source from atomic to nuclear energy.  (No, I don’t know how that works, either.)  But as he’s leaving, Wally bumps into a familiar man in a familiar trenchcoat…


Pity poor John Fox.  He’s getting to see the beautiful worlds of the past close up, but has to spend all his time in haberdasheries and raincoat shops, only to leave the damn things behind with his next leap.  Sam Beckett Syndrome is a bummer.  For the third time, a Flash crosses swords with Manfred Mota, and for the third time, a Flash is overwhelmed by his first attack.  Mota is angry to find that this isn’t “his” Flash, but instead some young kid, and throws Wally aside in anger.  Though not the scientist his uncle and adoptive grampa are, Wally consults with a real nuclear scientist, and uses his abilities to cause Mota to melt down…


John Fox once again arrives to try to warn The Flash, but is too late, as his tachyon-powered time travel pack pulls him back to his future, where the worst has happened:  After 7 centuries at the core of the planet, Manfred Mota has returned…


Mota causes a massive explosion that consumes the science center, causing an overload “tachyon retroflow” that proceeds to modify the e-band wave, invert the polarity of the neutron flow, go into Toschi Station to pickup power converters and fire photon torpedoes just as John Fox arrives back home.  He has failed in his mission to warn the super-speedsters of the past, and now his world is doomed…

FlashSpecial113Then again, there’s always the chance that things aren’t quiet as dark as they might have initially seemed…


Manfred Mota’s time at the center of the Earth has not diminished his mania about men in winged headgear, and he rages through The Flash Museum, still infuriated at the sight of men with lightning bolts on their chest.  (Where’s Captain Marvel when you really need him?)  Where Jay Garrick fell, where Barry Allen failed, where Wally West came up short, John Fox steps into the fray…


…and a new Flash is born!  Best of all, the new Flash has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the adventures of the previous Flashes, and quickly uses Barry’s Cosmic Treadmill to take Mota on a trip through the timestream, ricocheting him fifty million years into the future, long enough for Mota’s shell of plutonium to decay into harmless lead.  Fox’s last words to the enemy of all Flashes: “Never mess with a particle physicist, jerk!”


The story ends with John attending the re-opening of the Flash museum, musing that even though no one has seen the new Flash since the battle with Mota, “legends live forever.”  It’s a pretty cool story, and sharp-eyed readers will not that “John Fox” is named as an amalgam of John Broome, the writer who created Barry Allen AND Wally West, and Gardner Fox, the writer who created Jay Garrick.  Fox would later appear in Mark Waid’s time-spanning run of Flash that examined the history and legacy of The Flash throughout the centuries, and even taking over as the modern-era Flash for a while in the 1990s.  Even so, Flash Special #1 serves as a touching tribute to the history and creators of The Flash, and gets to acknowledge the passing of time in ways that most comic books (ESPECIALLY comics from 1990) never got to, earning a well-deserved 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  If you’ve ever wondered what old-timers are yowling about when we lament the loss of continuity at the mercy of the New 52, this book should serve as a perfect example…



A nice anniversary story, featuring themes of legacy and heroism that serve as precursor for Waid's later epic century-spanning Flash stories...

User Rating: 4.45 ( 1 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


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