Eobard Thawne is a world-class jerk from the future, but he wasn’t the FIRST Reverse-Flash.  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Flash Comics #104 awaits!


Writer: John Broome/Arthur Adler/Robert Kanigher
Penciler: Joe Kubert/Carmine Infantino/Arthur Peddy/Paul Reinman
Inker: Joe Kubert/Bernard Sachs/Paul Reinman
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth/Julius Schwartz
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $10,000.00
Release Date: December 6, 1948

Previously in Flash ComicsJay Garrick was a college student experimenting on something called Hard Water when an accident filled his lab with gas.  Jay was rendered unconscious, but breathing in the fumes had an amazing effect on him, giving him the power to move, think and talk faster than the speed of light itself!  Donning an amazing helmet and a so-so costume, he took to fighting crime with his speed, both on his own and as a member of the Justice Society of America.  But have you ever wondered what happened to the rest of the Hard Water formula?

If you did, you’re not the only one, as The Flash’s former professor, Edward Clariss is taken by a group of super-speed criminals whose unseen boss has an announcement for The Flash: He now has a Rival in speed.  The troubling thing, though, is their choice of target.  After all, if they took Clariss to hurt The Flash, doesn’t that mean that they know Flash is actually Jay Garrick?  Jay’s friend Joan is reminded that she once shared a theory with a fellow student about the origin of Flash’s speed, and the Scarlet Speedster sets out to check out that lead.

Spoiilers: The gang is once again a step ahead.  I really enjoy this issue’s art, with pencils by a young Carmine Infantino, who would become notorious for drawing a later Flash a decade hence.  The speed effects of multiple Rival gang members against Jay are very well rendered, and he does one of the best mercury helmets I can remember.  Sadly, being outnumbered means that The Flash gets taken down, but The Rival has given strict orders to bring him in alive.

Rival, who is sometimes referred to (although not in these pages) as Reverse-Flash, knows his speed stuff.  not only recreating the super-speed Hard Water but creating a variant that slows someone as much as the original version speeds them up.  Now the Slowest Man Alive, Jay has to figure out a way to stop his foe.  Fortunately, his chemistry knowledge isn’t slowed by Rival’s formula.

Nearly asphyxiating himself but getting his powers back, The Flash leaps into action, tracking down Rival’s broadcast array and following the trail to the villain’s next target.  Fortunately, the thugs lose their speed in mid-fight, as Rival’s formula only gives temporary speed, allowing the Flash to make short work of the thugs and go for the Scooby-Doo ending, twenty years early.

It’s Old man Clariss of the old abandoned university laboratory!  Turns out that Clariss found the leftover formula, but couldn’t ever quite figure out the secret to permanent super-speed, and that he knows for a fact that The Flash is…

…somebody who sneaked into the lab after Jay Garrick was carried off to the hospital!  It makes perfect sense!  As for Joan, she is reminded not to give away her boyfriend’s secrets with loose talk, ending the issue writing “I don’t know who The Flash is” over and over on her blackboard.  The rest of this comic contains an okay Hawkman story with art by Joe Kubert, Infantino drawing The Ghost Patrol, Bob Oksner drawing The Atom and a Black Canary tale.  Flash Comics #104 is also the last Golden Age issue of the book, as the superhero genre was waning by 1949, but it’s a good enough issue to snag a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Barry Allen’s book will pick up the Flash numbering in a decade or so, and The Flash and most of his Flash Comics co-stars would continue to appear in Justice Society adventures through mid-1951, but this is the end of the line, the end of an era and the end of Jay Garrick’s solo book.

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The End of an Era

It's a well-drawn comic book, with interesting chapters of story that don't feel out of the ordinary, as though the creators weren't aware is was the last issue.

But it starts a tradition of evil versions of The Flash that has become almost ridiculous now.

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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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