The Sultan of Speed

This post continues an issue-by-issue review of DC Comics 100-page Super-Spectaculars with The Flash from April 1972. I only discovered and bought this issue this summer, so, yet again, I’m not recollecting it from a childhood perspective. However, it’s a more entertaining package than the previous pair.

The Gantlet of Super-Villains: This was the second time I’d been disappointed by an assemblage of Flash’s Rogues Gallery (the first being “The Man Who Doomed The Flash” in this summer’s Flash 100-page Spectacular, where they appear in one panel each) This is a really classy-looking story but the assault by a sextet of villains turns out to be a scheme by Grodd. The subplot about lovesick gorillas is very silly and undermines the drama. I am also ridiculously irritated by the idiosyncratic use of “gantlet”, when the word is spelled “gauntlet”- twice!- on the reprinted cover. This issue doesn’t feature a key of super-heroes, despite all the characters on the cover (including  tiny versions of Abra Kadabra and Mr. Element, who don’t even appear inside).

Quicksilver vs. The Wasp: This was the first time I’d ever read a story of the Quality Comics speedster who’d come to be known as Max Mercury. There are no credits on the story but it’s exceedingly well-drawn and the eponymous villain is in the classic Golden Age mould, both creepy and a little comical.

The Face Behind the Mask: This is a rather sweet short about Kid Flash’s friendship with a pop idol called Silver Mask, whose gimmick is, er, wearing a mask. Silver Mask is also a reformed teen hoodlum who is being blackmailed by an gang member -turned- crook.  Little Wally West might come across as a bit of a goody-goody but there’s a touching moment when he reflects on how his sense of duty impinges on his opportunities to just be a kid.

The Modern Paul Bunyan: A slender folk tale from the early 50s, I’m afraid this boring, bucolic story did nothing for me. I can’t even focus on the panels.

The Tale of the Three Tokens: This was another Golden Age inventory story but one ruined, yet again,  by the application of too many obscuring,inky shadows. It features The Thinker- but I much prefer the Gil Kane iteration from the Sixties.  It’s also the first time that I saw a resemblance between the bushy-browed Jay- Flash and Carmine Infantino.

The Flaming Doom: And this was the first time I’d read the origin story of the Metal Men. In their battle against a flying, radioactive giant manta-ray, the robots are charming, loyal and self-sacrificing. The Andru/Esposito art team is so associated with Spider-Man in my unconscious that this feels more like a Marvel strip. My favourite issues of Brave & Bold team the dread Batman with these quirky robots. I’m surprised they never had a cartoon show.

The Weather Wizard Blows Up A Storm: The eighth Flash-foe to appear in this giant issue, the Weather Wizard also has a luxuriant quiff. Infantino’s pencils are gorgeous and witty in this short and there’s a memorable scene where the villain escapes on a rainbow. In a charming instance of audience identification. the real hero of the story is a nerdy boy scientist.

For me, The Flash is like Iron Man and not just in terms of his colour scheme: I’ve read lots-lots!– of comics with both heroes  (although Flash featured more and better arch-villains) but they never really spoke to me. Flash has the upper hand somewhat since the artwork was superior and he wasn’t, you know, an arms dealer. Of all the speedsters, I actually prefer Wally-Flash when he’s played as Johnny Storm in the Animated Justice League.

Next: The Boy of Steel

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners


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