After shaking Barry Allen to his very core, the Reverse-Flash stands delighted at what he’s forced his enemy to become. The Flash is imbued with the Negative Speed Force, turning his costume and skin darker. He’s like a Nega-Flash with black energy pulsing out of him instead of the signature yellow. Eobard Thawne has given Barry every reason to kill him. Can Barry resist in this altered state? And how will this affect his relationship with Iris?
This dismantling of Barry Allen is what has made The Flash such a great read since Rebirth launched. So many pieces have been put in place to get to this point. We’re used to happy-go-lucky Barry who loves his job, his mask, and the people around him. This isn’t grim-and-gritty Barry, but it’s one that realizes the consequences to his actions–or perhaps his lack of action–and how they affect those he cares about.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. A large portion of this issue is focused on an incredible fight between Flash and Reverse-Flash that takes them through time and around the world. This is what a battle at super speed can be. Artists Paul Pelletier & Howard Porter illustrate this perfectly. We see the characters beating the crap out of each other while bouncing from time period to time period. There are cavemen in one panel and soldiers in the next. They’re so evenly matched that it’s hard to tell who’s winning. Barry has to step over the line in order to stop his foe, but is he willing to do that?
This battle builds to a jaw-dropping and visually stunning full page spread that I desperately want to describe, but can’t without spoiling the issue. I love the way this action is shown as it does a great job of explaining exactly what is happening without the need of dialogue. Unfortunately, some of the impact of this moment is taken away by the fact that we’ve seen something similar, albeit in a slightly different manner, in a very recent issue.
What is more important in this issue is not the all-out fight between Flash and Reverse-Flash. It’s how this whole situation is affecting Barry as well as his relationship with Iris. This is what hits home. This is what will have lasting ramifications for the characters. Barry has wronged Iris. She’s pissed and she has every right to be. Despite Barry’s intentions, he lied to her and kept a lot from her that directly affects her life and that of her nephew, Wally. In hindsight, there’s no good reason why he didn’t tell her he’s the Flash. At least, there’s no defensible reason.
Barry has this moment of hope as he’s trying to put things back together. He points out that the future is not written in stone, regardless of what they’ve seen already. To him, this means that he can stop his children from turning into villains. To Iris, that means something entirely different. This speaks volumes. It’s fitting that the final panel in the future Flash museum is in the “Tragedies of the Flash” exhibit.
This issue is bookended with excerpts from Thawne’s foreword to “The Life and Times of the Flash, the World’s Greatest Hero.” The quotes are bittersweet, especially with the final pages. Writer Joshua Williamson really drives home the emotional factor of the book.
The Flash #27 delivers on multiple fronts. You’ve got an epic super hero battle that spans time and space, but you also have some compelling character drama that hits to the root of who Barry Allen is and what he hopes to be. It also goes to show just how evil Reverse-Flash is. You may think he already hurt Barry enough when he went back in time and killed his mother. Clearly, he was not yet satisfied as his actions here take that nemesis status to a whole new level.