The Flash squares off against the new villain Bloodwork who is terrorizing Central City with tendrils of blood. Barry knows this guy personally as he works with him so he definitely doesn’t want to hurt him, but he’s got to stop him before he injures anyone else. With the power of the Negative Speed Force raging inside him, he’ll have to slow down if he expects to win this fight.
The past few issues of The Flash have had an edgy, quick-to-anger Barry Allen as he came to grips with his perfect little life falling apart everywhere he turned. The Flash #31 shows the first step in a possible turning point as he starts to get over this hump. Bloodwork is essentially an exposed nerve, lashing out at the world around him as revenge for the poor hand he’s been dealt.
This is a nice mirror to Barry’s life as of late. It forces him to take a breath and manage this trouble instead of running headfirst into the action. It’s this quality that shows the growth of the character and what makes him a hero. In the end, Barry doesn’t battle Bloodwork with quick punches and kicks. He fights him with his mind, getting closer and closer to the villain until he can harness his powers and unleash a final blow.
Artist Neil Googe’s work in the Bloodwork fight is equal parts creepy and magnificent. There are shades of Akira and the Marvel villain Carnage in the design. Red tendrils full of blood are spiraling out of Bloodwork, covering nearby buildings and putting people in danger. Meanwhile, the man’s body is bulging and growing uncomfortably, as if large tumors are sprouting up all over him. His face has transformed into that of a monster, leaving nothing of the man he once was.
Colorist Ivan Plascencia casts a reddish hue over the entire scene, creating a claustrophobic feeling as the tendrils encircle Barry, forcing him to get creative to avoid them. The scene is set in the evening, however it feels like sunset with the tone displayed.
This all happens in the first half of the issue. The second half, illustrated by Gus Vasquez works to set up the next arc of The Flash, concentrating on Barry’s personal and work life. I’ve said before in numerous reviews how disappointing it is to have multiple artists on a single issue like this. I still feel the same way. The artwork is pretty good across the board, but the styles don’t match up, creating a jarring reading experience. I get that DC Comics is sticking to a schedule and churning these books out, but I wish there was a better way to keep the artwork more consistent, at least within a single issue, let alone an entire arc.
The Flash #31 ends on a moment of hope which has been missing from the title as of late. Barry is starting to turn his life around, picking up the pieces so he can finally move on and embrace his new status quo. In some ways he’s starting from scratch, unable to fully control his powers or his impulses. With the determination and good will he’s shown here, he’ll hopefully continue on this path and return to his usual bright-eyed, bushy-tailed self.