When we last left Barry Allen, he had discovered the Rogues had been running a criminal empire from beneath Iron Heights prison. He was stuck in an absolute zero energy field at the mercy of Captain Cold. Things were not looking good. Help comes from an unlikely source, allowing Barry to rise up and do what he does best.
In many ways, The Flash #38 is an end. It’s the end of this first phase of Barry’s story since DC Rebirth began. Throughout a chunk of the issue, Barry is recapping recent events of his life and not just within this storyline. It puts this arc into perspective. He’s been struggling for awhile, and every time he sticks his head up, he gets his teeth kicked in. The guy desperately needs a win. He sees this as his last chance to get things right and get his life back on track.
First he has to get through Captain Cold which is easier said than done. Snart is ruthless here and he’s got the Flash dead to rights. Artist Scott Kolins showcases the brutal battle, although I hesitate to use that word as it’s very one-sided. Snart beats the snot out of the Flash. You can feel the intensity of each blow. They’re fueled by so much hatred and anger that’s been built up over the years. Here’s Cold’s chance to let loose. All the while he’s grinning like a madman as he’s loving this. Despite his silly costume (although he appears shirtless and with boxer’s hand wraps around his fists), Captain Cold proves he’s one of the quintessential Flash villains.
When the Flash is in action, it’s like a solid wall of speed flying towards his opponent. Instead of showing Barry running in a few different spots, Kolins shows him in all of them at once, as if it’s a blur racing across the page. Lightning flies every which way in his wake as a wave of energy flies forward.
Barry does a bit of soul-searching in this issue, some of which is a little heavy-handed. It’s like he had to have it literally spelled out for him to realize the mistakes he’s made lately. He can’t fix everything and he can’t shoulder the world’s problems. For someone that moves so fast, he has a very hard time putting things behind him.
On the one hand, I would have liked to have seen the Rogues’ criminal empire expand a bit more over future issues, but it’s fitting to wrap up here. Writer Joshua Williamson ties up a few plot threads with this issue in a way that provides some closure to a number of outstanding items, while energizing the series for further stories. It’s like he shuffled the deck around to shift the cast of characters a bit, preparing them for what’s to come.
If this is the end of “phase one,” there’s more than enough to be excited about for the next phase. After Barry Allen went through Hell, he’s come out the other side with his head up and ready to tackle whatever comes his way. Something tells me he’s going to need that strength and confidence.