Is The Flash #81 The End Of The Speed Force?

by Tony Thornley

Every ongoing superhero tale promises that nothing will ever be the same. It’s part of the necessary illusion of change that keeps these fifty-plus year sagas feeling fresh. However, every once in a while something happens that really could change things forever, and The Flash #81 is one of those stories…

Cover by Rafa Sandoval, Jordi Tarragona and Tomeu Morey

Joshua Williamson, Scott Kolins, Luis Guerrero and Steve Wands push the Speed Force to the breaking point, and that might mean trouble for Barry Allen.

Barry is trapped with Hunter Zolomon in a totally new vein of power, named the Forever Force by Zolomon, nearly helpless as the two beings battle. If Hunter wins, he may become one of the most powerful beings in the Multiverse, and if the Black Flash wins, it will destroy Barry’s friends and allies. He has just one hopeless gambit to stop them both, but it could endanger his allies and end the Flash… forever.

When a writer has been a series a long as Williamson, there’s a definite danger of going stagnant. He’s avoided that through his entire run, with multiple status quo changes and big developments. This issue definitely does exactly that, but it’s also smart in setting up plot threads that can sustain the story for a significant amount of time to come, not just the obvious immediate aftermath.

It feels like Williamson may be setting up his endgame. He’s not just putting the toys back in the box though. It’s setting up a very different Flash without completely deconstructing the character and tearing him down.

Kolins returns with his always great pencils. He uses classic layouts across his pages, but then skews things slightly, such as jagged panel borders or overlapping gutters, to convey a sense of chaos in the scene. His depiction of the Black Flash is also a major highlight again, with the cosmic force turning into a grotesque monster. 

He also excels at conveying speed, using unusual point of view angles, and figure placement to show how fast they’re moving. Together with Guerrero’s colors, they make the craziness of the situation jump off the page. Guerrero uses a largely flat colors- with minimal shading and gradients- but it helps Kolins’ art pop off the page, a smart move to compliment the line art without overwhelming it.

The Flash may have been changed forever, but the series remains one of the most reliably good reads in comics.

The Flash #81 is available now from DC Comics.

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