Time travel plot threads bring Barry Allen into battle against himself from the future.The Flash #35 offers:
- Excellent portrayal of Super Speed, and strong use of lettering, colour, and light in the artwork.
- Insight into Barry’s character: change and potential in his future selfs actions and attitudes.
- Unusual Time Travel perspectives and broad, science fiction ideas.
Light, electricity, and lightning crackle across the pages of this comic. Super Speed is portrayed through interesting art choices, later in the comic book.
The best art choices arrive late in the comic. It’s the introduction of a second time traveler that brings a interesting change in the art choices. Up until that point, the comic book had show off super speed as blurred fists and feet, and repeated images of The Flash and his future self running.
This character has one particular panel that shows off how super speed can work. Future Barry makes a final move against the present Barry. He tosses pebbles. They fly as fast as bullets.
In one panel the character notices the tine stones, reaches out to stop them, and then activates his powers and outruns them, stopping the pebbles from reaching Barry.
These actions all occur in one panel, representing barely a second of time passing.
Essentially, this hero has caught the pebbles at the same time he has noticed them. The panels effectively captures how quickly a character with super speed moves – faster than sound, arriving before his voice finishes travelling through the air.
While it’s a spoiler to reveal this character’s identity, the portrayal of their speed is effective.
The red clothed Barry Allen of the present, and the electric blue Barry from the future, stage their battle on a desolate plain of white salt flats. Lightning and electricity crackle across all the panels after the opening scenes, and stay for the remainder of the comic. Pages of red, yellow, and blue electricity fly across panels accompanied by giant, electric lettering.
Barry is contrasted with his future self, who has lowered himself into cynicism. Compared to his past self, Future Barry does not respect the criminal justice system, and believes in violence as a solution for his problems.
Before the battle begins, Barry of the present eats cereal for breakfast. He chooses “refined sugars and process grains”. Not a great choice for breakfast – The Flash’s metabolic rate might allow him to eat whatever calories he needs, but it’s not the best example to set. It is an interesting comment that Barry’s future self effectively stops him from eating the sugar-coated cereal.
This raises the question of if time travel were possible, would we stop our past selves eating unhealthy food choices?
Barry and Future Barry also fight over lethal force. Future Barry has concluded that arresting criminals and seeking rehabilitation for them – what he calls “virtue” is not enough. Villains continue to re-offend, and murder. He has reached the extreme point of rejecting the criminal justice system.
Fighting style also receives a comment from Future Barry. He name-drops Deathstroke, Lady Shiva, and The Batman as his martial arts teachers. He comments to his past self:
“Speed. It’s the only weapon you have…a reason to neglect honing your other skills”
The comic book explores large science fiction concepts and perspective more than deeper themes. Speed Force as exotic matter appears alongside an interesting perspective on time travel.
The plot of the comic relies on the exotic matter of the Speed Force. Fixing the broken Speed Force drives Future-Barry’s actions. Repairing the damage involved applying more Speed Force to the Speed Force problem.
Despite the re-use of Speed Force throughout the comic to explain the problems and provide solutions, the comic book provides entertaining science fiction.
Time as portrayed in this comic book does not fit into Back to the Future rules. Barry’s death in the present would not wipe away this future version of himself. Time travel ideas here are difficult to conceptualise. How would a paradox not happen if the younger Barry was killed? Would Future Barry necessarily fade out of existence rapidly?
It’s an interesting perspective – looking at time not as a cause and effect, with a series of linear events, but as a more abstract concept. It’s difficult to see time as a larger, interconnected web, or any shape other than a chain of linked events.
The Flash #35 is published by DC Comics ($2.99USD). Robert Venditti & Van Jensen (W.) Brett Booth (P.) Norm Rapmund (I.) Andrew Dalhouse (C.) Dezi Sienty (L.) Cover artwork by Booth, Rapmund, Dalhouse.