They say that no good deed goes unpunished. That’s certainly true for Barry Allen, whose secret life as The Flash caused him to miss out on so many assigned tasks at his day-job as a CSI with the Central City Police Department that he got demoted to the most humiliating position possible.
Barry has been assigned to Iron Heights Prison – the maximum security island facility where so many of his enemies as The Flash have been sent. Barry’s only duty, in the event that a crime should be committed on the prison grounds, is to preserve the crime scene evidence until the “real” CSIs show up to investigate it.
When a criminal called Turbine turns up dead in Iron Heights, Barry’s first impulse is to start trying to solve the murder. Before he can be reminded of his proper place, however, The Trickster takes the rap for the crime and the case is solved. It’s easy. Far too easy.
As Barry tries to get to the bottom of things without getting the attention of his bosses or setting off the metahuman-sensing alarms of Iron Heights, a war is waged in Central City. It is a shadow war between two gangs of criminals who seek to take control of the metahuman underworld…
I must complement Joshua Williamson in taking the high road with The Flash #36. I was fearful, based on a scene in the last issue, that Kristen – Barry’s coworker and fellow exile to a peon post at Iron Heights – had been fridged in order to give Barry one more thing to feel guilty about. The opening of this issue fakes us out on this point as well, before quickly resolving it within the first five pages before we move on to the business involving a gang war in Central City and the new secret boss of Central City’s criminals.
I spoil this point for three reasons. First, to lend context to the page underneath this paragraph. Next, because I made such a big deal about Kristen’s apparent death in my comments on The Flash #35. And finally, to show Williamson’s skill as a writer and his ability to bring about strong emotions in the reader. Though Kristen is a minor character in the grand plot of The Flash (though I find her more engaging than Iris West and thought she’d be a more interesting love interest for Barry before their recent falling out), Williamson is able to make us care about her as much as Barry does. That same care and craft goes into every aspect of this story.
Artist Howard Porter is like Barry Allen in that he is at his best when he has space to move. Give him a splash panel or a whole page to work with and he’s in heaven. Try and hem him in, however, and he can perform but not at his best. This issue is not Porter as his best, his detail-driven style appearing cramped and crushed at points throughout the book.
There’s also an oddity in some panels, where it seems that only the outlines of the characters were inked with none of the interior linework shaded at all. Mixed with the bright colors of Hi-Fi, this results an odd appearance that leaves some characters almost glowing. This might be forgivable if the characters in question weren’t in a windowless underground bunker.
The Flash #36 isn’t a bad book and it’s a good jumping-on point for new readers. This issue is still far rougher than usual, however, and not representative of the usual level of quality from this creative team. It is good, not great, but well worth fighting through the rough-spots to enjoy.