Barry Allen has let certain aspects of his life slide and one of those has been his friendship with reporter Iris Allen. Ironically this has been because of Barry’s mentoring Iris’ nephew Wally as both Barry Allen and as The Flash. Wally is the new Kid Flash, though neither Wally nor his aunt know Barry’s secret identity.
Barry and Iris both fear the worst when they discover that a recently grounded Wally ran off on his own. Those fears are confirmed when they are confronted by an old acquaintance of The Flash – The Shade. Formerly a super-villain in Times Past, The Shade’s connection to the plane known as The Shadowlands gave him some degree of control over darkness.
It seems that control has weakened in recent months and shadow beings created by The Shade’s own fears of somehow screwing-up his new life abducted his love – police officer Hope O’Dare. Now she is lost somewhere in The Shadowlands. As is Wally West. And soon, so is Iris.
The Shade sought The Flash’s help because he was the most hopeful and inspiring of all the heroes he had ever met in his long life. But can even Barry Allen’s optimism light the way in a world made of despair and nightmares?
Given my love of James Robinson’s classic Starman series, I was rather nervous when it became apparent that The Shade would be involved in this Flash storyline – The Speed of Darkness. Originally a villain of the Jay Garrick Flash, The Shade had never been given much definition or personality until Robinson developed him into a gentleman thief and anti-hero as well as something as a mentor figure the the equally ambiguous Jack Knight. While Robinson’s year-long mini-series devoted to The Shade was nominally set in The New 52 reality, I still worried that one of my favorite characters of all time would be reduced to the role of base villain.
Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded. Joshua Williamson has not only continued Robinson’s take on the character – he has built upon it. Amusing as Shade was as a spectator to the main action of Starman, there is a greater emotional resonance to his character here. There’s a wonderful metaphor for depression at the heart of this story and the reader truly senses Shade’s shame that his best efforts have only endangered more people as well as his sorrow at requiring help in the first place. This parallels neatly with the recent conflicts Barry and Wally have encountered in their own lives in earlier issues.
I wish I could gush with equal enthusiasm over the artwork. David Gianfelice is a fine artist but prone to minor inconsistencies from panel to panel. For instance, Kid Flash is occasionally drawn with a full cowl covering his head. That being said, I like how colorist Ivan Plascencia renders The Shadowlands in shades of purple. It’s an interesting divergence from other stories involving that realm and it provides contrast from the bright reds and yellows of our heroes’ costumes.
Despite a few wrinkles, The Flash #11 is a solid, enjoyable comic. The artwork is largely excellent despite some small flaws. The story is a true ripping yarn. And Starman fans will rejoice at the continuing adventures of The Shade, as he is written true to form.