Drawing upon the reversed polarity that fueled his powers, future historian and Flash fanboy Eobard Thawne tried to trap his former idol for all time. Thawne’s plan failed, however, causing Barry Allen to bond with The Negative Speed Force instead! Their fight ended quickly after that, with The Flash using this newfound connection to cut The Reverse Flash off from the source of his power and reporter Iris West vaporizing Thawne with one of the weapons from his own museum!
Since returning to their own time, Iris has kept her distance from Barry. He tells himself it’s because of the shock of killing Thawne or the revelation that they’re destined to marry and have kids. Deep down, however, Barry knows the truth – Iris can’t stand to look at him after learning that he had been lying to her for years by keeping his life as The Flash a secret from her.
Relationship issues are just the start of Barry Allen’s current problems. The connection to the destructive side of The Speed Force has made it all but impossible for Barry to safely use his super-speed. Worse yet, using his powers now leaves Barry feeling tired and run-down rather than energized – a condition that seems to be taking its toll on even Barry Allen’s endless optimism…
The first chapter of Negative proves a surprisingly understated piece of writing. While Joshua Williamson’s text focuses upon Barry’s reactions to the physical changes wrought by his new power source (such as an aura that leaves destruction in its wake) the subtext shows us that the negative energy seems to be infecting Barry on a spiritual level. Barry’s thoughts and behaviors here – becoming increasingly secretive and just wanting to seal himself alone in his lab – are classic signs of depression and a complete 180 from Barry Allen’s usual upbeat manner. That change may not be as showy as The Flash destroying the concrete under his feet with every step but the implications prove far more horrifying for their subtlety.
Unfortunately, the artwork for this issue – while excellent and competently crafted – proves a poor fit for Williamson’s story. Whatever may be said about Carmine Di Giandomenico’s artwork and Hi-Fi’s colors, they are both far from subtle. It’s hard to believe that nobody has noticed how sickly pale The Flash looks or that his lightning contrails are tinged with black.
Despite this, The Flash #28 is an enjoyable book. Ignoring the disunity between the tone of the story and the aesthetics of the artwork, all of the creators at work on this book are at the top of their respective games. Unfortunately, the final effect of their working together is like trying to play chess with a checkers set.