Review by Ian Keogh
With this third hardcover collection the content differs slightly from the two paperback collections it otherwise combines. It features everything found in Negative and Cold Day in Hell, but adds the starting chapter of a Dark Nights Metal tie-in involving the Justice League. It’s written by usual Flash creator Joshua Williamson and features a spectacular art job from Howard Porter (sample page). Really. This may be a career peak, detailed, action-packed and imaginative, so a good incentive for buying the hardcover collection instead of the paperbacks.
The recurring complaint about Williamson’s Flash series is the lack of artistic consistency. It features plenty of good artists, but with wildly differing styles, used on assorted chapters of the same story and occasionally on the same chapter, so over a random sample of twenty pages it’s possible to see Flash and his supporting cast looking very different. It’s extremely unsatisfying.
Williamson surprises at the start by not picking up on the obvious emotional consequences of the story ending the previous volume, although that comes later, but instead focussing on the changes to the Flash. These are interesting because they limit what the Flash can do, which is a relatively new experience. Barry Allen now has to consider the use of his powers more carefully as the consequences of not doing that could be fatal. Williamson’s exploration of the personality changes is captivating and novel, although that’s counter-balanced by some lazy character-based plotting in the second major story. It’s another case of there being an explanation long after the fact (in this case the never published Book Four), but so long after it comes across as Williamson’s cast just being irrational. To grant some leeway, it occurs in a story co-written with Michael Moreci, but Williamson’s Flash is a serial offender in this respect. That story, though, does at least considerably beef up the villainous science organisation Black Hole, which is welcome.
Another quibble is the amount of other characters with super speed used throughout the series. As Williamson’s primary concern is aspects of the Speed Force this makes some sense in the long run, but the cost is rendering Flash less and less unique. It’s a shame, because much of what he delivers is good. Almost any scene with police officers or the Iron Heights prison warden crackles with tension, Flash’s relationship with Wally West in or out of costume rings true, and Iris West has been a well developed character from the start.
The second half of this volume picks up the quality. The Rogues return in what’s a convincing mystery about who’s now running crime in Central City, and the original Wally West is back for the final story. It’s not subtle in ramming home what it’s like to have been forgotten by everyone he’s ever loved or liked, but hits the correct emotional notes. Despite online cover reproductions a fourth Deluxe Edition was never issued, so the truth about Black Hole is only revealed in the paperback Perfect Storm.