BHOC: FLASH #236

It must have been a slow month, because before I knew it, the next issue of FLASH turned up in my mailbox, neatly folded in half. This was the second part to the short three-issue “Iris-is-missing” saga, which felt like an epic to me at the time. Sadly, this second issue wasn’t really a favorite. The Mike Grell cover is nice enough, but somehow the intensity of this moment doesn’t quite come across here. The green two-fingered hand seems somehow more comical than terrifying, and the straight-on shot removes any drama from the moment.

Inside, though, Irv Novick did his typical journeyman job on the visuals–though he was still being inked by the scratchy Tex Blaisdell, a combination I wasn’t a fan of. That said, Novick was and is a favorite of mine. I still associate him more with the Flash than Batman, even though he did as much work or more on the Caped Crusader. But he was a consistent fixture on FLASH throughout most of the 1970s, defining the look of the series and the character for me in many ways.

The issue opens with a bunch of Central City kids enjoying themselves on a lake, when suddenly a Tidal Wave appears and threatens to engulf them. The cause of this sudden jeopardy is the Flash himself, who has raced across the surface of the water too absent-mindedly, and dragged the wave behind him. Coming to his senses, he quickly rescues the kids and eliminates the problem. A month later, and he still has no clue as to the whereabouts of his missing wife, Iris.

Meanwhile, on the parallel world of Earth-2, the older Jay Garrick Flash rescues the passengers of a crashing train with some help from Doctor Fate. Jay has contacted Fate in the hopes that he can provide assistance with whatever the mystery malady is that is keeping him from returning Iris Allen, whom he’d spirited away last issue, to Earth-1 and Barry. Becoming aware that the Flash is still searching for Iris, Fate casts a spell across the void between Earths.

Back on Earth-1, Barry checks in at home with his boarder Stacy Conwell and the visiting Ira West, Iris’s professor father. As they watch a news broadcast of the opening of a nearby thruway, Barry catches a glimpse of Iris in the crowd, and races to the scene in order to find her. But wen he does so, Iris insists that she is not Iris Allen and not his wife at all.

More critically, the event is thrown into chaos by the appearance of a colossal, smoky two-fingered hand, which beckons to the Flash and tries to smash him. The Crimson Comet circles around to the other end of the new tunnel, intending to catch the hand from behind. But instead, he winds up trapped between the hand and its twin, which threatens to crush him between them.

Using his wits, Flash is able to escape from this trap, and he swiftly catches up to teh fleeing Iris, abducting her from the van in which she’s a passenger. He takes her to police headquarters where he subjects her to a battery of tests that appear to confirm his assertion that the woman in front of him truly is the missing Iris. But just then, the hands reappear, causing the Flash to pick up Iris and run for their lives.

As the cat-and-mose game between the hands and Flash and Iris grows more deadly, the camera pulls back to Earth-2, where we learn that this has all been the work of Doctor Fate in attempt to keep Barry off the track. The asshole sorcerer has made it appear like some other innocent woman looks like Iris, causing her to be a pawn in this game between super heroes and at the very least giving her a day of terror. Thanks, Fate! Closer to home, Fate has proved ineffective at curing Iris of the mystery malady.

What’s more, the pursuing hands are a by-product of the klutz sorcerer having cast his spell across the dimensions. Again, great job, Fate, you sure know your stuff! Now that he’s not distracted by the woman-who-no-longer-looks-like-Iris, Flash is able to destroy the hands for good.

In the aftermath of his unsuccessful attempts to cure Iris of whatever the problem is, Doctor Fate uses his sorcery to send her 1000 years into the future and across the dimensions so that she’ll wind up in the future era she originally came from. Or, given Fate’s track record in this story, literally anywhere else, or with the head of a chicken. The hope is that te future science of the 30th century will be able to fix her. Unfortunately for Fate’s plan, at that moment on Earth-1, Flash has similarly gotten an inspiration that perhaps the missing Iris has returned to the future. So, firing up his time-traveling cosmic treadmill, the scarlet speedster makes a beeline foe the 30th century himself. And that’s where this issue winds up with its To Be Concluded!

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