Came the mail, and another delivery of a folded-in-half issue of THE FLASH, always a welcome surprise when it turned up. It has a cover that I really don’t like. The concept and composition is good, but the reproduction of the linework is again shaky, with finer lines breaking up throughout the piece. The baby blue background is also a strange color for a super hero comic book cover. And the balloons oversell the situation, belaboring the point a bit.
On the inside, the artwork was once again solid and clean, the work of FLASH mainstay Irv Novick. Novick is one of those workhorses who doesn’t get a lot of notice (and when he does, it tends to be for his BATMAN stuff.) And, in fairness, his super heroes often have the same kind of graceless awkwardness that was found in Dick Dillin’s JLA as well. But he was the artist of FLASH all throughout my youth, and I love his work despite any shortcomings it may have. Novick had a carer that stretched back tot eh earliest days of the Golden Age, where he worked on The Shield and Steel Sterling for MLJ (which later became Archie.)
In the story, writer Cary Bates brings back an obscure part of the Flash legend: tailor Paul Gambi, who creates (or created, as he is now reformed) the colorful costumes worn by Flash’s enemies. Gambi was originally devised and named as a tribute to regular FLASH correspondent Paul Gambaccini by editor Julie Schwartz, but here whad had been done as a single throw-away appearance became a running bit. Gambi’s brother Peter would later turn up in the BLACK LIGHTNING series.
The issue opens on the Pied Piper robbing a payroll delivery, a heist which is foiled by the Scarlet Speedster. But despite wrapping the Piper up for the cops, the actual payroll itself mysteriously disappears. After leaving Police Headquarters, Flash runs straight into an auto accident, and prevents the cars from catching fire and exploding. Among the onlookers is a girl who looks like the Allens’ tenant Stacy Conwell, but Stacy herself has no recollection of being there. A mystery for another time!
Elsewhere, Newly-released ex-con Paul Gambi watches a news report of Flash’s exploits with pride. As thanks for Flash helping him to achieve parole, the now-reformed tailor-to-the-Rogues crafted a new costume for the Flash, a suggestion of Gambi’s cellmate Sam. But Gambi reveals that, despite Sam’s expectations, he didn’t booby-trap the costume in any way–he has legitimately gone straight.
Later, Barry is on his way to keep a date with his wife Iris when he comes across the Trickster fleeing from a heist. He swiftly takes down the high-flying criminal, but again the loot disappears after he’s done so–this time between when he arrived at Police Headquarters with it and when he goes to hand it over to teh desk sergeant. A flummoxed Flash returns home, where Iris is irate about him missing their appointment. Flash reacts with uncharacteristic anger, snapping a standing lamp in half before storming out.
In doing so, he misses the arrival of Wally West, whom Iris has called in the hopes he can help with sussing out Stacy’s strange behavior of late. But the problem with Flash takes precedence, so Wally becomes Kid Flash and races after his mentor, finding him in battle with another Rogue, the Top. Flash wins easily, and Wally’s speed-geared vision sees what everybody else cannot: it is Flash himself who is stealing the loot, depositing it in a dead drop some miles distant. (The cover gives this plot point, and really the whole story, away, another reason I’m not wild about it.)
The culpret, of course, is Sam–Sam Scudder, the Mirror Master, who has concealed a device in Gambi’s Flash costume that mesmerizes the hero into swiping the loot for him. Mirror Master confronts Kid Flash, but that’s a bad move, as Wally takes him out without great effort. The missing money is recovered, the device is removes from Gambi’s uniform (and Gambi himself cleared of any wrong-doing) and everything is wrapped up neatly. Except for Stacy Conwell, whom Wally goes off to speak with. Stacy, meanwhile, discovers more pages ripped out of her diary, and comes to the scary conclusion that the culprit behind all of these events has to be the ghost of her twin sister, many years dead and gone! To be continued…