Another eh cover by Ernie Chua/Chan graced the latest issue of THE FLASH to arrive in my mailbox. As was usual for the DC covers of this era, the premise of the image was good, but the actual drawing was a bit lumpy and misshapen, and the reproduction was blotchy. It would be a few years before this situation would improve. Also, the attempt to mimic the Marvel top banner by moving the DC bullet to the top center of the cover and adding a stripe to either side never really worked for me.
THE FLASH by this point had settled into a nice rhythm, with regular author Cary Bates delivering reliable plot-oriented and twist-based stories in the tried-and-true mode of John Broome, and Irv Novick providing straight ahead artwork that never relied on fancy layouts of the interplay of black and white, but simply told the story dramatically. This particular issue isn’t especially memorable–I didn’t recall the details about it again until I cracked it open to write this piece–but it was solid, reliable entertainment, and just what I wanted from my super hero comic books when I was 9 years old.
The story opens en media res, with a pitched battle already in progress between the Flash and his recurring foe the Mirror Master. Despite Sam Scudder getting in a few decent licks, the Scarlet Speedster knocks his enemy groggy–and then takes off with the loot. Wha–? We pull back to see iris Allen and Stacy Conwell (who is still living with the Allens despite my recollections concerning the previous issue) who establish that this turnabout has been playing out over several days. The Flash is acting like a criminal, and Mirror master like a pursuing super hero.
Cut tot he Mirror master, who recounts to himself how he lured the Flash to a remote location, then brainwashed him with some mirror gimmicks, turning him into a crook. Scudder has doped out that the reason the Flash beats him routinely is that he is fighting for something he believes in, law and justice. But now, his subconscious is fighting the compulsion to commit crimes, and so in each of their more recent encounters, the Mirror master has come closer and closer to killing his flashy foe, and he reasons that it’s only a matter of time until he succeeds.
Iris, meanwhile, visits Dexter Miles, the guide at the now soon-to-be-shuttered Flash Museum, but can’t really reveal to him all she knows about what’s going on without revealing Barry’s true identity. That evening, the Flash attempts to loot the Emerald Expo, but finds the Mirror master waiting for him. But before the two can throw down, another Flash foe, heat-Wave, burns his way in through the roof. he has his eye on robbing the Expo as well–and he refuses to believe that the Mirror Master has gone good, or that the Flash is now a Rogue like himself.
Police are surrounding the Expo, and with his plan now spoiled, Mirror master grabs the gems and attempts to escape. But the Flash and Heat Wave join forces to clobber him–Flash now having been snapped back to his senses. And he realizes that Heat Wave isn’t the genuine article, but rather theatrically-trained actor Dexter Miles, using Heat Wave’s gear from the Flash Museum. This was all Iris’ plan to snap Barry back to his law-loving self, and it worked out perfectly. A trifle of a story, but perfectly entertaining.
Meanwhile, in outer space, Green Lantern and Itty continue their pursuit of the biblically-inspired Ravagers of Olys. This time, the Ravagers have caused a star to begin to close down, dooming the planets in its system to a slow, freezing death. But after some mental acrobatics, GL is able to use the engines of the Ravagers’ own abandoned starship to reignite the star and save the system.
Finally, this issue of FLASH carried the yearly Statement of Ownership like a number of recent titles I’d read. It indicates that, most recently, FLASH had sold 165,866 copies on a print run of 395,628, a sell-through of just under 42%. This was also relatively miserable, though not as bad an efficiency as some of the other titles we’ve looked at recently. Still, it was a pretty good indicator that the comic book business in 1976 wasn’t looking very healthy.