BHOC: FLASH #252

Boy, that’s an ugly cover. The idea is sound, but the anatomy is all over the place. And the Flash’s weird expression makes the whole thing look comical, and not in a good way. (There’s also a criminal escaping with a bag of money with a dollar sign on it, but I’m going to let that little bit of nonsense pass.) And the cover copy jutting out over the Flash’s arm that way is unforgivable. It was an issue of FLASH, so I would have bought it regardless, even if it didn’t come to me in my mailbox as a part of my subscription. But it’s a butt-ugly cover.

Matters improve, or at least settle out, on the inside of the book, as this is another in the years-long run of issues put together by the creative team of Cary Bates and Irv Novick. Novick had been in the business since the start of the Golden Age of Comics, so by this point, he was an old hand. Reportedly, the few times he was interviewed about his work, he expressed no particular fondness or preference for any of the strips he’d drawn over the years. But to me, he defined the then-modern look of the Flash.

So what was going on in Central City this month? The issue opens wit Sue Dibny, the wife of the Elongated Man, being surprised by an intruder whom she promptly clocks. Unfortunately, the intruder is Ralph Dibny himself, trying out a new use for his ductile powers, changing the look and shape of his features. As Ralph and Sue continue their conversation, Ralph suddenly disappears! Needing help to locate her missing husband, Sue calls on Barry and Iris Allen–and when she’s left, Barry reveals to Iris that he was responsible for the Elongated Man’s disappearance. (How weird is it, by the way, that we’re now getting the Elongated Man on television as a member of the FLASH TV show cast. That’s crazy to me!)

Barry tells Iris that, earlier, upon coming across a robbery in progress by the Chane Gang, whom he knew the Elongated man was after, he swiftly diverted himself to Ralph’s room and took off with the stretchable super hero to nab the Chane Gang, leaving Sue mystified. The two heroes engaged the criminals, only to discover that most of them were simply three-dimensional holograms–the Chane Gang was secretly just one person. Flash and Elongated Man captured the lone Chane gangster–but somehow, half of the stolen loot was still missing. Ralph took off to follow a hunch, and that was the last Barry had seen of him.

Scouring the city, the Flash’s search turns up nothing–but he zips right past a man whom we recognize from earlier in the story as Ralph’s disguise face. The disguised Elongated Man reads a classified ad that he’s placed to communicate with the Chane Gang–and that night, when a meeting is arranged, he confirms that the Chane Gang wasn’t a single man, but a pair of identical twins–the other had the other half of the loot. Somehow, when he’s accosted by the still-free Chane, Ralph is able to grab his gun barrel and stretch it like taffy, not a power that he typically possessed. And for some unknown reason, he wants to team up with the remaining Chane brother.

The next day, the unveiling of a new SST jet aircraft at Central City Airport goes awry, as the plane simply melts into a puddle of goo. Watching the event live on television, the Flash zips to the scene, where he’s confronted by the disguised Ralph who introduces himself as the Molder–and who has a snappy new costume to go with his new moniker. Not recognizing Ralph, who isn’t acting himself in any regard, the two friends engage in a super-swift battle.

After some preliminaries, the Flash gets a good shot in–and watches in horror as the momentarily-stunned Molder’s features temporarily revert into the face of the Elongated Man. Shocked by this revelation, Flash slows down long enough for the Molder to get his hands on the Scarlet Speedster, and he proceeds to use his new distortion powers to pound the flash into a lifeless puddle of goo. This was a pretty gruesome ending to an issue of FLASH as far as my younger self was concerned. And, of course, the story was To Be Continued!

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