A month had gone by, and so the mailman brought me my latest subscription copy of THE FLASH. This was getting towards the end of my subscription period. Now that I could, and was, visiting the 7-11 every Thursday when new comics dropped like clockwork, there wasn’t as much of a need to make sure I’d get every issue mailed to me. And on a few occasions I’d been vexed when a particular issue of FLASH or JUSTICE LEAGUE turned up on the racks first, and I had to walk away from it. Delayed gratification was really never my thing.
It’s worth pointing out that FLASH at this point was being illustrated by Irv Novick, the same artist who some tree decades earlier had illustrated the Shield story in which he lost his super-powers. Novick was another of the mainstay artists then working for DC who had been around forever, and who always delivered a competent and straightforward job. These guys were seldom the super-stars of the era, but they were the backbone of the business. And really, my vision of the Flash was shaped as much by Novick’s work as it was Carmine Infantino. He was also rock-steady–if you were buying FLASH during the 1970s, chances are that you’d be getting a Cary Bates story drawn by Irv Novick. There was a strength to that sort of consistency of product, a kind of comfort.
As the story opens, we pick up with Black Hand vexed that the news programs and newspapers aren’t reporting on the Flash’s death, so the Scarlet Speedster must be alive. And he is–though his escape from certain death in this instance taxes suspension of disbelief far past the breaking point. See, last issue Black Hand had stripped Flash of the invisible aura that protected him from the friction of his speed, causing him to immolate. But here we discover that upon realizing that he was burning, Flash used the gas in his costume ring that normally shrinks his uniform so that it can be stored there on himself, compressing himself into the ring, which then flew off and slowed down safely. Yeah, I didn’t buy this bit of nonsense either, even at ten years old. Not one of Bates’ best escape concepts.
Anyway, a curious cat triggers the spring on Barry’s discarded ring, allowing the discorporated speedster to emerge from it once again, albeit naked. Barry streaks through Central City until he can swipe some clothes, then heads for home in order to figure out his next move. he can still run fast, but if he moves too swiftly, the friction will injure and burn him, so he’s limited in what he can do. meanwhile, Black Hand makes use of the Flash’s aura himself. Combining it with his Power Light, which uses the energy residue left by Green Lantern’s ring, he believes he’s created a field that will make him completely indestructible. Black Hand also had the somewhat annoying trait of breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the audience directly. Certain characters and creators have used this sort of thing to good effect, but here it’s just a little bit tiresome.
And now it’s showtime. While Barry drives his neighbor Barney Sands to pick up copies of his Flash fanzine from the printer, the pair hear radio reports concerning a UFO that is hovering above the Central City bank, looting it. Barney is confused when Barry disappears (and how is the kid going to get home in a car with no driver, to say nothing of the thousand copies of his fanzine in the back–that journey might prove to be more exciting than Flash’s battle with Black Hand!) and Flash is zipping to the scene for a confrontation. But he still hasn’t worked out a way to overcome the limitations on his speed, so he’s at a serious disadvantage.
And it’s a disadvantage that Black Hand takes full advantage of, knocking the Flash around like a pinata. He doesn’t really have anything against the Flash, but he figures that if he kills the speedster, that will give him a psychological advantage the next time he faces Green Lantern. In avoiding Black Hand’s attacks, Flash keeps having to increase his velocity and it’s taking its toll on him. But he’s finally got an idea. he diverts the course of the fight to the Central City Centro-Dome, where a film is being shot that takes place partly on the moon, and where they’ve created a film set in a vacuum for the sake of realism. Yeah, this doesn’t really track either–bates was having an off month. As the two combatants vibrate into the sealed set, Flash can suddenly use his full speed since there’s no atmosphere to create friction. (He’s holding is breath–and is somehow impervious to the other ill-effects of being unprotected in a vacuum. Can’t even credit his survival to his speed-aura as you normally would.) But he still can’t get past Black Hand’s impervious protective force-field.
But he figures out what can==a blast from hand’s own Power-Light! He tricks Hand into zapping him with a bolt of energy that pursues him, then changes course back towards hand so that the blast strikes its creator instead, knocking him senseless. With Hand unconscious, Flash can use the Power-Light to restore his aura, and everything is once again fine. There isn’t even any wrap-up on the story, we immediately end at this point in a somewhat awkward fashion.