This was another book that I ended up with two copies of, after my fifth grade pal Donald Sims bought me a stack of comics for my birthday that year. It was the latest copy of FLASH delivered to be through my subscription, and one of the last. After one more issue, I allowed the subscription to lapse–which in retrospect turned out to be a miscalculation. But at this point, I was making weekly trips to the 7-11 on new comic book day every week (Thursday) and I was tired of having to see new issues of FLASH and JUSTICE LEAGUE on sale there and having to pass them up, then suffer the anxiety of not knowing whether they would ever show up in my mailbox until they ultimately arrived. My subscriptions had served their purpose but at this point I had moved pas their need.
This story turns on one of the odd quirks of FLASH continuity: the revelation ten years into the history of the series that Iris West-Allen was actually not who she thought she was, and was instead born in the 30th Century and sent back into the past by her parents to save her from calamity. It’s an absurd revelation on the face of it, but I didn’t question it as a kid. By the time I was reading, it was an established fact, and I took it as such. But from a remove, what a weird extraneous element to introduce into the FLASH storyline. (This would come in handy years later when a means was needed right at the end of the series to reverse Iris’s traumatic death.)
The story opens as indicated on the cover, with Iris’s true father Eric Russell happening upon a historical mystery. According to records, his ancestor died on the morning of January 13, 1978–which would mean that Eric and his entire ancestral line wouldn’t exist. What’s more, the same ancestor was photographed in battle with the Flash in the afternoon, in the guise of the Viper. And in the evening, he got married. Confused by these events, Eric prevails upon the visiting Flash and Iris to take them back to the 20th Century for a visit, intending to investigate. There’s a great, silly scene when, as the quartet arrives in the present, they come across a pair of burglars ripping off the Allen home. Bad choice! Flash dispatches them in seconds.
Once in the present, Eric slips away from Barry Allen and heads for San Francisco where his ancestor lived. He goes to the morgue, having deduced that the man would have suffered his fatal coronary the previous night. And indeed, when he gets there, Phillip Russell’s body is missing, much to the distress of his fiancee. Phillip Russell was a private investigator by trade, and exploring his office, Eric comes across a journal that tells of Phillip having wiped out the Viper–the criminal who seemed to be him. The mystery is getting more puzzling. Speaking of puzzled, Flash is confused as to where Eric has gotten to, and he sets out to find his missing father-in-law.
Flash follows Eric’s teleportation trail to San Francisco and then races through the city streets looking for his lost relative. What he finds instead is a bank heist going down–one being perpetrated by Phillip Russell in the guise of the Viper. Flash intercedes and engages in a pitched battle with the wily criminal. Eventually, though, as Flash snatches up his foe intent on delivering him to the authorities, the Viper blasts him with a toxin that paralyzes the Scarlet Speedster. Elsewhere, Eric has continued to toss Phillip’s office, and he’s realized the truth: Phillip is a split personality–he is both Phillip and the Viper. It was the struggle between the two halves of his personality that caused Phillip to fall into a coma that looked like a heart attack and be mistaken for dead.
The Viper carries the paralyzed Flash to a cliffside and hurls him over into the river below. Fortunately, Flash retains his complete control over his every molecule, and so he’s able to swiftly shrug off the effects of Viper’s paralytic agent before he drowns. His mobility restored, Flash creates a waterspout to clobber his serpentine foe. At this point, Eric shows up and fills Flash in on what he’s been doing here. Eric reveals that the future medical technology of his own 30th Century could cure Phillip of his split personality, but he doesn’t dare to interfere in his own timeline. But Flash assures him that, based on what he’s experienced traveling through time, he and Eric have now become a part of Phillip’s history–and so it should be fine to Eric to use his process on his ancestor without affecting his own history. I don’t know how much sense that really makes, but there you have it.
In the space of a page, Eric and the Flash construct the needed device, eliminate Phillip’s psychosis, return all of the loot stolen by his Viper self, reunite him with his fiancee, and get the couple to the church so that the wedding can go off as planned and the bloodline of Eric–and of Iris–can continue on into the 30th Century. And really, that’s about the wrap-up on this issue. It’s a pleasant if inconsequential read.