Flash Fridays – The Flash #322 June 1983

Feb 2, 2024

I’ve written before about writer Cary Bates’ predilection for dropping endless subplots into his stories chopping them up to the point where any sense of an overarching story all but disappears. Well, I’ll have to give him high marks for bullheaded consistency because he even figured out how to do that on a single splash page. This issues opens with four subplots being shown in four separate vertical panels. Each one depicting a different character from each divergent story and providing a snippet of dialog that gives a gist of that subplot. Even Bates must have realized the necessity of bringing the readers up to speed with story in each subplot, and saw this as a way of doing that. It was a beginning step towards the splash pages of today where impenetrable, thorny and labyrinthine stories are simply recapped in text. In fact, they don’t even call them splash pages anymore, they’re now  recap pages. Props to Bates for at least realizing that these are comic books which means pictures and words. 

The story opens with what happened to Tomar-Re after his spaceship crashed on earth. He’s found by a farm family that nurses him back to health, and then helps him build a spaceship out of parts from a tractor and a pick-up (really) so that he can continue on with his mission of warning the Flash of the grave danger he’s in. Cut to Barry and Fiona together in the park as they try to pick up where their relationship left off as a paid assassin observes them from hiding. Tomar-Re shows up, but, before he can warn Barry, he’s attacked by the Reverse Flash, packed into his spaceship and shot off onto space. While all of this is going on, Barry proposes to Fiona and she accepts. Quite a lot to pack into one scene. But Bates isn’t done.

Tomar’s ship is found by another Green Lantern and he’s sent back to Earth. An attempt is made on Barry’s life while he’s out rowing with Fiona, but they’re saved by the Flash. Then Barry gets a call from Dexter Miles, the curator of The Flash Museum, asking him to come over right away. We flash (intended) to the museum to see Dexter setting a trap for the Flash, except that it’s not Dexter but a protege of Sabertooth’s who has just been released from jail. Confused yet? Not done. Subplot D, the Reverse Flash shows up and captures the assassin. Then he frees the real Dexter Miles and takes off, but not before leaving a note for Barry. When Barry arrives, we have what is probably the one truly real and ominous moment in the story. As he reads the note he understands that the one member of his rogues gallery who has risen to become his most dangerous and implacable foe, and the murderer of his wife Iris, has returned. The final panel is a top to bottom vertical grinning profile of the man he fears more than any other. The billboarded title of the neext story is: “Wedding Bells or Death Knells”.

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