THE FLASH #53 BY JOSHUA WILLIAMSON, CHRISTIAN DUCE, AND LUIS GUERRERO
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
THE FLASH #53 is just too bogged down by the Strength Force for me to recommend it. It has some flashes of good with some subplots, but overall, it just couldn’t hold my interest. Perhaps the next issue will build upon those great subplots.
77 %
Regrettably Uninteresting

THE FLASH #53 reveals some tidbits of information Joshua Williamson has been hinting at for a few issues. The first is the origin of the mysterious Commander Cold, a temporal cop from the 25th Century. The other is some more information about the newly discovered Strength Force and its effects on those bonded to it.

Williamson tells a somewhat interesting story this issue, but it can’t escape the inherent ridiculousness of the Strength force. Partly due to Christian Duce’s art, the Strength Force-imbued Trickster just looks a little too ridiculous to take seriously. Your mileage may vary with this issue, of course, but the absurdity of the hyper-muscular Trickster took me out of the story. I liked the subplots, though, including Cold’s origin and Iris’s investigative endeavors. Overall, the issue shows some promise, but the Strength Force stops it from becoming memorable.

Warning: This Review Contains Spoilers!

Flashes Unite in THE FLASH #44

Commander Cold’s Origin in THE FLASH #53

In the last issue, a mysterious hole in the ground emerged under the Trickster and swallowed him. Later, he came back as a hulking monstrosity of muscle. THE FLASH #53 opens with a flash-forward to the 25th century, where we see Central City police officers responding to a hostage situation at S.T.A.R. Labs. One reckless officer doesn’t want to listen to his commander’s orders to try and negotiate for the hostages’ freedom. He recklessly bursts into the lab and sees that someone viciously massacred all of the hostages. The perpetrator, the Elongated Man’s son, confesses and the cop, in a fit of anger, shoots him dead. Later, a temporal judge offers the cop a job with the Temporal Courts as their new Captain Cold-themed officer after his show of coldness and cruelty.

THE FLASH #53
THE FLASH #53 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Back in the past, the Flash and Commander Cold track down Trickster and try to stop him. Eventually, Flash realizes that his vibrational frequency can disrupt the Strength Force enough to immobilize Trickster. They take him to Iron Heights Penitentiary, where the corrupt Warden Wolfe secretly wants to kill Trickster for almost ratting out his corrupt ways last issue. Trickster asks Flash for help, and he demands that he stay with the Trickster no matter what. Wolfe reluctantly agrees, and after Cold starts running some tests on Trickster, the Strength Force portal opens up again, this time swallowing up the Flash.

Cold and Iris in THE FLASH #53

I’ll start by saying what I liked about this issue. Commander Cold’s origin is very engaging. It really informs his character well. He started to become a sympathetic character once he became trapped in the past. This reveals that he’s not exactly on the side of angels. The judge chose him specifically because of his cold and unfeeling ways. That way, he could execute criminals without prejudice. However, it seems like rage gets the better of him at times as well. It’s both a tragic backstory and a foreboding look at things to come. Barry obviously can’t trust Cold now. I wonder where Williamson will take Cold next.

The other part I loved is Iris’s subplot. Williamson has been consistently making Iris into my favorite character in the book. He keeps making her subplot more interesting. In this issue, she decides that if Barry won’t listen to the Multiversal Flashes’ suggestions to go on a Speed Force walkabout (as was stated the last issue), perhaps she will, if only out of her inherent curiosity as a journalist. I love how she’s taking matters into her own hands since Barry refuses to venture into the unknown. It’s a far cry from her days as a Lois Lane clone damsel in the ‘60s THE FLASH book. I hope Williamson follows through with this. It’s one of the main reasons why I still love reading this book.

The Strength Force in THE FLASH #53

Unfortunately, the main plot of this issue really turned me away from truly loving it. For one, I can’t bring myself to really care about the new forces. It just seems uninteresting, and Williamson has, so far, not succeeded in drawing me in with this plot. Iris’s own quest to look into them is the only part I find interesting, and that’s only because I’m such a fan of her character. Of course, it’s only the second issue in the arc, it could always take a turn for the better. Unfortunately, this issue kept it somewhat uninteresting because it didn’t really reveal much more than prior issues. We now know that the Speed Force can disrupt the Strength Force and that the more physical energy you exert, the bigger you get.

THE FLASH #53
THE FLASH #53 cover by Dan Mora. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I had an even bigger issue with how Christian Duce portrayed the Trickster. In the other issues he’s drawn, I’ve really enjoyed Duce’s art. However, in this issue, I just can’t get past how bizarre and ridiculous the Trickster, and later the Flash, looks when imbued with the power. They have gigantic, ridiculously musclebound bodies with comically small heads. It honestly looks comedic to me. I can’t take something seriously when it looks like something out of NOT BRAND ECHH or a similar comedy book. The proportions are just… off. With someone like Bane, he’s normally drawn as muscular, but not so exaggeratedly so that he looks like he has a pin-sized head on a horrifically giant body. I can only hope that the Strength Force is more downplayed in future issues so that I won’t be taken out of the story as much.

Final Thoughts: THE FLASH #53

NYCC 2017: Interview with THE FLASH writer Joshua Williamson

Overall, I can’t say that I recommend THE FLASH #53. The last issue was so promising, but this issue doesn’t seem to be enough of a payoff. It focuses too much on Trickster and the ridiculous Strength Force and not enough on Barry and his inability to move forward. Iris’s and Cold’s subplots serve as some tantalizing tidbits for future issues, but for now, I’m very uninterested in where the story will go.

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