Stew Reviews – The Death of Iris Allen
Even all this time later into Rebirth, I still can’t believe DC just ghosted Wally West for all those years that the New 52 was a thing.
Are… are people still saying “ghosted”? If I know about it, then probably not.
Wally will always be “my” Flash, no matter how hard they have been pushing the interesting-as-dry-toast Barry Allen back to the top. When I finally got into DC for real at around the turn of the millennium, Wally was The Flash, and whether it was with Grant Morrison’s Justice League title or Mark Waid and Geoff Johns on the actual Flash book, he was one of the most engaging characters the company had. I never had much of a flavor for Barry Allen in pre-Crisis books, and since he has come back, well, he hasn’t done it for me now, either. Grant Gustin and Ezra Miller have done their best to breathe some life into the stale character, but he’s always been Wally’s inferior for my money.
But I am a just and fair comic reader, and Barry has had his share of noteworthy stories. Settle in and let’s take a look at one…
TITLE: The Flash
Writer and Artist: Carey Bates, Alex Saviuk, Don Heck
Protagonists: The Flash
Antagonists: Reverse-Flash, Yorkin
The cover to the first issue of this run, the issue wherein Iris actually dies, is an extremely classic one. What do you think? All-time, where would you put this among most well-known covers of all time? Top 100? 50? It’s definitely somewhere. It’s such an unassuming Silver Age cover that belies the importance of the events inside. My podcast compatriots Andy and Chad insist they have never seen this cover before, but… that can’t be right. Am I imagining the relevance of this?
The story starts with Barry under the control some teenage girl with ESP named Melanie who forces him to reveal his face and identity to her, but she then gets really upset that he’s just an ordinary guy and storms out. It hilariously depresses the hell out of The Flash that she didn’t think he was more, I guess, impressive (and, really, Barry? Don’t get hung up on what the 16 year old thinks of you, man), but Iris walks in to the hotel room Melanie had lured him to. She accuses him of having an affair because Barry had been coming home late recently, but this is wrapped up in a few panels and they make up because Iris can tell how distraught Barry is that this teenage girl didn’t think he was hot, and what is even going on in this book here? Regardless, they head home and prepare for a masquerade party later that night where everyone is going as their favorite “super character”. At the party, Barry gets dosed with PCP by a guy dressed as Sandman (Jesus, this book already) and finds Iris’ dead body in another room with a monster named Yorkin standing over her. Yorkin is the name of the big bad for the next few issues. Yorkin.
Nope, that’s… I’ll never write an issue summary wilder than that. Honestly, just written out like that, I kind of love this book.
After being confronted with the news that Iris is dead, Flash visits the JLA to insist they bring her back to life; though when none of them can help him, he tries to murder them all by blowing up their orbiting base. This is the kind of thing that reads like Barry Allen’s super villain heel turn, but it’s all easily excused as being the effects of the angel dust still in his system. Also, Barry dropkicks himself at Green Lantern because his boots are yellow so Hal can’t stop it, and I honest-to-god love this arc so far. Also, in a few issues from this one, Barry uses the cosmic treadmill to travel through time, so if he really wanted Iris back, why didn’t he…?
Anyway. So the Flash spends a few issues tracking down Yorkin with the help of Melanie and GOD DAMN does it really read like DC killed off Iris so they could put Barry together with this sixteen year old girl (who ended up feeling bad for the way she called Barry “ordinary” and bolted on him, so she came back to convince him not to retire). No sooner is Yorkin (wait, I got it, aren’t those bug killers?) disposed of than Barry is given video proof that the monster did not kill his wife.
Turns out, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash (who is going by the name Adrian Zoom here for reasons) killed Iris because Barry’s wife had spurned his advances. He had given her a 24 hour ultimatum to leave The Flash for him, and when she refused, he stopped her heart. He also simultaneously had a plan using science from the future to blend a special kind of heroin with powdered milk so he could secretly turn a chunk of the population into addicts who will make him their master because he can keep them in a fix, and I’d laugh about that, too, but I feel like I’ve read an incredibly similar plot in at least two or three other comics. I know for a fact Dr. Octopus had a similar plan once. Friggin’ comic books, taking that drug epidemic super seriously.
Aside from the initial rampage against the Justice League (which is more due to drugs than grief), Barry Allen doesn’t come across as immensely bothered by his wife’s passing. As a reader, you don’t really feel much emotion from the book, so there’s no weight to anything that happens. Iris dies, Barry goes on a drug-fueled attack on the JLA, he contemplates retiring… and then he spends a few issues palling around with the teenage girl with a crush on him. Even when he makes it to Eobard, he doesn’t seem devastated or broken. He goes at Thawne with all the tenacity of a hero trying to correct a foe for robbing a bank. The impact just isn’t substantive. We get a final page of Allen at his wife’s grave, but it’s all so tacked on.
Also, Mirror Master is thwarted with chocolate, and Thawne displays the ability to split in half and then put himself back together? This book is nuts.
Talking Point: During the 70’s, a lot of comics tackled the issue of drugs in America, and this one had both the hero getting unknowingly given PCP and a heroin plot. Neither are deftly handled. What comics joining the fight against drugs from this era do you think did the best job?
Either my inherent bias against a lot of Silver Age comics is back in play, or this book is legitimately not nearly as good as it is important. It’s goofy, devoid of emotion, and rather shallow. That said, it’s wonderful in a ludicrous kind of way, and I will absolutely never ever forget that I read it.