Last issue, Flash fought his old foe Dr. Alchemy, except he found out it wasn’t the same baddie he’d faced before, Albert Desmond. The Dr. Alchemy identity had been usurped by Al’s psychic twin, another Albert Desmond born at the exact moment as the original. He captured the first Al Desmond and used the Dr. Alchemy identity to commit crimes, figuring they’d be blamed on his counterpart. But Al escaped and retrieved the paraphernalia for his other villainous identity, that of Mr. Element. This issue starts with Al luring Dr. Alchemy to an abandoned warehouse and ambushing him, almost dissolving him with acid. Alchemy is surprised to be confronted by Mr. Element, but fights back with the Philosopher’s Stone, the element-changing weapon he stole from Al. Mr. Element avoids being burned to a crisp and escapes through the floor. Dr. Alchemy takes off, leaving the warehouse to burn. The blaze soon attracts Flash’s attention and he gets there in time to save several trapped firefighters, but inadvertently leaves one behind. That firefighter is saved by Mr. Element, who uses his element gun to surround the fireman with a bubble of oxygen and nitrogen. When the fireman describes his rescuer, Flash recognizes the description as Mr. Element and surmises Al Desmond must’ve revived that identity—and he has a pretty good idea why. To confirm his suspicions, Flash goes to see Al’s wife Rita, who tells him she just saw Al and explains the whole “psychic twin” business. Flash thinks it’s a bit weird, but hardly the most outlandish thing he’s seen. He realizes Al has revived the Mr. Element identity to go after Dr. Alchemy, since he blames himself for Alchemy’s rampage. Rita begs Flash to help Al before he gets killed trying to assuage his guilt. Dr. Alchemy has already moved on to his next scheme, encasing a train in a block of ice so he can steal the nuclear waste it was carrying. At the police lab, Barry gets a call from Rita (she thinks he’s helping Flash track down her husband) and says Al mentioned seeing a brief vision through the psychic link he shares with Dr. Alchemy … he got a glimpse of a strange crystal cave. Wasn’t that a D&D module? Barry says he’ll pass on the info, but it looks like Mr. Element has already found the cave. It’s an abandoned salt mine the government uses to store nuclear waste. When he sneaks in, Mr. Element is punched out by giant crystal fists emerging from the walls, courtesy of the Philosopher’s Stone. He wakes up dangling over the pit of nuclear waste and Dr. Alchemy confides that he needs spent uranium to manufacture Desmondium (the new substance that lets him hypnotize people). The nuclear waste he found in the salt mine wasn’t enough, so he hijacked the train for more. Alchemy tries to blast Mr. Element with his own element-gun, but it turns out to be a fake. Mr. Element starts spinning at super-speed and Alchemy realizes Flash has been masquerading as Mr. Element the whole time. Alchemy changes Flash’s molecular structure to cavourite, the anti-gravity element, and Flash goes flying upward. The real Mr. Element shows up and attacks Alchemy, but his element gun is nowhere near as powerful as the Philosopher’s Stone. Flash vibrates through the cave roof, but can’t stop himself from rising into space. Once he reaches the vacuum of space, he manages to vibrate so he changes into anti-matter, which gets rid of the cavourite in his system. He vibrates back to normal and zips back down to the cave, where he pounds Dr. Alchemy. Alchemy has strung Mr. Element over the nuclear waste pit and Flash frees him. Al thanks Flash for saving him and hopes that Dr. Alchemy and Mr. Element have both been laid to rest forever. In a final interlude, we see Barry’s hot neighbour, Fiona Webb, at the police station making a complaint. She says someone is her apartment building is trying to kill her; the guy goes by numerous names, but right now he’s calling himself Barry Allen. Huh? We know Barry has never even had a face-to-face conversation with Fiona, let alone anything else, but she’s pretty adamant. Is she deluded? Is it a case of mistaken identity? Someone impersonating Barry? We’ll find out more next issue.
- I’m not sure why five firefighters were inside the warehouse in the first place. I know firefighters don’t hesitate to enter burning buildings to save people (and sometimes to save the building) but why would they bother for an abandoned warehouse? It’s not likely anyone would be inside, and the place was practically falling down anyway.
- I’m not sure exactly when Flash adopted the Mr. Element disguise. When Barry is on the phone with Rita, the following panel shows Mr. Element going into the salt mine and the caption says it’s happening “at that very moment”; not even Flash can be in two places at once, so maybe the Mr. Element going into the mine was Al Desmond but he got lost or something? Then Flash zipped off to the Flash Museum to get his own Mr. Element costume and showed up at the mine in time to get knocked out and tied up? That’s the only way it makes sense to me.
This is the first of the Firestorm back-up stories that run through issue 304. It starts out with Firestorm celebrating being inducted into the JLA and saving a distracted boater from running over a water-skier. When Firestorm splits back into Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein, Stein freaks out again. When he and Ronnie merge into Firestorm, Stein’s personality is subordinate to Ronnie’s and when they split, Stein can’t remember anything that happened … probably because he was unconscious the first time they merged. So Stein has been having memory blackouts and finding himself in strange places without knowing how he got there, and it’s driving him nuts. Ronnie finally does what he should’ve done a long time ago and takes Stein home so he can explain what’s been going on. The story becomes a repeat of Firestorm’s origin with different art, so I won’t go into detail. It ends on the cliffhanger of the nuclear plant explosion, although we pretty much know what happened, so it’s not really a cliffhanger.
Last issue, Wonder Woman got tired of all the bullshit in Man’s World and returned to Paradise Island to renew her spirit. Her mother Hippolyte figured it might help if she could forget Steve Trevor, so she prayed to Aphrodite, who said she’d remove Diana’s memories of Steve. But then an experimental jet crashed near the island and the pilot turned out to be … Steve Trevor! Diana doesn’t recognize him, but Hippolyte sure does, and wonders what the hell is going on. Diana rushes Steve to the healing chamber and Hippolyte goes to the Temple of Aphrodite for answers. In Japan, two bullet trains crash into each other because they were both on the same track. We find out the crash was orchestrated by a shadowy figure in a flying saucer (!), who reports to someone he addresses as “Holy One”. All we see is a blurry image on a computer screen, but the Holy One says the guy will enjoy his next assignment even more. On Paradise Island, Diana and Steve are immediately attracted to each other and Hippolyte finds out from Aphrodite that they share a destiny. This Steve Trevor is from some parallel world and came through a dimensional breach during a test flight, but he never knew Diana on his world. Since Diana’s memory has been altered, it’s like she and Steve are meeting for the first time. Aphrodite really pours it on, causing everyone on Earth to forget Steve Trevor’s (but not Wonder Woman’s) existence, so they can have a blank slate. Naturally, that means Diana will have to accompany Steve back to man’s world. Speaking of the outside world, we get another interlude, this time at a big city bank where panic is running through the directors. All the bank’s assets have been converted to gold bullion, which promptly disappeared. As the bigwigs try to digest the fact that they’re bankrupt, a junior vice-president slips away and reports to the Holy One that the plan went off perfectly. On Paradise Island, Hippolyte tells Diana that all the crazy bullshit going on in Man’s World lately—all the hatred, violence, intolerance, and death—may not be random … it might be part of some master plan. Hippolyte says Diana has to go back and fight whoever’s behind it, but Diana refuses. That’s kind of ironic … usually Diana wants to leave and Hippolyte wants her to stay, but now it’s the other way around. It gets weirder, as Hippolyte organizes a tournament to see who goes to help in the outside world, and decrees that everyone must enter. Diana can’t help being true to herself and dominates the tournament, once again winning the right to be Wonder Woman. So, Diana takes Steve back to the outside world in her invisible jet, after saying goodbye to her mother again.
- This whole “master plan” thing to explain all the crazy shit in the world sounds like the ultimate conspiracy theory. Obviously it has something to do with this Holy One; I have my suspicions about who it might be, but we’ll have to wait and see.
- Obviously this entire story is just a way of resetting the status quo to bring back Steve and give Wonder Woman a fresh start. It’s no deal with Mephisto, but it’s still pretty heavy-handed.
I’ve heard good things about these Huntress back-ups, but I’ve never read them so I’m looking forward to them. I’ve always liked the character, so hopefully the stories will be good. This one starts with Huntress (aka Helena Wayne) at the graves of her parents, Batman and Catwoman. (Huntress is an Earth-2 hero, in case you’re wondering.) She came to the cemetery to mull over her latest case, and goes into an extended flashback to bring us up to speed. She was at Cranston, Grayson and Wayne (the law firm where she works as a lawyer) when one of clients came bursting in. He was a gay artist stereotype named Winston, who told Helena someone had broken into an art gallery and burned three of his paintings for no discernible reason. He wanted to sue the gallery for inadequate security and Helena said she’d check things out. She checked the place out as Huntress, finding the paintings so mangled that Winston’s name was the only thing recognizable. Huntress checked out the best art fence in Gotham, but he said he didn’t know anything about Winston’s paintings being torched, though he mentioned Winston’s stuff was in demand … even forgeries were going for big bucks. That’s the end of the flashback and Huntress heads home. When she gets there, she hears someone outside the door and (after a quick change) flings it open to find Harry Sims, District Attorney for Gotham’s Southern District, lurking in the hall. Sims says he needs her help with a problem and Helena tells him she’ll meet him at a decent hour. Before she can catch some shut-eye, she has a revelation and heads back to the art gallery as Huntress. She remembered that Winston’s signature on the remains of the paintings wasn’t authentic, so the burned art must’ve been forged. But the museum wouldn’t gain much insurance on three paintings, and they’d hardy go to such lengths to hide a robbery, so what’s going on? When Huntress gets to the gallery, she follows the curator and some guards to a vault where they’re planning to take out some paintings to replace the burnt ones. But they’re interrupted by a gang of thieves led by Solomon Grundy, who demands they give him all the paintings in the vault. We’ll see how Huntress handles old paste-face next issue.
This one starts with Green Lantern saving a test pilot from a broken centrifuge chamber at Ferris Aircraft. Apparently the pilot (Newley) pushed the centrifuge past its limits and caused t to break down. Carol freaks out and fires him and when Green Lantern protests, she gives him a litany of all the shit she’s been dealing with: cost overruns, trouble on the assembly line, and someone stealing a bunch of brand-new pilot seats from the warehouse. She tells GL that he’d better watch his mouth or Hal Jordan (his civilian identity) might get fired too. On the way home, Hal run across the stolen airplane seats, cut open and tossed in the ditch. We see Newley report to a guy named Barney at a waterfront warehouse (where we see Barney’s men loading what look like more airplane seats) to tell him he got fired from Ferris. Barney isn’t happy; Newley was their inside man at Ferris and Barney’s afraid if they go in without Newleys help, Green Lantern might bag them. Barney’s actually more afraid of being flown to jail than he is of being caught in general. The next day, Carol tells Hal the place was broken into again and a bunch of airplane seats were slashed apart, so she’ll have to order more from overseas. That night, Hal is heading out when he sees some thieves going through Carol’s filing cabinet. His ring is out of power, so he jumps the thugs as Hal Jordan and gets his ass kicked. He changes to Green Lantern and charges his ring, trailing the thugs to a nearby hangar. Newley is there, messing around with one of the jets. GL bags the thugs but Newley blasts him with the jet’s engines and he loses concentration, so the thugs get free. They wrap him in a yellow tarp and take off in the jet. GL gets loose and tracks the jet with his ring to the waterfront, where he busts in on Barney, Newley, and the other thugs. He pounds the thugs and Newley urges Barney to get in the jet with him and escape, but Barney’s terrified to fly so GL bags them both. GL tells them he figured out why they’re slashing jet seats; the seats are made in Africa, so there must be something inside one of them that was smuggled from overseas. Since they couldn’t find it in any of the seats they’d checked, they had to go through Carol’s files to see which jets had recently has seats installed. GL opens the seat on the jet Newley just took from Ferris and finds diamonds … which they maybe could’ve gotten away with if Barney wasn’t afraid to fly.
This is the final chapter of the Arrkis Chummuck saga, and I’m glad this story is finally ending. Basically, Arrkis is a new Green Lantern Corps member (from the planet Toomey IX) who’s on trial for killing a member of another alien species, the Xanshi. Another Xanshi is defending him and doing a pretty good job. Arrkis tells the tribunal that he immediately tried to end his planet’s war with Xanshi after he took over leadership of his world. He even stopped a missile bombardment using his power ring, almost killing himself in the attempt, and the tried to claim Xanshi as its conqueror. The Xanshi healed him and he left to attend the tribunal when summoned by the guardians. The prosecutor charges that Chummuck tried to use his ring as a tool of conquest, but his lawyer says Chummuck’s motive was to stop the Xanshi retaliating for the missile strike, so the purity of his motives should count for something. Apparently the tribunal agrees and they allow him to keep his ring and assign him to be taught by another Green Lantern. Which one? Why, Malet Dasim, the guy who just tried to prosecute him. I’m not sure who’s being punished more, Chummuck or Dasim. Anyway, that’s it for that story; I’m sure he has plenty of fans, but I really couldn’t give a shit about Arrkis Chummuck. Let’s see a Kilowog solo story or something.