The Flash 304 (December 1981)

The Flash #304

I think Bates must have just learned the word “erg” before writing this issue because he uses it ostentatiously.

He also seemingly anticipates Tron–maybe the previews were already out–and puts Flash inside a really lame video game. The coolest part of the issue is how Bates doesn’t worry about resolution, just telling the best story he can… even if Barry’s involvement with it is contrived. There’s finally what make be taken for character development–Barry hanging out with his neighbors–and it’s lousy.

Not to mention there’s no resolution with his parents from the previous issue, which might have been nice.

Still, it’s not a terrible story and Infantino has room to break out the action. Maybe even too much.

The Firestorm backup is packed with content–there’s a diary flashback device–and decent if abrupt art from Broderick and Rodriguez. The feature should’ve donated them some space.

B- 

CREDITS

One More Blip… and You’re Dead!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, John Costanza. Firestorm, The Heart Is the Hunter!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Pierre Bernard Jr. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 303 (November 1981)

The Flash #303

It’s a good issue for Bates and Infantino. Bates comes up with a lot of set pieces, but doesn’t hurry them. Infantino actually has time to make them visually interesting.

This issue has the big reveal with Barry’s evil dad and it’s only about six issues too late. Maybe five. It would have been better if Bates had gone straight from the car accident to the Golden Glider issue to this resolution. None of the previous foreshadowing delivers because Bates revelation isn’t ingenious, it’s contrived.

Speaking of contrived–why doesn’t Flash call a super friend for help? If Flash is fighting a supernatural power, can’t he just call the Spectre or Dead Man?

Bates’s logic problems culminate with a huge one at the end.

The Firestorm backup has Pat Broderick on pencils and Adrian Gonzales on inks; there’s some great art here. And besides the recap, Conway’s writing is strong.

B 

CREDITS

The Top is Alive and Well in Henry Allen!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, John Costanza. Firestorm, The Hyena Syndrome!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Pat Broderick; inker, Adrian Gonzales; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Pierre Bernard Jr. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 302 (October 1981)

The Flash #302

I was hoping Bates would keep Flash running smoothly after the previous issue, but this one doesn’t bode well for the series keeping up. Even more than usual, Barry–and the Flash–are less characters in the comic than they are movable pieces for Bates’s plot. There’s not even the attempt at showing the Flash’s fantastic powers. Instead, Bates shows him doing what equates to a grade school science project without the traditional verbose, fantastic explanation.

This issue has Flash apparently falling for the Golden Glider. Now, I’m not sure about her family situation, but she doesn’t remember Flash messing with her brother a few issues ago. I guess they aren’t in touch. SO why’s she important–do they have some deep, repressed attraction for one another? Nope, it’s all for Bates’s evil dad plot.

It’s lame.

The Firestorm backup isn’t much better. Again, fine composition from Cowans, weak detail. And rushed writing.

C+ 

CREDITS

Lisa Starts with L and That Stands for Lethal; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, Invitation to Revelation; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Denys Cowan; inker, Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 301 (September 1981)

The Flash #301

Bates seems a lot more comfortable and assured this issue–maybe assured isn’t the right word. He’s ambitious again, both in plotting the feature story and how he gets through it. The only weak part is when the Flash has to beg for Barry Allen’s job back. It reveals how little work Bates does on either character.

The issue’s sort of a thriller, with Barry’s boss being kidnapped and him having to figure it out. Throw in his mom waking up from her coma and his evil impostor dad up to no good and it’s the most compelling issue in a while. Especially since Bates disguises the kidnapping plot’s second act as the third.

Oddly, Infantino’s constrained, almost everything is in summary. There are no real scenes.

Similarly, in the Firestorm backup, Cowans’s art is competent but problematic. Luckily, Conway packs in good material, lots of character development and plot movements.

B 

CREDITS

…And the Beat Goes Off!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, How Laughs the Hyena?; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Denys Cowan; inker, Dennis Jensen; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Inker, Bob Smith; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 300 (August 1981)

The Flash #300

About eighty-five percent of the issue is spent on flashbacks. Apparently Barry is in a mental institution, covered in bandages, and he’s been imagining the Flash side of his life for years. As he remembers things to keep himself sane, Bates and Infantino visualize them. These little stories tend to be short, sometimes just a few panels.

Infantino does it successfully but also pointlessly. Who cares about all these villain origin recaps? They actually make the comic less accessible.

Because there’s no character development, Bates instead goes for a couple surprises for the finish. The big one is drawn out and talky, the second but not bigger one is too short and too breezy. Bates just doesn’t seem to know what he wants to do.

A lot of the art is fine, but even Infantino can’t make the exasperatingly boring entertaining.

Worst is how abruptly Bates end the story.

C 

CREDITS

1981 — A Flash Odyssey; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 299 (July 1981)

The Flash #299

It’s too bad, but not even the Infantino art can make this issue particularly worthwhile. There’s a real lack of personality to all of it; Bates is just building towards the big event with Barry’s evil father (I wonder if he’s secretly Reverse Flash, could he be) in the next issue. Not even a scene with Barry’s dad holding a gun to his head (while Barry is sleeping) has any weight.

Worse, Bates gets rid of all The Shade for most of the issue. The Flash teaming up with a supervillain might actually be interesting but The Shade’s barely in the issue. More time is spent on Barry verifying The Shade’s story than the odd couple teaming up.

And the big action finale is lame–it’s color effects, there’s nothing for Infantino to do.

Conway then tries something strange with the Firestorm backup–an average criminal versus Firestorm. Sadly, it doesn’t work.

C 

CREDITS

A Stab in the Black; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, John Costanza. Firestorm, The Robbery; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Denys Cowan; inker, Dennis Jensen; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Todd Klein. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 298 (July 1981)

The Flash #298

I’m not sure how to phrase it exactly, because Bates hasn’t exactly dumbed down The Flash for Infantino’s return to the book, but he’s definitely dulled the characters down. It’s like he’s changing the audience, aiming younger. There’s no character development anymore and the character details are lame. One colleague of Barry’s wonders if he’s always running off because the guy has bad breath.

Yawn.

There’s also not as much emphasis on the science of The Flash’s powers. Bates just lets Infantino run wild with the art and fills in with endless exposition. It makes for a strange read, because whether Infantino is trying hard or not, the art’s excellent. But Bates is no longer trying. It’s too bad.

The Firestorm backup still has Cowan on the art and thankfully no high school scenes. There’s a lot of action packed into a few pages and it all works well enough.

C+ 

CREDITS

A Deadly Shade of Peril; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, The Multiplex Complex; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Denys Cowan; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 297 (May 1981)

The Flash #297

There’s something a little off about this issue. While Infantino is (hopefully) the new regular artist and he definitely has some good work in the issue–he can turn the smallest panel into the fullest one with all the movement and action–Bates is a little tone deaf.

The problem might be the two-fold nature of the plotting. Captain Cold is out on parole and has turned himself into a hero, but Barry’s mom is also in a coma following a traffic accident. Bates dismisses any struggle about being a superhero while being a supportive son–Barry decides being the Flash is more important, no question.

The Cold plot has a terrible resolution. Bates introduces a good story for him, then rushes through it.

Good thing the art’s nice.

Denys Cowan pencils the Firestorm backup’s high school students like thirty-somethings. Conway tries to do some character work, but there aren’t enough pages.

C+ 

CREDITS

Capt. Cold’s Cold, Cold Flame; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Todd Klein. Firestorm, Multiplex Means Multiple Choice… Death!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Denys Cowan; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Phil Rachelson; letterer, Milton Snapinn. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 296 (April 1981)

The Flash #296

What’s strange about the feature is how much better Bates writes Elongated Man and Sue Dibney than he does Barry and the Flash. There’s a lot of charm to his characterizations of the Dibneys and it breathes a lot of life into the story.

Of course, the story also has Carmine Infantino artwork and every page has one or two phenomenal panels; Infantino is able to turn anything the Flash does into a moment of comic gold, whether it’s a fight scene or just a costume change. It’s not just how much movement Infantino implies, it’s how he composes each panel to have a narrative flow to it.

It also doesn’t hurt the story’s a genuine surprise with a great reveal.

The Firestorm backup has Conway trying too hard to make the protagonist likable, but some ambitious artwork from Starlin. Rather unfortunately, the detail doesn’t live up to the composition.

B 

CREDITS

The Man Who Was Cursed to the Bone!; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Carmine Infantino; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, Rain, Rain, Go Away… Come to Kill Us Another Day!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 295 (March 1981)

The Flash #295

Heck gets lazy on the strangest stuff for the feature in this issue. It’s not the super gorillas or all the different locations in Bates’s script… no, it’s the people. Whenever Heck is drawing a person, it just doesn’t work out. It’s like he spent all his time on everything else and rushed through the faces.

The feature story has an odd structure too and it never quite recovers from it. Bates relies on deceiving the reader to get create drama at the end, but he also weighs down the front of the story. There are a couple lengthy action scenes as Grodd is brainwashing Flash and the good super gorilla; these scenes are quick and pointless and Bates gives them too much time.

He just moves too fast through the story, which is too slight anyway.

The Firestorm back-up has Conway suffering pacing problems too. And the art’s mediocre.

C 

CREDITS

In Grodd We Trust; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Don Heck; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Dangerous Sea; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 294 (February 1981)

The Flash #294

The super gorillas. I forgot about the super gorillas. If Bates likes writing anything more than strange applications of Flash’s powers, it’s got to be these super gorillas.

But the super gorillas aren’t interesting to talk about, because it’s just the overdone dialogue and the gorillas talking about their intelligence. The Flash’s powers and their applications? At least in those scenes Bates is trying something. It’s a decidedly not visual way to express the powers. Artist Heck doesn’t do anything special with these scenes either. The feature story’s visually unimaginative.

Luckily, Bates has a good plot. It’s multi-layered, it’s got a lot of neat plotting tricks. It works out well, even though Bates probably shouldn’t have started foreshadowing the cliffhanger so early in the book. Not so obviously.

The Firestorm backup has terrible art from Jim Starlin and Bob Wiacek. It’s impossible to ignore it and the story suffers.

B 

CREDITS

Fiend the World Forgot; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Don Heck; colorist, Gene D’Angelo. Firestorm, The Typhoon Is a Storm of the Soul; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Jim Starlin; inker, Bob Wiacek; colorist, Jerry Serpe. Letterer, John Costanza; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 292 (December 1980)

The Flash #292

Bates sure does try hard to get the reader to pay attention. He has another sequence this issue where the Flash discovers some clue and Bates calls out the reader to try to figure it out too. There’s only one problem with it… Bates still writes the revelation scene like the reader didn’t figure it out. So if the reader has figured it out, he or she has wasted some engagement time.

Engagement time–there’s no reward to figuring it out. It’s a DC no prize.

The story itself is a neat one, with the Mirror Master outsmarting Barry for a while. Heck doesn’t do great on the art and Bates writes the new love interest real annoying… but the main plot works out well.

The Firestorm backup is all action and lots of good Perez composition. He and Conway pack the limited pages. The pluses outweigh the lackluster finish.

B 

CREDITS

Mirror, Mirror, Off The Wall…; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Don Heck; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Milt Snapinn. Firestorm, The Hostages of Precinct 13!; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, George Perez and Bob Smith; inker, Smith; colorist, Lynne Gelfer; letterer, Ben Oda. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 291 (November 1980)

The Flash #291

Even though Bates comes up with a lot of excitement for the Flash this issue–and the reader too–there’s something off about the feature story. Bates and Heck (inking himself to questionable success) put Barry through a bunch of different types of action. There’s a couple regular fights, a supervillain fight, a mid-town disaster sequence with a helicopter getting shot out of the sky, plus all the stuff with Barry’s neighbor thinking he’s trying to kill her.

But it’s almost too much. Bates gives up on any attempt at character development, save one scene with Barry’s neighbor (not the girl, but some dude), and the action goes so fast it’s hard to find any footing.

It’s a darned interesting approach–giving the readers their money’s worth–but it’s messy.

And then the Firestorm backup has a lot of character development, but it doesn’t leave Conway time to give Perez anything phenomenal to draw.

B- 

CREDITS

The Sabretooth is a Very Deadly Beast!; writer, Cary Bates; artist, Don Heck; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Milt Snapinn. Firestorm, The Hyena Laughs Last; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, George Perez and Bob Smith; inker, Smith; colorist, Lynne Gelfer; letterer, John Costanza. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 290 (October 1980)

The Flash #290

The way Cary Bates writes The Flash, there’s nothing super-speed can’t accomplish. But it’s so darn likable, it’s hard to get stopped up by the severe gaps in logic. Maybe not gaps… canyons. Canyons in logic.

This issue has the incredible story of a young woman believing Barry Allen is out to kill her. The Flash, understandably, doesn’t think she’s got it right so he decides to help her. Bates paces the story beautifully, with some opening exposition, then some action, then more exposition, then maybe more action (or exposition). It’s a full story, even though it’s not the full issue.

Bates also has a nice way of working in the character development. He takes good shortcuts to get the girl established quickly.

Decent enough art from Heck and Chiaramonte, especially considering the absurdity.

Conway rushes the Firestorm origin recap a bit but the Perez pencils are absolutely gorgeous.

B 

CREDITS

“Will You Believe Me When I’m Dead?”; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Don Heck; inker, Frank Chiaramonte; colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Milt Snapinn. Firestorm, The Secret History of the Nuclear Man; writer, Gerry Conway; pencillers, George Perez and Bob Smith; inker, Smith; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Shelly Leferman. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

The Flash 289 (September 1980)

The Flash #289

Cary Bates sure does like exposition. It’s practically endless in the Flash feature, with Bates writing really long paragraphs of thought balloons explaining why The Flash can do what he can do. None of it makes any sense, but it sounds scientific.

The story has The Flash trying to sort of two villains who are battling each other. There are a lot more details–like they’re astral twins and so on–but he doesn’t really do anything with that relationship. It’s just another piece of the story requiring a whole lot of explanation, which Bates then provides.

The art from Don Heck and Frank Chiaramonte is decent and everything works out pretty well. It’s just goofy and Bates can’t hide it.

Then there’s the Firestorm backup with gorgeous George Perez art. Besides the lovely action intro, it’s a origin retelling. Gerry Conway’s writing is solid, but the art’s the thing.

B 

CREDITS

The Good… The Bad… and The Unexpected; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Don Heck; inker, Frank Chiaramonte. Firestorm, Firestorm is Back In Town!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, George Perez; inker, Romeo Tanghal. Colorist, Gene D’Angelo; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

DC Retroactive: Justice League of America – The ’70s 1 (September 2011)

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So Andy Smith can do a mediocre superhero comic. His faces are a little unfinished, but his figures are fine. Gordon Purcell, on the other hand, is—from what it looks like—regularly working on Archie? Purcell handles the “real” part of the story, which involves the JLA going to Earth-Prime (the “real” Earth, pre-Crisis, where superheroes exist in DC comic books).

Bates does a great job with the script, which gets dense with dialogue, but always moves. I was a little confused over the villain’s plan—it involved Adam Strange and the Zeta Beam—but it’s a good script. And when it’s the Smith art, the flashback story feels like a glossy, somewhat overproduced but still well-done issue. But I couldn’t stop wondering why Purcell during his pages… seventies Justice League didn’t look like Archie.

That problem aside, it’s an excellent issue. Bates does fine work.

CREDITS

Enter Justice League Prime; writer, Cary Bates; pencillers, Gordon Purcell and Andy Smith; inkers, Jose Marzan Jr. and Smith; colorist, Carlos Badilla; letterer, Wes Abbott; editors, Chynna Clugston Flores and Jim Chadwick; publisher, DC Comics.

DC Retroactive: The Flash – The ’70s 1 (September 2011)

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This Flash issue shows exactly what’s wrong with the whole DC Retroactive line… They aren’t actually trying to make good comics.

Now, I didn’t read a lot of Cary Bates Flash comics but I read enough to know Carmine Infantino drew them. So, to do a nice retro of them, DC should have hired someone who drew something like Infantino, right? Or at least someone distinct and stylized. Instead, they got Benito Gallego, who’s only distinct if one means incompetent.

Sadly, Bates’s script is completely fantastic. Grodd comes up with this incredibly evil pain involving heartbreak, cloning and gene-splicing. He even jokes about how he’s got to keep upping the evil ante because he’s the bad guy. It’s great.

It’s so great, one can put up with the Gallego pencils (I mean, instead of Sal Buscema, why didn’t DC get someone to fix them with inks?).

Flawed, but fabulous.

CREDITS

Son of Grodd; writer, Cary Bates; penciller, Benito Gallego; inker, Sal Buscema; colorists, Kevin Golden and Matthew Petz; letterer, Dezi Sienty; editors, Chynna Clugston Flores and Kwanza Johnson; publisher, DC Comics.

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