What is this all about?
Spoilers ahead! This issue centers on the consequences that Barry experiences as a result of prioritizing being the Flash over being a husband and father. Thawne confronts Barry with his failures as a parent and his failure to be open with Iris about being the Flash. Barry’s lack of honesty noticeably upsets Iris. She confronts Barry on his false belief that he was trying to protect her with the lie. Barry responds by letting Thawne take him away in order to stop hurting the ones he loves. The issue ends with The Flash returning as an uglier version of himself wanting to kill Thawne.
In this issue, we quickly become aware of a new problem, specifically, Barry prioritizing being the Flash over his close relationships. Barry Allen lied to Iris about being the Flash because he wanted to protect her from his enemies.
The problem created by Barry lying to Iris is further exemplified by the sequence between Barry and his children. An older grey-bearded Barry confronts his children who’ve created a tornado which is destroying Central City. He engages his children as the Flash rather than as Barry. His son and daughter, Don and Dawn, are the living embodiment of Barry’s misplaced priorities. Meanwhile, Thawne is standing next to Iris and Barry as they look at the vision of their future. Barry blames Thawne, not taking responsibility for the impact his decision had on his children.
After confronting Barry with his failures as a father, the book transitions back to his relationship with Iris. “You lied to me”, Iris states after first questioning then knowing that parts of what Thawne was saying were true. She thought of the missed appointments, the late work hours, the disappearing acts. She confronts Barry stating that she knew exactly why Barry lied. “To protect me”. Ironically, the lie Barry told to protect Iris inflicts great pain as she understands what it means. Iris believes that Barry treats his responsibilities as the Flash more seriously than his obligations to her. Iris feels unworthy of his attention which is very painful. “I’m just Iris West”, she states.
The book reveals the Flash’s mistaken belief that he can protect the ones he loves by telling lies. At each juncture of the book, Thawne is there to twist the knife, “In all of your timelines you never told Iris on your own. She always had to find out”. Barry is overcome with regrets: internalized shame, dwelling on failures instead of facing the present. The fastest man alive cannot be in two places at one time. He cannot be the Flash and be present with Iris at the same time. We begin to question if Barry’s biggest enemy is himself or Thawne?
The issue maintains Thawne’s ominous presence and his credibility as an enemy of the Flash. For example, Reverse Flash makes the statement, “The future doesn’t care if you believe in it or not” and “I’m not your greatest enemy”. As a fan of the Flash I don’t want to believe this statement. Thawne left Barry beaten and bloodied. Knowing that Barry has messed up his children and his relationship with Iris feels like an unwanted alternative.
The author does a brilliant job of utilizing the Reverse Flash as the antagonist. Thawne convinces Barry of his guilt, he then provides him with the solution to relieve his pain: “Run side by side with me to a place where you’ll absolutely never be able to hurt another soul”. An objective person can hear the empty promises and the naive absolutes; however, Barry falls for the lie. He says to Thawne, “take Iris home”. Thawne promises to return Iris to her old life.
The Flash is faced with regrets at not telling the ones he’d loved how much they meant to him. He sees Iris and Wally telling him that he’d lied. Barry wishes he’d done things differently. He returns to Iris a much uglier version of himself. Will the Flash overcome the lie he told and would Iris forgive him? Is the deformed Flash strong enough to defeat Thawne? Does it still matter? All things I am dying to find out in issue #27. This issue was a page turner. The story was compelling and the cliffhanger at the end leaves the reader wanting more. The art was beautiful and complimented the story wonderfully. This is the type of Flash story that makes me a fan of the character.
Reviewed by Tom Zimm
Written By: Joshua Williamson
Art by: Howard Porter, Hi-Fi, Steve Wands
Published by DC
Release Date: 7/12/2017