Issue 60
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JLU - Flash and Substance

It didn't occur to me until later that this episode co-insided with Valentine's Day. How appropriate, because this is a love poem.

When I read the description that said Batman and Orion would be seeing a new side of Flash, I expected something dark. Well, we live in a world that focuses its CSI eyes on dark spaces. The Grand Guignol. The Grr and the Argh of it.

Actually, Batman and Orion didn't see a new side of Flash. Instead we saw the same side of Flash. Clarified. Reflected. Refracted. Distilled. A truly good person, who cares about his community. Every aspect of his life in accord. His masked face does much the same work as his every day face. His red mask merely hiding red hair.

Flash tends to be played for laughs on JL/JLU. Good natured and not that bright. A bit of a lot of a flirt and offering a Mochachino to every pretty girl that smiles.

And yet in his city of centrality, he never even notices the reporter with a crush. Some strange inversion of Clark and his tangled Lois triangle. On his day, Flash runs by the pretty girls with a smile and a sprint. And his job is umm…I never thought I’d say this…technical. He works on the minutia. The small, the mundane. Soap. Because, well, that is how criminals are caught. It’s not that it was a hidden depth. It’s that he is just that straight forward.

Forward momentum and go.

Flash.

Substance.

And from the micro to the macro, I consider the relationship of a hero and their city.

“Don’t let them call you a crazy loner.” The shrouding fall of a cape. Darkness even in the brightest day. Dark knight for the city of the mad. His enemies the deranged and the macabre. Acid rinsed clowns, two faced Janus coin tossed friends, and the sanest is the icy vengeful heart that destroys hope now that all hope is lost. A city where over and over parents die and heroes gargoyle perch to drive the possessing spirits away. The people point at tiny figures swinging from shadow to shadow and children speculate that the Bat is not a man at all.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane. It’s. The fluttering snap of a red cape as the blue angel descends. An immigrant. A farmer come from the small ville to the anonymous city. To the metropolis where anyone can become an anything. A Moses in his basket. And when that angel dies, his memorial is his symbol. The abstraction of the man. His villains are great and grand. Digital destroyers of worlds. Dark sided conquerors. Alexandrian industrial kings. The people wave to their hero as he flies clouds high and planets far away.

Ah, Central City - “Home to the Flash.”

Home.

Every year Superman spends Christmas with his family as his bespectacled self. Clark. Leaves his city behind for some more pastoral vision.

There might be cows.

It would seem that Batman spends Christmas with the Joker. New Years with Commissioner Gordon contemplating the passage of years and crime.

There might be brooding. Avert your eyes.

And the Flash, he plays the man in a red suit at an orphanage.

“In honor of all his charity work…”

All.

Not donations. Wally isn’t rich. His apartment has a laundry room. Wow.

Not big gestures, but simple interaction. Painting fences. Chatting with fishermen on the bridge.

A hero’s relationship with his city. Running along the streets, trading greetings and conversation. He’s a hero who knows his liniments. The warming of the muscles. Comfort in the midst of pain. He’s a hero who knows his city by name and name and name.

And his villains. They’re worried about mortgages and ulcers. Their Joker is a trickster off his meds. The wonderful loop from Mark Hamil as the Trickster in the 90s Flash series to voicing Batman’s Joker to JLU’s Trickster again. It’s all connected.

“Take it down a level.”

A key to the city and Flash hopes he makes them proud. Aw…

His monument, a statue of a man where pigeons can now roost.

Of course Orion, dog of war, doesn’t understand. Pigeons wouldn’t dare roost on Darkside’s statue and that’s all Orion really knows. All Father gave Orion away into the dark. To the Grand Guignol. To a warrior’s pain and all that rot.

Uh, yeah, whatever.

Wally isn’t trying to recreate lost parents, who failed him by dying. Pulling people close to push them away. He isn’t flying at a 100,000 foot withdraw to be himself.

He is himself. Out running light and disco balls gone bad. Err…badder.

Not that any of this is qualitative. I love all the heroes in their turn. But, it’s not that often you see genuine sweetness, the centralness of the heart, put forward as an ideal for a hero.

Which really makes me want to say, “Awwww…” A love poem for the woobie in all of us.

 
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