Mike Baron's Flash

A column article, The Full Run by: Maxwell Yezpitelok

The concept of "The Full Run" is pretty simple: we'll pick a comic book run we like and review every single issue in no more than a few lines. We're starting with Mike Baron's short run in The Flash, which involves trips to the USSR, adultery, and a man with a black hole inside his stomach.

Here's a little context: good ol' Barry Allen had been The Flash for almost 30 years before his death in 1985, at which point his sidekick Wally West (the former Kid Flash) took on his mantle and identity. These are Wally's first adventures as everyone's favorite red-costumed superhero who isn't Spider-Man: The Flash!

Flash #1 (June 1987) – "Happy Birthday, Wally"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
The Teen Titans throw Wally a surprise 20th birthday party, which is probably their subtle way of saying he's too old for the group now. Later, a hospital asks Wally to take a heart across the country for an emergency operation… and he charges them money to do it. Then he wins the lottery and probably feels like a real jerk. Also, Vandal Savage is creepy.

Flash #2 (July 1987) – "Hearts of Stone"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
Vandal Savage suddenly has magic powers and wants to eat Wally's heart. Wally escapes and takes his girlfriend dancing to celebrate his new fortune, but then Vandal crashes the party looking for him (and his delicious innards). Wally beats Vandal, buys a big house and asks his girlfriend to move in. A cabbie advises him to invest in aeronautics, but Wally isn't convinced.

Flash Annual #1 (1987) – "Death Touch"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
Wally stops a robbery in a Chinese restaurant and inadvertently causes one of the robbers to fall down unconscious, without touching him. An Asian man called Marshall tells Wally he has the "death touch", so naturally he must travel to Hong Kong to learn more about this power from a "wizened sage" (who happens to be a little boy). Confusing stuff happens. The end.

Flash #3 (August 1987) – "The Kilg%re"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
Wally's girlfriend Francine dumps him for no reason. Bored, he agrees to help with a science experiment in Utah. The guy working in the lab's cafeteria warns him about a monster in the desert (then quits his job to become a dancer). The desert monster turns out to be an alien technovirus called Kilg%re (pronounced "Gerald"), who takes over the US in like two pages.

Flash #4 (September 1987) – "Kill the Kilg%re"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
The Kilg%re takes over all the electronics in the world, which in 1987 meant "a lot of cassette players." Wally sticks around the desert lab, mainly because he wants to sleep with hot scientist Tina "Tits" McGee. Later they shut down the power in the whole world, thus killing the Kilg%re, plus anyone else who happened to be connected to an artificial respirator, I'm guessing.

Flash #5 (October 1987) – "Speed McGee"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Jack Torrance)
Wally has to defend his married girlfriend, Tina, against her abusive husband, a deranged scientist who achieves super-speed through steroids. The guy can't control his speed very well, though, so he keeps running into things like walls, horses and oil refineries (causing them to explode). Oh, and Wally's deadbeat dad comes to stay in his house now that he's rich.

Flash #6 (November 1987) – "Super Nature"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
"Speed" McGee tries to kill his boss, another scientist called Dr. Bortz, but he continues running into things and eventually collapses. Tina apparently can't make up her mind and asks Wally to save her evil husband's life. In order to do that, Wally must go fetch another scientist called Dr. Orloff. Yes, half the characters in this comic have Doctorates.

Flash #7 (December 1987) – "Red Trinity"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
You know that Dr. Orloff guy Wally has to go find so he can save his girlfriend's husband? Yeah, he's trapped in a top secret government base… in Russia. During the Cold War. Wally goes there like a chump and meets Dr. Orloff's "sons", a group of Russian speedsters called Red Trinity. Meanwhile, Tina is more worried about her husband than Wally. Ouch.

Flash #8 (January 1988) – "Purple Haze" (Millenium Crossover)

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
Having convinced Orloff and the Red Trinity to defect the USSR surprisingly fast (maybe because they kept them trapped in Siberia, apparently), Wally must fight another group Russian speedsters, the Blue Trinity. In the middle of all this Wally's dad reveals that he, by the way, is an agent of an evil alien conspiracy, the Manhunters, and killed Wally's mom.

Flash #9 (February 1988) – "The Chunk"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
Wally finally gets rid of his dad (since he was an alien spy and all), but unfortunately his mom turns out to be alive, so he has to put up with her now. Also, Tina convinces him to see a psychiatrist. Also, Wally's neighbors want to kick him out. Also, Wally fights a morbidly obese man who eats diamonds. And Wally. There is a parallel dimension inside the man's stomach.

Flash #10 (March 1988) – "Chunk in the Void"

(Mike Baron / Mike Collins / Larry Mahlstedt)
Wally has wild and sexy adventures in the wasteland inside "The Chunk." He meets other people Chunk has eaten, some of whom have turned to cannibalism in order to survive (an ironic turn of events). Chunk himself lives there, too, in a boat stranded in the middle of the desert inside his stomach. The cannibals organize a revolt against Chunk and only piss him off.

Flash #11 (April 1988) – "Chunk Barges In"

(Mike Baron / Jackson Guice / Larry Mahlstedt)
Chunk eats a bunch more people, even though they're already in the dimension inside his stomach, so I don't know where they're supposed to go now. He feels guilty and agrees to let everyone out of the wasteland. Back on Earth, Wally finds out his mother and his married girlfriend have been living together in his house and are getting on each other's nerves.

Flash #12 (May 1988) – "Velocity 9"

(Mike Baron / Mike Collins / Larry Mahlstedt)
Wally asks his mom when she's moving out and she starts crying. Tina is still upset. The Red Trinity speedsters have adjusted to life in America by embracing capitalism and founding a courier service, but they're hijacked by junkies who can run fast thanks to a new drug (Velocity 9). Meanwhile, a local gangster invites Wally and his mom to a formal party… and they go.

Flash #13 (June 1988) – "Savage Vandalism"

(Mike Baron / Mike Collins / Larry Mahlstedt)
At the party, Wally flirts with his gangster neighbor's sexy "niece" (while Tina stays at home watching Dallas, presumably). The mastermind behind the speed drug turns out to be Vandal Savage, who no longer has magic powers for some reason. That gangster dude is kidnapped by Vandal, and his "niece" convinces Wally to go rescue him because she's hot and he's a chump.

Flash #14 (July 1988) – "Wipe Out"

(Mike Baron / Mike Collins / Larry Mahlstedt)
Vandal Savage injects Wally with the speed drug, which has the inverse effect of taking his speed powers away for a while. Wally's gangster buddy double-crosses him, probably because he knows Wally made out with his "niece" (actually his girlfriend!). Vandal is defeated when Dr. Bortz (wha?) injects HIM with the speed drug… and then Wally finds out he's suddenly bankrupt.

The run starts off pretty well, with three solid and entertaining arcs featuring great art by Jackson Guice. The best issue of the run is definitely Flash #2 ("Hearts of Stone"), because it's just so wonderfully weird: at one point Vandal Savage transports Wally's apartment to another dimension without breaking a sweat, simply because he can. Wally is a little confused, seeing that Vandal had never displayed magic powers before (and he never would again), but Vandal explains that, being an immortal, there are things he simply forgot he could do. An elegant coat-wearing heart-eating caveman with magic powers: that's probably the best interpretation of Vandal Savage ever.

Sadly, the second half of the run isn't so good: the tie-in with Millenium, DC's crossover event for 1988, feels forced and unnatural, barging into the Red Trinity storyline and ruining what could have been a perfectly good tale about Soviet people punching each other in super-speed. Jackson Guice appears to have lost interest shortly after that (apparently he's not a big fan of drawing fat people eating superheroes), and phones it in until he's replaced by Mike Collins (whose style doesn't fit very well with Mike Baron's scripts). It's hard to pick a worst issue, because the last three or four are all pretty bad. There's way too much stuff going on: by Baron's last issue, Wally has no powers, no money, and is trapped in an awkward relationship with an older woman (plus there's Tina). Thankfully, the next writer managed to turn that crummy situation into something worth reading -- as we'll see next week when we go over William Messner-Loebs and Greg LaRocque's Flash run (or the first half, anyway, because they did like 50 issues and I AM NOT A MACHINE).

I leave with my favorite moment from this run, belonging to Flash #3 ("The Kilg%re"):

Maxwell Yezpitelok is a writer from Chile. He likes doorknobs. Find him on Twitter (@mrmxy) or outside your house OMG

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