Flash #275 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderThe death of Iris Allen, the Flash’s wife, also known as Iris West, is a watershed moment in comics. While it may be an early case of “Women In Refrigerators,” the death of his wife affected the flash for the next six years. It drove him to kill an enemy, which started his very last story in his original series. It has affected the relationship he has with his Rogue’s Gallery.

Iris West’s role as Barry Allen’s better half is so cemented by this death, that it has crossed into the television series currently running on the CW. Iris’s role as Barry’s wife stretched into the 1990s, where she became an occaisional character in Legion of Super-Heroes. This was even after Barry Allen had died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths. She became he Editor-In-Chief of the Daily Planet in the late 30th century. Even after her children were killed, she was a stalwart critic of the corrupt government. Unfortunately, she died in 1979, long before many comic fans knew of her original character.

The Flash #275

July 1979
DC Comics

Writer: Cary Bates
Penciler: Alex Saviuk
Inker: Frank Chiaramonte
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Todd Klein

Synopsis:

Flash is being mentally controlled by a psychic teenage fan. She is steering him away from his way home to his wife Iris. She is being stalked by Clive Yorkin, unknown to her. Iris is worried that her husband may be cheating on her so she has placed a homing beacon in his ring. Yorkin skulks off before Iris can see him outside.

The psychic teenager pulls Flash to a motel room where she commands him to remove his mask. She is disappointed that he looks so ordinary. She storms off, having lost all interest in the Flash. Iris arrives just as the teenager is leaving. When she finds Flash in the hotel room, she instantly assumes an affair and rushes off, distraught. In her emotional state, she causes an accident with a tanker truck. Flash uses his speed to save her and the two men in the truck. Running home with Iris, he explains how nothing happened because the girl found him too ordinary, which really bothers him. Iris believes him.

Meanwhile, a shadowy figure plots Barry Allen’s murder at a masquerade ball. Flash and Iris arrive home and decide to have a baby. Flash forgot about the masquerade ball. Iris suggest that he go dressed as the Flash. Unknown to either of them Clive Yorkin is outside again, spying and remembering how Barry Allen stood by while an experimental electrical process to cure him of criminal tendencies left him disfigured.

He’s scared off by Barry’s colleague from work, Frank Curtis. Frank is also dressed as the Flash. Everyone gets a good laugh from Iris being escorted by two Flashes. The three of them goes to the masquerade ball, unaware that Clive Yorkin is hiding in the trunk of Frank’s car. The theme for the party is for everyone to dress as a super-hero or super-villain. Someone dressed as the Golden Age Sandman is pretending to zap party-goers with his gun. Barry is called off to get a phone call from his police chief,. Iris dances with someone dressed as Green Lantern, as Barry excuses himself. Outside, Frank Curtis is attacked by Clive Yorkin and thrown off a balcony after he realizes it isn’t Barry Allen he’s attacked.

When Barry returns,he is handed a punch and is zapped by the Sandman. He finds that Iris is dancing with his teammate from the Justice League crashing the party just to see who Barry dressed as for the party. He flies off, impressing the party-goers. After sharing a toast, Barry and Iris decide to tour the mansion of their host.

Almost immediately, Barry immediately starts feeling woozy. Iris runs off to get him some water. Flash realizes that because Iris hasn’t been affected, it isn’t the punch. He hears her scream, but once he stumbles into the bathroom, he finds Clive Yorkin standing over her unconscious form. Yorkin leaps out the window, as Barry tries to get Iris to some help, but passes out as some other party-goers run in to see what the shouting was. Frank makes his way in as one of the party-goers informs him that one of the pair needs immediate medical care, but the other is dead. Spoiler warning: Iris is dead.

Review:

The story progresses nicely, but the relationship of Barry and Iris is a problem. The issue starts with Iris suspicious of Barry. Less than half the pages in, they have decided to have a baby. This is a real swerve in tone. It does serve to give Iris’s death more impact. They are already portrayed at the party as a happily married couple. I would argue that even without the baby decision, it’s a little unnecessary. Thankfully, Cary Bates didn’t have Iris pregnant when she dies.

Clive Yorkin is blatantly teased as the murderer. However, his anger is directed at Barry, so killing Iris doesn’t seem to be a logical choice. He attacks someone else dressed at the Flash, so he is intent on harming Barry, but no indication is given that he wants to kill Iris. I hesitate in spoiling the story that Yorkin didn’t kill Iris. This story is almost forty years old, so I guess I can be fine with it.

I didn’t know how Cary Bates explained the plan to kill Iris. It wasn’t for another eight months that the real murderer’s identity and motives were revealed. The motives are very personal, and a little bit psychotic. I won’t spoil it if you don’t already know. If you want to learn the identity, seek out the individual issues, namely this one, issue #282 and #283. I do give credit to Alex Saviuk for putting the visual elements in place for the reveal down the road.

The art by Alex Saviuk serves the purpose, but isn’t among the best of the time. Effort is made in some stories where costume parties are held with everyone dressing as super-heroes and super-villains to make it look like most of the costumes are not genuine articles. Saviuk doesn’t do that here, with only a few exceptions. I will give credit for the inclusion of a couple of “fictional” heroes, namely the Golden Age Sandman and Lee Falk’s Phantom. Saviuk would go on to eventually draw the Phantom about a decade later. Unfortunately, with Saviuk’s style, I don’t see how obviously replica costumes would be rendered here to get the point across.

His panel layouts are a little unconventional, and in breaking panel borders, sometimes directs the eye away out of sequence. I appreciate that he made the effort to create appealing design. The problem is that it isn’t always successful. The coloring techniques of the time make for some bleeding colors, especially where blacks are concerned. Look at Flash’s hand in the panel below to see how the red was laid down and how bad it can look. There are examples from this time when it was done much better. I find serious fault whenever it was done.

I really like the cover. Drawn by Dick Giordano, it gives the party a better feeling of being a real situation. It also sets the important elements of the story down for the reader. That guy dressed as Bizarro is the real gem in here for me.

Notes:

As a key issue for the Bronze Age of comics, this cost of this issue in really nice condition will run into the double digits. It is also one of those Whitman reprints, but that doesn’t look to affect value too much.

This issue has been collected in  The Flash: A Celebration of 75 Years (ISBN: 1401251781) Unfortunately, it doesn’t give the context of the surrounding issues. I recommend seeking out the individual issues, probably the run from #274-284. The collection and most of those issues are available digitally, if you don’t need to have physical copies.

Final Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

The importance of this issue and the cover’s strength helps elevate it past an average comic. Unfortunately, it’s aesthetic value lies in the events that occur at the end of the book.