I don’t think Geoff Johns really pulled off the Barry-Allen-as-Blue-Lantern concept here. He hovers around it, and Barry sure is dressed up all in blue (as the cover subtly hints at — I don’t know if you noticed), but other than a bit about flying, there’s not much that would have changed about this issue had Barry Allen been regular-old Flash. Though he is noticeably less angsty here than in “Flash: Rebirth.” Maybe the blue ring — hope-filled, and all — cheered him up. He needed it.
But like so many Flash stories, the most interesting part of this comic isn’t the Flash himself — or any of the Flashes that appear in this issue, Kid, Reverse, or otherwise — it’s the Rogues who steal the show. Johns’ much-heralded run on the Wally West “Flash” series worked largely because he was able to bring the Rogues back to prominence, to humanize them and yet make them a genuine threat.
Here, Johns shows the heartbreaking effect of having a zombie for a dad. Poor Owen Mercer (Captain Boomerang, Jr. as he was known), struggles with the pain of never having connected with his now-dead Rogue father. But he doesn’t suffer in a whiny, woe-is-me kind of way. No, he lures victims into a pit so his now chained-up Black Lantern father can eat them. He seems to think it will bring his father back to life. It’s a weird relationship.
The Boomerang/Boomerang Jr. scenes work very well, showing the absurdity of the entire Blackest Night scenario but also giving it a devastating emotional impact. Unlike most of the other “Blackest Night” spin-offs, this isn’t just about bad guy in black who looks a lot like a loved one. We do get that, in the form of Bart Allen, who is cured with a little love from Grandpa Barry (because unlike most other Black Lanterns, Bart isn’t really dead), but we also get the pit full of bones and the moral deficiencies of a legacy villain.
The Boomerang bits only occupy about a third of the issue, but they’re the parts that matter, particularly once the other Rogues find out what young Owen has been doing with his time.
And Scott Kolins is at his best when he’s showing the grotesque corners of Keystone City.
In the final pages, the Blue Lantern Flash story and the Captain Cold and his wily gang of Rogues stories parallel each other, with Johns and Kolins cutting back and forth between them as they quote from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and march toward their destiny: a new “Flash” series, after a brief pit stop in “Blackest Night” #8.