The Flash takes on a macabre mystery this month that literally dates back to the founding of the Gem Cities (that’s Central City and Keystone City for those of you not up to date). This time, Deadman is along for the ride; which is good because otherwise Barry doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance to solve this caper (sorry, bad joke).
Resuming from last month‘s ghost attack, Deadman helps Flash ward off his ghostly attacker by possessing the Scarlet Speedster and tries to convince the mysterious ghost to go to its rest. Unfortunately, the ghost doesn’t listen and Flash forces Deadman out. Turns out the ghost they unleashed, and the one responsible for the pile of corpses found last issue, was that of the Keystone Killer, a kind of local boogeyman that is also a metaphor for greed. Turns out this ghost had previously possessed people who became more modern day serial killers; such as the Broome Hill Butcher who Barry thinks is responsible for the death of his mother. Realizing that the ghost said that “All Fletchers must die,” Flash connects that eerie saying to the founding family of the region. A bit of research (and possession of an accomplice to said Butcher) reveals that the ghost was a man named Sutter who traveled with Gem Cities founder Marshall Fletcher to the area. They began mining in the region after bad weather prevented them from reaching the California gold country; Sutter discovered a massive load of diamonds. Fletcher went to check on Sutter’s safety after a trip back East as a major storm hit; however, Sutter was possessed by greed and thought Fletcher meant to take the mine away from him. He attacked Fletcher with a pickaxe, only to be crushed in a mine collapse. Fletcher later founded Central and Keystone Cities, having been made wealthy by the mine. Meanwhile, Sutter has damaged an exhibit in the Central City Museum, as well as murdering a guard, prompting Singh to send the forensics team. When Patti and others protest, Captain Frye sends them anyway. However, Frye confronts Patti on the way out and brings up that he knows she’s helping Barry solve the crime; Patti accidentally mentions Frye acts as if Barry is his own son (DUN DUN DUN!). Meanwhile, Flash and Deadman discover that the more potent vessels for Sutter’s spirit were his descendents. Flash is then summoned, as Barry, to the crime scene where it’s discovered Sutter’s helmet and pickaxe were stolen from the museum. Patti mentions she was running a DNA test, which gave Barry an idea: Sutter wants to find all the descendents of Fletcher, and what better way then to use DNA. Unfortunately, Flash and Co arrive to a grisly scene…TO BE CONTINUED!
Buccellato gives us a taut macabre story and a mystery worthy of the Flash. It’s very interesting to see Flash stretch his CSI muscles more and more; especially as this case also ties into his mother’s murder. Flash remains positive in the face of adversity, Patti’s comment shows what she said might contain a small grain of truth (which now makes me not trust Captain Frye), and Deadman is both wonderfully snarky and a doorway to the darker side of the DC Universe. However, it seems that this darker tone isn’t the best one for Flash, who tends to be the Justice League’s resident optimist. Sure, he’s the same here, but the overall tone is creepy. Plus some of the progression of the tale is a bit too convenient.
Zircher’s pencils also add to the spooky atmosphere of the tale. While in my review for the previous issue I said he used far too much shadow, here it does fit the overall atmosphere of the story. His Sutter is a very creepy figure, Flash is heroic, Deadman is spectral, and Captain Frye’s stare of anger is wonderfully suspect. His environments add to the ghost story mood, his flashback feels like an old Western, and he draws a wonderful scene where Flash zooms through a hall of records that reminds me of the Morgan Library. However, there are a few wonky shadows and the shadows still overpower the overall scenes. But his last splash page will leave you wanting more.
In the spirit, no pun intended, of the old serialized ghost stories, Buccellato and Zircher have actually combined the Flash with a dark and twisted story that somehow fits into the Sultan of Swoosh’s overall feel. While suffering from some minor hitches and overly convenient clues; it is still a story to keep you on the edge of your seat, and to give you goosebumps along the way.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10