An old threat actually becomes threatening for the first time, but its hampered by stiff art and a weird twist ending.
In the pantheon of The Flash’s greatest villains, Doctor Alchemy doesn’t even crack the top ten. However, The Flash #764 makes a case that maybe, just maybe, we might be underestimating him.
In twenty plus years of reading The Flash I genuinely can’t think of a story involving Doctor Alchemy that stuck with him. However, this new creative team has quickly given me a new perspective on this classic villain. It’s brought to us by Kevin Schnick, Will Conrad, Hi-Fi Color, and Steve Wands.
Doctor Alchemy has escaped from Iron Heights. This time, the dangerous villain has his sights set on doing things differently. And it all starts with a very special ring.
In the last appearances of Doctor Alchemy that I’ve read, the villain wasn’t really anything more than a more versatile Captain Cold. The script told me he was one of the most dangerous Rogues, but it didn’t show me why. Schnick flips that on its head here and absolutely makes sure the reader understands that this is not a supervillain to be messed with. He also ensures that we understand the stakes for Barry Allen, not just the Flash, and his personal connection to the villain.
It’s not much more really than a standard supervillain punch ‘em up, but it works because it goes out of its way to show how dangerous he can be. It works pretty well up to the ending. Somehow, in the last few pages there’s a twist that makes little to no sense. It could be resolved in the next issue but it popped up so suddenly that I was taken aback.
Conrad’s line art is generally solid, but it falls short in a few places. The action scenes are a mixed bag, with some moments feeling like solid superhero action, while other panels and splashes are stiff and over rendered. For the Flash, there always needs to be a sense of velocity, and that just isn’t present here. There are also multiple scenes between Barry and Iris where that stiffness is amplified, and the point of view is almost entirely mid-range. It makes it hard for the reader to connect with Barry and Iris, even as the script tells us we should.
In the end, we have a mostly solid story but art that falls short of supporting it. If we can bring back the dynamism of last issue, we might see a lot of the fun of The Flash back in action.
The Flash #764 is available now from DC Comics.