The Once & Future Flash - Recap & Review

OMG the feels! The emo!

This episode of The Flash has it all! Get ready for an emotional rollercoaster of Flash proportions, with bonus vertigo from the freaks-of-the-week!

Spoilers beyond the fold

After a somewhat mediocre season with only a few highs, The Flash returns from spring hiatus after 4 weeks, and it did so with a bang (a flashbang, even #sorrynotsorry).

We begin with a quiet scene at Iris and Barry's place wherein she extracts a promise out of him that he will be there for her father if she dies. This is pretty central to the rest of the episode, so take note of that. It's also worth noting that this is pretty much just one of two lines that Iris has in this episode, because "The Once & Future Flash" is all about how her death makes all the men in her life feel.

Sigh. More on that later.

So this episode picks up right where the last one left off: Killer Frost is awake thanks to Cisco and Julian. When Barry gets to STAR Labs, she's cornered the crew. It's worth noting that she doesn't actually kill anyone, which may suggest there's still some of Caitlyn in her. She ends up running off.

That's the moment when Barry announces that he's leaving. Who with the what now? But as it turns out, Barry's plan is to travel to the future to ask his future self Savitar's identity, so that he can figure out how to defeat the big bad. As Barry points out, he can travel to the future and be back without any time really passing in the present.

He ends up eight years into the future, in 2024, in what appears to be the darkest timeline. Central City looks rough, covered in litter and possessing the same dreary greyness that seems a permanent fixture over in Star City. When Barry pops into the alleyway, he is almost immediately confronted by Top and Mirror Man, and proceeds to get his ass kicked, until he manages to scurry off. The villains tell him that Central City is theirs now, and they seem pretty surprised that Flash is around again.

Barry ends up at this penthouse apartment that in the present he lives in with Iris, and the place is trashed. That's where 2024 Cisco finds him, having sensed something or other. Anyway, as Barry discovers, his future self is a hot mess of emotastic proportions, complete with an awful greasy hairdo, and a total lack of care.

Barry. Dude. No. Just no. 
Future Barry disbanded Team Flash after Iris died, and sequestered himself inside STAR Labs after kicking everyone out. Cisco lost a fight with Killer Frost in which she freezes his arms and shatters them, so he's lost his powers because he's got cybernetic hands now. Killer Frost was caught, but she's imprisoned and Julian is apparently spending his time studying her and still trying to figure out how to get Caitlyn back. Wally went apeshit after his sister died and tried to take on Savitar by himself, and whatever happened, he had a broken spine and ended up in a vegetative state afterwards.

Y u do this to us, Flash? :(
And Joe West... if none of this other stuff has caused you to cry, the sight of Joe West placing a few sad flowers at Iris' grave will break you. Jesse L. Martin's performance is nothing short of amazing here, especially when 2017 Barry finds him at the grave, and Joe asks him why he's there now, after so long of not being there.

I just can't with this scene, it's heartbreaking...
Despite having to sit through all this sadness, Barry doesn't even get what he's there for. His future self doesn't know Savitar's identity, and he tells him to go back and enjoy the last remaining moments with Iris, because he will fail to save her no matter what. And while Killer Frost admits that she knows Savitar's real identity, she is clearly not going to tell him. So after much sad, Barry decides he needs to get the hell out of there and go back to his own time, because goddamn we need some sunshine. But Cisco, sad lonely desperate Cisco, prevents him from doing so, begging him to fix things in 2024.

Despite the fact that if he does change the future, the darkest timeline won't even happen, 2017 Barry decides he can't abandon these people like 2024 Barry did. He gets the team back together so that they can help him defeat Top and Mirror Man, and ultimately even 2024 Barry is moved enough to help.

Sidenote: I kind of hate HR Wells in this. He's the only one who seems to be thriving in 2024. He owns Jitters now, and he's a bestselling romance novelist. He is busy doing a reading while a bunch of beautiful women throw themselves at him. I'm glad when 2017 Barry cockblocks his threesome by whisking him away to STAR Labs to rejoin Team Flash. Wells initially complains about how Flash just interrupted "every man's greatest desire" aka the threesome, which actually seemed like a pretty gross line to me. Honestly, Wells and Julian do precisely jack shit to help either Flash defeat Top and Mirror Man, so maybe Barry should have left HR to his thing. I guess I'm also just salty that everyone else on the team is super sad and messed up and damaged, but somehow this clown is successful and glowing.

Epic slimeball
Sidenote: there are various fan theories out there that HR is actually Savitar, which I call bullshit on because there's a future vision where Wells is on the rooftop while Savitar stabs Iris. There's a more plausible (to me anyway) theory out there that HR is actually Abra Kadabra, who folks are speculating may be next season's big bad. While Wells-is-secretly-evil has been done before (and probably better, with Eobard Thawne), I'd be ok with HR being a villain, since I am kind of tired of him being around. They need to find a better character for Tom Cavanagh.

Anyway, after Team Double Flash take out Top and Mirror Man pretty easily, 2024 Barry reveals the identity of the physicist who helps him trap Savitar in the speed force four years after Iris dies. He also gives 2017 Barry a thing that apparently contains the physicist's notes and schematics for whatever it is they use to defeat Savitar. So in theory, Barry can track down this scientist in 2017 and maybe defeat Savitar early enough to save Iris.

Back in 2017, Killer Frost and Savitar meet up, and we get the reveal that Savitar's armor is just that: armor. Someone steps out of the armor, and the minute Killer Frost sees who it is (which of course, we don't), she's ready to trust him implicitly. Let the fan theories run wild, because the number of people Caitlyn trusts that easily are very few. The top theories I've seen out there is that Savitar is either Ronnie Raymond (which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me), or some version of Harrison Wells (based on the fact that Savitar calls Killer Frost "my child," which is an awfully paternal thing to say).

Soooo, there you have it. The darkest timeline.

Let's discuss Iris.

I'm pretty sure that The Flash isn't going to kill her off this season, but we had to deal with her being fridged anyway in this episode, in order to explore all the manpain you can possibly handle and truly develop Barry's character. In fact, the existence of this episode suggests that she definitely won't be killed off, because the show desperately wanted to fridge her in some way so we can explore manpain, but they manage to cheat with time travel shenanigans so they don't actually have to kill her. They are getting the mainpain development for Barry & Co. out of the way right now. I suppose I should be grateful that they aren't going to kill her off for realsies.

I don't mean to suggest this episode is terrible. In fact, it's actually phenomenally well-acted, and Jesse L. Martin (Joe West) is particularly poignant, rivaled only by Carlos Valdez's (Cisco) performance. But as a feminist and a woman, it's hard not to roll my eyes at yet another use of the tired fridging trope. Across all fiction, across all genres, male character development very often comes at the expense of a woman's life, and usually gives her a gruesome death on top of that, for maximum manpain. Candice Patton was barely on the screen at all this episode, and neither was Danielle Panabaker, because while Killer Frost is apparently relatively important to the main plot, we still get very little of her.

So overall, a strong episode and one that moves the plot along nicely, and it was definitely fascinating to see this dark future, and heart-warming that 2017 Barry is still infused with enough light in his soul to reignite the hopes of the battered team in 2024.

One of my few complaints, besides the whole Iris thing, was the missed opportunity to make a Terminator reference out of 2024 Cisco's hands. But hey, I guess not even Cisco can laugh about the darkest timeline...

The Flash airs on Tuesdays at 8/7c on the CW.

Ivonne Martin is a writer, gamer, and avid consumer of all things geek—and is probably entirely too verbose for her own good.

Josie And The Pussycats #6 Review: In Which Alexander Cabot Acts Like Doctor Doom

Last issue, Josie and the Pussycats were taken to a secret fortress by Alexander Cabot, to be put on trial for Josies's alleged crime of stealing her songs from Alexandra. No, really. This is why I love comic books, anything can happen. In this case, because the Archie lineup is only slightly more realistic than, say, a superhero offering, it makes the really weird plots even better. It's a sovereign nation in Antarctica called Cabotopia, and polar bears reside there, geographic fallacies be darned.

Every issue of the comic features a large dose of pop culture references, and this one is no exception. From Frozen to The Golden Compass, it delivers a flurry (heh) of obligatory cold-themed jokes. There isn't a Mr. Freeze reference, sadly, but I'll just attribute that to the property not being owned by DC Comics. (Hey, why not do a crossover? You did one with Marvel, two if you count the Ninja Turtles special. Like I said, comics are weird.)

I, too, am sick of that song.
As much as the issue makes Alexander Cabot out to be a coldhearted villain, he actually does have some warmth in his heart. Everything that he does is to help his sister. Sure, she doesn't need his help and outright tells him so, but he did legitimately want to try to cheer her up. Even in the most chilling of situations, Marguerite and Cameron can still embed the crook of the week with nuance and I respect that.

Josie And The Pussycats #6 is written by Cameron DeOrdio and Marguerite Bennett, drawn by Audrey Mok, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick, and lettered by Jack Morelli. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Critical Hits & Misses #184

The fabulous Naomi Pilgrim

For today's musical hit, we have Naomi Pilgrim and "Racist Friend"

Today's critical rolls: Do you have a racist friend (or possibly, family member)? Have you ever had "that" discussion with them, or do you choose to ignore their racism?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

Archie #19 Review: Strange Bedfellows

Archie #19 deals with more of Archie and Veronica's changing relationship, and a surprising change for Jughead. It's a pretty good issue, but with one flaw. I know this is typically the case with comic books, but the situation on the cover is more figurative than literal. It is true that the cover has potential new romantic situations for Veronica, but Toni Topaz, the only confirmed lesbian character in this iteration of the Archie universe, isn't in it. 

That disappoints me, because representation matters, and it would be interesting to see more of her. Instead, the romantic entanglement depicted on the cover is represented in the comic through Mr. Lodge setting her up. He wants her to be happy, so he organizes a teen leadership program, with Veronica as the judge. All of the contestants are boys that he deems suitable for her, and it is treated as a speed-dating event. Naturally, she isn't happy with that.

Fortunately, Jughead actually takes it upon himself to help her out. This is actually a pretty important shift in his character. He can be pretty cynical, and Veronica isn't one of his favorite people. He sees her as a rich kid with no real life experience, while she just views him as a lazy bum. The "New Riverdale" continuity actually makes this more interesting by showing that Jughead's family used to be rich, but they lost most of their funds after a mistake. 

Still, Jughead is Archie's best friend, and he wants him to be happy. He goes over to Archie at his disastrous camping trip and helps him to get to the ceremony. They reunite, and a grateful Veronica gives him the award. It's these wonderful character moments that reaffirm just why the Archie comic is so good. Ultimately, it's optimistic. Meanwhile, the ongoing mystery with Jason and Cheryl takes an interesting new turn. 

Spoilers beyond this sentence: 

It turns out that "Mr. Blossom" isn't actually their father. I didn't see that coming and I can't wait to see where Mark Waid goes with that.

Archie #19 is written by Mark Waid, drawn by Pete Woods, and lettered by Jack Morelli. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Critical Hits & Misses #183

  • Brittany Bronson at the New York Times discusses what happens when women legislate, using the Nevada state legislature as an example of why we need more women politicians. An excellent op-ed. 

  • Over at Waypoint, Jack de Quidt devotes one of his “A Postcard from…” articles to Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and bemoans how the game’s beautiful visuals and landscapes are ruined by its obsession with violence, malicious understanding of politics and proud hypermasculinity.

For today's musical hit, we have Awkwafina and Margaret Cho with "Green Tea"

Today's critical rolls: If you play video games, what are some hypermasculine games (for example, Duke Nukem comes to mind) that would benefit from a more feminine (or at least, equal) touch? Tell us how you would change the game and why!

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #14: Happy First Anniversary, Gwenpool!

Thankfully, The Unbelievable Gwenpool has made it to its first year anniversary! To this, I say mazel tov! May many more anniversaries follow, especially if the future installments are as good as this one. Personally, I think that some of the best Gwenpool stories are the ones where she's interacting with established Marvel characters, especially heroes, and trying to make friends with them. This issue features Ghost Rider and Hawkeye, so it's great for any fans of Robbie Reye's dearly-departed comic. RIP, you were gone too soon. (Again.) Thankfully, Kate's comic seems to be doing well, as of the time of this writing.

I really like seeing Gwen bond with Kate in the comic. She hasn't made a lot of friends with the Marvel heroes. She almost became friends with Miles, but that went south almost immediately. Kate saves Gwen from the Ghost Rider and they team up to save Cecil. Doctor Strange might also count, but that was mostly business. Contrasting, when Gwen makes one of her standard comic book references, Kate just laughs it off and assumes that she's speaking figuratively.

Christopher Hastings, Kelly Thompson, maybe I please humbly request a buddy cop book?

Robbie doesn't have as much focus in the issue, but the scenes that he does have pop off the page. I like seeing him chase down mystical evildoers and make jokes as he condemns them to a lifetime in eternity. I'm hoping that the next issue will shed some more light on his role in the story, hopefully with more interaction with Gwen and Kate.

The story is fairly standalone, but the end does have some interesting hints for future events to come, potentially in the upcoming "Beyond The Fourth Wall" arc. What does it mean? Does Gwen have a counterpart in the Marvel universe? If so, was she sucked into the real world when Doctor Strange retroactively inserted Gwen into Earth-616 back in issue three? I guess we'll find out in the future.

The Unbelievable Gwenpool #14 is written by Christopher Hastings, drawn by Myisha Haynes, colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, and lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Booster Gold/The Flintstones Annual #1 Review: Featuring A Jetsons Backup Tale!

When you have a DC character who can travel through time at a whim, what better cartoon family to meet than the Flintstones? Well, I suppose you could say the Jetson family, but Booster is already from the future. A future, it turns out, that is surprisingly dystopian. Most of Earth's animals, including bats and cats, have been extinct for years, only one police officer is on patrol in Gotham City, and a background joke touts that the air is only "mildly toxic." Worst of all, the area where Batman's parents were killed has been turned into a cheesy tourist attraction, in one of the best jokes in the comic.

You might be wondering, how is Booster Gold going to fix any of this? Will he use his time-traveling skills to save the planet? Actually, he pretty much just lives a normal life, only springing into action when aliens invade and kill the one police officer. Going back in time to solve the problem coincidentally takes him to Bedrock, where he meets up with Fred Flintstone to help. It's a little too convenient, but I can excuse it in this case.

Fittingly, the true villain of the story simply turns out to be a time paradox. When Booster traveled back in time to find out the cause of the invasion, he killed their messenger of peace, Gorax. The issue is very funny, and it has a lot of jokes about time, naturally. Some highlights include other time residents being stationed in some very deadly places and the shenanigans that result from someone from a technologically advanced future ending up in the cave era.

The backup story features an eight-page teaser for an upcoming Jetsons reboot, led by the current creative team behind Harley Quinn. It's fairly short, so I don't have too much to say about it, but I already like the new twist that they're putting on standard concepts in the show. Similar to Mark Russell's work, it seems like a series that will put as much focus on current issues through a satirical lens. It bodes well for the future of DC's Hanna-Barbara line-up.

Booster Gold/The Flintstones Annual #1 is written by Mark Russell, drawn by Rick Leonardi, inked by Scott Hanna, colored by Steve Buccellato, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. The Jetsons backup, "Eternal Upgrade", is written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, drawn by Pier Brito, colored by Alex Sinclair, and lettered by Michael Heisler. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Critical Hits & Misses #182

For today's musical hit, we have Loone and "River's Our Blood"

Today's critical rolls: It's Friday! What are you big plans for the weekend?

Critical Writ has a super-duper strict comment policy that specifies a single rule above all others: we reserve the right to ban you for being a terribad citizen of the internet.

The Flintstones #10 Review: @#$% Their Ferns!

Warning: This review contains full spoilers for the issue.

This month's issue of The Flintstones has a refreshing return to Wilma's art career, some new developments in the ongoing saga of Clod the Destroyer, and musings on cinema. Who would have thought that something based on The Flintstones could have eloquent commentary on the differences between art meant to, ahem, titillate, and "true" art? Also, I'm sad to report, this issue contains the death of Vacuum Cleaner, one of my favorite recurring characters. Then again, should I have expected anything else from the issue that guest-stars Werner Herzrock?

This issue also puts an end to Clod the Destroyer's incompetent reign of wrath, hopefully for good. In a sequence that I hope real life chooses to imitate in some fashion, he's essentially kicked out of the office, left to stay in a position where he's fairly harmless. Wilma's wonderful artistry skills come into play here, producing a fake cave set for him to stay in.

The most heartbreaking aspect comes from the demise of a longtime supporting character in the comic, Vacuum Cleaner. Possibly the most innocent of the anthropomorphic gang, he meets his end in a horribly ironic way. Earlier, I mentioned the "artistic" films that Fred Flintstone discovered. He ends up taking many of his friends to go see them, under the cover of disguises, so no one would recognize them. Vacuum Cleaner develops a fascination for the art and also takes multiple trips to the theater. Unfortunately, the increased amount of visitors leads to an increased amount of dust and muck, causing a worker to grab V.C. and use him to clean it up. This, of course, proves to be too much for him.

It says a lot about Mark Russell's long-term writing that I can get attached to what amounts to a household object, only to get my heart broken when he dies. I also think that Steve Pugh's art for the particular scene is equally poignant, showing the heartbreak on all of the various appliances' faces at the improvised funeral and subsequent montage. Combined with the eulogy, it's a potent scene. It's been hard writing my review for this issue because it's so hard to read.

The Flintstones #10 is written by Mark Russell, drawn by Steve Pugh, colored by Chris Chuckry, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. You can find it at your local comic book shop.

Zachary Krishef is an evil genius. Do not question his knowledge of Saturday Night Live trivia or Harry Potter books.

Hunger Makes The Wolf Leaves You Hungry For More

I’m not going to lie, I picked up this book solely for the cover. Woman with an eye patch, motorcycle, and a fistful of flame? Hell yeah, sign me up!

Hob was an orphan plucked out of the sands of Tanegawa’s World, a desert planet owned by the TransRift corporation. She is saved and raised by Old Nick, leader of the mercenary Ghost Wolves that serves the mining and farming towns trying to scratch a living on a strange planet. After finding the body of Nick’s brother in the desert, Hob exposes a TransRift conspiracy that is covering just how strange the planet truly is.

The big comparison everyone seems to be making to this book is that it’s Dune, but with biker gangs. The setting is similar to Dune's in that Hunger Makes the Wolf takes place on a desert planet and some characters have access to odd mystical powers. There may be more similarities that could be picked up by someone who read Dune in the last decade, but I think ultimately the comparison sets the book up as something of a disappointment. While politics plays an important part of the plot, it pales in the light of strong character development and awesome action moments.

The first half of the book, personally, was a drag to get through. I have a rule that if I’m not enjoying a book by page 100, I stop reading. Far too often I gave bad books a chance and felt like I wasted my time at the end of them. I stuck with this because while I wasn’t itching to find out what happens next, I can’t say I disliked it. It just felt dull and flat in places and I couldn’t really see where it was going.

The second half picks up with more characters being introduced, and I found that irritating at first. A new Vice President from TransRift is installed, and so is a corporate spy who ends up a major character. This felt offhalfway through is very late in the game to introduce a perspective character, but ultimately the payoff works.

After some major events that I thought failed to impress (including the revenge plot of a character we barely saw), Hob transforms into an absolute badass. It isn’t a sudden change in her character that is unwarranted; the development is organic as Hob steps up to the plate to become the person she was always meant to bethe person she was pushed to be. By the end, I absolutely loved Hob. She isn’t your generic action female, she is no femme fatale and she is no Mary Sue. She has flaws and blind spots, and the unique flavour of a Western heroine on an unforgiving planet.

I also love the contrast between Hob and her best friend Mag. Hob smokes, dresses in men’s clothes and swears like a sailor, but being masculine isn’t what makes her badass. Mag, on the other hand, is feminine, sews and dresses in skirtsshe even has a damsel in distress moment early in the book, but it serves for her own development far more than Hob’s. Hob and Mag compliment each other and never is one held up as better than the other.

Hunger Makes the Wolf looks to be the first in a new series, and while I was lukewarm at first I am eager to find out what happens to Hob in future installments. If you pick this up, I urge you to stick with it. Despite setting up for a sequel, the ending is satisfying and feels rather self-contained; should the worst happen and no sequel comes, this book is good enough to stand on its own.

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells was published on March 7th, 2017 by Angry Robot, and is available wherever fine books are sold.

Megan “Spooky” Crittenden is a secluded writer who occasionally ventures from her home to give aid to traveling adventurers.