“The Price” wraps up in this chapter of The Flash. After four issues of a “story” that fails to do exactly that – tell a story – one must simply ask the question: what was the point of this?
I’ve been outspoken concerning how I feel about Josh Williamson’s approach to writing. Simply put, he’s not my cup of tea. There are clearly people who love his writing. I’m not one of them. I feel as though he doesn’t work his story enough to create a tight narrative. Instead, it appears as though he just brainstorms ideas, throws them together, then runs with it whether it makes sense or not. Add in poor execution and you’re left with… well… this. So, where do I start? Plot? Characterization? The fact that this is an incomplete story? The abundance of contradicting elements and revelations? They’re all here in abundance, so pick your poison.
On the surface, “The Price” appears to be nothing more than complete mediocrity. Unfortunately, when you take the time to actually read, digest, and analyze the story, you discover it’s merely a jumble of unnatural, emotional outbursts. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever read a depiction of Batman or Flash that are as emotionally unstable as they are here. One second they’re best friends, respecting one another, working together, and sharing the same outlook on a situation, then the next minute they’re throwing a complete temper tantrum, name calling, and throwing blame like two children. Their emotional depiction is extremely juvenile. It’s out of character and inconsistent with who these two men are at their core. This is only here to create drama, but none of it is earned. And that’s a shame because, with a better writer, we could have some nice moments between these two as they try to come to terms with what’s taken place at Sanctuary. Instead, we’re stuck with the Real Househeroes of DC Comics.
Their outlook of one another isn’t the only back-and-forth here either. Batman and Flash’s feelings towards each other are about as consistent as their opinion of Gotham Girl. One minute Batman is claiming she needs to be stopped, while Barry claims she’s an innocent that’s damaged by Bruce’s mission. Then Barry’s claiming she needs to be stopped and Bruce is suddenly claiming she’s innocent. Then she’s misguided. Then she’s innocent again. Then she’s guilty again… And all of these opinions shift within single issues. It’s insane. But it gets worse.
When the issue wraps, Gotham Girl is made out to be innocent. I’m not exactly sure what the reasoning is for her being innocent though. The script isn’t clear if she was being controlled, or if she just went crazy and then didn’t remember what she did because of the serum she took. If it’s the former, then it’s cheap storytelling (I’ll expand on this in a second). If it’s the latter, then that doesn’t excuse her attack on the Flash Museum or her previous attacks… So, she’s still, technically, a criminal.
As for the “being controlled” approach, I feel that it’s lazy and cheap because it makes the entire crossover pointless. For one, this issue never reveals who is behind all of the chaos. We know there’s a guy that is responsible for the experiments, bringing Gotham back from the dead (for half an issue), and potentially mind controlling Claire… but that’s it. I don’t need a full resolution, but Williamson could’ve at least revealed who it is. You can’t just tease a reveal then go, “find out these answers and more (maybe) in the next future mini-event-crossover-thing.” By the way, there’s still the mystery of who backed Gotham and Gotham Girl before they officially met Batman as heroes. That wasn’t teased, so will that ever be explored?
And while we’re on the spoilerific shortcomings of this crossover, will Gotham Girl’s powers kill her or not? Between the four issues, we were told that they would kill her – which is consistent with what King established early on in his Batman run – then in another issue Batman confessed that he made that up and just told her that because he didn’t want her to be a hero. Now for the past two issues, we’re back to “if she uses her powers, it will kill her.” Why didn’t anyone at DC catch this? More importantly, why didn’t anyone fix it?
Then, once you’ve digested all of that, there’s the reality that Williamson told this story about Gotham Girl… just to get rid of her. She was already out of the picture. Why bring her back in just to push her out of the picture again? And how in the hell did Batman recreate the pods that kept the clone-zombie creatures alive in a matter of minutes? I mean, I’m all for suspending disbelief because it’s comics, but put some effort into making this believable.
The problem with all of this, is that Williamson appears to have barely taken this seriously, so it’s hard for me to take it seriously. With ties to Heroes in Crisis, there was some real potential here to tell a gripping story. Tom King isn’t taking advantage of utilizing these two characters to investigate the Sanctuary massacre in the main title, they could’ve done it here. Instead, Williamson decided he’d rather go out of his way to make Batman look as incompetent as possible. Despite all of this, the really disappointing part of this chapter is what happens with Iris.
After the confrontation with Batman, Flash, and Gotham Girl wraps up in Central City, Iris decides she can’t deal with heroics anymore, so she decides to leave Barry. Maybe it’s just me, but nothing about this feels natural. The entire decision felt like a calculated, forced mandate from editorial (*cough* “Uncle Dan” *cough*). Perhaps this would have felt more natural had I been reading The Flash leading up to this crossover, but I haven’t. And if that is the case, I apologize for calling it out here. But with so many relationships being torn apart in this desperation to “return to the New 52,” it’s hard to view it as anything other than a mandate.
In the end, this crossover is a huge disappointment. It’s also plagued by this legacy that Dan Didio appears to want to infect DC Comics with. There are a few redeeming moments, but they are few and far between. I’d recommend skipping this run if you were waiting for a final verdict before reading it.
The Art: Rafa Sandoval is on art duties for this issue, and he’s easily the best aspect of this book. I enjoy his portrayal of these characters, and he puts quite a bit of detail into the locations he features. I’d really like to see his work with a better script, but for now, I’ll just be happy he elevated this issue in the ways that he did.
- You want a story that goes nowhere.
- You’re a fan of Josh Williamson.
Overall: “The Price” is nothing more than wasted real estate. DC had a great opportunity to tell a gripping story and showcase two of the universe’s best detectives working together to uncover a mystery while also coming to terms with the loss of loved ones. Instead, we got bickering and shallow drama in an inconsistent, incoherent story.