Monday, March 21, 2011

The Space-Boomerang Trap!

Cover of Flash #124, The Space-Boomerang Trap!, the second in which Ralph appears.

Title: "The Space Boomerang Trap!"
Issue: The Flash No. 124
Date: November 1961
Format: 16-page main feature.
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Writer: John Broome
Penciller:Carmine Infantino
Inker: Joe Giella
Main characters: The Flash (last seen in Justice League of America #7), the Elongated Man (4th appearance, last seen in The Flash #119).
Supporting Characters: Sue Dibny (2nd appearance, last seen in The Flash #119).
Villains: Captain Boomerang (2nd appearance, last seen in The Flash #117), interdimensional alien invaders (1st and only).
Setting: Central City, a "super-scientific dimension adjoining ours" (true story), somewhere with a beach.
Stolen Item: The Crown Jewels of Normark.
Mystery: How did Captain Boomerang steal the Crown Jewels while witnessing the crime?
Method: They just caught the boomerang. 
This is the first time:
  • The Elongated Man saves the Flash.
  • The Elongated Man fights Captain Boomerang or any Flash rogue.
The Space-Boomerang Trap! I love how silver age stories emphasize every title with exclamation marks! And you can't put a price on the weird combination of elements that somehow represent a treat to the heroes: It's a trap (a) that consist of a boomerang (b) that travels through space (c).  On top of that, on the cover, we have the Flash tied to a giant boomerang. Only during the silver age! It's actually not that bad considering that nowadays' "realism" can become a bit tiresome. These days, it takes Grant Morrison to make a silly premise like that a mind-blowing concept.

Anywho... the subject of this post is Flash #124, "The Space-Boomerang Trap!". It's the 4th appearance of the Elongated Man, the second appearance of Captain Boomerang (his first was Flash #117) and about the 50th appearance of Flash (counting second features). It is also the third of what I call the "alien trilogy" or "era" and the first of what I call "the rogue's gallery series". As I explained before, after his debut in Flash #112, the next three appearances of Elongated Man, issues 115, 119 and this one, 124, the red and purple duo fight alien menaces. After this one, Ralph won't fight this kind of threats until his first Justice League case (if I'm not mistaken).

This is a transition story, while the last of the alien fighting series, it's the first out of four ones in which Elongated Man teams-up with Flash to defeat returning villains:
  • Captain Boomerang in this issue, 
  • the Weather Wizard in #130, 
  • Captain Cold in #134, 
  • and the Pied Piper II in #138. 
Save Captain Cold, all of them are facing alone Flash for the second time; so, it's pretty much a re-frying formula. Returning villains with Elongated man as a variable.

Another important aspect of The Space-Boomerang Trap! is that it marks the first time Ralph goes to aid the Flash an not the other way around. In Flash#112, they were rivals and team-up at the end; in #115, Ralph seeks the Flash's aid; and in #119, Flash rescues him. However, they all end up with team-ups in which they look equally effective. In this story, Flash writes the Elongated Man to update him on a Captain Boomerang case that he has not been able to crack. The criminal appears at exhibitions but a boomerang comes from elsewhere and takes the valuable objects. Since he can't fly, the Flash is not able to catch the boomerang.

After reading from Flash about the Captain Boomerang situation, Ralph decides that this case requires his talents.
Note that, although the Elongated Man has not been formally called a detective, we have a mystery drawing his attention. The Same can be said about The Elongated Man's Secret Weapon in Flash #115. Then again, this a conjecture that I'm making, but Flash, Batman, Superman and the other heroes were probably drawn to mysteries as well. Which is why my theory is that Ralph became a detective to fit Detective Comics, and most of his merits as one were being called so by the caption boxes. More on that in future posts.

Since the Elongated Man mentions that Flash usually leaves messages for him at the police headquarters whenever there's an emergency,  page 6 makes it official, we missed a lot of team-up adventures before the wedding. The same page is probably the first indication that Ralph loves the attention:

1. Flash makes a habit of leaving information for Ralph. 2. Ralph declares loving attention for the first time.

Once Ralph enters, the case is solved by the duo's combined talents. While a time and space traveling boomerang is a challenge for a speedster who can't fly, catching it takes almost no effort for somebody who can stretch 100 yards at "rocket speed", much less when he borrows impulse from Flash.

Thankfully, the story has a couple of twists that keep it going, as it turns out that the mysterious boomerang not only travels time and space, but also whatever the other one is called (for practical reasons, let's call it Bob), so it attracts the attention of extra-dimensional invaders. Freaking extra-dimensional invaders! Once again, with this story we get another example of how silver age writers had the habit of making the most extraordinary circumstances look ordinary. My guess is that it's storytelling style. The very same story would be shocking to modern readers if narrated with Grant Morrison's style. Well, maybe he'd cut out the fatigue guns, haha. I wonder from where did Broome get his sci-fi concepts.

The extra-dimensional invaders.
I didn't like the extra-dimensional invaders look individually, but they really look interesting when Carmine portrays them together.

This story also help me find out how come a villain like Captain Boomerang can be a match for the Flash. I like that he's capable to inventing a weapon that travels time, space and the other one.

I thought I wouldn't find much out from rereading this story, but it turns out I was wrong.  Next time I'll review Kid Flash Meets the Elongated Man!, the first story in which Wally teams-up with Ralph, a duo that would return in the Justice League Europe era.

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