Writer Joshua Williamson has really been laying hard on the idea that Barry Allen, due to keeping his secret identity a secret from, oh, everybody, is a liar. As such, the consequences of these actions are playing out in the fifth volume, subtitled Negative.
In the previous volume, Barry defeated the Reverse-Flash by draining his evil opposite of the man’s own connection to a “dark” or “negative” version of the Speed Force. As such, Barry’s own speed powers have been corrupted. His speed aura is suddenly highly destructive. His healing abilities have slacked off. He’s often exhausted after using his abilities. And he’s finding himself feeling irritable and snapping at people he shouldn’t. If he wasn’t already isolated from both Iris and the younger version of Wally West, he’d be even moreso. It’s enough to make Barry want to give up being the Flash.
But there are other things going on in Central City. There’s a mysterious crime boss so unknown even other crime bosses don’t know who he is. There’s been a rash of thefts from the Central City Police Department crime lab’s evidence locker. And into that, the events of the first storyline come back to haunt Barry in ways he hasn’t expected yet.
So, a part of me just can’t accept the whole “Barry’s a liar” story point. Secret identities are a longstanding tradition of the comic book superhero, and I don’t see any other superhero having these sorts of issues. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s Barry having these problems, and Barry, perhaps more than any other DC hero, has always been portrayed as being a particularly moral figure behind only Superman. It seems weird seeing Barry as an angsty hero. As far as the rest of this volume goes, it felt more like a bridge between major storyarcs, with this one merely acting as a set-up for everything that came before and is coming soon after. I generally like what Williamson is doing, but this one didn’t working quite so well for me. 8 out of 10 unexpected explosions.