Comics

Flash #119: 'Pray for the Dawn': Through Layers Of History

Artist Paul Ryan elegantly articulates various Flash-genre with the visual metaphor of layers.

A long, cold dark.

In a moment spent with his recuperating girlfriend, Flash Wally West is reminded of his own limitations. In a panel interrupted by falling snow and the blue sheen of a hospital window, Wally and Linda are afforded a degree of privacy as readers are kept at a distance. Artist Paul Ryan offers an elegant counterpoint to paparazzi-invaded private lives lived in public view.

But as romantic as this panel appears, the dark and the snow form the central conflict of 'Pray for the Dawn'. This is not a cherished moment of affection shared with a loved one. What Wally and Linda face in this panel is a moment of consequence, a moment of indecision before action is taken.

This panel's elegance lies in Ryan's skilful melding of a number of Flash- and comics-genre with the visual metaphor of layers apparent with the use of snow and glass. In the first sense, Ryan offers an inversion of the classic Editor's Notes. Editor Paul Kupperberg's footnote appears, visually distinct from other word-art in the panel. Yet nothing of the dialogue in the panel is actually linked to this footnote. In this way the act of reading itself becomes part of the story being told. Textually, the Editor's Note functions in the same way as the snow and glass that interfere with the panel's central image.

As the Note suggests, the threat of a new Ice Age is something that has already been confronted in earlier issues. Ryan not only references previous issues' stories, but a specific storyarc that involves the classic Flash-genre of time-travel. Hurtling through the future and unable to return home, Wally learns of an impending global climate disaster (already history in the future). Armed with this knowledge Wally races back in time to confront Abra Kadabra, a 64th century stage magician who hopes to profit from this catastrophe. Again the visual layers of snow and glass elegantly remind the reader of the complexity of Wally and Linda's story.

What remains at the heart of the panel though, is the romantic private life, kept at a safe distance from public view.

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


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Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

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