The tradition of the superhero crossover/team-up in comics was established in 1940 by Marvel’s Human Torch and Sub-Mariner, though MLJ’s Wizard and Shield were the first heroes to actually work as friends, not as — OH, WHO CARES, THAT ARROW/FLASH FIGHT WAS SPECTACULAR.
Everything about “Flash vs. Arrow” was on the money because it wasn’t simply a collision of heroes, it was a collision of worlds. The vigilante Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Arrow (star of his own CW series, now in its third year), didn’t just drop by Central City; he brought his own “dark retribution” modus operandi with him, and his presence in the story actually advanced Barry and his supporting cast as characters, forcing them to re-think and re-evaluate their own methods. (I wrote Flash adventures for the better part of a decade, and it never occurred to me that a speedster could stack the deck in any fight just by showing up early enough to case the venue at super-speed.)
There was just so much smart writing on the screen: the big brother/little brother dynamic between Arrow and Flash, the gravity of Oliver’s presence giving Barry a little more weight, the remarkable lack of contrivance to the whole team-up and ensuing battle. The only moment that felt a little too tongue-in-cheek was seeing Dr. Wells and Joe West slide up to in their Mystery Van to settle the fight with their Anti-Rage Machine, but it’s not like I have a better solution in mind. Plus, I’m willing to be less plot-critical when my inner 10-year-old is still buzzing.
In the comics, Barry and Ollie were allies but never friends. They served together on the Justice League during a time in DC publishing where everyone on that team had an interchangeable voice and one-dimensional, white-hat personality. More recently, writer Tom Peyer and I did a post-classic turn on Barry and Ollie in a comic called The Brave and the Bold, where we played up the natural tension between Green Arrow (comics’ original left-wing activist) and the Flash, a Midwestern cop. It made for a good comic, but it didn’t leave anywhere for their relationship to go. The TV dynamic is a lot less dead-end; Oliver as a sage, cool-headed mentor isn’t something I’d ever envisioned, but it’s a good fit. Hell, they worked together so well that they caught the villain during the commercial break. I’ll be tuning in tonight to see the second part of this team-up on Arrow; if it’s half as enjoyable as tonight’s Flash was, it’ll be time well spent.
Flash Facts (a.k.a. Easter Eggs):
Roy G. Bivolo (I know), code-named Rainbow Raider (I said I know, leave me alone, I just work here), was created by writer Cary Bates and artist Don Heck in Flash #286 (1980). Yes, both Roy’s puntastic civilian name and his nom du crime are too precious by a thousandfold, but comics has a long tradition of conveniently named arch-foes: Julian Day/Calendar Man. Bertram Larvan/Bug-Eyed Bandit. Victor von Doom/Dr. Doom. Did you know that The Riddler’s real name is E(dward) Nigma? You don’t give your kid a name like that and then expect him to pursue a career in air conditioner repair.
The weird weapon that brought Arrow’s crew to town heralds the arrival of another Flash rogue, Digger “Captain Boomerang” Harkness (created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino in Flash #117, 1960). All my life, I’ve never quite understood how a guy armed with boomerangs can be a serious threat, but I just saw a guy with a bow and arrow lay a smackdown on the fastest man alive, so I’ll reserve judgment.
And while he wasn’t outright named, I can’t imagine the flaming man at episode’s end wasn’t our first glimpse at the long-promised Firestorm, who we’ve discussed previously.