If you’re the kind of person who keeps your finger on the pulse of comics news, then you probably already know that this July sees the return of none other than Cary Bates with a series called True Believers, and while it also includes the horrific grotesques of Paul Gulacy, I’m pretty excited.
Oh, I have my reasons.
I’ve mentioned Cary Bates and his work before, but for those of you who aren’t aware, I’ll explain: One of the comments on the ISB once referred to him as “the Grant Morrison of the ’70s,” and that’s not too far off. Along with Bobs Haney and Kanigher, Bates completes the triumvirate of DC’s bat-shit crazy writers of the Bronze Age, and really, the fact that we don’t have a set of action figures along those lines is a major failure on the part of DC Direct.
Point being, you can pretty much grab any comic from the man’s run on Flash and end up with something pretty mind-blowing. Like, say, a cover where the Flash and his kid sidekick are menaced by dinosaurs who–despite being “smart”–choose to attack by hurling logs rather than using their razor-sharp claws and fangs.
Before we get to the meat of the story, though, one quick word about that cover: You gotta love the way that the Flash immediately pinpoints the problem of advanced dinosaur intelligence, rather than getting hung up on the end results of dinosaur hero-bludgeoning. Just sayin’, if I was the flash, that sentence would’ve come out a little differently.
But back to the matter at hand: The whole thing gets started when Gail Manners, a young friend of Kid Flash who gained the power to sense impending disaster when she was vibrated through time by an earthquake–yes, vibrated through time by an earthquake–lapses into a coma. Clearly, the medical science of 1978 is just not equipped to deal with a time-traveling Tiresias, and thus young Wally West comes up with a daring plan.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t bother to tell us, instead using the printed version of an old cartoon standby:
“Here’s what we do… First, I’ll psspsspsspsspsst…
Why Bates chooses to keep us in suspense for all of three pages, we may never know, but before long, the Flash’s plan is made abundantly clear. And really, it’s what we should’ve expected all along: He’s going to hook up his treadmill to a boat and then run real fast until they get to the Mesozoic era.
It should be noted that at this point, nothing has happened in this story that would be considered even remotely unusual, not even the trip through time on the Cosmic Treadmill. That one was a staple of the Flash’s Silver Age adventures, which gave us plenty of stories where Barry Allen–SCIENTIST!–would travel to the far reaches of time to discover their wonders and mysteries…
…and then beat the living hell out of them. Suck it, Butterfly Effect. Suck it hard.
Fortunately for the laws of causality, smacking the crap out of one sea monster seems to be enough to bring Gail out of her coma, much to the relief of her dashing yachtsman of a father:
Despite the fact that they’ve apparently solved their problem, this is where the story really starts to get going. Because really, when it comes to helping out a girl whose prophetic visions cause her to fall into a coma, you’re just going to have to keep running back to the Age of Dinosaurs until you deal with the root of your troubles.
And what, you might ask, is the root of their troubles? What else?
Yes, despite the promise of a cover, the Flash only spends about four panels wandering around while super-intelligent dinosaurs use ropes and drop rocks on each other before Bates chucks that plot and goes with his ol’ standby.
As it turns out, the aliens have come to Earth on a mission of world domination–one of roughly eighteen thousand such missions that Bates would chronicle over the course of his career–and I’ve gotta say, this one pushes even my suspension of disbelief.
The master plan is as follows:
That’s right, folks: The aliens come to Earth to stop the rise of humanity by putting a fantastically advanced machine in a volcano and using it to alter the minds of the native population, which has long-lasting effects on the mental health of today’s citizens.
And really… Who’s gonna believe that?