Running Scared is a continuation of Barry Allen having to deal with the emotional minefield that was Batman/The Flash: The Button. One of the things I noted about that volume was Barry’s ability to compartmentalize the chaos that was occurring around him while Batman, Mr. No Emotions, was more visibly shaken by the events of Flashpoint. But that veil of control he held onto is gone in volume 4. From Thawne’s death and rebirth to the secrets he continues to keep from Iris and Wally, they all come crashing down around him with a huge shove from Thawne.
In trying to protect his loved ones he ends up pushing them right into the line of sight of Thawne, his arch nemesis, who for some reason is alive. AGAIN! Something Barry has learned to accept when it comes to Thawne; although he may die, he will always return.
Along with his unending stream of insults, Thawne does a good job pointing out that in every reality he’s been in, Barry has always been forced into revealing his identity to Iris. So one point goes to Thawne for that observation. Although Barry wouldn’t be worried about hiding his identity if not for psychopaths like Thawne.
At times Running Scared reads like a story of metas in one-sided love stories of their own making. From a meta stalker named Danton whose power is replicating himself, to Thawne’s intense fixation on Barry. Love and hate are just two sides of the same coin, and while in one sense love can be a positive force, it can also be twisted into an unhealthy obsession that seeks to destroy everything in its path. And Eobard Thawne is an excellent example of what that looks like to the nth degree.
This volume focuses largely on how Thawne’s fixation for Barry came to be. Joshua Williamson does a great job fleshing out his humanity and kept me engrossed throughout. From his early idolization of The Flash to the “who hurt you, boo” moment he goes through that will forever solidify his status as a major Flash villain.
We get Thawne almost killing Wally, dragging Iris and Barry to the 25th century to see their badass kids, along with an older Barry who looks like he’s been on some prison workout regiment with biceps that just don’t quit.
Joshua Williamson is able to make Thawne sympathetic, funny, and yet absolutely menacing as we see him wreaking havoc across timelines; killing wantonly, showing Barry the worst versions of his future, while toying repeatedly with Iris like a predator, ready to kill her at any moment simply to cause Barry pain. He is the type of villain who leaves a damaging psychological imprint on our hero.
In a comical way Eobard is evil because of his love and admiration for Barry and wanting to be the only “one” in his life. But since he’s intrinsically the worst he is only pushed further into a life of evil. His philosophy becomes if you can’t join them, make them miserable, and boy does he.
There are so many cool scenes of action; the artistry is just on point and it elevates the story. We get Thawne and Barry fighting throughout time and the storytelling reads like a thriller with this cloud of fear hanging over the reader throughout.
As we learn about Thawne’s motivations, Barry is forced to recognize that the worst thing he can do is blame himself for the consequences of his past actions; to allow the dark parts of his past to bleed into his future only robs the future of its potential.
This is an amazing read that I cannot recommend enough. Joshua Williamson continues to hit it out of the park with his writing, which combined with the visual artistry from Carmine Di Giandomenico results in an amazing piece of work. I can only hope these two continue to combine their talents to bring the story The Flash to readers for a long while.
Side note: We also get Hal Jordan in the beginning of this volume being an awesome friend to Barry.