By: Adam Glass (writer), Rodney Buchemi (penciller), Jose Marzan, Jr. (inker), Artur Fujita (colorist)

The Story: Prison changes a man, but when he’s a psycho to begin with, you don’t really notice.

The Review: Considering the sheer load of Flashpoint tie-ins DC’s putting on the stands, you have to be a little selective about what deserves your increasingly scarce cash.  As much as publishers would like to believe everything they churn out has merit, the law of averages pretty much throws that bit of naivety out the window.  Most times, you have to skim through an issue to check its worth, but on some (un)lucky occasions, the red flags will pop up from the first page.

One that stands out immediately in this issue is Heatwave’s opening narration, a corny speech that tries to be at once melodramatic and beat poetry: “My name’s Heatwave.  I’ve got a hunger…burning in my gut.  The only way to stop it…is to satisfy my appetite!”  You won’t be able to help reading it in the same cadence as Christopher Walken on Saturday Night Live (“I’ve got a fever…and the only prescription…is more cowbell!”).

Starting off with a fairly significant plot hole is definitely also not a good sign.  Heatwave starts off in a subway station, keeping a low profile to watch Firestorm fly in, land, and split into his dual identities, Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond.  Why would F-storm choose to do this in a clearly public place?  Well, I suppose to give Heatwave a chance to kill off one of them, thus generating a reason to put him in prison and get a story out of it.

Glass certainly takes a lot of details for granted so he can just move on with his story.  When Heatwave winds up in the Queen’s Row Penitentiary, he sets a fellow inmate afire, but how he gets access to a jug of flammable liquid and a match to do it, we have no idea.  Amazo, an employee of the Row, subdues prisoners by shooting red beams from his eyes into theirs.  What that actually does, Glass doesn’t explain.

But those mysteries (and many others) have nothing on the completely out-of-nowhere twist we get at the end of the issue: spoiler alert—Plastic Man bursts out of Cluemaster’s mouth to break Heatwave out.  Now, we can all appreciate the unexpected in comics; it’s the lifeblood of fiction.  That said, Glass throws this curve ball in with no groundwork whatsoever, making you feel like he came up with the idea at the last minute and just wrote it in.

Glass is plainly trying to write a prison drama here, but the clichéd elements you encounter at every corner indicate his knowledge of jails mostly comes from eighties B-movies (Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one actually says “new fish” in prison anymore, do they?).  He also certainly doesn’t do Heatwave any favors when he writes Heatwave about to crack after less than twenty-four hours in solitary confinement.

Buchemi’s art is serviceable, but lacks the sophistication needed to give this story the suspense and tension it needs to work.  It has a cartoony element that doesn’t fit with the “street” tone this story’s going for, that makes blood look more like ketchup or jam than bodily fluid.

Conclusion: You know the signs of a bad read when you see them, and they’re all over the place here.  Consider this another tie-in falling into the Dropped List.

Grade: D

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – With Jason Rusch gone down in flames, that makes yet another “the black guy dies” situation in two weeks.  It hasn’t been a great month for African-Americans in fiction.

– You know, it’s not really solitary confinement if you have a little window in your door for the guards to exchange witless banter with you.