Flash Thompson was last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #545, as he and Peter Parker toasted with Harry Osborn to the latter's return to the living and New York. He hasn't been seen since, in any of the BRAND NEW DAY issues. This is the story of where he's been...
In Landstuhl, Germany, Flash Thompson lies in a hospital bed, singing along to music on his iPod that Peter Parker has sent him for Christmas. He's interrupted by General Fazekas, who wants to have a word with him.
The General conducts an interview, and asks him how he got his nickname, and how Flash first joined the military. He tells Flash that he's there to interview him in connection with a recommendation for him to receive the Medal of Honor. The General asks Flash about his background, and Flash reflects on growing up with his abusive father. The General reveals that Flash has an FBI file, as a result of his being abducted once by Doctor Doom while in a Spider-Man costume. Flash explains why he was interested in Spider-Man, and had a fan club, and the impact he has had on his life.
Moving on to more pressing matters, Flash tells the General about a mission that he and his unit were on, when they were attacked. Their unit attacked and forced into defensive positions, Flash and his unit tried to keep themselves alive, when Santos, when of his buddies, was injured. He tried to double around to help him, when he was cornered by six of the enemy, and fired upon, with the body armor taking most of it. Flash could have escaped, at that point, but he stayed to try and rescue his compatriot. Flash takes a drug and gives himself a brief edge, and is able to sneak up on the insurgents, take them out, make it to Santos, and walk him out of the zone, heavily damaged and bleeding himself.
Flash reveals, while in his hospital bed, that he has now lost his legs, due to the injuries he sustained. Flash doesn't care about getting medals, just doing the right thing, something he's always respected and looked up to Spider-Man for.
After an extensive six-part storyline in New Ways To Die, which really brought a lot of simmering plot threads and characters all together at once and unifying the first ten months of Brand New Day, it's nice to have one issue to relax, catch your breath, and have a done in one story. This issue is written by Marc Guggenheim, with artwork by one of my favourite artists in the current rotation, Barry Kitson. Kitson's work on The Order, Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four and on this title recently has been absolutely fantastic, and I was really excited when I found out he was coming back for another issue. His style is superbly detailed and he really makes the page come alive. His layouts are always dynamic, and the detail in his pencils is just incredible. He really makes you believe in what he puts on the page, and it works to his credit for this issue, which tackles a very serious subject matter.
Flash Thompson has been in the Spider-Man mythos for much of the last forty-five years or so, although in recent years he had kind of faded into the background, as his character was rendered mentally braindead, until the character was reintroduced in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Peter David, who had the character have some brain damage and revert to his old persona from back in high school, and he became a gym teacher. We've seen him once in the new BND era, in the last issue of One More Day during the last few pages which ushered in the BND era, as he was at the party for Harry Osborn's return from Europe. Oddly, that was his last appearance until now, which really made me wonder why they weren't bringing him into the fold full-time. I mean, besides Harry, Flash IS his best friend, especially during the period where Harry had passed away.
This issue focuses on Flash, as Guggenheim brings back a certain aspect of the character that younger readers may not be aware of. Flash Thompson joined the Army way back when, during Vietnam, and at the time had even married a young woman and brought her back to the States with him, although ultimately she would leave him when he was working out feelings for Betty Brant while also ultimately being framed for being the Hobgoblin (a whole other story). This issue brings back that aspect of his character, as Flash finds himself back in the Army, fighting the good fight and trying to do his duty. He's visited by a General who wants to talk to him and interview him in connection with a recommendation for him to receive the medal of honor. Flash relays the story of why he joined the army in the first place, and what he learned from his hero, Spider-Man, and how he took those lessons and became a better person, and a hero.
Some might think this issue was too heavy handed, or pandering to the current American war effort. When I was part-way through, I wondered if I would feel that way. But I didn't. Because it's a good story that is here on these pages. Flash Thompson is a good character, and has been for many years, and this issue distilled the essence of the character. Someone who started out a bully, but became something else when he was inspired, and became inspirational himself, a true hero. This issue's ending hit me hard, actually. I didn't quite expect it, although I suppose it had the writing on the wall as to what the outcome would be. But for this issue, it sucked me in, and I didn't feel cynical, I didn't feel like a jaded, weathered reader who's expecting certain things and can point out what's obviously going to happen.
Kitson really sells this issue, he makes you feel the weight of each scene, makes you feel the same feelings of the characters, the desperate nature of their struggle to survive the ambush, the feeling of being squashed into the relatively tiny space of the vehicle... he really makes it feel like realistic artwork and more than just a comic book you're reading.
For one issue, Guggenheim and Kitson drew me in, wholly and completely, and I believed the tale of a man who, so inspired by Spider-Man, became a hero himself, and would do anything for his compatriots, his fellow soldiers, no matter the cost, to be a hero, because heroes never stop giving, pushing themselves to do what's right for others.
This was an inspiring issue, I really, really enjoyed it, and I have nothing else to say but you should read this very enjoyable story of Flash Thompson. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!