Flash: Invasion!

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Barry, next time I get to pick what we do when we hang out!

While it sort of started on Supergirl, the big four-part crossover really kicks off on Flash. All the other shows share the title of “Invasion!” which was the title of the comic book event in the 90’s this story is loosely based on. For a big-time herogeek like me, it’s a lot of fun, especially as someone who’s been reading comics so long that I remember the initial story. It’s streamlined a lot, since the comic crossover went into every DC title running back then, and there were a LOT more heroes in the DCU of the 90’s than the DC CW-verse of the present.

Using the “flash ahead and then work your way there” method too many shows use nowadays, this opens with Green Arrow and Flash fighting against what appears to be all the other costumed heroes. Green Arrow lectures Flash that every time Flash asks for help, they end up in big trouble. Well, Ollie if a guy who can outrun sound needs help from a guy with a bow, yeah, things are probably pretty desperate. They almost get fried by Supergirl’s heat vision, and then we backtrack to a cool opening bit of all the show’s logos stacking on each other. Nice graphic.

Ten hours earlier, Caitlin, Cisco, Joe and Iris were watching Wally in the Speed Lab. He’s apparently faster now than Barry was at that point in his having powers. Iris convinces everyone to discourage Wally from becoming a hero, which I’ve got to admit I find disappointing and selfish on her part. Not only does Wally clearly want to do this, but it’s not like Barry went to superhero school before he became Flash. Not only do the powers give Wally a huge edge, but they come with accelerated healing. That’s really not a bad deal. Iris even tells Cisco not to talk suits with Wally.

The Wests leave, and Cisco whines some more about blaming Barry for Dante’s death. Caitlin tries to reason with him, but he’s not listening. This gets mercifully interrupted when HR calls everyone to the Cortex for his latest idea about what to do with STAR Labs. It involves odd tours and he calls Barry “B.A.” which Barry doesn’t like. The next timely interruption is an alarm from their satellite about a crashing meteor heading for downtown. I’m not sure what he thought he’d do, but Barry Flashes off to see what’s going on. Well, if you’ve seen the commercials, you already know it’s not a space rock, it’s an alien ship. Grant Gustin has delivered some great lines as the Flash, and his surprised, frustrated, “ALIENS???” is one of them.

The next morning, all sorts of emergency crews are all over and there’s a coverup in place. What happened between Flash’s nighttime encounter and this, we never learn. Flash does talk briefly with Lyla Michaels, head of ARGUS and wife of John “Spartan” Diggle of Team Arrow. She agrees to talk to him later back at STAR.

Lyla briefs Team STAR that they’ve had a truce in place with the aliens since the 50’s. After their first landing and abrupt withdrawal, there was no more contact until three months ago, when the Dominators (not a friendly name) sent a message and, apparently, four dropships. The UN is deciding what to do. Barry, having briefly seen the aliens, is sure the army can’t take them. Lyla says he can’t either, and he decides to get help. He races to Star City, where Green Arrow and Spartan are hunting Vigilante, and speeds the two heroes away from a hail of bullets.

Ok, two things here. First off, the last time the shows crossed over, Barry saved Team Arrow from Damian Darhk. Are all the crossovers going to start this way, with Barry coincidentally showing up in time to save Green Arrow and company? Secondly, Barry thinks the military can’t handle the aliens, so he goes for help to… a bunch of talented normals with weapons. Like the military. Granted Ragman has powers, but Flash doesn’t know him, and Ragman doesn’t do anything during this team up. Also, oddly, Artemis is not only missing, but no one even mentions her. The writing is not as smooth as it could be here.

After the rescue, Diggle has his usual bad reaction to superpowers, and Oliver is very annoyed at Barry. Oddly, Barry zipped them to the loft, and Felicity is there, not in the Lair as she usually is when the team’s in action. At any rate, Barry briefs them about the aliens. Diggle’s classic response is, “My life was somewhat normal before I met you.” Thea walks in during this, and randomly decides to come out of retirement as Speedy for the fight. Is that why Artemis wasn’t here, to avoid having two female archers? Barry also wants to recruit the Legends, which at least makes more sense, and they somehow get a message to them via means I’m not quite sure of. They show up in the shuttle from the Waverider, minus Steel and Vixen. Cisco and Barry then go to Earth 38 to get Supergirl for help, which is likely their smartest move, and we see what we already saw at the end of Supergirl’s “Medusa” episode.

All this is taking place at a remote STAR facility which Barry owns but hasn’t done anything with. Amusingly, and a nice nod to shows past, the building just happens to look almost exactly like the Hall of Justice from the old Superfriends cartoon, which is getting a lot of mentions on the CW this season. Since he’s vaguely surprised about the place, maybe Barry should take some time to use his speed powers and go over everything he owns under the STAR umbrella. And how’s all that getting maintained and taxes paid on it?

For whatever reason, everyone is in their civilian clothes except Supergirl. Both to help her out, and any viewers who don’t watch all the shows, she runs through names and codenames of this gathering of heroes. To show why they went to get her, Supergirl demonstrates a few of her powers. Now that I think about it, heat vision was one of them, so why Oliver is surprised about it in the flash-forward, I have no idea. Felicity loves this and is fangirlishly excited. As all this happens, the Dominators make plans to go after “the human leader.” We have just one?

The big meet-up manages to keep introductions straight, aside from the missing Ragman and Artemis. Among the interesting developments as they all meet up is Felicity being surprised by hearing about Caitlin’s powers, and Iris (why is she here?) learning Green Arrow’s secret identity (why isn’t he masked?). Supergirl tells them a bit about what she heard about the Dominators back on Krypton, and the thorny issue of leadership is raised. Cisco, still sulking, says he trusts Oliver, which clearly stings Barry. Oliver, for no real good reason, names Barry the leader but then pretty much tells everyone what to do anyway. Which, in this case, is train against Supergirl. That goes about as well as you’d expect.

In a nice nod to continuity, Ray has made his new ATOM suit, which he and Cisco geek out over. Cisco says he has ideas to update it, which seems unlikely. I mean sure, Cisco’s a genius, but Ray focused on the suit and rebuilt it with help from an AI from the future. How is Cisco going to top that? After Cisco sulks off again, Barry asks Ray about Leonard Snart, and Ray tells him about Snart’s death.

As all this goes on, Wally shows up and Iris more or less tells him to go away. You know, you can push the over-protective sister thing too far, and she’s doing that. Felicity asks Cisco why he’s mad at Barry, and learns about Dante’s death. Barry, Oliver, Stein, and Jax meet about Barry’s future message, which seems to be warning about Flashpoint. Jax wants to tell everyone, and Oliver disagrees. Fighting aliens is bad enough, let’s not complicate things with time travel paradox. As Oliver puts it, “one sci-fi problem at a time.”

Oliver was surprised to learn about baby Sara changing to John, Jr. in Diggle’s family. Barry, upset every time changes from Flashpoint are mentioned, says the aliens invading are the first thing since coming back that wasn’t his fault, or at least he hopes they aren’t. Since we haven’t seen changes echo back before they happened, and the Dominators showed up in the 50’s, I think he’s right. Stein gets more of his troubling visions, and he and Caitlin go to check things at his home

Elsewhere, government power plays between ARGUS and whoever the heck Agent Smith, a mysterious Man In Black type, works for rage on. Even with aliens attacking, it’s business as usual. The President sides with ARGUS in favor of not ignoring the attacking aliens. Just after this decision is reached, the Dominators show up and kidnap the President. Maybe it’s time to look into metahuman Secret Service agents?

Back at STAR, the Wests have a family meeting which doesn’t go well. Wally is mad that they all are doubting him so badly. In desperation, he asks HR to train him. HR, too, declines. Wally is really having a bad day. And hey, folks, with aliens attacking, maybe a new superpowered ally wouldn’t be a bad thing right now?

Stein and Caitlin talk about her powers and her fears about Killer Frost coming back. He reassures her, and I kind of side with him on this one. They get home, and Stein gets a big surprise as he’s greeted by his adult daughter, Lily… who didn’t exist in his original timeline. What I’m a lot more worried about is the look that passes between Lily and Caitlin, who clearly know each other, when Stein mentions Clarissa. I’m wondering if a change they subtly hint at but don’t mention is that Clarissa’s dead now.

The next bit has a few pieces of sloppy writing, sorry to say. Cisco goes looking for something or other and finds the recording from future Barry.  Why was this left out in the open? Rashly, Cisco decides to announce this to everyone. Diggle is shocked to hear that his family changed. Sara is furious Barry changed time, and lectures about wanting to bring her sister back but she hasn’t. Well… no, she hasn’t, but she’s tried to off Darhk before he can kill Laurel a few times. Isn’t that the same thing? Everyone is so upset by this that, when they get sent off to save the President from the Dominators by Lyla, they want Barry to stay behind. Oliver tries to defend Barry, and Diggle tells Oliver to sit this out, too.

This, of course, is a trap, but going there lets the heroes learn more about each other. Supergirl demonstrates her x-ray vision, and Heat Wave shares his back story, which Supergirl doesn’t quite know how to take. The trap is sprung, they can’t save the President, and they all get mind controlled, which brings us back to the beginning.

Barry brings Oliver to the Time Vault, hidey-hole of the first Wells/Thawne Team Flash was working with back in Season One. The future newspaper has changed again, now written by Julie Greer, not Iris West-Allen. Julie Greer was a very minor character, also a reporter, during Wally West’s run as the Flash in DC Comics, so nice touch there, folks. Oliver tells Barry not to be so hard on himself, and talks about what he’d do to see his dead parents again (remember that for an episode or so). This is when the mind-controlled heroes return and there’s a massive fight, as all the normals go after Green Arrow and all the powered heroes go after Flash. Flash brings back his speed-lightning power that we haven’t seen in a while. When things look bad for Green Arrow and Flash, Wally speeds out and saves them, getting hurt in the process. Look, Iris, he helped, saved lives, and survived. See that?

Felicity and Cisco (who seems to have forgotten his energy powers, only using his portals and visions for this team up) figure out where the mind control signal is coming from. As Green Arrow tries to stay alive and not get killed by his friends and allies, Flash leads Supergirl on a superspeed chase all over the area, eventually getting her to destroy the device, which snaps everyone out of it. We know it was getting bad, since Green Arrow actually ran out of arrows during the fight, which I’m not sure we’ve seen before. It reminded me of Hawkeye doing the same thing during the Avengers’ Battle of New York.

In the aftermath, the team exchanges apologies while the Wests yell at Wally. HR has a change of heart about an earlier decision. Felicity is curious about what being mind-controlled was like. Then, just as the heroes are patching up their differences, Oliver, Thea, Ray, Sara, and Diggle get beamed up by the aliens to give us a cliffhanger within the crossover. The common threads here are the taken are all 1) non-powered and 2) started off on Arrow, not the other shows.

What I liked: As I’ve said, I’m a herogeek. Seeing this huge group of heroes together for the first time was just plain cool. The mystery of Lily Stein is interesting. I liked the small touches like Felicity not knowing about Caitlin’s Killer Frost powers or Iris learning GA’s secret I’m glad Wally ignored his family and went to help. The “Hall of Justice” was a nice touch.

What I didn’t like: Cisco needs to get over it. I get that he’s upset, but he’s not only being a dick, he’s risking the team’s effectiveness while he does it. Where’s Rory and Evelyn/Artemis? Why would Team Arrow not bring their one powered member along for this? For that matter, why did the Legends leave behind two of their powered people? Nate/Steel is a rookie, but Vixen was a hero before she met the Legends. The team up starting by Flash saving them doesn’t need to keep happening. And Thea suddenly coming out of retirement was a bit weird. The Wests need to stop smothering Wally and let him try to be a hero. He’s going to do it anyway, anyone can see that. He’ll do better with help.

Despite my nitpicking above, I really liked this. I’m a sucker for a decently done hero team up (as is Felicity I guess). I’ll give this a 4 out of 5, and just enjoy the event.

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