"Starting Line": When an EMP sent Gotham City into a blackout, a call went out across the country for help from outside law enforcement agencies. Barry Allen had only just graduated his forensic science program and landed a job at the [[Central City Police Department]
- I'm sorry ... your test is ruined. I saw fire and my first instinct was to put it out. With beer.
Synopsis for "Starting Line"
When an EMP sent Gotham City into a blackout, a call went out across the country for help from outside law enforcement agencies. Barry Allen had only just graduated his forensic science program and landed a job at the Central City Police Department's crime lab when he answered that call. Since then, he had been trying to put a stop to the spread of a dangerous new street drug called "Icarus." Unfortunately, the GCPD officers that he'd been partnered with seemed to feel that the mission was not so urgent as he felt it was.
As Barry chased down a thug who was hooked on Icarus, he found himself on the wrong end of his own taser gun, snatched from his belt. Fortunately, officer Thompson had the sense of urgency to push Barry out of the way, as Bullock knocked the thug to the ground. Unexpectedly, though, the active drug caused a strange reaction as the thug suddenly burst into flames. The policemen struggled to put out the flames, but were spared the effort by a blast from a fire-extinguisher held by young journalism intern Iris West, who explained that despite their best efforts, the thug had never had a chance. Icarus' effects always range from severe to fatal. She had been investigating the drug at the nearby clinic.
Harvey pushed them along, and the three cops rode in the ambulance with their burn victim, where he chastised Barry for losing them the opportunity to follow the junkie to his supplier instead of letting him turn into a charcoal briquette. Fortunately, Barry was able to redeem himself by explaining the science behind what happened to their victim. Icarus caused his adrenaline to rush, which is what allowed him to steal Barry's stun gun away from him. Whatever the active agent in the drug, it reacted with the man's biochemistry to cause a spontaneous combustion — which suggested to Barry that whoever designed Icarus did not intend for it to get out on the street. Any drug that burns its victims alive instead of getting them hooked would be bad for business. Upon arriving at the morgue, Harvey warned Spencer to go home and see his family while he and Barry saw to the autopsy.
Alone with Barry, Harvey warned that if Barry decided to run off and play hero again, he would be back on the bus to Central City. One crazed vigilante in Gotham City was enough. Together, they headed to the clinic, where they hoped to learn more from one of the addicts that Iris had told them was staying there. As they stepped up to the door, though, a sudden explosion knocked them back. Worried for the people inside, Barry rushed into the flames without hesitation, locating Iris and dragging those they could out of the building before they were lost in the fire.
In the ashes, Spencer returned to learn that the likely cause of the blast was another spontaneous combustion from Icarus overdose. With news of another fire across town, Harvey wanted to leave the scene and investigate, but Barry — having been trained in forensic investigation — had learned from the wreckage that the fire here had been started outside the building with an accelerant. Though Harvey was doubtful, Iris chimed in to remind that all of the victims inside the clinic were stablized. Someone must have wanted them dead. Annoyed, Harvey and Spencer went to investigate the other fire, leaving Barry to seek whatever evidence he could find on his own.
Setting up a makeshift crime lab in the Gotham Gazette's office, where Iris had been interning, she and Barry reasoned that if the drug wasn't street-ready, there must be a limited quantity out there — though any amount was too much. Thanks to Iris, they have a sample of the drug to study, confiscated from one of the clinic's patients. As romantic tension seemed to grow higher between the two, they failed to notice as the sample spontaneously caught fire. Instinctively, Iris put it out, and though the sample was lost as a result, Barry was able to determine that it likely contained White Phosphorous — a substance that ignites at warm air temperatures. This would mean that wherever the drug is typically cut with other things, to dilute it, would have to be somewhere cold enough that it wouldn't ignite.
Iris happened to know of a fisherman who had access to generators, which he used to keep his catch cold and smuggle perishables for citizens. When she and Barry sought him out, they were surprised at just how many crates the man had gathered in his warehouse. Peeking inside, Barry learned that they contained more Icarus. They were distracted when they spotted the fisherman complaining to someone of how he risked exposure by taking on so much product at once. This complaint was met with a lethal response, and Barry rushed over to discover that the man who had fired the gun was Spencer Thompson, who must have been the one to start the fire at the clinic. He had been trying to shake Barry off the trail from the beginning.
Annoyed at having to trust Barry Allen's word again, Harvey Bullock pulled up outside the warehouse, waiting for whatever might come out. When some thugs approached, he was forced to engage them in a gunfight, to his further chagrin.
Meanwhile, Thompson pulled his gun on Iris, hoping to put a stop to her reportage on the subject of his involvement in the dissemination of Icarus, but Barry tackled him before he could shoot her. Unfortunately, he took an elbow in the face, and lost consciousness long enough for Thompson to dump some Icarus down his throat. Almost instantly, Barry began to hallucinate that he was a superhero, leaping at Thompson. Iris, remembering what Barry had said about the properties of white phosphorous realized that he would burn up unless he was exposed to extreme cold. Thompson, meanwhile, decided to put Barry out of his misery, but was surprised when the trigger that was pulled wasn't his. Harvey Bullock had caught up with them, and shot his partner through the chest. As he died, Thompson begged Harvey not to tell his family what he had done. In the meantime, Iris ripped a coolant hose from the wall, and sprayed Barry with it to prevent him from combusting. Fortunately, he would survive the ordeal.
Later, Barry and Bullock attended Spencer Thompson's funeral, and Barry couldn't understand why Harvey had lied in his official report about Spencer's involvement. Reluctantly, Harvey explained that Spencer had just made a mistake. He didn't design the drug, and he wasn't supplying it. He had just found a way to make some money. All pinning the crime on him would do is bring shame to his name after he was dead. In any case, given that Harvey had shot his decades long partner to save him, he didn't intend to listen to any preaching on Barry's part. After all, Gotham was not Barry's city. Things are not always as black and white as Barry thought. Confused, Barry wondered what made Bullock any different from the vigilantes on the streets, and proudly, Harvey tapped his detective's badge.
At the bus stop, Barry reunited with Iris in waiting for the bus back to the Gem Cities. She had only come to see him off, but before letting him go, she pulled him into a kiss. Hurriedly, Barry rushed to catch his bus with thoughts of Iris in his mind.
Appearing in "Starting Line"
- Spencer Thompson (Only appearance; dies)
- Batman (Mentioned only)
- This issue is reprinted in The Flash: Reverse.
- Barry, Harvey, and Spencer ride in a City of Metropolis ambulance — a reference to the fact that Gotham required outside help from other cities in the emergency services to deal with the effects of the blackout.
- The Flash Recommended Reading