I was really psyched for this anthology because it contains a new Grant Morrison story! I just read through “Love’s Lightning Heart,” and it was fantastic. The story follows Flashlight of Earth-36 as he seeks to revive his lover, Red Racer. Red Racer seemingly died in Superman (Vol. 4) #16 using compressed time to build a new Ultima Thule to help Justice League Incarnate and the Super men, women, and non-bianaries of the multiverse defeat Prophecy. However, Hank doesn’t really believe he’s dead and has Optiman scan for Cherenkov radiation which is created when charged particles move at speeds faster than light. When Optiman spots this, Flashlight’s quest truly begins. I will note that I was initially confused by Optiman’s appearance as he had been killed by the Superdoomsday of Earth-45 (see Action Comics Vol. 2 #9). Optiman later explains that he was reincarnated by Black Lens which I assume to be the Black Hand expy of Earth-35 (though, I could be wrong).
Before Hank can get to his FTL boyfriend, though, he has some things to do as Ray’s energy is emanating from the heart of the Diamond Star which is surrounded by space tyrants including the powerful Inframan. Flashlight needs to find a way to tunnel into the Diamond Star and defeat Inframan if he hopes to rescue Red Racer. He starts by visiting his Flashlight predecessor, Zoe, who is imprisoned on the Gaolworld of Maxitractus II. Hank has to fight through and army of Rainbow Patrol officers to get there, though, suggested by a panel reminiscent of Hal Jordan single-handedly defeating the Green Lantern Corps in Emerald Twilight. Zoe has been frozen in a living death by Inframan. She looks as if time stopped around her as her body was being blown to pieces. Apparently, being locked in a living death has given her cosmic abilities including the power to see beyond the veil to find answers from beyond. In this way, she tells Hank that nothing will help him achieve his goals.
To retrieve nothing, Flashlight first visits the Planet Illysium which is populated by red roboflora that pacify their victims with hallucinations of things they desire. I loved this because it reminded me of when Kyle Rayner accidentally stumbled upon a very similar planet in JLA #12. It’s a bit different, but still very similar:
The roboflora of Illysium begin drinking Hank’s youth causing him to age rapidly, but he needs them to tame nothing. He takes the red flowers to Ossura Dei, Graveyard of Gods, and frees the living nothing that bit the complexity out of Inframan. The roboflora of Illysium goad nothing into following Hank to the Diamond Star with hypnotic dreams of finishing the job it started when it first took a bite out of Inframan.
Just as Zoe predicted, nothing helps Hank break the walls of the Diamond Star and stop Inframan. That allows Flashlight to be there when Ray emerges from the Speed Force he escaped to by converting himself into faster than light energy. Hank greets Ray with his costume hidden in a watch and flowers (the red roboflora). Red Racer uses the anti-entropic energy he had left over from using compressed time to build the Ultima Thule to restore Flashlight to his proper age and the two share a well-earned kiss.
Amazing! This was proper Grant Morrison. The dialogue rings out like prophetic thunder. The story moves at a good clip keeping the action and plot going the whole time. It gives new takes on older concepts and stories from the comics. It shows and doesn’t tell trusting its readers to connect the dots. Stories like this are why Morrison is my favorite writer. Their stories are simultaneously simple and complex. There are tons of little references scattered throughout that short story that I haven’t even mentioned yet. Like, Zoe refers to Inframan as “the man below,” and infra is the Latin word for below. Hank states how Ray reversed himself into his “personal big bang,” and the characters of Earth-35 are based on the characters of Big Bang Comics. You don’t need to understand every reference to enjoy the story, but they are fun to have. I was also properly with the art of Hayden Sherman. His work was beautiful and fit the story perfectly. In my opinion, it was the perfect way to start the 2023 DC Pride anthology!