What does it truly mean to be a superhero? Do you run headlong into danger and face down catastrophe because it’s what you love to do? Are you beholden to the threads of fate and allow destiny to dictate your actions? And what do you do when you’ve fallen from grace and feel that there can be no indemnity for your misdeeds? These questions and many more are sought after by two parties in the pages of Flash Forward #1, the hotly anticipated 6-issue miniseries by writer Scott Lobdell (Red Hood and the Outlaws and Teen Titans) and superstar artist Brett Booth (Titans, Teen Titans, and The Flash). Those parties are the star of this series, the Flash/Wally West, as he must discover how and if he still fits into his world, a world where he no longer has his wife or children, and the readers seeking to see their favorite speedster find redemption following his “actions” in the Heroes in Crisis event. Flash Forward isn’t the first time Lobdell and Booth have teamed up to create a book that was spectacular from cover-to-cover. One of the most fun one-off issues of a comic book that I’ve read in the last several years was the Flash/Speed Buggy Special #1 last summer, and when I heard that this dynamic duo would be hitting the grind to course-correct and redeem my favorite DC superhero, well, needless to say, September couldn’t get here fast enough if I could time travel!
What is Flash Forward about? I’m not going to go through the rigamarole of recounting the events of Heroes in Crisis (because it was awful and I don’t need the PTSD FLASHbacks), so I’m going to operate under the assumption that, if you’re reading this, then you, as was I, were immensely distraught at the portrayal – and, let’s keep it 100 here, destruction – of this character within those pages. Something that I knew allowed me to trust that this character was back in the proper hands from the outset was the fact that Brett Booth has never been shy about his love for Classic Wally West. He flat-out would not have taken the job if he wasn’t convinced that Lobdell was setting out to do him justice. For those already familiar with Booth’s art, you’re aware of his penchant for wildly entertaining and dramatized action scenes. It may then come as a surprise to you that this opening issue doesn’t possess very much in the way of that, but that’s okay. Flash Forward #1 contains a lot of setup, both existentially and internally, and this is crucial because one sets the tone for the beginning of Wally West’s redemption arc and the other is representative of just how important the character is to the DC Multiverse (as hinted at in the pages of the Flash War Epilogue) and what he must overcome.
The setup comes in the form of our opening, and we’ll call it our establishing shot, in which we are introduced to a new Multiversal entity known as Tempus Fuginaut. We don’t learn a terribly significant amount about this character, but his role is clear from jump street: he’s one of many Fuginauts – protectors and watchers of the Multiverse (meaning the 52 known universes) – and is tasked with guarding against the plague that is the Dark Multiverse (if you haven’t yet read the face-melting fun that is Dark Knights: Metal, you need to make better choices). Ordinarily, all Dark Multiverse worlds are predestined to whither and die so as to prevent their vileness from spreading, but one dark earth, in particular, is proving obstinant. This is a problem of monumental proportions that we don’t yet receive a clear painting of, but the important line by Tempus to Wally kind of gets the point across, “I – we – need the fastest being in all the Multiverse… to save the worlds affected by this cataclysm… and ultimately destroy the anomaly causing it all.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Tempus leaves the realm where he resides while observing the events of the cosmos, upon determining that he cannot stand idly by while good worlds are corrupted and destroyed by this rogue dark earth, and sets out to find himself a champion.
Cut to that champion, whether he’s going to like it and come willingly or not, Wally West. The Scarlet Speedster is presently sporting orange in a cell within the supermax prison known as Blackgate Penitentiary. He’s also wearing a power-dampening collar which prevents him from utilizing his powers, but that doesn’t bring any solace to the man who called himself “Flash” and only receives night after sleepless night as recompense for his Speed Force powers glitching out and ending thirteen other lives at Sanctuary (because that’s apparently a thing that can happen now). From the beginning, Scott Lobdell sets the tone for Wally’s state of mind: he’s horrified with what he did, regardless of it being an accident, and attempting to make up for it by releasing the confessional recordings from Sanctuary. That last piece is something that is noted to him by Linda Park, Wally’s wife in his former life (Pre-52 DC continuity) and mother of his children, but now only an acquaintance. There are emotional facets here that Lobdell hits on. How could Wally not be in a bad state, not even counting the events at Sanctuary, what with no longer having his wife or children? The emotional strain that would put on even the most joyous of characters is real. That said, writers still ought to operate within the bounds of the characters they are playing with, and Lobdell seems to be doing thusly.
Let’s interlude here to talk about the art, as comics are a visual medium after all and, no matter how excellent the writing might be, if the panels aren’t up to snuff and compliment the narrative, there’s little point in reading them. Thankfully, the interiors are by Brett Booth, along with his go-to inker Norm Rapmund and colorist Luis Guerrero. Many artists have penciled Wally West over the years, but there have been a small handful of standouts for me. Mike Wieringo with his classical broad chins and musculature; Michael Turner who, even though he only did covers for the character, brought his gorgeously powerful rendering to my favorite hero; Ethan Van Sciver, specifically in his and Geoff Johns’ instant classic Flash: Rebirth, with his absurdly detailed pencils; and, most recently, Brett Booth. Booth does something with his art that is otherwise measurably lacking in comic books today: he imbues each panel with energy and action, drama and personality. His characters are expressive, in their faces, their posture, and motions. Bad guys take on a new level of sinister; a curious expression looks explicitly amused, and a somber look becomes morose. Speaking of which, cut back to Wally West, who is mortified that Linda Park is visiting him at Blackgate. This 9-panel page is a stark contrast with the 9-panel wastes of talent that flooded the Heroes in Crisis miniseries (Clay Mann’s god-tier work deserves better), and you can see the emotions happening on the characters’ faces. Linda is sympathetic and trying to reach out and understand, while Wally looks run-down, broken, and resigned to unforgiveness. Since I first glimpsed Brett Booth’s Wally West in the pages of DC Rebirth Titans, it’s been easily my favorite version of the character, and even with this first issue lacking the beautiful action shots and set pieces that I’m used to seeing from his work, that hasn’t changed one bit.
The question now is, how does Wally West go from being locked up in Blackgate to fulfilling his destiny as (according to the aforementioned Flash War epilogue) one of the greatest heroes to have ever lived? Well, it begins simply enough with two fellow inmates, Girder and Tarpit, attacking Wally in his cell. Apparently, not even Blackgate guards are immune to bribery, and the two supervillains had their dampening collars removed. Wally, however, almost doesn’t seem to care about getting the tar beaten out of him, as he sees it as well-deserved recompense for the lives his powers ended and doesn’t even attempt to fight back – that is, until a hard slam to the ground crushes his collar and Wally puts down both baddies in a flash. No sooner have Girder and Tarpit been knocked out, than our new multiversal friend, Tempus, appears before Wally and fills the speedster in on the danger the entire Multiverse is now facing from the stubborn dark world that refuses to perish as it should. Wally, of course, not feeling very super or hero-like as of late, is disinclined to acquiesce, stating that he’s not suitable for hero work and not worthy or even capable of traveling between universes if he wanted to. Tempus then says that Wally has only but glimpsed the capacity of his powers (an impressive claim, given what we already know he can do!) before making clear that the complete destruction of the multiverse has him on something of a deadline, and that he wasn’t asking for Wally’s consent here, but rather stating that his destiny commands it. With that, Tempus activates Wally’s Speed Force Construct ability to make sure that he’s dressed for the part, and, despite the speedster’s continuing protests, sends him on his way to another world, where he encounters a severely beaten Calvin Ellis Superman (so we can surmise that this is Earth-23).
What’s next for our fallen hero? Wally West has suited up (not so much voluntarily) but is his mind ready for whatever nightmares might await in his mission to protect the entirety of the Multiverse from the forces of the Dark? It’s clear that the next chapter is going to come with far more action, and I cannot wait for that, but I do also hope that we get to learn much more about Tempus, as well as the purpose he and the other Fuginauts serve in the cosmos. Tall, dark, and pointy-skulled mentioned that he was breaking some serious rules by reaching out to Wally for aid, so that speaks volumes of not only the threat the cosmos faces but also his level of hope in the Flash. This kick-off to the 6-issue miniseries brings with it a lot of questions, questions that I pray we’ll receive answers to in due time, including the aside with the Mobius Chair. I’m hyped for whatever is coming next, and I hope that this solo outing will return my favorite DC hero to prominence within the present continuity. I have a great deal of faith in the creative team here, so with the starting gun fired, I’m ready for this cosmic race!
What did you think of Flash Forward #1? Are you as excited as I am for the rest of this miniseries? Let me know in the comments and stay tuned to Geeks + Gamers for the rest of this solo series!