In today’s era, comics are becoming measurably less fun, more ideologically driven, or just plain dreary. The rare gem of a book that allows the reader to come away with a sense of hope is now just that much more of a diamond in the rough. There are times when heroes must be pushed to the brink and well beyond the limits of what they believe they’re capable of handling. After all, that is the space where growth lives. However, when a character’s key tenant is the hope that they have and the love for what they do, you run the risk of destroying that character permanently if all you know how to do is deconstruct them and break them down month-after-month. Wally West is one of those characters who had been all but obliterated from within (thanks Tom King; we get it, you hate happy superheroes, now go away forever and get help so we can all enjoy comics again), to the point where he was entirely unrecognizable. Three chapters into Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth’s Flash Forward miniseries, we are once again seeing the flickering candle that is the spark of the Fastest Man Alive, and damn does it feel good.
Wally has had his hands full already with trying to stop the no-good-goo from the Dark Multiverse from spreading throughout the standard DC Multiverse of 52 known alternate worlds. Tack onto that having to convince the heroes residing on those worlds that he’s here to help. He is the most recent anomaly to their home, making him appear the root cause of their world’s woes. The Fastest Man Alive quickly becomes the Busiest Man Alive. But no one else could do the job. That brings us to alternate world designate Earth-43, an alternate Earth which Wally West very quickly learns has undergone a severe injustice. Almost immediately after arriving, the Flash finds himself having to catch all 237 passengers falling to their deaths after being dumped over the side of a ship above Gotham City. Wally’s more than fast enough to handle the number of victims (he once evacuated over half a million people 35 miles away from an already-detonated thermonuclear bomb in under ten picoseconds – without getting all sciencey here, that’s insanely fast). However, the real trick is having to wait for each of them to be within reach, meaning close enough to impact. But that was only the beginning of Wally West’s otherworldly woes on Earth-43, as he then learns that the Justice League on this Earth has all been turned into vampires! Wally must team up with this earth’s Roy Harper, Arsenal, to take out Batman (who, naturally, is also a vampire) and stop the spread of the dark matter.
This issue continues the trend set in the previous one by bringing more short-and-sweet battles between Wally and alternate versions of other heroes. Setting this one apart from the rest, however, is that he takes down this Earth’s vampire Superman. This is extremely impressive as, while as a vampire, he may not possess all of his faculties, this Superman certainly isn’t exactly wanting for his other traits. During the fight, Wally begins to notice that he’s not only moving faster than he can recall having done in recent memory, but doing so while also being able to speed-think more clearly and quickly than ever. Tempus had mentioned that the Flash had become more powerful than even he had yet to realize, and that’s one of the reasons he’s the only man who could handle this quest. Wally, focusing on the present task, doesn’t pay it much thought beyond that. We also see Wally go up against an undead version of Barry Allen on this Earth. This ends with the older Flash being freed from his eternal curse and allowed to die liberated of his vampiric bloodlust. Booth’s art shines in these fast-paced battle sequences, his style adding dramatic flair to the fights against Barry and Supes in particular.
Something that I have to keep hammering home with this miniseries is Scotty L’s focus on making Wally sound like himself again. The importance of this can’t be understated, and as much as I think most of us would prefer to pretend that Heroes in Crisis never happened, continuity dictates otherwise. Lobdell is doing an excellent job of maintaining a shadow of what happened in that event while using it as a re-establishing growth hurdle of sorts. This works better for the speedster’s growth than something that is dragging the hero through the mud (because he’s not Tom King and, you know… actually likes the superheroes he’s writing). The dialogue sounds like each character as they ought to, and Wally and Earth-43 Roy’s conversations particularly hit home, given that Wally’s Earth-1 Roy is presently deceased. The bonding time that Wally gets with his old friend is cut short by vampire Batman landing a fatal blow on Harper while the Flash is trying to clear the dark matter from the Bat Cave. Losing his friend again is traumatic for Wally, but after trapping Batman into the heart of his own nuclear reactor, he receives some semblance of closure as he realizes that he’s been focusing entirely on the loss of Roy Harper rather than celebrating the hero that his friend Arsenal always was right up until the very end.
This miniseries continues to hit many emotional beats for me as a longtime Wally West fan. But more than that, it’s being utilized as a staging ground for bigger things yet to come for the character, and re-establishing both his importance and power within the greater DC Universe. We’ve already been given a demonstrable improvement for the character over his Heroes in Crisis depiction (that’s setting the bar incredibly low, I know). If Tempus Fuginaut’s musings at the end of the book are any indication, we haven’t even scratched the surface of either of those things, and the best is yet to come. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to this creative team for their dedication in their handling of this character. From jump street, I knew that Booth himself was also an unapologetically huge Wally West fan. He would not have taken on the project if it wasn’t going to do the character justice, but given the current depressing state of the DC Universe, I thought that for sure there would be some inevitable compromise. I’ve yet to see such compromise at all, and given the massive bomb that was dropped at the end of the previous issue, I cannot wait to see what Scott and Brett have planned next!