So much happens in this trade that it’s difficult to decide where to start.
Wally West continues his exploits as The Flash in This Grant Morrison and Mark Millar collection. In it he teams up with his fellow speedsters for numerous life and death adventures, each more harrowing than the last.
While each story arc could have an entire post dedicated to itself, I’m choosing instead to focus on a few keys moments in these issues that stood out to me.
While reading any comic from a well-known author, there’s always a point where I pause and think, “Yep, this is definitely a *insert author’s name here* comic.” It’s a point where, even if you didn’t know who the author was, the story just starts to feel so indicative of a certain writer that one could garner a pretty fair guess as to his or her identity. Grant Morrison, with his signature writing style and unique voice, is no exception. While reading this collection, I was struck by the feeling at the start of the “The Human Race” story arc. In it, Flash is placed into an impossible scenario by a race of ailens: race around the universe against an opponent, with the stakes being that the losing competitor’s planet will be destroyed. This in and of itself isn’t a strictly Morrison-style story. However, as soon as Flash’s opponent is revealed, it felt as though the story couldn’t have been written by anyone else.
Krakkl was Flash’s supposed imaginary friend when he was a child, but as it turns out he was actually very real. Flash tries to wrap his mind around this fact as he races Krakkl across the universe, not wanting to lose as it will mean the destruction of his world, but also not wanting to see the destruction of Krakkl’s own home planet.
The exchanges between Flash and Krakkl are brief but powerful, with Krakkl ultimately sacrificing himself so that Flash may outwit their alien controllers and save not only Earth, but Krakkl’s world as well. The sacrifice felt truly emotional, as well as symbolic of Flash’s push towards full adult responsibility. Although the story ends happily enough, it’s still a bittersweet ending, with the last vestige of Flash’s childhood innocence dying out.
One point in this comic had me worried that this post would be forced to turn into a tirade about the death of yet another superhero girlfriend. Flash’s long-term love Linda is seemingly killed, taken by the Black Flash (a sort of Flash grim reaper). Wally spirals into depression, angry and upset knowing that the Black Flash was really coming for him. Wally feels that he cheated death, but at a horrible cost.
Let me tell you, I was angry at this part. Fresh off the brutal death of Kyle Raynor’s girlfriend, I was ready to rant and rave about why it was deemed necessary to keep killing off all of these female characters.
Luckily, Linda’s death is short-lived, with Flash triumphantly saving her from the Speed Force. Realizing he loves her more than life itself, Flash opts for an abrupt and, truth be told, somewhat poorly placed proposal.
Thankfully, since he’s the fastest man alive Wally is able to whisk Linda off to Paris before she finishes her sentence, to complete his proposal in a more proper setting.
I was happy to see that Wally was allowed to have a happy ending (hopefully I’m not saying that too prematurely). His love for Linda is repeatedly used as a driving force in his world-saving work, so much so that she seems a rather integral part of his life. The Flash just wouldn’t be the same without Linda Park.
While I loved all of these stories individually, what affected me most of all was the marked shift in my mind towards accepting this newer age of superheroes. For so long, I read about Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and Oliver Queen, to the point that I didn’t want to accept that they were no longer key characters in the comics. I was against their deaths and found myself resenting their replacements as a result. Upon reflection, I realized how foolish this is. I’ve been reading decades worth of comics in an extremely condensed amount of time, and most of my experience has been with those formerly mentioned. For contemporary readers of the time, this wasn’t fully the case. These heroes had been around for decades, and belonged to the previous generation. It made sense for those characters to step aside and make way for the new generation, individuals that kids of the day could call their own and identify more closely with.
That being said, change is hard, and it was especially difficult to take given that each predecessor was killed off. I was surprised while reading this comic that, for the first time, Wally West, Kyle Raynor, and Conner Hawke felt like a new generation of superheroes in their own right. I no longer viewed them as second-rate copies of the originals, but as heroes with their own distinct personalities and style. I didn’t expect for my opinions to change so suddenly, but I’m glad I can finally view these characters in a more positive light.
…Although if they figure out a way to bring any of the original guys back, I wouldn’t complain.
Each story collected in this trade was better than the last, and I find myself being more and more drawn to Wally’s character. He’s come a long way from the snotty, petulant kid in The New Teen Titans, and has managed to escape Barry Allen’s shadow and make a name for himself as a hero. His exploits are quickly becoming some of my favorites, and I’m glad to see that there will be no shortage of Flash stories ahead of me on “the shelf”.