Geoff Johns continues to amaze.
His run on Flash continues here with Volume 2. In my post on Volume 1, I praised Johns’s ability to create self-contained story-arcs that affect the continuity without needing to be year-long events. With the continuation of his run, Johns further cements his skill at crafting engaging yet brief stories, while also branching out and proving that he’s capable of seeing “the big picture”.
This is perhaps most evident in the character of Hunter Zolomon, a police profiler who specializes in metahuman criminals. He and Flash are friends, and Zolomon is involved on a number of cases within the comic. His storyline began in Volume 1, but really takes off in this trade. After being attacked by Gorilla Grodd, Zolomon is badly injured and left paralyzed. In his desperation he asks the Flash to use the cosmic treadmill to travel back in time and prevent an earlier incident in his life. He asks Flash to stop a criminal from shooting him in the leg, effectively ending his FBI career and forcing him down the path that lead to his paralysis. The Flash knows the dangers of meddling with time, and so refuses to grant Zolomon’s wish. Hunter doesn’t take this well, saying that Flash doesn’t understand true pain or loss and that if he did, he wouldn’t hesitate to help.
Hunter’s downward spiral continues as he takes it upon himself to attempt to activate the cosmic treadmill himself. The treadmill explodes, but the accident somehow corrects Zolomon’s paralysis and imbues him with his own speed powers. Seeing a new purpose for his life, Zolomon adopts a new persona: Zoom.
Zoom is obviously Wally’s “Reverse Flash”, a throwback to the similar arch-nemesis who plagued Barry Allen for so many years. Zoom decides that the best way to make Wally better is to make him suffer a terrible loss. His goal is to kill Wally’s wife, Linda.
Mercifully, Wally prevents this from happening, but the couple doesn’t get off scott-free. A few months prior, they had learned that Linda was pregnant with twins. After an encounter with Zoom has her thrown against a wall, we learn that Zoom was still successful in causing Flash pain.
Aaaaand Zoom’s officially cemented himself as Wally’s most hated foe.
There’s little time given to address the magnitude of this loss, and instead we focus on Flash tracking Zoom down. At this point, many references are made to The Trial of The Flash, with comparisons being made to how Barry Allen addressed such a situation (killing the Reverse Flash) versus how Wally West might react. At one point Zoom even lays out the easy solution, hearkening back to that earlier story and reminding Wally how his hero dealt with a similar scenario:
Wally seems to briefly consider this option, but his good sense wins out. Zoom escapes, but at least Wally’s integrity is in tact. Unfortunately, he and Linda must now deal with this devastating loss.
Flash blames himself for the events, claiming that if his identity wasn’t public knowledge, none of this would ever have happened. Wally is then visited by The Spectre (aka Hal Jordan), as well as Barry Allen, returned from the future (prior to his death) to offer guidance.
Spectre informs Wally that he can’t change the events that have happened, but that he can erase the memory of who Flash is from everyone’s minds. Of course, this means that Barry’s identity will be erased as well, and so his legacy (at least as Barry Allen) will be lost.
In the throes of despair, Wally agrees, and this volume closes with a brief glimpse into the new existence. Wally is telling Linda of a new job he’s just gotten, and Linda absent-mindedly wonders where the Flash has been, to which Wally responds that he doesn’t know.
It’s a pretty big shake-up for The Flash, and I can’t help but wonder whether it’s a change that will last. Wally is such a prominent figure in the public eye that it seems odd to backtrack to a secret identity (and nevermind the marital implications of Wally’s own wife not knowing about his identity.) I’m honestly not sure what will happen next, and it’s this ability to craft such realistic unpredictability that makes Geoff Johns such a fantastic writer.
I’m looking forward to reading Volume 3 to see how this all plays out. As long as the next volume continues in Johns’s signature style, with emphasis on character development and a perfect balance between shorter stories and larger arcs, it will no doubt be another wonderful read.