Writing about these massive omnibuses is daunting, to say the least. When so much action and storyline is crammed into the pages of a single trade, how exactly do you sum everything up? The easiest way is to break it down into the basest of terms: Everybody forgets who Flash is, but eventually the important people remember; Zoom teams up with The Cheetah to try and wear down everyone’s favorite speedster; Zoom’s ex-wife Ashley Zolomon tries to right the wrongs her husband has made; the remaining Rogues unite to wreck havoc across the city; and it all ends on a happy note as Linda Park-West goes from being barren to giving birth in three short panels.
Yeah, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but to accurately describe each and every issue who be exhausting and, quite frankly, unnecessary. Go read this massive tome and see for yourself how Geoff Johns’s run on The Flash plays out.
What I’m instead choosing to focus on were a few key asides that stood out while reading. With all of this hoopla taking place, it’s easy to overlook minor comments or inclusions, even if they wind up saying a lot about the overall narrative.
One of the first things I noticed while reading this was that it takes place around the time of Identity Crisis. With Sue Dibny’s death fresh on everyone’s minds, it makes sense that the heroes might be mournful and a bit distracted. I was surprised, though, to see the opposing faction express sadness as well.
Captain Cold has been portrayed as a far more nuanced and sympathetic character here than in past Flash storylines, and this comment further cements that distinction. When his fellow Rogues question sending flowers to Elastic Man, Cold comments that Ralph was always polite to them. It’s a brief moment that the comic doesn’t dwell on, but it’s incredibly telling of just how complicated Johns sought to make Captain Cold. It’s not often that a Rogue shows outright sympathy for a hero, yet Johns’s characterization made it feel natural. I found Cold more compelling here than in just about any other comic I’ve read, easily catapulting him to the top of my list of favorite Flash villains.
Equally telling, although a bit incongruous, was a conversation between Flash and Wonder Woman while they battled The Cheetah.
I’m not too surprised to hear Wally say this, given his more conservative leanings. It just feels in character for him. But Wonder Woman? I’m willing to admit that given the recent events that led to Wonder Woman’s blindness, there is at least some ground to stand on in making her support the death penalty. Even so, it seems a pretty strong claim to make of her character, and one that didn’t feel fully necessary for either her or Flash’s story. While this wasn’t a key moment in The Flash storyline, it stood out within the story.
Another aspect that actually did play a role in the overarching narrative was the introduction of Digger Harkness’s son, Owen. Now, Owen was introduced during Identity Crisis, but it was interesting to watch his transformation into Captain Boomerang after Digger’s death.
Superhero replacements to entire new readers and usher in a new generation are nothing new, but Owen’s storyline felt like one of the first instances of a villain being given such an elaborate backstory. So many of the other legacy villains inherit their titles in such a lackluster way that I can never be bothered to follow it. The story was charged with enough emotion and intrigue that I actually care where Owen’s character goes from here. He’s a brand new Captain Boomerang, and I’m curious to see how he evolves into a Rogue in his own right.
While I liked the villains and the overall narrative, the most bizarre portion of the story was how it was all wrapped up. Zoom and Wally are engaged in a battle, as Zoom forces Wally to watch the moment where Linda loses their unborn children over and over again. All of a sudden, Barry Allen and Reverse Flash show up, engage in a battle as well, and disappear. Zoom ultimately fails in his attempt to make use of the cosmic treadmill, and next thing you know, Wally is at Linda’s side in the hospital, where she’s suddenly very pregnant and about to give birth.
This explanation is shaky at best, and really doesn’t explain how this all happened. I take it to mean that Geoff Johns felt bad for making Linda barren, and chose to use the ole’ time-travel shtick to fix it. It felt very reminiscent of the ending to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run, but without the slick, self-aware wrap-up. While I’m glad Wally and Linda got their happy ending, the easy fix at the very end of the story made the pain and suffering they felt (which, truth be told, made up a good portion of this book) somewhat less significant. I can’t complain about it too much though, since I’m a sucker for happy endings. I just wish there had been a bit more style to how it all happened.
What can I say? I’m picky.
Overall I thought Johns’s run on The Flash was really well done. He brought some great additions to the character’s lore while still keeping it firmly planted in the larger world. There were plenty of asides and minor comments to hold my attention, although even without these the stories themselves were strong enough to propel the narrative. These minor inclusions simply show how well-thought out these characters and stories are, and help cement Johns as a truly great comic book writer.
Now all I want is a follow-up comic that reveals that Wally and Linda’s kids have super-speed, and consists of them having to chase the babies around the apartment as they zip back and forth trying to avoid their bedtime.
Is that too much to ask?