So the end of the story is finally here. Granted, we new through Blackest Night that Barry cheered up, Wally, Bart and co were still around, and Thawne was locked up in Iron Heights, so really it was just seeing how they got there.
Scarily I first talked about the solicit for this issue back in June last year. EVS has since revealed that health issues were behind the delays to this series, which is entirely understandable, although I do think DC could’ve done more to get it back on track. Instead the book is currently well known for its delays, and I hope that hasn’t damaged the relaunch of the Flash too badly.
The delays have been discussed to death, but instead I thought I’d mention the original solicit for the issue:
“In a battle along the outskirts of time, the secrets of the Speed Force have been revealed! The new archnemesis of those who ride the lightning is coming for Iris Allen. And the Barry Allen you knew is gone forever…or is he? What change does Wally West face? What destiny will Kid Flash choose? Prepare to meet a Flash Family that’s both familiar and different…and get to the starting line for the next epic adventures of the Speed Force!”
New archnemesis? Well, nope. Just the same old Reverse Flash who was revealed as the villain in #3. Barry Allen we knew is gone forever? No idea what that’s talking about. What change does Wally West face? None that I could see in this issue. Unless they’re counting Thawne’s hints about his future. What destiny will Kid Flash choose? Nope. Never happened.
I’m used to hyperbole and misdirection in the solicits, but this solicit seems pretty far off the issue we got. Did something change?
As a final moan, I have to say I really am not a fan of the final cover. Barry’s pose looks awkward, and as a fanboy gripe, Jay’s helmet is drawn wrong. Its a pity that the series has ended with what I think is probably the weakest of the covers.
However, that aside, I actually really enjoyed this issue. Without the need for a last-minute new villain, we get a neat wrap up to the menace of Thawne. The fight to save Iris is well done, played against Thawne’s lightning bolt staff falling to the ground to underline how fast its all happening. Also welcome was the way that Wally was key to the solution, helping Barry follow Thawne back in time using his knowledge and experience of the Speed Force. Its not the first time in this series that Geoff’s played on the fact that Wally’s actually more knowledgeable on the nature of speed than Barry, and it helps to balance out the fact that Wally’s losing his place as the main Flash to Barry. While Barry is undoubtedly going to learn more in his main series, at the moment its a good way to help differentiate the heroes and give both their strengths and weaknesses. The fact that Thawne’s eventual defeat is using the booth from Rebirth #3 was a nice solution, using what was already in place. And here, for the first time I actually liked an aspect of Johns’ Speedforce retcons, allowing them to depower Thawne, while acknowledging that as the source of the Negative Speedforce, its only temporary for as long as they can keep him immobile. While I generally dislike the “Barry is the origin of the Speedforce” aspect to the story its an interesting idea that the main character can never be de-powered.
With Thawne locked up, the second half of the story shifts more towards teasing future events. Its perhaps a shame that half of the issue is donated towards teases that don’t actually relate to the main story, but as I’m intending to pick up the monthly anyway, it didn’t really bother me that much. I wonder if its a reflection of the original 5-issue solicitation of this series, or if its just down to Johns’ usual habit of building up his storylines and laying the groundwork for them well ahead of time.
I found Thawne’s comment to Wally about one of his children destroying his life interesting. The obvious candidate is the de-powered Jai who will doubtlessly not be happy to have had his powers snatched away, while his sister is enjoying life as a full speedster. But I wonder if this couldn’t be a misdirect. Iris is very young so I have to wonder if she might not be responsible, doing something through inexperience or the like. After all, Thawne never said one of Wally’s kids would become a villain.
The other big hint is towards multiple Zooms. While locked up in Iron Heights, its revealed Thawne’s cell is next to Hunter Zolomon. After Hunter had his powers stripped from him in Rogue’s Revenge, this was a great moment. It’d really felt at the time that Hunter was being moved out of the way to make room for Thawne’s return, so for Geoff to pick up the character again so soon was welcome indeed. I imagine that’s a reaction to the fact that Hunter was such a successful character and villain and so Geoff must’ve been keen to address his status as quickly as possible. Between this scene and Abra Kadabra having dolls of both Zooms, it seems like a given that Hunter will be returning as Zoom at somepoint in the Flash’s future. And now that’s been teased, Geoff can happily sit it to one side while he focuses on other plots, without worry about fanboy “what about Zooooooooom??????” questions every 5 minutes. (In fairness, I’d have been one of them asking it 😉 )
Something I’m less keen on, is the previously unrevealed second cave painting in Gorilla City that shows Thawne powering other speedsters in the same was as the painting Barry found in Blackest Night Flash (although that painting showed Barry and his family). The hint of a “Zoom Corps” leaves me a little worried. Professor Zoom returning and being the villain in Rebirth had been assumed after Geoff did the same thing with Sinestro in GL: Rebirth. The yellow spectrum was introduced in much the same way as the negative Speed Force, and now a Zoom Corps just seems much too derivative of the Sinestro Corps War. I don’t doubt that Geoff will probably have something planned that will greatly differentiate the stories, so I’ll wait and see what happens, but I worry that if Geoff does go down this route, he’ll just be seen as copying his own previous work.
A bit like Blackest Night Flash, I found this series to be a bit of a mixed bag. It was certainly not helped by all the delays, and I really didn’t like the retcons about the nature of the speed force, which bogged down some of the middle issues. That said, the emotional beats of the story worked well, especially Max’s return. I’d still like to see more time given to the Barry/Bart relationship which keeps getting approached but doesn’t feel like its really being explored yet. I’d love the monthly to have a whole issue given to the two characters getting to know each other. With Geoff having had such a successful run on Wally’s series, I’m also hoping we’ll see Barry and Wally teaming up in the monthly, as opposed to Green Lantern where the book has remained almost completely focused on Hal (although I’d imagine Wally team ups will be shied away from for a while in order to establish Barry on his own properly, which I don’t have a problem with. But with a plot thread surrounding Jai and Iris now hinted at directly, I’d presume Wally will have to feature in the book to some degree).
What was very effective was the re-introduction of Eobard Thawne as the Reverse Flash. Very fond of the sound of his own voice, and very threatening in the scenes where he targeted Wally’s family. Out of the two I still prefer the Hunter Zolomon Zoom but Thawne is been established as a key threat, and someone to be feared, and I look forward to the story that sees the return of both Zooms.
Now with everything setup for the monthly, I’m really hoping that this new direction for the Flash clicks into place. The Flash has long been one of my favourite DC characters along with Green Lantern, so I really hope Geoff can enjoy the same kind of success with Barry Allen as his Wally West run had.