Flash War collects a pivotal arc in the current Flash series, with major emotional stakes and developments that provide hints of where DC’s overarching story is headed.
Wally West has had his memories of the pre-Flashpoint world restored, clashing with his present reality and tormenting the young hero. His Flash mentor Barry Allen and aunt Iris West struggle to help him, even as old foe Zoom spins a complex web to prey on the vulnerable Wally. He restores Wally’s memories of his missing children and convinces him he can bring them back if he shatters a hole in the Speed Force. A distraught Wally makes the attempt, with Barry dogging his heels in an attempt to slow him down. But Zoom is manipulating Wally’s movements to unleash two powerful new forces into the world, transforming Zoom into a twisted new Flash for a showdown that has big consequences the DCU.
Writer Joshua Williamson has been building to Flash War throughout his Rebirth run. It’s an emotionally potent story that’s steeped in the family dynamic of Barry, Iris and their two nephews named Wally (the younger now referred to as “Wallace” to distinguish him from his older cousin). The suppressed memory of his erased children has been the sword dangling over Wally since his return in the Rebirth special and Williamson plays it here to devastating effect. More than any of DC’s other franchises, Flash has been centered on the concept of family and how it can be both a hero’s biggest strength and greatest weakness. It’s both in this story and the impact on the characters is significant. Williamson has a strong grasp of the various personalities and their dynamic, making the family drama every bit as compelling as the superhero action. The return of a long-missing family member at the climax is a welcome development.
Williamson brings a lot of ideas to the table here. The 25th Century Renegades (time cops based on the present day Rogues) provide an interesting foil to the Flashes and the advancement of the greater Rebirth story plays out gratifyingly. The new universal forces are a smart expansion of the Speed Force concept and the tease of the return of a devastatingly powerful villain sets up drama to come. Williamson also makes excellent use of Zoom and his unique bond with Wally, investing a lot more into the plot than a typical “villain’s revenge” scenario. Wally’s emotional collapse with Barry and Iris in the coda will move even the hardest hearted reader (though the twist Wally’s journey would take in the Heroes in Crisis story caused outrage for good reason). A momentous step forward for Barry and Iris at the arc’s end almost gets lost in the shuffle, but will please long-term fans of that relationship.
Howard Porter, an artist with a history with Wally, handles most of the arc, turning in dynamic, expressive pages that capture the spirit of constant motion, kinetic action and time-bending drama. He’s joined by another Flash vet, Scott Kolins, whose similar style bookends the arc with some well-done contributions. The complex color work from Hi-Fi nails the variety of intricate effects and tones needed to give the visuals the zip they need. The art team nails the constant motion of the story and works a few neat visual metaphors to underline some of the plot beats. It’s strong work from a reliable team.
For anyone who’s been following Flash in recent years, especially fans of Wally, Flash War is required reading. Its clues for DC’s future and help in pushing the Rebirth plots toward their climax make it worth checking out for casual fans, too.