Titans: The Return of Wally West returns a fan favorite character to prominence, while providing some key early clues to the larger Rebirth landscape.
Picking up where Titans Hunt and the DC Universe: Rebirth special left off, the original Wally West has returned to the world after being lost in the timestream. Everyone has forgotten him, but contact with his old friends and teammates (Nightwing, Tempest, Donna Troy, Arsenal and Omen) restores their memories. Wally’s return also sparks the reappearance of old Flash foe Abra Kadabra, who uses technology from the far future to pass as “magic” in the present day. Kadabra claims a key role in Wally’s erasure from reality, an act that had major repercussions for the villain himself. With Wally’s return, Kadabra is bent on destroying Wally once and for all, gleefully attacking the other Titans, as well as Linda Park (the love of Wally’s life who doesn’t remember their past) to manipulate Wally into possibly disappearing forever.
Writer Dan Abnett does some interesting stuff with Titans. Placing Wally front and center is a smart move. For more than two decades, Wally WAS the Flash and his disappearance after the advent of The New 52 was a constant sticking point for legions of fans. Giving him the spotlight here provides a strong emotional throughline for both characters and readers. Wally’s journey, his attempts to reclaim his life and reconnect with the people who were important to him, provides the dramatic weight for what could otherwise be a standard “dastardly villain puts the heroes in a death trap” plot. Instead, Abnett uses the set-up to dramatize the depths of Wally’s bonds with the other Titans and Linda. Abnett plays the cast members off one another rather effectively, balancing the competing personalities in some interesting ways, while keeping the team’s devotion to one another in the forefront. Also smart was not rushing the Wally/Linda reunion. There’s a lot of dramatic potential in rebuilding the relationship and Abnett is wise to give that plot room to develop gradually. Abra Kadabra may not be the most obvious villain for an inaugural arc like this, but Abnett comes up with a good take on the villain and his lethal narcissism that works in context. The climax packs an emotional impact that feels earned.
As for the Rebirth elements, Abnett doles out some additional clues. Kadabra makes veiled references to a power figure he never names, speculating about how this mystery man may have affected reality. Kadabra dripping blood onto a watchface may not be the most subtle nod to Watchmen, but it provides another tie to that imminent collision of worlds.
The team of penciler Brett Booth, inker Norm Rapmund and colorist Andrew Dalhouse handles the art for Titans, with a flashy, propulsive style. Booth can be a divisive artist; his detailed, hyperkinetic style either works for you or it doesn’t. Considering how important the sense of movement is to the story, Booth is a good choice for the assignment, finding visual ways to communicate forward motion and elemental forces. He’s fond of creative panel layouts, often using skewed perspectives and the fanning of panels. Given the frenetic nature of the story, that approach works. Rapmund is a total pro, his embellishments enhancing Booth’s pencils without overwhelming them, while Dalhouse does some fantastic color work, nailing the arc’s tonal shifts and demanding effects so that everything pops. It’s a very modern-feeling approach, which suits the theme of former teen heroes navigating the adult world.
While it’s better to have read Titans Hunt before tackling The Return of Wally West, it’s still a fairly new reader-friendly entry point. For fans who have been eager for Wally’s re-emergence, Titans provides a satisfying spotlight that can also engage new fans.