Review: Flash Vol. 8: Flash War trade paperback (DC Comics)


Fifty issues in the making, Joshua Williamson's Flash Vol. 8: Flash War is finally here. I wonder how much more enthusiastic I'd be if one of this book's major developments hadn't been spoiled by an untimely social media post by one of the creators. As it is, without the glow of that bit of fan service, I find a Flash War that, while a fun read, does not alter the Flash landscape near so much as I had hoped. There is pathos here, but not many answers. I love that this book ties into the events of the post-Metal Justice League Vol. 1: The Totality, but that the book turns on something surely unplanned two years ago begs the question of how far we are from Williamson's intentions when the Rebirth Flash started and at what point, if ever, this book will deliver on some of the questions it's raised.

[Review contains spoilers]

At the outset I'd note it's an utter joy that Howard Porter draws the bulk of this book, and bookended with chapters by Scott Kolins. I remain dissatisfied with Williamson's characterization of Barry Allen, but Porter and Kolins remind of better times and I think it positively benefits the book (I was heavily brought to mind of Porter and Geoff Johns' Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen in the Justice League scenes). As compared to some relatively bland depictions of Iris West in Williamson's Flash Vol. 2: Speed of Darkness, Porter's hip, grimy Iris gearing up a motorcycle is a revelation; Williamson wrote both, but the more experienced artists seem to make a significant difference.

Wally West spends this entire book pining for his missing children, and what we get back here in the end is Impulse Bart Allen. While I'm thrilled to see Bart of course (if I didn't already know that was coming), given the lack of mention of the character up to that point vs. Jai and Irey West, Bart's arrival doesn't feel earned. My guess, especially with two "Kid Flashes" already running around, is that Bart's return is a late addition more for the needs of Brian Michael Bendis' new Young Justice series than Williamson's story. Certainly I did not expect Wally's children to actually return, characters so unpopular that they heralded the end of Wally's twenty-something-year run as the Flash, even despite the efforts of stalwart Flash writer Mark Waid. Impulse is the more beloved character and that shoe has now dropped, such that it seems to me the perceived value of Jai and Irey is not their returning in like fashion but more the drama of Wally continually mourning for them.

The best I think one might hope for is Wally, Linda, Jai, and Irey being reunited only to go into semi-retirement; I doubt we'd see a "Wild Wests" title nor yet even more Kids Flash around. This is not a great place for the Wally West character, whose main purpose right now is to be unhappy and serve as a walking tease for the pre-Flashpoint continuity; his use as basic background collateral damage in another prominent title is further evidence of this. Sure it was a nice moment when Wally came back in DC Universe: Rebirth, but the reason characters like Wally went away in the first place was that creators had ceased to know what to do with them. That Wally's in this predicament now suggests that his exile at the head of the New 52 might've been more beneficial and prescient than many believed.

Flash War operates in much the same problematic meta-space as Batman: Detective Comics Vol. 7: Batmen Eternal. Both are heavily invested in Rebirth characters rediscovering DC Comics's pre-Flashpoint continuity — ostensibly, what fans want — though both ultimately make that the aim of the bad guy. It's Hunter "Zoom" Zolomon, verily of Geoff Johns' post-Crisis run, who promises that "everything happened! It all counts here!" On the other side is Flash Barry Allen, who acknowledges that "the past and legacy are important," but that we have to learn from them to "move forward." Ditto the General and Red Robin and Batwoman, respectively, in Detective; it's a strange dichotomy when the heroes espouse forgetting the other continuity but the creators keep using it for applause lines. Again, I have a suspicion there's realization that Wally-West-with-a-family, for instance, didn't sell; we're endlessly in this in-between space because the hunt for Wally's family or the missing Justice Society garners more eyeballs than those characters themselves did actually on the page circa early 2011.

Throughout this series, Williamson's Barry has complained about just not feeling like himself, despite most every character telling him how optimistic he always is. At the outset, at least, this discrepancy seemed hints of the missing continuity — that Barry's depression stems from the hope stolen from the DC Universe — and this was coupled with other little mysteries like Barry momentarily becoming the Thawne-Barry of Waid's run or having visions of Crisis, or the Shade retaining all knowledge of past continuity. I had hoped that if Flash War was going to bring back Wally's pre-Flashpoint memories, it would do so in a way that wrapped up all the rest of this — explain Barry's funk, set him on a new path, etc.

But no such luck. Barry does not fundamentally change in this volume at all, and he's still hapless in an unattractive way — guilty, for instance, of deserting Kid Flash Wallace West and causing yet another rift between them. Among the book's first lines is, "I met Barry Allen once. I was disappointed"; though spoken by an antagonist, there's a curious way in which this series doesn't seem to like Barry Allen and doesn't make him very likable either. I hoped that was purposeful, intended as arc that would crescendo as of Flash War, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Flash Vol. 8: Flash War

I am, to be sure, the audience for Flash Vol. 8: Flash War. I was there the first time around for Howard Porter and Scott Kolins on Flash; I thrilled to every background image of Max Mercury or John Fox. And I have a lot of respect for writer Joshua Williamson, who seems honestly very enthusiastic about the Flash mythos and Barry Allen, and whose written a numerically impressive fifty issues on this title with seemingly no sign of stopping. At this point, with Flash seemingly dovetailing with Scott Snyder's Justice League, I'm letting go of a lot I was hoping for from this title, which I think at this point is not going to come. The Flash to explore some new not-Speed Forces and maybe forget this alt-continuity stuff for a while? All right, fine. Let's see how it goes.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Flash Vol. 8: Flash War
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 4 )

  1. Definitely another example of this era's wishy-washy continuity harming the final product, not only in the back-and-forth of this continuity versus the old but also in the omnipresence of the "something's wrong with time" that we won't see resolved until Doomsday Clock ends in a few months. I couldn't imagine being a reader who came aboard the title in the New 52/Rebirth eras and just being barraged with information on a continuity I never knew.

    That being said the fact that Williamson picks up on a line of dialogue from the end of Flash: Rebirth almost 10 years ago now did make me squeal a little.

    1. "My family runs with me," or something else?

    2. Zolomon telling Thawne that he had an idea to make them both better

    3. Ah. Kind of like the Mera miniseries picking up threads from the end of Geoff Johns' New 52 Aquaman run (though yours is 10 years ago instead of four!).


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