Review: Flash Forward trade paperback (DC Comics)

Flash Forward

Writer Scott Lobdell has no easy job in Flash Forward taking recently-turned-toxic character Flash Wally West and trying to make a miniseries out of him. Lobdell doesn’t even get the benefit of the years that DC let Hal Jordan lie fallow after his fall from grace, nor even the excuse of cosmic manipulation. No, in what is instead a rather vulgar exercise in storytelling, DC goes straight from crime to redemption tour, and the losers here are the poor characters already in limbo who’ve served as so much fodder for the whole endeavor.

None of that is Lobdell’s fault, and Lobdell and artist Brett Booth do exceptionally well here taking Wally from one of DC’s darkest moments and spinning out something that’s exciting, emotional, and most of all fun. It feels altogether too soon for “fun” with Wally and it’s hard not to see some of this as a tad grotesque; at the same time, Lobdell seems to get to the core of the character — reaffirms it, perhaps — and the book’s most redemptive moment is sweet enough to make a lot of this worthwhile.

[Review contains spoilers]

From the cell blocks of Blackgate prison to the wild far reaches of the Multiverse, Lobdell makes this feel like a classic Wally West story. We start with a couple of Geoff Johns' Wally West villains — a dose of the new-classic — and move swiftly into a tour of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity multiverses. Wally as a nice guy out of his (reality) element is an old standard — be it a mirror-verse, the future, or what have you — and by the second issue, this all feels nicely familiar. Though occasionally reminded of the half-dozen-plus people he killed in Heroes in Crisis, Wally is swiftly in better form than we’ve seen him in a while, cracking jokes, making friends, and hurriedly saving the day even when potential Multiversal allies see him as a threat.

I’ve been disappointed at times to see DC titles venture out into the so-called Multiverse (Terrifics comes to mind) but not use Morrison’s Multiversity, so well crafted it was and used at other times. Lobdell’s Flash Forward, as it turns out, is soaked in Multiversity, and employing a Convergence or Secret Wars-type formula where the different Earths are set against one another with Wally in the middle. Highlights include President Superman’s Earth-23, Earth-8 of the marvelous Retaliators and Zen-Men, the Earth-43 of Batman: Red Rain, the super(hero)natural Earth-13, and the amalgamated Earth-32. Even what little dialogue these alt-heroes get is more, and more detailed, than the recent same in Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War, for instance; that we actually get some rhymes from Superdemon Etrigan shouldn’t be the miracle that it is.

That’s most of the book, drawn with exuberance (but restraint) by Booth, until Wally lands on a planet created by his own fear, which contains his lost children but which must be destroyed to save the rest of the Multiverse. For a dark moment it does seem as though Wally will have to lose his children a second time for the good of creation, which would have been an awfully dark resolution to this book; instead, Lobdell swings wildly the other way, in which Wally is riding the Mobius Chair off to Dark Nights: Death Metal and his children are dropped back down on Earth at the doorstep of their mother, Linda Park, who suddenly remembers them. Even as I’ve never been a big fan of the extended West family as a plot device, that moment’s pretty great, and moreover that Linda’s “back.” Even if we did not see that Wally is essentially himself now (just Dr. Manhattan-powered), fans of Mark Waid’s and Johns' runs know the fact that Linda’s on the case pretty much assures Wally will be returned to his old self one of these days.

It’s inescapable that Wally accidentally killed a bunch of other heroes; again, I don’t think DC can cry Parallax on this one lest it cut Heroes in Crisis off at the knees. With all of Wally’s super-powers now, obviously a good solution would be for a writer to have him to restore those heroes back to life (Lagoon Boy will thank you), but I’m not sure that can quite surmount some awkward Titans reunions (I’d like to have seen, but I don’t think we have seen, Nightwing have visited Wally in prison during this time). But when Wally thanks his mystic guide Tempus Fuginaut “for giving me the strength to remember the man I was before,” it’s a tad icky — too soon, given the character tried to get away with murder not much more than a year ago. Then again, it’s not as though it’s a flaw in the character, either — as I’ve said before, it was always bound to get messy ever since DC brought back a hero with a wife and kids and held him out as a symbol of hope despite no clear story plan to reunite him with his family other than making him sad for a long time.

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Again, jolly good to Scott Lobdell for pulling a win out of that. Flash Forward was a hard one to do, but not only does Lobdell do it, he does it in such a way as to indeed remind the reader what we like about Wally West — writing Wally the best, perhaps, since Wally’s heyday. And again, Brett Booth is very strong here, with very dynamic art but none of the brain-bending paneling that’s been bothersome before (he also apes Dan Jurgens and others well in the time-spanning epilogue). Lobdell and Booth for a new Flash team? Maybe. Bottom line, DC’s got three books on the stands right now that lead in to Dark Nights: Death Metal, all with their share of challenges: Justice League Vol. 5: Justice/Doom War, Year of the Villain: Hell Arisen, and Flash Forward; of these, Flash Forward is the best.

[Includes original and variant covers]


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