Review: Flash Vol. 16: Wally West Returns trade paperback (DC Comics)

September 11, 2022


I found a number of aspects of Flash Vol. 16: The Return of Wally West problematic, at a time when it just doesn’t seem it should be all that difficult to write a workable Flash book. Fortunately, a good amount of that difficulty comes in an interstitial four-parter by Kevin Shinick before new ongoing writer Jeremy Adams takes over, so that much can be dismissed as the foibles of index stories.

Adams' story equally struggles, though it gets better as it goes. I’m tentatively inclined to chalk this up to an incoming writer getting his feet under him, as long as we see some improvement next time around. Some inspired moments toward the end of Return make me hopeful.

[Review contains spoilers]

It takes a bit for the premise of Return’s main story to become clear, but I relaxed into it once I realized Adams' is essentially doing Superman: Time and Time Again Flash (Wally West)-style — hero bounced through the timestream encountering different DC Comics eras. Dinosaurs are pretty well de rigueur these days, and Adams having Wally embody Impulse in the future was just plain confusing (since Bart never was Impulse in the future).

But Adams succeeds with a World War II story where Wally replaces Jay Garrick. He then buoys that success into the book’s best sequence — Wally becoming the Reverse Flash amidst the backdrop of the animated Challenge of the Super Friends, as drawn by Kevin Maguire. It’s unexpected, hilarious, and the best kind of use of DC’s new Omniverse concept, letting what otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t happen, happen.

That’s followed by Adams' other best ideas, reduced unfortunately to just one-page vignettes — Wally as Max Mercury in the old West, Wally at Teen Titans Academy, Wally as Jesse Quick/Liberty Belle (!) somewhere in the midst of a modern post-Infinite Frontier Justice Society (!!). And then the crowning jewel that gives hope for Adams' future with Wally, a fun five-page sequence where Wally has coffee in the future with hip grown-up daughter Irey. This calm, mature, indie-style sequence with art by Berat Pekmezci provides counterpoint to Adams' repetitive series of silly, bickering conversations between Flash Barry Allen, Green Arrow Oliver Queen, and Mister Terrific Michael Holt throughout the book.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

As has too often been the case lately (see also Justice League Vol. 1: Prisms), Adams presents Barry as a scientist only smart enough to be dangerous, continually failing to find solutions while Wally’s lost in time. I’m glad to see Terrific, but there was once a time Barry didn’t need other brains to bail out his messes. The conversations are full of more-nonsensical-than-usual comic book pseudoscience and woodenly drawn by Brandon Peterson. Equally the lack of real alignment with Infinite Frontier is disappointing; competent Barry in Frontier readies to protect the Omniverse while bumbling Barry in his own Flash title can’t even rescue Wally.

Not to mention the truly cringe-worthy scene of Barry, Michael, and Oliver all wanting to avoid talking to Linda Park about Wally’s predicament, only to have Linda apparently threaten Michael over the phone. Among other things, all of this is to suggest Adams' doesn’t conceive of Barry and Linda as being as close as family, as well as reducing fearsome, fearless Linda Park (see “Terminal Velocity”) to the trope of irrational wife. Adams' story struggles as is with being “all about the guys” (Wally, Barry, Oliver, Michael, and when reinforcements show up, it’s Superman and Batman), and along too with Shinick writing an Iris West mad about Barry saving the world instead of taking her to a museum exhibit, women don’t have a strong showing in this Flash book.

In Flash Vol. 15: Finish Line, Joshua Williamson already established the influence of the Reverse Flash on Wally in Heroes in Crisis, but I guess no “Wally West returns” story would be complete without Heroes, because Adams goes to the well again. Using Savitar, don’t get me wrong, is another item that makes me hopeful Adams is on an upward track, but having Savitar and Reverse Flash and a Speed Force anomaly all here seems like Heroes in Crisis apologia overkill. Not to mention I’m not wholly sure any of this “clears” Wally (insofar as he is or isn’t culpable in a crime) — the surge still came from Wally and killed the other characters, no more or less accidentally than before. (I thought Adams might end up reversing the deaths in Heroes altogether, but no such luck).

As mentioned, I’m not too concerned with Shinick’s “With This Ring” that starts the book, given it’s mainly biding time for Infinite Frontier. But there’s a variety of issues that leave a bad taste starting the book off, not the least being Shinick’s depiction of Iris, and things like that Iris can’t get Barry to go to a farmer’s market with her and he can’t get her to go to brunch with him (at what point did Barry and Iris stop being a normal couple?). Also Shinick has Barry panicking over saving a woman that clearly looks like a plastic dummy and — indeed — turns out to be a dummy, or that a lot of the story turns on the Trickster having embedded cameras in Barry pupils (!) and Barry not being able to tell the difference, or Barry blithely turning Dr. Alchemy to stone without knowing whether he’d survive or not.

See too an instance of poor editing at the beginning of the second chapter, where the word balloons are, lined up left to right, a television reporter, Iris’s first dialogue, then Iris’s second dialogue. On the next page, the first narration box continues from the page previous. Given how Western audiences read, left to right to left, you’d expect this to be a continuation of Iris’s dialogue, but it’s not, it’s the reporter’s, causing the reader to have to jump back over Iris’s dialogue to understand what’s being said. It betrays the index issues as such, not the worst thing except for how it starts Adams on his back foot.



Gold Beetle, late of Jeremy Adams' Black Adam story in Future State: Suicide Squad, appears in Flash Vol. 16: The Return of Wally West, a wacky fun character that recalls the best of her namesakes (and is possibly dating Wally’s son in the future). What I have liked of Jeremy Adams' work so far has presented this kind of wackiness, whether Gold Beetle, the Legion of Doom, or the sheer amount of fun he shows Wally West having saving the day, which is the point of this book — Wally is about to retire, until through this adventure he remembers all the great things about being the Flash. That’s true to Wally, going back to Mark Waid’s defining Wally West stories, and I hope Adams holds on to that. All through Rebirth, in my opinion, Flash had a tough run, and I’m not confident we’re out of the woods yet.

[Includes original and variant covers, Endless Winter material]

Comments ( 7 )

  1. "Adams' story equally struggles, though it gets better as it goes. I’m tentatively inclined to chalk this up to an incoming writer getting his feet under him, as long as we see some improvement next time around. Some inspired moments toward the end of Return make me hopeful."

    Exactly. Adams inherited and had to resolve all the DC Rebirth-era baggage Wally had accumulated. It's not different from Geoff Johns having to deal with Hal Jordan's baggage almost 20 years ago in GL: Rebirth. So, I gave him a pass on that.

    Adams' subsequent issues have been, for the most part, good stuff. It's felt like the Wally run we wanted Waid's short-lived encore in 2007 to be. If anything, it feels like a spiritual successor to Tomasi and Gleason's Superman as a superhero family drama.

    1. Hm. I'm not sure Tomasi and Gleason's Superman ever moved me the way it did others. But still, I enjoyed Wally training Bart, so I imagine I'll enjoy Wally training his kids ... maybe? I guess we'll see in December!

    2. For me, I think part of it was how there had been a creative drought with the Superman titles for nearly a decade at that point. The last Superman run I'd enjoyed prior to Rebirth was Johns' Action Comics (at least before the New Krypton era).

      Having 'my' Lois and Clark back and with the family dynamic of Jon hit the sweet spot.

      And I know it wasn't to everyone's tastes and that's fair. I didn't enjoy their Batman and Robin as much in comparison.

  2. Jeremy's run on The Flash does get better after this volume but I could have done without another trip back to Heroes in crisis. Seriously I will never forgive dc comics for publishing the shit or Tom King for writing it. At least Wally is in good hands now.

  3. I just want to thank you for making this blog for so many years. Your reviews are insightful, well informed, and offer context no matter what period of DC Continuity I might be reading - I can always count on C.E. being there for me. Your tone is professional, jovial, and level headed. Here's to many more years.

    1. Really appreciate your speaking up. It's a labor of love, and the best part is this comments section. How long have you been reading the site?

    2. Five years, I think!


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