Hope is a concept that is strongly tied to heroism and therefore to superhero comics: the notion that no matter how dark and adverse the situation is, we can always overcome it and be the best version of ourselves. And I have come to believe that, by and large, that is the core message of the Supermen, Batmen and Spider-Men of the world of comics: to show themselves as the best possible reflection of ourselves and serve as an inspiration of what we should always strive for.
Wally West, the third generation Flash, is a similar character in that regard: a very human character that wanted to protect, to love and to do the right thing. Someone that was both extraordinary and very relatable, becoming perhaps the only character capable of becoming more beloved and popular than the original wielder of his mantle (in this case, Barry Allen).
And yet, Wally West’s adversities in the DC Universe since 2011 New 52 reboot are a very big symptom of that company’s woes ever since: a constant desire to become a much darker and cynical universe, contrary to the hopeful nature they developed for over six decades.
While the 2016-18 Rebirth initiative was a tremendous return to form and it was brought back from ostracism as DC’s new symbol of hope, Tom King had other plans for these characters with the Heroes in Crisis miniseries in mid-2018: a sour, depressive and cynical take of mental issues, turning Wally West, a hopeful, uplifting and very moralistic character, into a murderer who killed many heroes (including longtime friend Roy Harper, also known as Arsenal) and hid the evidence because he was sad and King pulled an illogical retcon involving the Speed Force that allows Wally to run very fast.
With the miniseries ending with Wally turning himself to the Justice League and going to prison, it’s pretty easy to see that this Scarlet Speedster needed some help. In come writer Scott Lobdell (Uncanny X-Men, Red Hood and the Outlaws, etc.) and artist Brett Booth (Titans, Flash, Backlash, etc.) with this Flash Forward miniseries, trying to bring back Wally West to the spot he deserves and have one of the greatest comebacks since Rocky’s second air against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV (hopefully).
The Multiverse needs a hero and the fastest man alive is the chosen one!
What is Flash Forward #1?
Image by DC Comics
The issue starts with Tempus Fuginaut, a being that is in charge of protecting the Multiverse from the infections of the Dark Multiverse and now he is on a quest of searching for the right champion to defeat this threat. Meanwhile, Wally is in the Blackgate prison, remembering his dead friend Roy Harper and coming to terms with his actions on Heroes in Crisis plus dealing with several of his old foes trying to get revenge because he is wearing a collar that restrains him from using his powers.
Eventually Wally finds himself with the collar and manages to escape from his enemies until he ends up meeting Tempus Fuginaut, who commands him to become the champion he needs to set the Multiverse right. Wally hesitates but Tempus is having none of it, calling the former’s suit once again and transporting him to his quest.
The issue ends with Wally finding the Superman of the Universe where he became president of the United States, severely wounded.
How was it?
Image by DC Comics
I will never understand the flack that Scott Lobdell has received as a writer throughout the years. He is often signaled as the one responsible for the X-Men’s decline in the mid-90's, but the reality is that between Marvel’s excessive output of X-books and losing writer Chris Claremont (seriously, no writer was going to be capable of filling his shoes), that team was bound to lose a step in terms of quality, but Lobdell still managed to pull out some very good stuff and his contributions on Age of Apocalypse cannot be ignored. I think people have been too harsh with him and his writing skills.
After a very solid run on Red Hood and the Outlaws, I was confident that Lobdell was going to deliver a quality product and the first issue has been very promising: he doesn’t make Wally ignore his actions on Heroes in Crisis, but rather makes him tackle them head on and fills him with the sense of guilt and sorrow that a hero like him should feel after committing murder (something that King hardly showed throughout HiC). The dialogue feels very much in-character and it already sets up future plots with Tempus, connecting quite fast.
I want to make an emphasis on that last part: a lot of modern writers tend to struggle with pacing on various fields of storytelling and they could take a page or two from Lobdell as he sets up the Tempus and Wally plots separately but by the end of the issue they are already entwined and the latter is already sent towards his new adventure. This is what a good number one issue should do! Setting up the main characters, the plot-lines (in this case, threat to the Multiverse and our hero in prison feeling guilty due to his actions), expanding the concepts of the Multiverse and reaching a conclusion with the elements that have been handed to us, plus a very good cliffhanger with the wounded President Superman).
And above all, Lobdell is showing from the get-go that he understands Wally West. Heroes in Crisis was a complete mess, but its biggest failure was a total misunderstanding of Wally as a hero and as a man, which is great to see him feeling guilt (for Roy and the other heroes’s deaths and hiding the evidence) and shame (when the love of his life, Linda Park, visits him), feeling that we are dealing with a writer that truly cares about what he is writing about.
What about the art?
Image by DC Comics
I have been singing Brett Booth’s praises as an artist for a couple of articles so far and I have to say that yet again he has proven to be in the most prolific period of his character, delivering quality art after another.
His art feels vibrant, detailed, with a lot of care and truly exciting, which is what every art form should generate in its audience. I think I once read that Wally West is his favorite DC character and if that is true, it shows here: he puts a lot of effort and dedication into every page, whilst maintaining that Wally design that he did so well on his Titans run.
DC is definitely the company in the industry that has the best artists and Brett Booth is top tier right now, in my view. How he doesn’t get more praise is beyond me and he does justice here to Lobdell’s great writing here.
What it represents?
Image by DC Comics
I obviously don’t know how this miniseries is going to pan out. It can be like Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver’s hit Green Lantern: Rebirth and revitalize Wally or be like Brian Michael Bendis’s Man of Steel miniseries, destroying the little pieces that remained of this Scarlet Speedster after Heroes in Crisis. Regardless of the end result, this number one issue is very good, very well written and drawn, and showing something that has been lost at DC in recent times: hope.
I will be following this miniseries closely and, hopefully, I will be able to bring you more about these events!