If you haven’t read this comic yet and have successfully avoided spoilers online so far, why are you reading this?
This last week, DC Comics rebooted their line of superhero comics with the release of DC Universe: Rebirth #1.
Now, first off, I don’t care what Geoff Johns is saying on Seth Meyers, this is a reboot. For only the second time ever, DC is renumbering all of their core books. They didn’t even do that after Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 80’s.
The special is written by Johns with a slew of great artists. The story concerns pre New 52 Wally West trying to leave the Speed Force and return to the land of the living he has been retconned out of.
There are subliminal messages in those bolts, right?
First off, I’m pretty pumped about that. Wally is a great character, who I’ve really missed pretty much since Barry Allen came back to life in Flash: Rebirth and he was shuffled off to the side. Wally was arguably the only sidekick to actually fulfill the duty of a sidekick and permanently take over for his mentor. Wally was the Flash from Crisis on Infinite Earths until Final Crisis. Therefore, this makes him the Flash that I grew up reading and have the strongest connection to.
Barry, on the other hand was sort of the last of the old guard of the silver age to not get updated in the modern era. In the 60’s, when Justice League of America started, the heroes all pretty much had the same personality of the “authority figure.” Re-read some of those old stories and it becomes apparent that the dialogue could pretty much be coming out of any of the heroes’ mouths. Since Barry died out at the start of the modern age, and really never got the character development that his contemporaries did. He didn’t even get gray temples like Hal. Hence, Barry is bland AF. So, when Barry comes back, they give him Wally West’s line of “My name is Wally West, I’m the fastest man alive.” To the point where Barry says it on the tv show. So, to get rid of Wally altogether in the New 52 was an even bigger slight.
Now, there is another Wally West running around the DC Universe.
Guess what, there have been 3 characters in the DC Universe at times calling themselves “Flash” simultaneously. Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West. So there should be no problem with 2 Wallys in the same world. There are already 2 Bartholomews in the Flash family. It’s not like you can’t tell them apart.
Even though I prefer old Wally, I’m not saying get rid of new Wally. In fact, I’d be interested in reading a book where they work together. Where old Wally has to get acclimated to the new universe with new, younger Wally showing him the ropes. For awhile now, I’ve thought DC should do a second Flash title that focuses on the rest of the Flash family. There are plenty of speedsters to star in it. Plus, this issue explains that the Wallys are cousins, so Flash Family still applies here.
Being a fan of Wally’s Flash series, a lot of this book hits me where it hurts. Using the framing device of Wally appearing to various characters throughout the issue reflects Barry’s death where is traveling back in time in Crisis on Infinite Earths. This really adds a sense of dread to the story when it looks like Wally will be absorbed into the Speed Force and forgotten. Revealing himself to Batman seems like an odd choice, since they were never close. Of course, the only reason for this is to remind Bruce of his father’s letter from the end of Flashpoint. By the way, invoking Flashpoint, the start of the New 52, just goes to show that they are going to be undoing or altering that event. (Read: rebooting.)
Showing up at Johnny Thunder’s nursing home is also a unique choice. Since the Justice Society of America has also been “forgotten” in this universe, I assume Wally is there to save them also. I’m really hopeful to see what is in store for the Justice Society here and am looking forward to their return.
I know a lot of people have talked about the part with Wally and Barry in this, and I will also, but for me the most heartbreaking part is when Wally appears to his wife, Linda Park. Linda was such an important part of Wally’s Flash run, and to see her here was nice. When she doesn’t recognize him though, that’s a sucker punch right there. If anyone remembers Wally here, the reader assumes it would be her. Instead, Wally vanishes again, maybe for good.
Wally is then drawn to other people from his life before finally appearing before his mentor and father-figure, Barry. Having now made peace with his fate of rejoining the Speed Force, Wally thanks Barry for being there for him and to say goodbye. Over the course of 4 pages, Barry stares, wide-eyed at the figure before him before the realization snaps to him and he pulls Wally out of the Speed Force.
In what will probably be remembered as one of the great Flash splash pages, they embrace as Barry asks:
This is worth the price of admission for me. Now, I’ve heard younger readers commenting online about how this move is pandering to middle-aged readers’ childhoods. Uh, guilty, I guess? But how can you argue with this moment? I don’t think we got anything close to this when Barry returned from the dead even. In a larger sense, by using a younger Wally, they tie up something that we’ve been waiting 30 years for.
Honestly, I feel the backlash against Wally’s return is due to the uncertainty about the new Wally’s status. My biggest problem with Rebirth is the apparent abandoning of the New 52 universe. There were some great concepts introduced there and there are fans of that material. The New 52 version of Wally West shouldn’t be tossed aside here. I have no connection to that character, but getting rid of him is getting rid of potentially great stories and opportunities. How does old Wally find his place in this new universe, especially with another Wally around? What happens when they disagree about how they should take down a villain? What about when their mail gets mixed up?
Give me a Flash book that deals with both Wallys, Jay Garrick, Bart, and Jesse Quick, or Max Mercury or any other speedsters they can throw in there.
Tomorrow more of my reaction and thoughts on DC Universe: Rebirth.