The Flash #51 review

After spending the last several issues dealing with the news that the children he’d forgotten he even had are out there in the multiverse somewhere, Wally West has gone running. Running around the world, searching for Irey and Jai. But only around the world – his recent battle with Hunter Zoloman saw him and Barry Allen lose access to both alternate realities and the time barrier.

While Wally wears himself out, physically and emotionally, Barry deals with daily life. There’s a difficult chat with Kid Flash.

And a new resident of his apartment.

As for Wally’s Aunt Iris, she’s doing what a journalist does.

This is, for the most part, a really enjoyable issue. Writer Josh Williamson does a fabulous job recapping Wally’s life story in relation to Iris West, enriching both characters.

The subplots with Kid Flash and Commander Cold merit their page time, and I like the meta discussions around favourite Flashes. Everything looks fantastic as depicted by Scott Kolins, who stuns me – in a good way – with his take on Batman.

Then come the final pages, starting with this.

Artist Scott Kolins may have drawn the prettiest tombstone ever here. Has any page ever seemed more like a final goodbye? With each piece of new information I see, DC’s upcoming Heroes in Crisis mini-series sounds ever more unappealing. And now we get Wonder Woman and Superman acting like Death from Sandman, helping someone accept their time is over, followed by a conversation Barry has with Batman that reads like serious foreshadowing.

OK, this is comics, Barry was killed with a chilling finality and came back, and we lost Wally with the arrival of the New 52… but his return with DC Rebirth seemed to signal the arrival of hope, of a happier time for DC’s heroes. In recent weeks, though, we’ve seen Wally lose that hope just as Superman loses his wife and son, Catwoman abandons Batman and the Sanctuary concept hints at a whole community of traumatised super-beings – the DC Universe is darkening and while the dawn has to follow, it feels like we could be in for a long period of misery as Heroes in Crisis writer Tom King’s interest in PTSD meets DC chief Dan DiDio’s Nineties sensibilities at the world’s worst speed dating night.

Even one of those poles on Howard Porter and Hi-Fi’s striking cover looks like a hangman’s gallows.

Josh Williamson has racked up an impressive 51 issues on this book and there have been many great moments, but what we haven’t had is a sustained period of happiness for Barry and friends. I realise conflict is drama, but a threat to the status quo isn’t much of a threat if the status quo is unhappiness – it’s just a different shade of misery. And speedsters look best in scarlet.

4 thoughts on “The Flash #51 review

  1. You found a bit more to like in this one than I did, Mart. I think Wally going to Sanctuary is a good idea, given what he’s been through, but the whole scene with him going just seemed really ham-fisted to me. And I liked some of the insights we got into Iris, and Commander Cold moving in to Barry’s apartment, but a lot of this seems a bit too obviously getting the pieces in place for the next new series of Flash & DCU events Maybe I’m spoiled by Kurt Busiek’s last Astro City story, where he revisits the classic “The Nearness of You,” but everyone else’s alternate timeline angst just pales in comparison. I buy it a a bit in Wally; I don’t buy it at all with Wallace.

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    1. I’ve never read that Kurt Busiek story. Or have I? The title sounds familiar, like a Sandman tale, maybe. I hope this issue is indeed set-up for a new series, rather than the precursor to a period of death for Wally.

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  2. I’ve never really liked Wally West outside of Cary Bates’ use of him with Irv Novick but this series is just torturing him too much. Just start a Fastest Man Alive series and put the kids to rest already. They’re what got his last shot at an ongoing killed. Written by Waid and the fans still avoided it in droves so maybe it’s time to channel the spirit the rest of you seemed to like about Wally’s adventures and forget the past! (I’m not heartless. Reveal them as being in an alt world with pre-Flashpoint versions of their parents or something)

    Oh and Barry needs to really stop people shitting on him about Flashpoint. A villain altered the timeline and h e did the hero thing trying to put time back the way it was supposed to be. I’ve yet to read a decent explanation why the rules were changed for just this one instance of a common comics trope and understand less how any comic reader of any length can blame Barry!

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    1. Oh, now I want to dig out some Bronze Age Flash issues featuring Wally. Back then I couldn’t imagine him actually graduating to adult Flash status, but he did pick up the mantle and ran with it. Brilliantly. ‘The Fastest Man Alive’ is a wonderfully logical title for a new Wally book.

      The sooner Flashpoint is behind us, and forgotten by everyone, the better.

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