Thank you Josh Williamson.
I don’t think I’ve ever started a review with thanks. That kills the suspense. I liked this issue. A lot. And the ending… just perfect.
It’s the conclusion to the Finish Line storyline, which we know is Williamson’s last before he steps off the book. I didn’t know this was his final issue, which meant that as this issue progressed, and everything went Barry’s way, I kept waiting for the other yellow boot to drop. That’s comics, innit?
The chapter begins with Barry trapped in the Speed Force alongside eternal foe Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash.
The Scarlet Speedster and Eobard Thawne have fought so many times, across so many versions of reality, that it’s doubtful even they know just how often. Zoom can travel through time, so his death means nothing – an earlier version can simply pop out of the time stream and mess with Barry’s life. In one reality, he murdered Barry’s wife Iris, bringing an end to a life that had been golden. In the current continuity, Iris is alive but Barry’s mother was slaughtered by Zoom, leaving his father framed and putting Barry on a lifelong quest to set matters right.
Talk about a cosmic treadmill. The only way Barry can see to stop it is to think differently.
And despite Thawne’s horror at the very idea Barry has the right to forgive him, the Flash manipulates the Speed Force and changes Thawne. No longer a paradox, the current version is erased, and rebuilt. Eobard Thawne finds peace.
Barry hasn’t risked rewriting the whole timeline – been there, done that. Professor Zoom somehow still existed, still killed Barry’s Mom, may still be Eobard Thawne – but for now, the race between Flash and Reverse-Flash is at least paused.
As for Barry, he’s able to go home to Central City and host a barbecue for all the speedsters and other allies who helped him beat Zoom’s latest scheme.
And in the kitchen, he has a quiet moment.
Talk about the cherry on top of the cake. Williamson smartly undoes the worst idea classic writer Geoff Johns ever had – that the shadow of tragedy shaped Barry, hung over his entire life. No longer. It’s stated that he made peace with his loss a long time ago – joining the police force, using his powers to help people, these are things Barry did ‘just’ because he’s a good guy. Like the millions of men and women who work as cops, paramedics, firefighters and so on, he’s naturally altruistic. Sure, no one is immune to tragedy, but it doesn’t have to define you – especially if you’re the first shining hero of a heroic age.
The final page is a wonderful goodbye from Williamson, allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief – usually when an issue has everything go right for the hero, it’s to set up a final page fall. Not here. This is indeed the writer’s final issue, meaning he can put a ribbon on what has been a solidly entertaining, sometimes superb, run. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a wedding.
Mind, Iris – rocking a Wild Dog t-shirt – is a tad grumpy this issue. This could be Williamson setting up something for the next writer, as he does with a shot of one of Barry’s classic villains. Then again, she’s been through a lot, he’s been through a lot, and there he is, about to rush off on a Justice League mission when there are weenies to be roasted.
Artist Howard Porter has worked with Williamson regularly during his time on the series, and he couldn’t have a better collaborator for his send-off. Porter produces energy on the page like few others, lending real excitement to proceedings. Even quiet moments, like the Flash Museum scene, is full of fun details to engage the eyes. The single shot of that upcoming Rogue comes in a set of terrifically designed panels. As for the ‘reunion’ between Barry and Norah West, there’s a true tenderness to it, typical of an artist who understands character.
The only piece of Porter portraiture I dislike is the grisly cover – yes, it’s striking, but it’s too much so far as wrongfooting the reader goes, where something celebratory would be more appropriate. It’s undeniably well done, mind, with Porter using the page brilliantly, and colourist Hi-Fi showing us just what a minimalist approach can do
Hi-Fi also handle the interiors, helping each page sing. I particularly like the way the costumes of Flash and Reverse-Flash play off one another, while the barbecue is a delight. Letterer Steve Wands makes Barry’s narrative boxes colourful, yet clear, and I love the thought he puts into the credits page. And kudos to the DC Production Department for their work on that final image – you’ll know why when you see it.
The whole creative team, including editors Marquis Draper, Mike Cotton and Alex R Carr, deserves thanks for a wonderful read, the perfect capper to a remarkable run by Williamson.
The original Jay-Garrick Flash Comics ran for 104 issues in the Golden Age. I count that Josh Williamson has written 101 regular issues of The Flash, and three Annuals, which makes 104. I see what he did there! That’s equivalent to a whole age of comics…The Scarlet Age. (And if my maths is off, don’t disabuse me of this notion because it makes me happy!)
So, Joshua Williamson, to invoke one of the characters you created, Godspeed.