Dale Eaglesham’s art is stunning in this speedster-centric entry in DC’s two-month event. Heroes and villains move across the pages in sleek, dynamic compositions. Their emotions convince, their super feats look amazing. Mike Atiyeh’s colours make the work even better, adding extra pop at every point. Steve Wands provides sharp, great-looking lettering. Brandon Peterson’s cover image is unpleasant but powerful, the new logo is sharp.
How about I stop here?
The story? Well, if you liked Amazons Attack, you’ll love Death Race. The set-up is that a speedster has gone dark. Very dark. They’ve murdered another member of the Flash Family, and in this first of two parts they go on to kill the Global Guardians, then slaughter King Snake and Slipknot, slicing off the latter’s head.
Yay, this is what we want!
So who is the superhero turned slayer? So many speedsters to choose from. Is it Barry Allen, the second Flash? Jay, the original? Max Mercury, Zen Master of Speed? Avery, the Flash of China? Time-displaced whiz kid Impulse? Kid Flash Wallace West?
It’s not Wallace – he was the first victim of…
… Wally West. Again. Because his killing several superheroes went down so well with those of us who bought Heroes in Crisis. So what if it’s barely five minutes since his redemption stories, with Dr Manhattan revealed to have caused his fatal lightning surge, and Professor Zoom to have influenced him to cover up his killings. So what if before his disastrous stay at Sanctuary he’d spent years trapped in the Speed Force and, on emerging, lost his wife and kids.
Nah, let’s have him running around murdering people. For five years.
I don’t know writer Brandon Vietti, but I looked him up, he’s a Kubert School graduate and his previous work – directing and producing such animated DC shows as Young Justice and Batman: The Brave and the Bold – made me optimistic.
There’s no doubt he can structure a story, but I wish he’d given us a different one. Perhaps the clunkingly bad beats of this issue are editorially driven, but it’s disappointing that the first comic I read by Vietti is so darn depressing. Not only do we have the beyond tired hero-murderer trope, but parts of this issue are just dumb. There’s this, for instance.
Stalling for backup? If that’s the plan, it’s a really rubbish one – he’s been murdering folk for five years. And using ‘Flash facts’ – the Fun With Science pages that used to fill out Silver Age Flash comics – as an in-story teaching aid is far too cheesy for a story this grimdark.
I can’t get over the five years bit – what kind of DC Universe is it in which a serial killer speedster gets to run free for that long? So the Flash family have had their speed stolen, there are other heroes with the power, skill and knowledge to stop Wally – the Reverse Flash is usually defeated in a weekend.
And some of the dialogue is a tad over-melodramatic, even for a comic book. As well as a page with Barry talking about how he feels like a father to Wally, when since Wally’s Sixties debut he’s always been the cool uncle, there’s this gem.
‘Dark scientific wonderings’? Dear oh dear.
What’s really frustrating is that this isn’t a badly crafted book, there are parts of this issue I like – the former speedsters using Rogues’ Gallery weapons against an apparently rogue Checkmate, for instance, is clever.
Barry combining the Thinker’s thinking cap with Jay’s helmets (apparently he has a lot of spares) is pretty neat. Using the helmets and Max’s mental techniques to contact Wally via the Speed Force works with what we’ve seen over the years, and the visual presentation of the result is excellent – the blurred figures, the transparent work balloons.
But overall, this is just deeply unpleasant for a Wally West fan. Wally was The Flash for a generation, but for at least a decade he’s been treated as, first, irrelevant, and then, a patsy to be manipulated and dumped on. I realise this is a possible future story, but what the heck is canon at DC these days? The optics are the same, a weak-minded Wally trapped in a nightmare.