Possessed by the evil embodiment of Famine, Flash Wally West has been rampaging around the DC Universe, killing his fellow speedsters. Impulse. Kid Flash, Max Mercury, The Flash of China, original Flash Jay Garrick – slaughtered. Only Jay’s successor Flash, Barry Allen, survives – but Wally has stolen his speed. Still, Barry is a scientist, he can cannibalise the weapons of his Rogues Gallery to take Wally on, all while looking super cool.
This is the worst superhero ensemble since that time Alan Scott became a green coal scuttle. Which isn’t to say the art on this second Future State slice of Flash miserablism isn’t rather excellent. The pages are shared between Brandon Peterson and Will Conrad, with colouring by Mike Atiyeh, and they’re sharp, sleek and, when the script calls for it, scary.
Brandon Vietti’s story calls for creepiness rather a lot, but the power of the art is diluted by the sheer amount of copy atop it. Letterer Steve Wands truly should get a bonus, as even Chris Claremont would find this narrative wordy and over the top – Smalltown USA guy Barry sounds like a refugee from a Gothic romance.
Which isn’t to say Vietti can’t write well; it’s what he’s chosen to write that’s the problem. I noted last issue that there was a tad too much melodrama occasionally, but Vietti doubles down here.
It’s certainly deliberate, Vietti immediately has the Wally creature take the Mickey out of his ‘beautifully tragic poetry’. But why have Barry ramble like a Shakespearean ham in the first place?
One thing we don’t get among all the chat is an explanation for the Santa Claus look – last issue, set just two months prior to this one, Barry was blond and ungrizzled, the Paul Newman of the superhero set.
Vietti is obviously a Flash fan, knowing the ins and outs of the Rogues’ kit – there’s a splendid moment for Rainbow Raider fans (that may be just me and Vietti). And he references such obscure, daft additions to the Flash Legend as the Still Force.
Given this, I hope Vietti gets another crack at the Flash, but turns down the melodrama several notches. And if he gets to work with any of these artists again, so much the better, because the craft of these issues is superb, from Peterson’s cover to Conrad’s final page.