The cover image tells us this isn’t an average issue of The Flash – a massive head of Dr Fate pulling back Wally’s reality.
Inside, Wally has just seen off an incursion into Keystone City by the dark god Eclipso and thought relaxation lay ahead. Nope, the Justice League Dark’s most mystical member needs help.
Yes, he means us! Remember that issue of Animal Man in which Buddy Baker was freaked out as he noticed us looking in on him? Wally is less rattled by being on a ‘two-dimensional causeway’ but the situation is yet dire. The fourth wall is well and truly broken as first Dr Fate, then Wally, appeal to us to lend a hand.
The book goes further than this in terms of reader interaction, but why spoil the fun? You’ll enjoy this far more in context, as writer Jeremy Adams stresses the importance of committing to our entertainment. The name of the story – gorgeously laid out by calligraphy king Rob Leigh – is ‘Belief’, but it might as well have been ‘The Tinker Bell Syndrome’… do you believe in Comics?
We do, we do!
This issue, which could be a spiritual homage to The Flash (v1) #163, is huge fun.
While Adams might have acknowledged that many of us are reading digitally, and advised us to lock the screen rotation, it’s not beyond our powers to work it out. At least digital readers can engage with this gimmick issue, unlike recent DC ‘choose your own adventure/flip books’. I’m afraid I failed our heroes – at one point we’re asked to go back and spot three things… despite two attempts, blowing up the panels, I spotted just one. Happily, enough other readers seem to have good enough eyes that Flash and Fate can move on with their quest. (If anyone can give me page refs, though, that would be appreciated!)
I like that unlike the aforementioned Animal Man, Wally isn’t massively perturbed by the situation – he’s seen such a lot that he’s able to go with the weirdness, stay in the moment in order to survive. Finally, he and Fate get to their destination… to be continued!
Of course it is. This is the ‘comiciest’ of superhero comics, so come back next time as Wally and more guest stars face the renewed threat of Eclipso. This issue, though, Adams deserves huge praise for a very clever, imaginative script, while penciller Fernando Pasarin goes above and beyond what’s needed. I’m sure that when the script says Wally and Dr Fate – that’s the latest version, Khalid Nassour, who really needs to learn to tie his shoes – are besieged by creepy creatures, the artist could have gotten away with drawing half a dozen. But Pasarin shows that if commitment is needed, he’s there.
The ridiculously underrated Pasarin manages this level of monstrous for four pages, and it’s not like the rest of the book isn’t demanding. Heck, the detail on Dr Fate’s helmet is remarkable, while a bunch of castle creeps all get individual designs where a bunch of generic brutes would have done. Inker Matt Ryan and colourist Jeromy Cox hold up their end of things with sharp lines and dazzling colours – this issue really is a visual treat. The tiniest moan: on the final page, one DC star’s ears seem to have been confused with the detail of her tiara, making her look particularly pixieish…
Letterer Leigh adds to the intensity and enjoyment of the issue with his treatments; I especially like that Dr Fate’s word balloons have yellow borders, something I’m sure used to be a thing.
Now that I know I can effect The Flash, though, I’m going to concentrate ruddy hard to uncover Wally’s nose – we still have that odd mask detail from last time! Oh, and the truncated lightning chest symbol that looks uncomfortably like the Nazis’ SS bolt – that has to go.
I mentioned the cover at the top – it’s a clever idea, superbly executed by illustrator Brandon Peterson, colourist Matt Ryan and the DC Production Department. Kudos, too, to editors Chris Rosa and Mike Cotton for their work on the book.
Every issue of this comic since Jeremy Adams came on board has left me smiling broadly with the fun that’s been put back into Wally West’s life following a, shall we say, difficult period. If you’ve not been reading this run, think very hard, maybe the issues will materialise in front of you…