Alright, before I begin today, I want to first take some time for backstory. When I was around twelve my parents ordered me a box of DC comics from the Sears catalogue. Yep, I was opening mystery boxes before it was cool. The box itself had a handful of Batman comics, some Superman reprints, and issues 71 and 72 of The Flash, where Wally West fought Doctor Alchemy.
I don’t know why, but those issues spoke to me, really spoke to me. I was absolutely fascinated with the Flash and spent hours reading and rereading those issues. As soon as I could, I had my parents take me to a comic book store so I could grab as many issues of Wally’s adventures as I could.
Yep, Wally West was my Flash. He was tormented by feeling he wasn’t good enough, but he never, ever gave up. He earned the title of The Flash, and even when Barry Allen eventually returned, Wally was still the Flash I preferred. Don’t get me wrong, I love Barry Allen, and Jay Garrick, and the entire Flash family, but Wally was and will ever be my Flash.
Sadly, Wally has become the whipping boy for the entire DCU as of late, and I just don’t understand why that is. Following the post Flashpoint, New 52 continuity, Wally was written out of existence and replaced with Wallace West, a character that I must admit has really grown on me and does deserve respect as a true member of the Flash family, but he just wasn’t our Wally, and the higher-ups knew this. So as part of DC’s grand plan to bring hope back to the DC universe, Wally exploded into being in a convoluted bit of cosmic continuity garbage, but I just didn’t care because my childhood hero had returned.
Wally was back, and he quickly proceeded to do…nothing. Oh sure, he bounced around a bit with Barry and spent some time hanging with the Titans, but overall the writers just didn’t seem to know what to do with him. They tried giving him a heart condition that made it hard for him to run but limiting his speed was an old story device that they had done to death before, so it really brought nothing new to the character. There was a Flash War that broke the speed force, but again, since Barry was the star of the Flash comic, Wally was kind of kicked to the sidelines.
And then Tom King came along. King wanted to write about trauma, a lofty but important goal, but his story involved turning Wally West into a monster and I was not OK with that at all.
See, Wally still remembered what life was like pre- Flashpoint. He remembered being married to Linda Park. He remembered his children, but in this new continuity he found himself in, his children didn’t exist, and Linda Park didn’t even know who he was.
Dealing with the effects of that kind of loss would be a great thing for any author to explore, and Tom King is a competent enough writer that he could have written a tale about Wally to rival his work on Mister Miracle and Adam Strange. Instead, we got Heroes in Crisis, a messy, pointless hit job that turned Wally into a murderer and left a stain on his character that took two miniseries to even begin to wipe away. His stint in Death Metal and his time in the Mobius chair was, interesting? But again, it just constantly feels like no one knows what to do with Wally, and since Williamson has left The Flash title that book has struggled a bit to find its legs.
So as we moved into Future State, I knew that Barry would be our focal point, but I really hoped that Wally would finally get his due as the most likely heir to the Flash title. As I said, while he is not my favourite Flash, I do have a deep love for Barry, and also hoped that he would get a fair shake as a patriarch to a new generation of speedster heroes. And at its core, that’s what I love so very much about The Flash. The Flash has always been about hope. The Flash has always been about moving forward. The Flash is about passing on to the next generation the virtues and values that make a hero great.
The Flash, is, in my opinion, the greatest hero in the DC universe, and in a lot of ways the people of the DC Universe agree with me.
There’s a reason he has his own museum, and people love talking about his exploits and adventures. There’s a reason Central City put up statue after statue to The Flash, and that reason is hope. The Flash is a hero, through and through, and for the people of Central City the Flash represents the hope that no matter what happens, they will be protected. The people know him and love him, even more than people love Superman. Superman is a god to them, but The Flash? The Flash is a man of the people. The Flash is a figure of hope (I know I keep saying that, but it is so important to his character, and to understand why today’s book fails so very, very hard).
The Flash works with the police to keep everyone safe, and while much of his origin has been retconned and rewritten to give it more tragedy, Barry Allen, and later Wally West, never really ever let themselves sink into despair or depression. They believe in their friends and family, and that justice will always prevail.
It’s no wonder that when the Justice League cartoon series wanted to depict a world taken over by a version of the League gone rogue, one of the first steps on that path was the loss of The Flash, who was the heart of hope in the group (and interestingly this was the Wally West version of The Flash we are talking about).
Normally I like to keep things positive, and even in the worst books I read, I still try to find something that gives the book some redeeming quality. I firmly believe that no one sets out to produce a terrible comic and that if a bad comic makes it to the shelf, the fault lies not only on the creative team but on the people above them that approved everything in that book.
I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but with this book, well, I just cannot fathom what anyone, at any level was thinking.
No use putting it off any longer. Here’s the blurb from DC:
With no powers, no backup and no other choice, Barry Allen and the other former Flashes face the deadliest threat they’ve ever encountered—Wally West. Possessed by an evil force trapped for thousands of years inside the Speed Force, Barry turns to his greatest foes’ weapons to save the young man he loves like a son. In the end, how much will Barry sacrifice to save the former Kid Flash?
So, the answer to that question is “everything and then some,” and “save” is used very loosely in this series, but we’ll get to all that in a minute. First, I want to address something in the blurb that irked me.
“Former Kid Flash.”
Calling Wally a former Kid Flash would be a bit like calling Dick Grayson a former Robin. By this point Wally has been pretty firmly established as The Flash. He’s been The Flash since Crisis on Infinite Earths ended in 1986, and while Barry did eventually return, Wally was already well established as both a hero and as an adult by then.
I know, it’s a little nitpick, but still, with how much Wally has been disrespected by DC in the last few years this just feels like another twist of the knife.
Our story opens in the middle of tragedy. As the blurb said, Wally has been taken over by an evil force (which is explained in much more detail in the Teen Titans story, because why give The Flash a coherent narrative?). Wallace West, the actual Kid Flash is already dead, and the remaining members of the Flash Family have all been depowered. This leads Barry, Jay, Max Mercury and Bart Allen to set out to gather up weapons from Barry’s Rogues Gallery to use to stop Wally. In their attack on the Calculator, Bart is killed, the second Flash family member knocked off in this book.
From there it is just a downward spiral into hopelessness. Turns out that Wally was possessed by the spirit of Famine, one of the Riders of the Apocalypse. They try a mind meld that kills Jay. Max gets infected with a disease and cremated, and Iris just wanders out into the wasteland that the Earth itself devolves into and never returns.
When Barry is finally able to confront the possessed Wally, he uses all of the tools he has gathered and modified to cripple him, making him no longer a suitable host for Famine. At this point, Famine emerges from Wally to reveal that this was his plan all along and that he wanted to feed on the hopelessness that came from Barry as he realized that he lost everything around him. He then resurrects and heals Wally, and curses Barry to follow him as a ghost for all eternity as he can continue to feed on Barry’s last shreds of hope that Wally could still be saved.
Good sweet lord Future State: The Flash a depressing book!
I mean, what the heck is even the point of this book? It’s basically a Flash family snuff film that serves no purpose but to torture and kill Barry Allen, and doom Wally to be the monster DC, for some reason, seems hell-bent on making him.
It just, it just doesn’t make sense. Future State: The Flash fills me with a sense of rage and anger that comics rarely evoke, and what is particularly frustrating about it is that it does all of this for absolutely no good reason. Future State: The Flash does not need to exist.
I’d like to blame the terrible story on an incompetent creative team, but honestly they are not. This story was written by Brandon Vietti, who DC fans will know from his work on the critically acclaimed fan favorite series Young Justice, a show which actually does a good job portraying Wally West as a hero. Vietti is a better writer than this, which leads me to believe that a lot of this book was being directed by editorial mandate (or at least, I want to give him the benefit of that doubt).
Future State: The Flash fails on every level, and unlike Barry in this book, I want to actually learn a lesson from that failure.
See, Future State had a lot more good in it than it did bad, and in many ways what I have seen so far from the first few issues of Infinite Frontier show me that DC has learned some good lessons from this. Where Future State shone brightest for me was where it celebrated its heroes, and framed them as inspirations to admire and look up to. Where it failed was where it attempted to denigrate, and devolve our heroes back to a state that felt more at home in the New 52 than anywhere else.
DC comics are great because they are inspirational. They can be dark and gritty like Batman, but even Batman is, at his core, a hopeful and loving father, both adoptive and biological. DC Comics should always have a through-line of hope in them, and DC knows this because when they brought Wally back for Rebirth it was specifically addressed that his return was supposed to usher in a new age of hope and positivity to the lines.
Future State: The Flash completely misses that point. It tortures a good man for the delight of an audience that I truly doubt actually exists. It is cynical in the vein of Garth Ennis, and further sets back characters that have been forced to spend years redeeming themselves after being denigrated by other authors already. In short, it is a terrible story and I hope, in my heart of hearts, nothing in Future State: The Flash is ever spoken of again.
So that’s it friends, my complete review of the Future State Universe. It had a lot of good, and some tragic bad, but it really feels like DC has a brighter future ahead if they can learn the lessons this line taught us.
Plus, I really hope this review was coherent. Watching what they did to my poor sweet Wally in Future State: The Flash just makes me sad.
Until next time, Stay Safe!