Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Brett Booth
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Cover Artist: Doc Shaner
Editors: Jamie S. Rich, Paul Kaminski, Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
“Go West, young man…”
Or rather, go forward. And that’s exactly what Wally West is going to do in Flash Forward #1.
Barring the genocidal connotations attached to that famously mis-attributed “Go West” quote, there really is no better war cry for the scarlet-haired scarlet speedster. Be bold! Be adventurous! Leave your past behind; embrace the future in front of you and atone for your sins by seeking redemption awash in the flowing currents of space and time. Yep, it’s a jaunt through the DC Multiverse, and all kinds of surprises await.
Despite his fortuitous rebirth, Wally West has been through the ringer lately. He was ripped from existence in Flashpoint, forgotten about in The New 52, trapped in a space outside of reality, made material again in Rebirth, had his children erased, his marriage taken away, murdered some friends, was thrown in prison, and ostracized from the superhero community. Quite the rough go of things, eh? And to top it all off, he’s basically been made redundant now that Barry Allen’s back and in the spotlight. So with no friends, no family, and a power-dampening collar around his neck, what’s the coolest Flash supposed to do?
Flash Forward aims to answer just that.
Set almost immediately after Heroes in Crises — the polarizing series that saw Wally West accidentally kill 13 heroes — Wally’s awaiting trial in Blackgate Prison until an interstellar protector shows up offering Wally a purpose and a shot at absolution. You know the drill: a dark evil looms, and the only one who can stop it is the fastest being in the multiverse.
While this issue delivers on its grandiose promises in its final pages, the smaller moments of reflection and humanity are where it flourishes. Scott Lobdell gives us a grief-stricken Wally grappling with the ramifications of what he’s done. He’s depressed and lonely, lamenting about the pain he’s caused and his place in the universe. More than once, he ponders whether he deserves — even welcomes — death. He’s tired, beaten, and broken. He’s relatable. He’s all of us at one point or another. Not everything can be high-fives and sweet poses in the world of superheroes.
So it’s refreshing to see a comic book attempt to deal with the fallout of a series of traumatic events. This is where Flash Forward gets the intricate details of the character right. Wally did the unimaginable, and the toll that took on his psyche isn’t overlooked. The creative team knows where to hone in on this, but they also never forget that this is a superhero story. They do a really great job of mixing the nuances of humanity with the fun of superpowered beings. Nowhere does this shine more than the art. Brett Booth creates panels that are dynamic and fluid when there’s action, while utilizing a calm energy in introspective scenes. This is a wonderful match for a character that can go from New York to California in the blink of an eye.
Not everything clicks, however. There’s an oddly placed interlude that’s a bit jarring to the flow of the story. It’s almost assuredly a necessary inclusion for future context, but it disrupts readability. While not ruinous to the overall enjoyment of the issue, there’s probably a better way it could have been handled. But this is a minor gripe in an otherwise strong first issue.
Perhaps the strongest thing Flash Forward #1 does, though, is set up possibility. Not only possibility for Wally, but possibility for storytelling as well. Possibility to be a little … out there. A little crazy. A little fun.
And this is exactly where The Flash should be: amongst the brazenly bizarre and embracing the eccentric. The Flash is nothing without a little mind-bending absurdity. A fella who can run pretty fast isn’t that particularly interesting. A guy who’s lightning-infused tempo allows him to traverse different dimensions? Who’s plugged in to the ebb and flow of time? Whose existence is tied into the cosmic narrative? Well, that’s a tale worth telling.
So Go West, Wally…