Last month I was pleasantly surprised to find the first issue of the four-part “This Was Your Life, Wally West” was quite good — in fact, the strongest opening chapter of a Flash arc in years. So does part two hold up?
For the most part, yes, with some reservations. Admittedly, I read it right after reading the conclusion of Rogues’ Revenge, which is a tough act to follow.
Carlo Barberi (Impulse, Casey Blue) replaces Paco Diaz on the art an issue earlier than expected. He’s dialed down his usual style to the point that it actually took me several pages to recognize it, but once I knew what to look for it was instantly identifiable. It works better for Flash than I expected, though he isn’t quite as effective as Diaz at making the deadly bee weapon genuinely scary. (They still appear as a credible threat, despite Amazons Attack.)
This issue brings in guest stars galore, both in the present day and in flashbacks, linking Wally’s two super-teams: the original Teen Titans, and the Justice League of America. Members of both (and the JSA) show up to help him deal with the new development revealed in part 1, while the Titans appear in a retrospective of his Kid Flash career.
It seems thematically appropriate to team up the Flash and Black Lightning: someone who got his powers by being struck by lightning, and someone who generates electricity. Similarly, Red Arrow, while serving as a literal link between the two teams, was once known as Speedy — a name that would have worked just as well for a young speedster as it did for an archer with quick reflexes.
Spoilers after the cut:
On to the story. The bug man’s name is revealed as Carapace, and it turns out he’s working for Queen Bee, who fought the Flash and Wonder Woman in a spotlight story in Justice League of America #20. We also learn why the Queen Bee is going after the Flash — or rather, why she will, because the prototype that Carapace stole for her manipulates the speed force. So far, Queen Bee is acting purely in evil mastermind mode, and the major threat is still the “speed disease.” Speaking of which, the stolen tech could turn out to be just be the missing piece needed to solve that problem.
There’s an interesting sequence in which Raven shows up and uses her empathic powers to calm Wally. He flashes back to the time they were both on the team and he was “crazy about her,” then she vanishes just as Linda walks in…with other ideas on how to soothe his anxiety. That’s got to be a bit awkward.
I have to give props to the writing for making the threats to Linda’s life and Wally’s powers seem credible even though we know she’ll be around, and he’ll be faster, in time for Final Crisis.
Finally, I know I shouldn’t get too bent out of shape over retcons, especially when we’ve got a major retcon-inducing event (Infinite Crisis) in recent history, but one thing really bugged me about this issue: Wally’s speed was apparently limited to Mach 1 throughout his entire Kid Flash career, and he gained full speed when the Anti-Monitor blasted him during Crisis on Infinite Earths. All the original stories showed him being as fast as Barry up until the point that the disease kicked in during late adolescence, and then the Anti-Monitor’s blast cured him of the disease, but lowered his speed to Mach 1. He slowly worked his way back up to top speed over the course of the first few years of his solo book.
Overall, it’s still a solid issue, though it doesn’t leave me as wowed as the one before it.