We’re moving into the home stretch, with the second-to-last issue of the current Flash series. Part 3 of “This Was Your Life, Wally West” is written by Alan Burnett with art by Carlo Barberi.
The book was originally solicited with a more story-related cover by Brian Stelfreeze. Normally I prefer covers that have something to do with the story over iconic covers, but I have to say this is one seriously impressive cover by Freddie Williams II.
Carlo Barberi’s art continues to work surprisingly well with the serious tone of the book (I’d previously known his work only from Impulse), and the cast list is combined with the issue’s splash page.
The threats of the Queen Bee and power loss take a back seat to a more personal story: Wally West faces the possibility that he might lose the love of his life, Linda Park West. Much of the first half of the issue is a look back at Wally and Linda’s relationship, starting with their first meeting as reporter and story subject at the end of the “Porcupine Man” saga (Flash v.2 #24–28), working through their tumultuous courtship, interrupted wedding, all the way through to the worldwide memory wipe between Blitz and Ignition.
The flashback is well-integrated with the main line of the story, as it brings up several elements that factor into the second half of the issue as the Queen Bee case takes center stage again.
Oddly, I noticed my local comic store didn’t have any copies of this issue on the shelf. I meant to ask, but forgot, whether they had reduced their order, whether they’d sold more than usual, or whether they simply hadn’t finished putting everything on the shelf. (They were still sorting through customers’ pull lists at the point I got there.)
Spoilers after the cut:
This issue really highlights Wally’s heroism as he has to take on multiple roles in crisis: husband, father, and detective — despite his fear and his downgraded powers. He has to be there for Linda. He has to hold it together for their kids. And he has to keep working the case that put her in harm’s way in the first place. Ultimately, while he needs help with each of these tasks, it’s help from his friends and teammates and never once seems to diminish him.
I loved the moments with Roy and Lian hanging out with Jai and Iris. I’m not sure how old Lian is at this point, but this made me realize how much I’d like to see an occasional “Junior Justice League” backup feature with Iris, Jai, Lian and any other children of JLA/Titans members getting into adventures. Sort of a cross between Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius and Tiny Titans set in normal DC continuity. (I do wonder how popular the Olsen Twins’ movies are with today’s kids, but it’s at least thematically appropriate.)
The flashback does gloss over the period in which Wally was still dating Connie, and he and Linda were first grudging allies and later friends, but it was nice for this long-term fan to see references to the Porcupine Man, “Terminal Velocity,” and the dimension-hopping connected to the Dark Flash (Flash v.2 #152–159). Also appreciated: mention of Linda’s career as a journalist! Burnett’s research (for which he credits his editors Eddie Berganza and Rachel Gluckstern) makes a better showing in this issue than last. On a related note, the comment about Wally’s bio being “more complicated than Aquaman’s” certainly sounds like a meta-reference!
One gaping plot-hole: Raven. Linda is on her death-bed, with minutes or less to live. Wally zooms to Raven seeking help…to contact the Spectre, since that cosmic being helped them out before by wiping everyone’s knowledge of his identity. Why bother with the Spectre? As far as I know, Raven hasn’t lost her ability to heal people. Even if she can’t fully heal Linda, she could at least bring her back from the brink to the point where JSA-level medicine can save her.
On the other hand, ending the issue with the larger-than-life Spectre declaring that “your wife dies today!” — that’s a seriously dramatic cliffhanger.