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Speed! Speed! Speed! Just wouldn’t believe it!: Graeme gets Flashed, 7/18

Graeme McMillan

Johanna may have covered it on Tuesday – Goddammit, now I have competition for who’s going to get to the books first! – but I have to admit, I kind of like ALL-FLASH #1. The strange thing is, I actually have some of the same reservations to the story that Johanna did – It’s certainly a choppy read, and something that’s very much set in contemporary “Countdown” DC continuity (it ties in with the recent JLA/JSA crossover and the last Flash series), but what won me over ultimately is the haste – hey! – it has in moving away from the dark and gritty story that you expected.

Waid was kind of handed a pretty dark plate when he was given the Flash as a book this time around: His Flash – and really, this issue shows how much that Wally West is Waid’s character; Wally sounds more like himself, albeit an older version of himself, than he has done since Waid left the series years back. The key, weirdly enough, may be the optimism of Waid’s take, which I’ll get to later – is stolen back from contentment in some kind of mystical retirement to find that his former – and formerly pretty ineffectual – villains have murdered his successor. If that were almost any other modern superhero writer with the exception of Grant Morrison perhaps, that would be the start of a six-issue (at least) storyline about how wracked with guilt Wally was for leaving in the first place, and how much he thirsted for revenge and the ways in which it pushed him past his breaking point so that he acted way out of character because of the death of a loved one. Hell, he could be so upset that he could put his Dark Flash costume on from ten years ago, and you could call it “Back In Darker Red” or something. But that’s really clearly not the way that Waid sees the character or the book, and so that entire hanging plotline of depression gets tied up in this one-shot, outside of the regular run – no pun, yadda yadda – of the book. It’s as if Waid is saying “Yes, I know that this has to be dealt with, but let’s get it over as soon as possible so that we can get to the fun stuff, okay?”

And the way that Waid deals with it also avoids the stereotypical superhero realism schtick; Waid points out that Wally isn’t the kind of character who’d kill someone, even a murderer. Instead – like Black Adam in 52, before that got undone within a month – the character responsible for the previous Flash’s death is left alive, but punished in a fitting (and appropriately Flash-y) way. It’s an inventive alternative that also leaves the door open for a possible return of the character down the line, something both unexpected (the punishment) and retro (the possibility of the character returning to plague our hero!) at the same time… which, in itself, feels very fitting for the Flash, which has been about mixing the two since Barry Allen gave himself the name to honor his favorite fictional hero, even as he started off the Silver Age.

The end of the book is where the real point of the issue is, though; having dealt with the dangling plot, Waid teases out what’s to come in his next run on the book, and it’s superpowered kids and monsters and the Justice League and two things most importantly: People smiling while we’re promised “it’s going to be one hell of a ride.”

And that’s what I want to read from the Flash, and that’s what I’ve wanted to read from the Flash since Waid left, I think. Geoff Johns did good melodrama, but the Flash isn’t really about that, for me. It’s about family (Yeah, even the Barry Allen Flash – Look at how many recurring guest stars he had, even early in the run) and about speed and maybe more than any other superhero comic, it’s about fun. Yeah, sure, throw in high action and adventure, but make it fun, you know?

All-Flash #1 is Good, not because of the plot – which may be the best possible resolution to where everything had left off, admittedly, but still – nor because of the art – which has moments of wonderfulness (Karl Kerschl and Daniel Acuna’s work is great) and moments that aren’t so great (Hi, Ian Churchill!) – but because it cuts through all the crap that’s grown around what should be a great concept and brings it back to basics pretty damn fast. And, really, it’s all about the speed.

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