Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Alberto Dose
Publisher: DC Comics
After the events of last issue, no one knows the secret identity of the Flash–including Wally West, the Fastest Man Alive! Without its protector, Keystone City has become a grim place–street racing and gang violence have taken over, and a cold-blooded cop killer thinning the ranks of the already suffering police force. Wally West has taken a late-night job as KCPD’s mechanic, an occupation that keeps him busy as smashed and twisted patrol cars are towed in by the hour. With work keeping him away from his wife Linda, his only companions are two other mechanics and a familiar face at the all-night diner. Things may be changing, though, as Wally finds himself in the middle of a freeway pile up–and time stops. By the end of the issue, a figure in the shadows has given Wally the first clue to the Flash’s disappearance, and declared “It’s time to run again.”
Boy, “Hush” really gets around! Seriously, the cloaked figure at the end of this issue is about the only inspiring thing to be found here at the outset of the Flash’s new direction. The title has always been a bit of a soap opera, and the first rule of soaps is that you can never have everybody miserable (or happy) at the same time. The world depicted in issue 201 is utterly bleak, nearly devoid of hope; of course, that may be what makes the final few pages so powerful. Polybagged Prozac aside, however, there remain significant flaws.
Alberto Dose’s art, while appropriate in tone for the story arc, is often difficult to follow. Panels overlap panels without clear continuity, and composition within the frame often cluttered or muddled. Further, with such a grand departure from previous artists, familiar characters become unrecognizable until introduced by name. Wally West, who should be aged somewhere in the late twenties to mid-thirties, looks like he just got out of high school, while a “mystery” villain (what? did the police forget about the Rogues, too?) has somehow stretched his face into a long oval.
Storywise, mostly it’s just sad. Sad stories can be good, but they’re still sad. A disquieting undertone of Wally’s new situation seems to be marital strife with Linda. Now, there may be no unwritten mandate to sanctify the Flash’s marriage to the degree of Lois and Clark’s, but messing with the Wally and Linda love story would be a distressing development to longtime readers and a really nasty thing to do.
The Flash, month after month, is a book worth reading. This one is a bit sour in that there’s none of the optimism, or energy, or love that transformed the Flash from being “a guy who runs really fast” into a character worth caring about. But this is something different. It is a prelude, and it is a prelude that ends with hope rather than fear. Perhaps, after a run that has invoked tragedy after tragedy, Geoff Johns’s bleakest issue marks the beginning of great triumph.
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