THIS WEEK: Writer Joshua Williamson concludes his tenure guiding the adventures of DC’s fastest man alive with not one but two titanic tales. Does the conclusion leave our resident Flash super-fan satisfied?
The Flash #762
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Howard Porter
Color Artist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artists: Howard Porter & Hi-Fi
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Speed Metal #1
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Penciller: Eddy Barrows
Inker: Eber Ferreira
Color Artist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover: Howard Porter & Hi-Fi
The Flash is a character who has, over the decades, been blessed with many long-running writers. John Broome (64 issues) & Cary Bates (137 issues) both had long runs on the original Barry Allen series, writing 201 of the 246 issues of the series. William Messner-Loebs (47 issues), Mark Waid (94 issues), and Geoff Johns (62 issues) had similarly lengthy runs on the 247-issue Wally West-starring series that followed it. From Barry Allen’s return to the role of The Flash in 2008 until the beginning of DC’s Rebirth initiative in 2011, though, the character has had a handful of writers, but none who worked on him for more than a few dozen issues (still decent-sized runs, but a drop in the bucket compared to those of previous writers).
And now here we are at the end of Joshua Williamson’s four-year tenure as writer of the fastest man alive’s solo title. From 2016’s The Flash: Rebirth one-shot through this week’s The Flash #762, Williamson has written 100 issues of the main series, plus three annuals and a handful of Batman crossover issues. The second-longest run writing The Flash of all time, and the longest uninterrupted run of all time on the character, has laid out a definitive vision of Barry Allen and his supporting cast for the modern age. Williamson has added new villains like Godspeed, Bloodwork, and Paradox to The Flash’s rogues gallery; crowned a new Kid Flash in the form of young Wallace West; drawn a clear comparison between Barry and his successor, Wally West; and redefined and reestablished Eobard Thawne, The Reverse-Flash, as The Flash’s greatest enemy.
It’s that last bit that’s been the focus of some of the biggest arcs of Williamson’s run. The series concluded its first year with an epic showdown between Barry and Thawne that resulted in Iris learning Barry’s identity and then killing Thawne (this was after he’d already been killed by Doctor Manhattan a few issues earlier; he would return by virtue of being a living time paradox), and this year’s The Flash #750 set The Flash once again on a collision course with his 25th Century foe, first in the form of an uneasy team-up against new villain Paradox, then followed by the inevitable betrayal and murder of Godspeed by Thawne that has led to “Finish Line,” Williamson’s final arc on the series. The storyline, which has seen the return of the full Flash Family including original Flash Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, Max Mercury, and many others, has been a true love letter to The Flash and his world, and the final installment puts a nice bow on not only the storyline, but Williamson’s run as a whole.
After a slew of speedsters arrived and saved Central City in the last issue, The Flash #762 puts the focus squarely on Flash and Reverse-Flash, resolving long-simmering story threads between the two and adding some new ones for the next creative team to pick up on. The way Barry ends the conflict is perfectly in-character for the way Williamson has written him: clever, creative, and ultimately grounded and humane. It also leads to some extremely welcome character development for Barry, addressing long-unaddressed plot points from (and definitively putting to rest some of the worst elements of) Barry’s 2008 return. The result is a vision of the character that’s more internally consistent over the course of his history, that clearly defines his role within the larger Flash Family, and that perfectly places him for future stories.
Williamson has been joined by a bevy of fantastic artists over the course of his run on the series. From artists new to The Flash like Carmine Di Giandomenico, Christian Duce, and Rafa Sandoval to classic Flash artists Scott Kolins, Paul Pelletier, and Howard Porter, all have brought the scarlet speedster’s adventures to life spectacularly. Porter and colorist Hi-Fi have joined Williamson for some of the biggest stories of the run, including “Flash War” and “Year One,” and they again provide the art for this final installment of the run. Porter’s action is energetic without being overpowering, his characters cartoony without being cartoonish, and his storytelling as solid as ever. Williamson and Porter complement each other’s sensibilities beautifully, and here’s hoping they’re working together again sooner rather than later.
The Flash #762 isn’t the only Flash-centric book written by Josh Williamson this week, though. Dark Nights: Death Metal – Speed Metal #1 functions as a perfect companion to the regular series issue. The one-shot, illustrated by Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, and Adriano Lucas, focuses on Best Flash Wally West, a major player in the ongoing Death Metal saga after having gained a portion of the abilities of Doctor Manhattan back at the end of the Flash Forward miniseries. Speed Metal unites Wally with Barry, Jay, and Wallace, again highlighting some of the differences between Wally and Barry, and harkening back to several classic tales from Wally’s time as the primary fastest man alive.
More importantly, just as he did for Barry in The Flash #762, Williamson tackles lingering issues for Wally not just since his return in the DCU Rebirth one-shot, but dating back to Barry’s 2008 return. The one-shot addresses those concerns head-on, skirting the edge of meta-commentary regarding how Wally has been treated in recent years, and resolving those issues in a way that’s satisfactory for longtime fans of the character and that sets Wally up for future stories. That he’s able to do all of this in the middle of an event tie-in one-shot is a testament to Williamson’s skill as a writer.
Barrows, Ferreira, and Lucas bring the whole thing to life wonderfully. Barrows and Ferreira’s linework is excellent as always, with expressive characters and easy-to-follow high-speed action. The horde of dark multiverse speedsters appearing to chase down our heroes is a particularly striking and terrifying image. The team also nails the big character moments between the four speedsters at the heart of the issue, visually pulling readers into the emotion of the story expertly. They also make Wally’s blue Doctor Manhattan-esque suit look pretty great, so big props to the art team for that.
Since Wally’s Rebirth return Williamson has been the writer with the strongest grasp of the character, and it’s criminal that he hasn’t had the opportunity to write Wally more up until this point. Perhaps the aforementioned hoped-for future Williamson/Porter collaboration could be a Wally-centric Flash Family book? Fingers are crossed.
This is a fantastic week to be a Flash fan, if not a little bittersweet. For four years Josh Williamson has been a consistently steady and skilled guiding hand for The Flash, both the series and the character. He certainly left both Barry Allen and Wally West better than when he found them, which is the best thing anyone could have asked for. This reviewer is grateful for the high quality of Williamson’s run, and that he was able to go out with a pair of incredibly strong and satisfying stories.
Final Verdict for both The Flash #762 and Dark Nights: Death Metal – Speed Metal #1: BUY.
- “The House of Kent” continues with another enjoyable installment in Action Comics #1025. Writer Brian Michael Bendis is winding down his run on the Man of Steel, and he’s using this story arc to tie up not just storylines from the beginning of his tenure on Action Comics but also from other titles like Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. It’s gratifying to see all of those elements finally come together, and in such an entertaining fashion. I still think John Romita Jr. is the wrong fit for Superman, though, and there were points where his art was hard to follow in this issue.
- Joshua Williamson’s other DC book this week, Batman/Superman #12, may not have hit me as hard as the two Flash-centric books, but it was still damn fun. Williamson and artists Max Raynor and Alejandro Sanchez spin a totally accessible yarn with a solid mystery, some fun twists and turns, and a great cliffhanger. It seems like everyone’s having fun working on this book, which makes for a great read.
- Shazam! #15 is an excellent one-and-done story. Jeff Loveness, Brandon Peterson, and Mike Atiyeh grab you right off the bat (and special shout-out to letterer Rob Leigh for an absolutely perfect first speech balloon) for a story that’s light and breezy but still packs a lot of heart. This is the kind of comic you could put into anyone’s hands to show them what’s great about Shazam. It’s a shame this series is coming to an end if these are the kinds of stories they’ve been holding in reserve now that the initial creative team’s mega-storyline is over. Surely Shazam will return, though, and hopefully Loveness, Peterson, & co come with him.
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