Flash #231

by

The Wild Wests: Growing Up Fast – Part 1
Or – “Welcome back, to that same place that you laughed about”

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Here we go, the issue we’ve been salivating for ever since we found out Bart was a goner, Wally was coming back, and Mark Waid was coming with him. Not only do we get the return of the Flash title, but the issue numbering picks up right where it left off. In the year since he’s been absent from the DCU, things have changed for the scarlet speedster, and this issue attempts to explain where he’s been and what’s going on with those two kids of his. Fans of Waid and the Flash might think this issue is like getting a second scoop of ice cream for free, but as usually happens during the summer, that delightful goodness soon melts away.

flash231_01.jpgKeystone City has always been one of my favorite fictional cities, mainly because it is in Kansas, and because it is the home of Wally West, the fastest man alive. But as a home to a superhero, there is bound to be trouble, and the issue kicks off with a massive ferry accident. Thankfully it was a boat accident instead of the collapse of the bridge joining the two cities, because that would just be too weird in light of the recent happenings in the world.

Instead of Wally showing up to save the day, victims are rescued by two young kids; one a boy, with a super bulked up body, and the other a girl, who has the ability to phase through matter. It’s only when the ferry catches fire, that a familiar red whirlwind puts the fire out and snatches to two kids away from a nosey investigative television reporter.

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Three things strike me as odd from the very beginning. First there was no inner monologue with the familiar “I’m Wally West, and I’m the fastest man alive.” This has been a tradition in nearly every issue for at least the last 10 years, and it’s a little weird having the issue start any different. The second is DC’s policy of having a splash page begin each issue. Because of this writing stipulation, it becomes very difficult to creatively make a reveal on that first page. This panel has more impact in the story and kicks things into gear better than the first page.

The final problem I have with the issue is the art. It’s not that it isn’t good; Daniel Acuna has done an excellent job of making each character stand apart out from one another, and it is easy to see which parent the West children get their looks from. Jai definitely looks like Linda, while the red hair of the male side of the family has been passed on to Iris. Even with the clear distinction between four characters, there are several times when the face of one kid looks like a cut and paste from the parent. It could be argued that this is done deliberately to make it clear the children are the West’s, but I think there are going to be plenty of people who cite this as the work of a bad artist. While I think the art is solid, it just isn’t a style I like, and I think it distracts from the story being told. Acuna is on for at least the next two issues, and my guess is, he’ll be sticking around for at least six issues. If it is for six issues, perhaps that will be long enough for the art style to grow on me.

Knowing the number of arguments Linda and Wally have had over the years concerning super powers, Wally is pretty sure she’s going to be miffed the kids were on TV. Turns out she isn’t, Wally just needs the reassurance.

The biggest surprise when Wally and Linda returned during the Lightning Saga, was how quickly the children had aged. They were only newborns when the family departed during Infinite Crisis, but now they appear to be around 7 or 8 years old. Waid attempts to explain the growth spurt by having the kids metabolism kick in a few months prior to their return. The kids started growing so fast that Wally and Linda didn’t have time to freak out.

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Having a newborn myself, I’m amazed how quickly I have to move when changing a diaper.

Along the way, readers also learn that Wally and Linda weren’t necessarily in another dimension, or merged with the speed force, instead they were on a distant alien world. Luckily, the inhabitants of the world were familiar with the other Flashes, and owed the West family. The aliens gave the family technology that could keep the kids powers and growth spurts in check, and Linda appears to be the only one that can understand and run it.

Turns out Jai and Iris don’t have all of Wally’s powers, instead, the two tikes cycled through speed related powers before Iris got them stabilized with the alien tech. It also turns out the kids need periodic “recharging”, for lack of a better word, to keep them from exhausting themselves. Fortunately, all that alien technology is located in the basement of the West home. This is a big weird moment for me, because if the Wests returned in a bolt of lightning, how the heck did alien technology from billions of miles away get in the family rec room?

When Mark Waid left the Flash it was said at the time he had taken the character of Wally West as far as he could go and still keep it fresh. So why come back? Waid’s original Flash run was all about the relationship between the Flash Family (Johnny and Jessie Quick, Max Mercury, Jay Garrick, Impulse), and keeping his dating life with Linda in check. Now that time has past, Waid can tell a whole new set of stories about the West Family and how they adjust and cope with being a family unit where three of the four members have powers.

This is going to be an interesting angle to follow, as it appears Linda is having a difficult time adjusting to these rapid changes – she’s a mother who really didn’t get to see her kids grow up normally. Again, as someone who has recently had his own spawn burst forth on the world, I can see the separation anxiety and issues of trying to cope with a kid that is growing up – in mom’s opinion – “way too fast already” creep in to this title as well.

Instead of being a story about Wally or the kids, Flash #231 ends up being a story of a mom who is worried and upset (which explains her sudden outburst and flinging the picture of the family when the kids were still babies), but who will put on a happy face and do everything she can to make sure her children are okay. It’s clear Linda is extremely proud of her kids, who are technically only a year old, and at times act like toddlers and other times are rather smart for their age.

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Ah, as Wally explains, had this accident happened in any other city, it would be chalked up to operator error, but because it happened in Keystone City, Wally and the kids need to examine everything in fine detail to make sure some nefarious person or thing isn’t behind the disaster. When Iris suggests dad look for clues at the bottom of the river, Wally dives in and thinks he finds a floater that hadn’t be removed. Turns out it is something quite different.

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A whole bunch of these Cthulu rejects are running amuck and quickly capture Wally and the kids, leaving us with our first Mark Waid cliff hanger.

Waid has done a pretty good job of beginning to fill in the holes of the missing West family’s year. Sure the sudden rapid aging of the Jai and Iris smacks of Impulse origin story, but with Bart out of the picture for now, this is the only way to avoid the problems Catwoman is facing in her title. A kid that is under two years of age, really can’t take care of him or herself, and is going to be a huge target for rouges who are looking for the upper hand. The good thing is Waid has kept the kids young enough and changed their powers so he isn’t rehashing the Bart story all over again.

This issue wasn’t bad at all. I think some readers may be put off there wasn’t a lot of action, or a lot of screen time for the title character, but if you are familiar with the last run Waid had on the Flash, you know he likes to give plenty of screen time to the rest of the supporting cast. I want to see where this arc goes, so I’ll be reviewing the title again on this site. After that, we’ll just have to see. Mark Waid has been named the new Editor-in-Chief of Boom! Studios, and while he said he would keep his current commitments on the Flash, it has never been publicly reported just how long his contracted issues on the Flash is supposed to be. I’m hoping he isn’t simply a ringer DC signed on for a few issues to fix problems the Flash title has had over the last year before turning it over to another writer (although I wouldn’t mind seeing Geoff Johns being that “other writer”). I also realize he probably isn’t going to have another amazing 5 year uninterrupted run on the title either. Best we can do right now is hope however long he stays on the Flash, he makes it the best run possible. For this issue, The Flash #231 receives 4 out of 5 Stars.

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Parting Shot

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