By Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter & Hi-Fi
Joshua Williamson’s run on The Flash since the DC Rebirth relaunch finally reaches issue 50! To mark this occasion, readers are given an oversized issue to conclude the “Flash War” arc. Barry Allen and Wally West, the two Flashes, face off against Zoom (Hunter Zolomon), as he has now attained new abilities through new forces. As they continue to cope with the seeds of distrust and resentment, the speedsters try to find a way to prevent Zoom’s unfolding plan…
This was truly a heartfelt love letter to the titular character and the many adventures and iterations he has gone through over the decades. Williamson and artist Howard Porter, who is no stranger to the Speed Force, bring a potent story to a strong close (or strong beginning?). As the plot unfolds, the conversations held between the two Flashes show real understanding of the characters and make the content engrossing and emotional. Joshua Williamson is able to show the audience what the core of these characters is and that he truly understands who they are and what makes them tick. This even extends to the antagonist, interestingly enough. Due to his impressive insight, he was able to craft a deeply satisfying, yet tragic storyline. The voices feel natural and accurate, never slipping for a moment, maintaining the flow and engagement. The backbone of this comic isn’t the grand gestures or fights, it’s the conversations – the dialog. It’s beautifully written and woven incredibily well throughout.
Also worthy of noting is how the narrative is not neatly wrapped-up, so to speak. Joshua Williamson really made the stakes stick and have rewards and repercussions. This makes the journey of these 50 issues and this arc, in particular, a worthwhile experience. One criticism, though, is how Zoom attained new force abilities and used them a little too well, too quickly; making him practically invulnerable. It seemed a bit much of an upgrade for the antagonist all at once, which seems to be a recurring issue with a lot of recent DC storylines. Also, it feels as if he could have defeated the Flashes quickly, but for drama’s or deus ex machina’s sake it was drug out. Minor quibbles, yes, but they’re still thorns in the side of the comic.
What helps soothe those thorns is the art. Porter was the predominant artist on “Flash War” and delivers his best work on the story in this issue. He constantly finds fresh, expressive ways to depict speed and the Speed Force. The incredible scope and emotional depths were not lost in translation. He clearly understood which scenes needed to breathe and let the sentiment sink in and how to properly render them too. There are so many memorable or iconic moments that he beautifully brings to life. Also, how he delivers plot is impressive. Porter is able to present elements in fascinating, dynamic ways through his page layouts and the content within the panels themselves. The pages have a fluidity to them that ranges from the panels from to the actions and interactions of the characters within those panels.
Of course, Howard Porter is only half of the artistic equation. Hi-Fi brings a sense of vibrancy and urgency necessary for a Flash comic and, specifically, the content of this particular book. Red is key and Hi-Fi clearly exemplifies this in the work. The color is used against complimenting ones to draw the eye to the speedsters and what’s happening with or around them. Perhaps, the most powerful coloring is actually not the fight sequences or other dynamic scenes, but the quiet, contemplative moments. It shows a real skill of restraint and understanding of the material. Readers shouldn’t fret though, the scenes within the Speed Force are gorgeous and innovative. All around sharp, quality color work.
If readers don’t come away at least a little choked up, they may need to be checked out by a physician. There’s not a single page within this issue that doesn’t scream of passion and appreciation for the legacy of the Flash. The fact that the audience can feel it immediately off the pages is a testament to the work of these creators. This is issue 50, so folks considering picking this up may want to do a little homework and pickup the past trades. Several past storylines do culminate in or hint at events that unfold within these pages. It may seem daunting, but it’s well worth the trip through this Speed Force because what has defined this run, so far, is that it has never lost sight of being entertaining and maintained true heart.