It's the ultimate race: Four Flashes in a desperate showdown against the Darkest Night, to regain possession of the Mobius Chair! Can even the fastest men alive outrun this evil, all-powerful Batman Who Laughs?! And will Wally West at long last find peace?
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Speed Metal #1 is a lot of things, but subtle it ain’t.
From the opening pages, readers are treated to a quick recap of the last few years’ of Wally West’s continuity, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. DC has put the Third Flash through the wringer in recent years (though thankfully, some damage has been undone, thanks to a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it retcon of Heroes in Crisis in Flash #761), and after some serious dithering about what to do with the erstwhile Flash in-continuity, he at last reaches an apotheosis in Speed Metal. But not without challenges: namely, outrunning the Darkest Knight (ne the Batman Who Laughs) and a horde of Dark Multiverse zombie Flashes. No easy out for our Mr. West.
But the heart of the story is the reconciliation between Wally and his mentor, Barry Allen. Since Wally’s return and his desperate attempt to find his missing family, the two have seriously butted heads more than once – and at last, Barry steps up and admits that big part of his problem is that, in an echo of older readers’ beliefs, he’s had a hard time letting Wally simply be the Flash. But with a bit of fourth-wall breaking, Barry steps out of the limelight and allows Wally to take the lead, and be the hero we all know him to be, no strings attached. It’s a moment readers have been waiting for since the character’s return from continuity purgatory back in Rebirth #1. There’s a sense that while yes, this moment is earned – it’s also being given, though, by editorial to readers for their long-running slights against Wally (this is probably the closest to an apology for Heroes in Crisis as we’re likely to get). Despite that, it’s a great moment.
Readers are also treated to solid, if by-the-numbers interaction between four generations of Flashes: Jay Garrick, Barry, Wally, and Wallace West. Jay says some aw-shucks grandpa things; Wallace playfully shoots off at the mouth a bit about how he’s going to outrun all the “old guys.” Nothing there is rewriting the rules, but then it isn’t meant to be. This is how these characters relate to each other, and it’s wonderful comfort food.
Less comforting is the unwelcome presence of the Darkest Knight, who at this point has devolved into a large, black silhouette of an amalgamated Plastic Man with a Carnage mouth and some bat-ears. This guy has seriously worn out his welcome, even with his newfound Dr. Manhattan-lite omnipotence. Here’s hoping Death Metal is this overwrought, underdeveloped character’s last hurrah for awhile.
The plot is pretty simplistic, too. The four Flashes are desperately trying to outrun the Darkest Knight, who wants the… eh… “anti-crisis energy” (five bucks to anyone who can explain what those words actually mean) in Wally’s body. Meanwhile, the heroes are not only trying to elude capture or death, but also retrieve the stolen Mobius Chair so that Wally can fully realize the power within him, and the heroes as a whole can use it as a weapon against Perpetua. WHEW! So they run. A lot. And evade an army of zombie Flashes – which, while making for a decently striking visual, are a far cry from a deep and nuanced threat. This is all about survival mode, folks.
Eddy Barrows and Eber Ferreira handle the pencils and inks, and while they’re a strong pairing, I’m not convinced they’re necessarily the best Flash artists. Barrows’ characters tend to have a stock-stillness to them, not quite on Frank Quitely levels of statuesque but in the same ballpark. The pictures – especially the double-page spreads – are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the Flashes themselves lack a certain fluidity necessary to really bring them to life on-page. Adriano Lucas’ colors bring the whole thing together, and despite any technical complaints I may have on Barrows’ portrayals of motion, the three artists together create one heck of a striking book.
Don’t think that this is some fly-by-night attempt to milk Death Metal as much as possible while the hype is hot. Speed Metal is a genuinely important chapter in the overarching DM narrative. But more importantly, it finally brings Wally West’s years-running arc to a satisfying close. What happens next with the character is anyone’s guess, but given the way this issue ends, it’s safe to say he isn’t going anywhere again anytime soon.
Dark Nights: Death Metal - Speed Metal #1 isn't the most jaw-dropping comic you'll ever read, but it's a meat-and-potatoes race against time that at last brings Wally West's Rebirth-era comeback to a satisfying conclusion. Flash fans, you dare not miss this comic!
Dark Nights: Death Metal – Speed Metal #1: Rust in Peace
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 6.5/106.5/10
Art - 7.5/107.5/10
Color - 8.5/108.5/10
Cover Art - 8/108/10
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