The final battle to save Wally West is here! Barry Allen, stripped of his connection to the Speed Force, must use his intellect to save his oldest ally. It's science versus speed, with the heart of a hero on the line!
Future State: The Flash #2 is a deeply weird comic. Not weird in the David Lynch sense, or the Grant Morrison sense. But weird because it’s pretty much the opposite of what readers might have been expecting from this comic, but also, because it is (spoiler warning) a complete downer.
Last issue, we learned that Wally West has been possessed by Famine, the Horseman of the Apocalypse, and that was why he was running amok killing and causing devastation. That’s… unexpected, but okay, let’s (pardon the wordplay) run with it. This month, Barry Allen must utilize the weapons of his Rogues Gallery against his former sidekick, pitting science against speed. It’s a tropey set-up, but, okay, let’s just run with it for the sake of argument.
The problem from there is one of execution. The battle between the two Flashes winds up being something of a wash, because writer Brandon Vietti doesn’t especially have Barry do all that much with all of the wonderful toys he’s inherited and tinkered with. Sure, one of them provides a momentary twist in the story that winds up being a hopeful red herring, but the net result is more of a fun visual – Barry kitted out with all of the Rogues’ various gadgets – than anything else.
Then there’s that ending. While readers have been conditioned to expect good to triumph over evil, and while the occasional subversion of that is to be expected, what Vietti does here doesn’t just subvert expectations, but make one wonder what the point was in reading the story at all. Not only doesn’t the day get saved, but the protagonist is punished in such a way that his narrative arc is disrupted to the point of futility. There’s no closure to “Death Race,” just a set-up for Future State: Titans on the last page. That sort of bait-and-switch is not only unfairly cruel to readers who wanted a two-issue story to enjoy, it also seems to defeat the “bright and sunny future full of possibility” mission statement espoused at the beginning of Future State. And that’s to say nothing about the continual abuse of Wally West perpetuated by DC, who seems to believe that the character exists now to be kicked around and punished for… existing? Not being Barry Allen? Something? The treatment of Wally in “Death Race” is yet another kick in the teeth to an entire generation of fans who grew up with Wally being The Flash.
Vietti’s grasp of dialogue drags the story down, too. The dialogue is leaden and portentous, replete with comically over-the-top lines like, “…I work with vile purpose and plot against my closest friend.” Barry’s heavy-handed VO is equally bad, stuffed to the gills with bromides about the power of hope and little else to the point of delusion. Not only does absolutely nobody talk like that, it’s utterly out of character for Barry Allen, regardless of circumstances. Wally/Famine’s dialogue isn’t any better, the very embodiment of mustache-twirling, cackling goofball supervillainy. It’s hard to read this comic and take it seriously, no matter how much Vietti insists that these are Very Important Things happening.
And yet, artist Brandon Peterson turns in some of the finest work of his storied career. Seriously! Every single page looks poster-worthy, with luminous colors by Mike Atiyeh and astounding lettering courtesy Steve Wands (check out the panel that bleeds Wally’s dialogue balloon into Famine’s, it should be illegible but is instead brilliant). Wands, like most letterers, doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the work he puts in on a regular basis – but he’s easily one of the industry’s best. It’s an utter crime that such a talented artistic team is stuck with such a mess of a story to draw, because based on their contributions, this comic should be receiving a highest possible recommendation. But because of the story’s multiple failures, sadly, the opposite is true.
Future State: The Flash #2 is an utterly beautiful comic hiding a weirdly-executed story inside that is not only a complete downer, but also doesn't end properly and continues DC's recent streak of shredding Wally West. Flash Fact: avoid this comic.
Future State – The Flash #2: “SCIENCE, B&%+#!!!”
Writing - 3/103/10
Storyline - 2/102/10
Art - 9.5/109.5/10
Color - 9.5/109.5/10
Cover Art - 8.5/108.5/10
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