As most of you should all know by now, Wally West is my favorite character. Now that we've talked about the epic run that Mark Waid had on the title, it's time to talk about a run that holds an equal place in my heart, Geoff Johns' run.
When Geoff took over the book, with issue #164 (September 2000), he refocused the character on some of the Silver Age aspects by bringing back a lot classic villains while also introducing new ones. His single "Rogue Profile" issues focused on building the psychology of the various Rogues. Johns created Zoom, a new Reverse-Flash, and fleshed out the "environmental character" of Keystone City which made it unique in comparison to other fictional DC cities such as Metropolis or Gotham City.
But at the heart of this run, was showcasing just how much of an everyman Wally West is. He added a great new supporting cast while also rejuvenating classic characters. This was a testament to Johns' deep love for DC lore and is my favorite piece of work that he's written. Much like I did with Mark Waid's run, I'm going to give brief overviews of Johns' run by each talking about Books 1-5. I figured I would just focus on the Wally stuff since it switches focus to Barry starting with Book 6. Hope you guys enjoy this look back at one of the best Flash runs of all time.
The arc that kicked of Johns' run took Wally into a parallel earth that was a dark reflection of the world we know. The worst part... there's no Speed Force. With no speed Wally is forced to team up with two of his worst enemies, Captain Cold and Mirror Master. In this horrific world with no Flash, Wally shows why he doesn't need powers to be a hero. He begrudgingly uses weapons of defeated villains to take out a new villain, Plunder, and a reintroduced Golden Age villain, The Thinker. From the beginning Johns, along with artist Angel Unzueta, brought us a Flash story the likes of which we've never seen.
After realizing that this was a mirror world, Wally makes his escape back to reality, only to find out that Keystone has vanished. Once again Johns resurrects an old Silver Age villain, Brother Grimm, this becomes a recurring them over Johns run of making otherwise laughable villains become actual threats. Of course he was no match for Wally and he saved the city.
Starting with the second arc is when artist Scott Kolins joined the book, and this title really took off. To this day I still say that Kolins is my favorite Flash artist. This arc saw the return of Wally's former girlfriend/Rogue Magenta to the book, only this time she's a part of a cult led by new villain Cicada. This new villain leads his cult to go after people that Flash had saved in the past and kills them in order to stay immortal. The coolest part of this was a scar that Wally got in the form of a lightning bolt which served as a conduit for his speed.
This book also introduced new supporting characters, Detective Chyre and Detective Morillio who would go on to play integral roles over this course of Johns run. Not only that but we also get a new Rogue in the form of Tarpit who's design is still on of my favorites to this day.
The return of Weather Wizard in this book also made him a legitimate threat. When Wally learns of a former flame dying, he also learns she had a son that has lightning powers which makes him think it might be his. It turns out that the it's actually the son of Weather Wizard who wants to use the boy to strengthen his powers. This story was the begining of making the Rogues seriously dangerous.
The book ends with a new villain being introduced, Murmur, and also a new prison that holds the Rogues, Iron Heights. This one shot showed a prison that's environment rivaled that of Arkham. Yet another great addition to the city of Keystone further fleshing out the city and making it stand out along with other famous cities of the DCU. But it was Murmur that was a truly terrifying new addition to the Rogues Gallery. He was a serial killer that infected his victims with what he called "Frenzy Virus", but he also had a condition that made him rat himself out so he had to cut out his own tongue to shut himself up. This book also briefly introduced us to a few other Rogues who would later make their debuts, Girder, Fall Out and Double Down.
With an epic cliffhanger we see that this was just the beginnig of the trouble these new Rogues would cost Wally and Keystone City
This book contains some of the best sing issue stories of the series. From the addition of Cyborg as a recurring character, saving his old pal Chunk, or the first appearance of Hunter Zolomon and the new Trickster, Johns proves why single issues can still stand on their own.
It was issue #182 that really stood out though, the first Rogue Profile issue, starring Captain Cold. This was the first of many of these villain centric issues and singlehandedly was responsible for making Cold my favorite Flash villain. The best part of the issue is the way that Johns makes you sympathize with this career criminal. Peeking into his past, all the way to childhood, adding so many layers to this otherwise underdeveloped character. This was the beginning of putting Flash's Rogues on a level on par with Batman's.
Speaking of Rogues, the main arc of this book, "Crossfire", is still one of my favorite of Johns entire run. The Rogues have teamed up in a way we had never before seen up until that point. Blacksmith had wrangled the Rogues to take over Keystone City all while Central City was being overtaken by The Thinker. This was able Wally fought on so many different fronts, but it was the way that his entire city stood behind him that truly enabled him to save the day.
This entire volume was where Geoff Johns and really hit his stride and don't get me started on Scott Kolins. The scope and detail of what he drew in that "Crossfire" arc was insane. These two crators are my favorite Flash creative team by far.
Of course you know Johns had to leave this one on another cliffhanger though... Wally and Linda find out that she's pregnant.
This book opens up with Flash checking in on his family and friends after the epic battle that had just taken place. But what happens in this first issue of Book 3 is the disappearance of Pied Piper from his cell at Iron Heights. See in the last Book he had been accused of the murder off his parents, even though Wally still believed he didn't do it. This was the beginning of James Jesse, the 1st Trickster, gathering up former Rogues that have turned good. His mission was to take them to go after the "bad" Rogues to take them down.
Then we get another "Rogue Profile" issue that focused on Piper. Once again Johns dives deep into the psyche of this classic character and adds so many new dimensions that make him an even more tragic character. From his villainous ways to becoming an integral ally to Wally throughout Waid's run. This issue also continued to tease this new team of "Redeemed Rogues".
"Run Riot" might just be one of the most important arc of this entire series. On the surface it focused on Gorilla Grodd breaking out of Iron Height and destroying the prison in the process. But it was the outcome for Hunter that set this story on the path that would lead us into issue #200 and beyond. Grodd breaks Hunter's back which sets the stage for the creation of Zoom. Using his anger as fuel Wally seek assistance from Gorilla City he takes down Grodd. Wally has been put through the ringer and feels defeated after being unable to save Hunter.
When Hunter comes to Wally and asks him to go back in time to save him from this horrific injury, Wally denies him. Unlike Barry who constantly messed with time, Wally stood his ground and didn't change the past. Which lead us into yet another "Rogue Profile" issue, Hunter's.
This issue was different though, because while it did delve into Hunter's past and how he came to be in Keystone, it was also the birth of him as new Rogue, Zoom. Once again Johns makes you almost feel sorry Hunter because of the circumstance that brought him to this point in his life, but then you quickly see the change. Hunter's mind becomes twisted and distorted as he decides to become a new Reverse Flash in order to help make Wally a better hero. This takes us into Johns and Kolins best arc and last story together "Blitz".
What Wally endures over this next arc is probably the hardest fought battle he ever endured. With Zoom's powers unlike any other speedsters (he moves through time) Wally seemingly has no way to stop him. It takes the combined help of the entire Flash family and them lending Wally their speed so that he can take Zoom down. With Hunter's twisted mission of making Wally a better hero he decides the way to do that is by making Wally suffer though tragedy. What better way to do that then to hurt his beloved Linda.
With a snap of his fingers, Zoom creates a sonic boom that sends Linda flying through the air causing Linda to lose their unborn twins. A fully supercharged Wally takes Zoom down by locking him in a time loop. As we close out the book Wally, devastated, asks Spectre (Hal Jordan) to help him make the world forget his identity. But as we all know, nothing ever goes according to plan.
This volume is yet another amazing batch if stories. Johns and Kolins cemented themselves a s one of the greatest Flash creative teams of all time. This book is when I believe Geoff Johns was at his best, but don't get it twisted, he still had a lot of great Wally stories to give us.
Well you remember how I said Wally erased his secret identity from the world?? Their was a little catch, he also didn't remember his "other" life. "Ignition" was a stand out arc for me. It really brought Wally back to basics and allowed him some time to grieve. He was now a mechanic at the KCPD and funny enough had a resentment towards the Flash for the loss of his children.
One fateful night though, after a car accident that should have killed him, he gets his speed back.
He still has no knowledge of his past, but a mysterious figure hands him a ring and tells him "It's time to run again". We later learn it was one of his former allies who had discovered who Wally was, the World's Greatest Detective.
This arc was illustrated by Alberto Dose, who I had never heard of at that point but his art had a little Eduardo Risso vibe to it that really worked for this story. His dark shadows and setting this almost entirely at night was a brilliant choice and helped give this really cool noir feel.
The main antagonist of this arc is a new Element Man who has been framing Captain Cold. What was really cool was seeing Wally become friendly with Snart (Captain Cold) at a local diner. They would share meals and stories, since Wally had no idea who he was. Of course that all changed once he remembered. We also meet Hunter's ex-wife Ashley who takes over as the new Rogue Profiler since she feels somewhat guilty/responsible for her husbands actions. She ends up becoming a recurring character moving forward and an interesting foil for Wally.
With his memories returned he realizes that by unmasking in front of people, that they to can get their memories back. When he tells Linda , she is flooded with anger, confusion and sadness. The end of that arc symbolizes Wally stepping out of the darkness and back into the light by the change in artists as Howard Porter joins the book. But it's not all sunshine, since Linda leaves Wally a note saying that she needs time away from him.
The final arc of this book largely deals with Wally telling some of his closest friend who he is and giving them back their memories of him. It was full of poignant moments specially those with Superman, Nightwing and the Flash family. This was all beautifully illustrated Howard Porter and is why he's in my top 3 Flash artist of all time. Between him and Kolins they both made this one of the best looking books on the stand s for years.
At the end of this book we get another Rogue Profile issue focusing on Mirror Master and an unforeseen accident leading to Wally being questioned for attempted murder of Ashley Zolomon ?!?!? We learn that it was a simple accident that he forgot to put a part back in her car as he was repairing it, but Wally still can't believe that he could be so careless.
The ending leads us into the aftermath of IDENTITY CRISIS and how it directly affects Wally and that of the memory of his uncle Barry.
This is the final book of Johns' time writing Wally. While he eventually returned to the Flash , it would be to write about Barry's return.
The opening arc deals with a choice Barry had long ago made, to rewrite some of his adversaries brains in order to make them turn to the side of good instead of evil. But with all of this talk of mind wiping because of IDENTITY CRISIS Wally is pissed and accuse the League of turning his uncle into a liar.. Its when Wally learns of Barry's true secret thanks to The Top that he truly becomes enraged. He enlists Zatanna to help restore Top's mind but in doing so, makes him an even more dangerous threat.
The bright spot of this arc though is the return of Linda, She not only comes back but is also a reporter again after realizing that, that is where her passion lies. There is brief interlude as we see the Rogues dealing with the loss of their fellow Rogue (Captain Boomerang) and pass the mantle on to his son. We also have a brief crossover with Wonder Woman and another Rogue Profile issue about Heat Wave, before leading into this final arc of "Rogue War".
This final story was probably the best of Johns' entire run. We see all the Rogues in this one and it is one of the most insane battles Keystone City has ever seen. Remember how the first Trickster was gathering reformed Rogues to take down the other Rogues?? Well it all comes to a head here. The only problem is now that the Top remember what was done to him, he starts "unlocking" the minds of the Rogues Barry "fixed". what takes place next is an absolute Battle Royale.
When Zoom makes his appearance, it adds an unexpected wrench into the mix. But it's the return of the OG Reverse Flash that really shocks the readers. Johns pulls out all the stops for this one and even brings Barry in to help Wally defeat his foes. It was heart wrenching to watch Wally have to relive Linda's accident as he and Barry are fight the Reverse Flashes through time. But the tory ends up going out on a positive note. Their actions in the past somehow saved the babies and Linda gives birth to them as the book wraps up its final issue.
With a great on page spread we see Wally racing into the future full of joy and hope. I can't think of a more fitting ending for this run.
Johns and every artist that worked on this book did an unbelievable job and showed just how special and unique of a character Wally West was. The work that he and Mark Waid did is some of the best comics you could ever read. They tell the story of a boy becoming a man, of a sidekick becoming a true hero. Wally truly filled the boots of Barry and became one of the best heroes the DCU had ever seen. If only we could see a return to this greatness again.
FLASH BY GEOFF JOHNS: BOOK 7
This one covers Flash Rebirth and the return of Barry and a couple mini-series that led into FINAL CRISIS & BLACKEST NIGHT. These are great stories starring Barry and really help set the stage for things heading into the relaunched "Brightest Day" Flash series that led into FLASHPOINT.
Stay tuned for more Flash coverage celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the character. Make sure to click on the hashtag below for more Flash related articles.