The Flash by Mark Waid Book Four
Written by Mark Waid and Michael Jan Friedman
Art by Salvador Larroca, Carlos Pacheco, and Oscar Jimenez
In the wake of the Zero Hour, Wally West has transcended space and time, becoming a being of pure speed. This ascendant journey leads Wally down his own timeline and to a revelation about a critical moment in his past. Once the universe settles itself post-Zero Hour, the Flash must face down Kobra’s infiltration of Keystone City. He gathers together speedsters young and old: Impulse, The Golden Age Flash, Johnny Quick, Max Mercury, and Jesse Quick. What he doesn’t reveal until it becomes too late is that he is searching for a successor as his body cannot handle the speeds he is regularly approaching.
This volume of Mark Waid’s Flash is a mixed bag for me personally. Yes, the much-lauded Terminal Velocity story arc is present in this collection which serves as a culmination of Waid’s development of Wally West to this point. Going back to Born to Run through the Return of Barry Allen and the smaller stories about Impulse and Max Mercury, Terminal Velocity wraps these threads up and opens a new door for the character. As I have been reading these collections, I have also been keeping up with Waid’s current monthly gigs on Captain America and The Avengers. I think Waid has improved immensely a writer since his Flash days because now characters get more development, while in Terminal Velocity I felt a bit annoyed with how unneeded so many of the supporting characters were. It is clear that Wally and Linda Park are the focus of the story, but one bump in the road really annoyed me.
At one point in Terminal Velocity, Jesse Quick is announced seemingly out of nowhere to be the new Flash as Wally claims to be stepping down. The first problem is that Jesse shows up in the story an issue or two before and has little to no development. I had read the introduction of Jesse Quick in the pages of Justice Society of America where she was definitely a supporting character, but still enjoyable. I was looking forward to seeing how Waid would further develop her in this story arc only to be met with the absence of anything substantial. When Wally hands her the mantle of Flash, it comes as a bit of surprise, but I was willing to go along thinking the next few issues would begin an exciting arc about Jesse. Instead, Wally basically says, “Nah, I was faking” after a few scenes of training her. It wouldn’t be until Geoff Johns’ work on JSA that we would finally get to know Jesse as both her Quick persona and Liberty Belle one as well.
The villains in this collection also feel incredibly weak. We get a pop up from Mongul which leads out of his Green Lantern appearance around the same time. Mirror Master is teased and then finally surfaces near the end of the book. The majority of the villainous weight lies on the shoulders of Kobra. Kobra is a terrorist cult created by Jack Kirby during his DC Comics tenure in the 1970s. They have an interesting hook, twin brothers one of whom is a psychotic cultist attempting to usher in the age of chaos. Writer Martin Pasko was tasked with turning the concept into something marketable after Kirby left to return to Marvel. He says his work on the series of “firmly tongue in cheek.” That could have been interesting, but instead, Kobra plays as incredibly generic with no real rhyme or reason as to why they have such a grudge against The Flash. Linda Park becomes their target because of her investigative reporting, but if you asked me what their original goal was in Keystone, I am drawing a blank.
The art also suffers in this outing. Mike Wieringo had left at this point, doing only the covers. These are great covers, and it is sad because the interior art is a terribly mixed bag. The artists onboard have gone on to improve significantly in their craft but these early days are rough going. Salvador Larroca, in particular, has issues with character anatomy, showing signs of the Image Comic broken spine syndrome with some female characters. Carlos Pacheco is a little closer to Wieringo’s style but still developing. It’s funny because I love Pacheco’s later work on titles like Avengers Forever and X-Men, but here he is still rough around the edges. Oscar Jimenez’s work is probably the best of the bunch, and The Flash would become a series he stayed on for about a year. His two-parter on Grant Morrison’s JLA is quite good though and a smooth development from what we see here. Overall, I was pretty underwhelmed with this volume, especially from the letdown with Jesse Quick. Hoping the next book improves.