The Flash by Geoff Johnson Omnibus Volume 2 (2021)
Reprints The Flash v2 #192-225, Wonder Woman v2 #214, and excerpts from The Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen
Written by Geoff Johns (with Greg Rucka)
Art by Scott Kolins, Phil Winslade, Alberto Dose, Howard Porter, Steven Cummings, Justiniano, Drew Johnson, and Peter Snejbjerg
I was in college when these issues were rolling out, and I remember my roommate Keith, an even bigger comic book fan than me, having them around the dorm room. These are the height of Johns’s run and the last great Wally West comics we ever got. Infinite Crisis was looming right around the corner, and with it would be the end of Wally’s tenure as the Flash for a while. Even when he returned, it just wasn’t ever able to get back to the scope of these issues, which I argue make Wally West the Peter Parker of the DCU, both in personal crises and the scale of his rogues’ gallery.
Hunter Zolomon, a Rogues profiler for the Keystone PD, is at Iron Heights grilling the warden Gregory Wolfe about several cases of prisoner abuse that have come to light. This happens to be at the same time a group of mind-controlled gorillas under the thrall of Grodd attack the prison. The inmates are loosed, and Grodd goes on a rampage that ends with Hunter’s spine being broken. Hunter will never regain the use of his legs, and this begins creating cracks in his psyche. Wally refuses to use the Cosmic Treadmill to alter the past, saying it would be too dangerous. This leads to the ultimate moment in Johns’s run where Hunter is transformed into something that wants Wally to suffer under the auspices that he will be able to grow.
The book’s art style changes as different arcs occur, and we bid farewell to Scott Kolins with this Hunter Zolomon story. I personally don’t think Kolins has ever topped this run on The Flash, but I really hope he does someday because he is such a talented artist. Reality is altered, and with it comes the shadowy style of Alberto Dose. I can’t say I enjoy his work as much as Kolins, but he does help create the tone we’re in a darker, bleaker reality. I have to say I really loved Howard Porter’s time on the book, which makes up the last third. He’s even better here than on JLA. James Sinclair, the colorist, is also blowing things out of the water with such vibrant and dynamic colors. I think the art certainly helps keep the excitement and momentum going in these packed stories.
Johns pulls out all the stops delivering so many arcs and subplots. Wally is the star of the book, but it becomes an ensemble affair with a lot of the focus on the Rogues. The writer loves these characters and gives them a depth they just simply hadn’t had until his run. After the original Crisis, most writers tried creating original villains and shied away from the Rogues. This gives Johns a lot of space to revamp characters and bring back storylines from the Barry Allen days. This was my first real exposure to The Top & Dr. Alchemy, and Johns makes them both deadly and fascinating to read. The Top is an insane speedster who spins to generate his powers. Johns manages to recap his convoluted history in a very easy to digest manner.
That’s another piece that Johns brought to The Flash that should be a regular occurrence, spotlight issues about a single Rogue. He’ll pause the big stories to focus all his energy on giving depth to a villain. In this collection, we get issues centered on Hunter Zolomon, Heat Wave, The Trickster, and The Top. They are all fantastic reads and help us understand the motivation and complicated relationships they have with The Flash and their fellow villains. It’s a good thing that Johns does this because we get the epic Rogue War storyline in the latter part of the book.
The Trickster turned legit years ago and is now Agent James Jesse of the FBI. He’s been recruiting other Rogues who want to help rather than harm and assembles a group made up of Pied Piper, Heat Wave, and Magenta. Simultaneously, the events of Identity Crisis have sent the DC Universe into a tailspin, revealing how members of the Justice League mindwiped a large number of villains in the past. It turns out some of those villains going straight were influenced by having their personalities altered. Captain Boomerang’s estranged son, Owen Harkness, is brought in by Captain Cold’s faction as he’s “kin.” Plus, The Top puts together his own deadly team composed of some of the newer, darker villains introduced earlier in Johns’s run.
If you are a fan of Spider-Man and arent’ sure where to start with the DC Universe, Johns’s Flash run is the perfect spot. It has terrific story arcs, both short & sweet, and sprawling. I’d also say this is a period of Johns’s career where he was firing on all cylinders. He knows the history of these characters and how to communicate that to new readers who are starting fresh. You’ll get the sense that this is a lived-in world but won’t feel befuddled entirely about what is happening. I anticipated one more of these Flash omnibi from Johns and will be saddened when it’s all over. It’s the sort of run you want to keep going.