Flashback: The Wild Wests.

Alright Flash family, let’s take a trip on the cosmic treadmill for another Flashback! Before we get started, I need to put up a disclaimer. I really do love The Flash and his comic series; however, out of all of the good stories, there are there are plenty of bad ones, and when you love something a lot, you have to be extra critical about it. This is why I have to say without a doubt that the story arc “The Wild Wests” is terrible.

wild wests

What I don’t understand is how. Writer Mark Waid has churned out some of  DC’s greatest stories such as Kingdom Come and Superman: Birthright (which to many is the definitive Superman origin story), and had a very successful run on the Flash at one point in his career. If this is the case, then why in holy Hades did issues 231-236 suck so much?

This arc once again features the second Flash, Wally West. In these issues, we are introduced to the newest members of the West family: the twins Jai and Iris West. Due to prolonged exposure to the speed force during Infinite Crisis, they began to age rapidly and Wally had to be a parent in hyper-drive. By the time the story starts, the twins are roughly 10 years old. They have taken over their father’s crime fighting responsibilities while he is retired. All seems well, until an evil from beneath the sea begins to invade the surface world by draining the water from humans in order to survive. The Justice League shows up to help and eventually the day is saved. I think the main problem with this story is that it wasn’t a Flash story, it better fit a Justice League title, and could have been a mini-crossover that featured Wally West’s kids.

bad art

The story introduces some interesting new concepts into the Flash Universe, like the different powers of the children. While Iris can vibrate her molecules to go through walls and and other solid objects, Jai can use the speed force to manipulate his muscle mass, making him as strong as he needs to be. Neither child has super speed, which I respected. They could have given them the exact same powers as all the others, but this part of the story is what felt fresh. Another concept which was introduced was the speed force magnet, essentially. Wally is able to use the speed force to grab Jai and Iris from anywhere they are by connecting to there part of the speed force. Yes, I realize how weird this sounds but hey, that’s comic book science for ya.

One of the biggest problems with this story is that it is too fast paced. Fast pacing can be good during action panels, but when I read something that is part of the actual story and character development and I can whizz through 3 pages in 5 seconds and still understand everything that is going on, then there is something wrong. And oh my God, can we talk about the kids? They are probably the whiniest, most annoying, selfish characters since Dawn Summers. There is barely anything likeable about these guys: they lie, they steal, they overreact, and instead of actually communicating with their father about a situation, they guess how he will react, get upset and run away. I understand children’s minds aren’t fully developed and they won’t be that intelligent or nice when they are younger, but not that bad. The only reason these characters were created was because Bart Allen had grown up and they needed actual children so that younger readers could “relate” to them. But damn, if I was a kid right now I would be offended at how they are portraying these characters.

My last problem with the story is the art. Now, the artist changes multiple times throughout the story, and boy howdy, the art. Though never consistently “good”, it gets better and better each change. Daniel Acuna’s artwork is…mediocre at best. He’s the artist for the first two issues, then stays on as the cover artist for the rest of the issues. His covers are wonderful and nice to look at, but that should be all you ever want from this guy. His interior artwork is horrid; anatomy is completely thrown out the window and the proportions are all over the place. As cool as watercolors can look, it just doesn’t do anything for me. I was happy when I got to the third issue and he had been replaced. My only problem with replacing him is that you lose your sense of continuity within the book so it feels like it’s something completely different. To be fair, the tone of the story shifted with the change in artists, but that’s like saying just because the tone of a film changes the cinematography should be drastically changed mid-film. Freddie E. Williams art isn’t anything to brag about, but damn if it isn’t better than what Acuna brought to the table.

One thing that really stuck out in this story was the four-part backup feature that began in issue 233 called “The Fast Life”. This story is also written by Mark Waid, but it is so much better than the main story. It tells of the planet Savoth, a place that  has been like a save haven for Flashes since Jay Garrick accidentally ended up there and saved them all. Each part of the story deals with a different generation of Flash, and they take on the same invading force each time. It’s revealed at the the end that there is a connection between the invading forces on Savoth and the invading forces on Earth. And thank God it was there, because it cleared up some issues I had with the main story. Another big positive about the backup feature is the artist John Rogers. His art is leaps and bounds above anything the main artists could do, and it made me question why he wasn’t on the whole book.

This story is confusing, too fast paced and has terrible artwork, but somehow i really enjoyed it.  Perhaps its saving grace was the beautifully written and drawn backup feature.  “The Flash” Issues 231-236 are fun when at their best, and downright annoying at its worst.  I give this story 5 out of 10 evil sea aliens.

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