(Warning: This article will contain spoilers from the DC series’ Earth 2 and Teen Titans.)
As any child who grew up in the nineties and aughts, I grew up with Wally West as The Flash, whether it was in comic medium or the fantastic Justice League cartoon series. While Bart Allen is my overall favorite superhero, Wally West has always been THE Flash in my mind. With the return of Barry Allen in The Flash: Rebirth and he being cemented as The Flash in the New 52, it left an extremely distinct Wally-shaped hole in the room and for nearly three years, fans (especially those like me who were born Post-Crisis on Infinite Earths and never had heard of Barry Allen) were left, at best, alienated and at worst offended that such a legacy was destroyed while the Robins legacy was left relatively intact.
Well, it looks like we are going to be getting our ginger-speedster back as of April under the writing of Robert Venditti and Van Jensen (Green Lantern Corps) when they take over The Flash title at issue #30 with artist Brett Booth (Wally himself is set to debut in The Flash Annual #3, the week after Issue #30 releases). This makes me incredibly nervous.
Why? Well, over the last two and a half years, DC has reintroduced dozens and dozens of characters and, as per the reboot, no longer have the history that came before them (unless you’re related to the Bat or Green Lantern-mythos but even that isn’t exactly a guarantee) that had established who they were. On paper, this is not a bad thing. When a creator reintroduces a character with a plan in mind, you can get some really great stories out of it. Other times you get what is known as “in name only” characters.
I believe it would be appropriate to use two other characters that are greatly connected to the Flash-mythos that have already been reintroduced: Jay Garrick and “Bart Allen” in Earth 2 and Teen Titans respectively.
Jay Garrick, once the Golden Age Flash, was introduced by James Robinson who launched the Earth 2 property which brought many of the Justice Society characters but now are younger and are the heroes of a universe parallel to the one with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and all. Jay was introduced as a recent college graduate who is kind of directionless, unsure of himself and his future, but has a good heart. He is imbued with his speed powers by the dying god Mercury and he jumps right into being a hero. This simple origin, ability for the reader to relate too and great personality made Jay Garrick one of my favorite characters of 2012 and 2013.
On the other hand, let’s look at “Bart Allen.” Those quotation marks are necessary because, in the New 52, the character is quite literally “in name only”. This “Bart” or “Bar Tor” as his name is now, is the product of incredibly contrived idea that the character was some sort of revolutionary who got his speed powers from an accident (which, while it emulates how Barry got his speed powers, it effectively severs “Bart” from the Flash legacy) but after the death of his sister, who had no personality and was effectively created simply to die, and, as such, he turned himself into some authority, who decided to send him back in time to the 21st Century and give him the name “Bart Allen” because “Bart Allen” is a name we fans recognized. This is interlaced with time travel plot holes, very bad exposition, and just change for the sake of change but with no sense of planning.
So, now that we have the return of Wally West, one thing we as fans need to remember: this is not the Wally West you want back (although it would be interesting for them to bring in the Pre-Flashpoint Wally only for him to punch Barry Allen right in the face for erasing his wife and children) it is going to be someone with a clean foundation upon which can be built a fantastic mythos or asinine garbage.
I’ll give the announcement this: This decision is advantaged with a great creative team. I do like the writings of Venditti and Jensen and they seem to have a great deal of respect for characters while branching out and doing new things. As for Brett Booth; while I didn’t really care for his Teen Titans art (apart from the pages when Kid Flash was utilizing his powers), I enjoyed him on Nightwing and he has a great kinetic style that I feel can be at home on a book like The Flash.
At the end of the day, all I ask of fans is this: Yes, it is perfectly fine to be excited. All I ask is to remember, this will not be the Wally West you want back. Be optimistic, but be cautious and always exercise critical thinking when reading and don’t be afraid to not like something. Will I be grabbing The Flash #30 when the Venditti/Jensen/Booth run begins? Of course and I hope I can enjoy it and hope that Wally in the New 52 is a character I can root for.