Future State: The Flash #2 is the embodiment of Dan DiDio’s disdain for the Flash. Future State is allowing readers to see just one of the many possible futures of the DC Universe — after the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal, the new omniverse has formed, creating a series of infinite realities that co-exist. In the case of Future State: The Flash #2, it’s the controversial demise of the Flash Family. Echoes of the former DiDio 5G vehicle, a soft-reboot that reflects Didio’s dislike of the Flash mythos, are front and center in Future State: The Flash #2. It’s as if all his contempt for these characters, but namely Wally West, was the basis for this story. Granted, there are some nuggets of positivity to glean from the issue, but any possible enjoyment to be found is engulfed in the shadow of this dour narrative.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Future State: The Flash #2!
The issue picks up two months after the events of Future State: The Flash #1. Wally West is possessed by Famine, a Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Wally has been killing as many people as possible — as the only speedster with his connection to the Speed Force intact, the remaining Flash Family members have resorted to using weapons from the villains of the Flash’s rogues gallery. Sadly, Flashes are dropping like flies; one by one, they each horrifically meet their demise. Wallace and Jay Garrick have died by Famine/Wally’s hand. Bart lost his life in a mission gone wrong, and Max dies off-panel to an “infection” that forced Barry to burn his body. All that remains is a speedless Barry Allen and the tools of his enemies at his disposal. The issue culminates in the showdown between Barry and Famine. Can Barry still save what’s left of Wally, or does he end it all for good?
The overall tone of “Death Race” – the conclusion to the story arc – is morose. In and of itself, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the events leading up to this point had more weight and narrative cohesiveness. Instead, we got a rushed plot to end the current generation of Flashes to make way for the new Future State Flash. Wipe the slate clean and all that, right? Wrong. The problem is whether you’re a seasoned comic fan or a newcomer, the story falls flat. Readers approaching the issue with fresh eyes will only see the demise of well-known characters, even with the minimal backstory they have on them. By the time they reach the final page, they’ll see the Flash as we know it comes to an end. They won’t be privy because this is set in 2027, while Future State: Justice League takes place in 2040. To them, this is ends on a sour note.
Experienced readers will know full well that the events of the issue aren’t firmly planted in canon, or at the very least, lacks long-lasting repercussions. This isn’t a definitive path for the heroes. In March, we know that we will get Barry and Wally again in the proper DC universe (whatever that means at this point), which in essence makes this feel disconnected. Even if I was to approach this as a “what if” series, I can’t help but be offended by the awful characterization of Wally West. As if Heroes in Crisis hadn’t dragged him through the mud enough, we once again get Wally as the villain, only with more wanton death. Writer Brandon Vietti tries to placate fans by using the “but he was possessed” comic trope to justify his actions, all the while providing glimpses of Wally trying to fight through the possession. The Parallax defense has been done to death and isn’t a cure-all.
Barry Allen narrates the story, initially as he speaks over his audio journal and then transitions to his present thoughts. It works well enough, considering the first act of the issue is a recap of events that switches into a game plan for his confrontation with Wally. As mentioned earlier, Max died off-panel and despite that being an incredibly significant moment it was literally summed up in a single panel with two short paragraphs of text. Likely to make room for the big fight with Wally, but once again, the story seems to glance over tension and emotion, forgoing a significant death to get to the finish line. Regardless of the glaring omission of emotion and the hasty sequence of events, two noteworthy items are worth mentioning: the beautiful artwork and that aforementioned climax.
Considering what artists Brandon Peterson and Will Conrad were working with, they performed wonders. Barry has improved upon his criminal’s weapons, catering them to counteract Wally’s abilities as a Speedster. Admittedly, the battle is pure comic joy. Writer Brandon Vietti scripted an exciting struggle with callbacks to past villains’ signature attacks ratcheted up to 11. Barry uses Captain Boomerang’s… well, boomerangs, as an inhibitor collar, and prisma goggles to cut Wally’s legs out from under him, literally. Working in concert with Peterson and Conrad’s art, it’s the highlight of the issue. Even leading up to the fight, we get close-ups of Barry suiting up his boots, gauntlets, chest plate, etc., and we get a final shot of the full suit, similar to a movie montage. The fight itself is an exciting love letter to Flash’s past pages, but when put into context, we can’t help but be reminded of the circumstances this battle derived from.
Regrettably, Future State: The Flash #2 does far more harm than it does good. Most books delving into future possibilities lean toward the dystopian – it provides captivating conflict – but this book is continuing to diminish The Flash or anyone who wears the guise. Fans have had some issue with Wally West’s treatment for a time now, but rather than take heed, DC leaned into the direction of all but reducing the character to an unpleasant plot point. Future State: The Flash #2 has slivers of intriguing content, but most of the issue is at odds with itself.
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