The Good: Engaging story, Decent character development, Mostly good artwork.
The Bad: Villain is strangely blasé, Some of the artwork is underwhelming.
The Basics: When Wally West has a glimpse of a dark future in which he and Linda are killed, he races to stop events he considers potentially unavoidable in Flash: Terminal Velocity!
As my Flash Year continues, I have been enjoying it for a reason few die-hard fans might expect. I like Wally West. Most fans of Flash comics say that Barry Allen is the man, but given how most of the works I have read follow his disappearance at the outset of Crisis On Infinite Earths (reviewed here!), I have been much more inundated with works involving his successor and nephew, Wally West. And, despite his name, Wally West is actually pretty cool.
I imagine Wally West is viewed by the die-hard fans much like Dick Grayson is by the fans of Batman. Sure, he started as Robin, went on his own as Nightwing, but when the mantle needed to be passed, Grayson stepped up to continue the Batman tradition. Wally West, however, manages to have a decent character arc and a compelling story that gives him legendary qualities of his own. He is not simply a replicant of Barry Allen (despite his origin story). And, so far, Flash: Terminal Velocity is the best story of Wally West’s that I have read. Sure, it might not have as cool of a villain as the stories I have liked almost as much, but what Flash: Terminal Velocity has is actual character development for the heroic protagonist.
Following an incident between the Flash and an alien entity, Waverider, Wally West is spooked. Having witnessed the end of his life and the destruction of Keystone City after being thrown into the distant future, the Flash returns to his present day to try to stop the events that he saw. Unfortunately for him, as he begins to use the Speed Force to run, he finds himself moving near the speed of light and becoming something other than human as a result. Dismayed and unable to share his fear with his love, Linda Park, Wally West turns to the other speedsters for help.
While Jay Garrick is only moderately helpful and Bart Allen, Impulse, is undisciplined, West finds an unlikely ally in Max Mercury. While Max shares his own history as a speedster with West, Wally tries to unravel just what is happening to him and Keystone City. With the rise of a new criminal empire, led by Kobra, who is siphoning off massive amounts of power to sink Keystone City, West is forced to continue running, even though it might mean his end. Fearing that the battle with Kobra might force him to transform fully, Wally decided to name his successor . . . in the unlikely form of Jesse Chambers!
Flash: Terminal Velocity is an engaging story largely because of the quality of the protagonist. The villain is nowhere near as interesting as someone like Hunter Zolomon or Eobard Thawne (either of the Reverse Flash/Professor Zoom characters). Kobra is a pretty generic monomaniacal villain who wants to destroy Keystone City. He is marginally interesting in the way he is attempting to do it, by gaining vast energy reserves before a coordinated effort to sink the city after putting a shield up around it. The fact that Kobra is often challenged by Linda Park is amusing.
But the real story in Flash: Terminal Velocity is not the Kobra plotline. Flash: Terminal Velocity is the story of Wally West and his love for Linda Park and the fear that both have over what Wally might become by tapping into his absolute fullest potential. This gives Wally West many chances to do the right thing, like be honest with Linda, and many chances to fail at that. That makes Wally West both interesting and – despite his physical transformations – intensely human.
It also makes Flash: Terminal Velocity one of the more character-intensive Flash graphic novels and that helps it succeed. Flash: Terminal Velocity has a strong protagonist who is working hard to do right to this city, his love and his legacy. The weight of Barry Allen’s legacy is felt throughout Flash: Terminal Velocity, especially as Wally tries very hard to groom Bart to take his place should the impending disaster come for him. Bart is a distinctive, if somewhat annoying, character in his own right and part of the strength of the book is that while Wally follows many of the right methods to succeed with Bart, it just doesn’t work.
The weird character element for Flash: Terminal Velocity in terms of the many speedsters is how everyone seems to think it odd that Jesse gets tapped by Wally to be the new Flash instead of Bart. When Bart fails to learn Wally’s lessons, Jesse Chambers becomes the logical choice to take up the mantle. So, when she is tapped and everyone is uncertain about her, I found it an unfortunate turn in the book.
That is hardly a greater stumbling block in Flash: Terminal Velocity than the somewhat unimpressive villain and neither is enough to sink the book. Instead, Flash: Terminal Velocity stands because the characters drive the story and Wally West is characterized as a somewhat tormented character who wants to do the right things in his personal and professional lives, but finds those things conflicting. That makes for a good story, especially for a superhero!
The artwork in Flash: Terminal Velocity is fair. The colors lack a lot of depth and detail, but are good for the time this book was originally presented. The sense of movement in the book is not as incredible as one might hope, but it is not bad. The art here serves to supplement the character elements and story points more than to truly showcase the book as a real work of art. That said, Flash: Terminal Velocity is unlikely to truly disappoint anyone who likes comic books on the artwork front.
In the end, Flash: Terminal Velocity is an engaging book and one that feels essential to the overall story of Wally West as the Flash. It remains vital and interesting and worth picking up!
For other Flash books, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Return Of Barry Allen
The Secret Of Barry Allen
For other book reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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