Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wally West Must Clean Up The Mess Left By Barry Allen In The Identity Crisis Sidestory Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen!

The Good: Engaging story, Decent character development, Great tie-in to another awesome story!
The Bad: Becomes more dependent upon Identity Crisis
The Basics: Geoff Johns tells a remarkably engaging Wally West story in The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen!

As one who is still discovering much about the whole graphic novel medium, I have been learning the “industry” aspects of it surprisingly slowly. Actually, “stupidly slowly” would be much, much more accurate, especially considering that the Blackest Night Saga (check out my article on it here!) was one of the massive crossovers that got me into reading graphic novels. What I fast became frustrated with following the Blackest Night Saga was how there was not one book – or series of volumes – for major stories that included all essential parts of the story, in chronological order. I don’t care about all of the various side-stories or how the works were originally presented (in eight different titles with staggered weeks or what have you), necessarily, but when I sit down to read a book, I’d like the whole book without having to flip between books or need a guide. So, when I sat down to read The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen, I was actually quite surprised to discover that much of the book is a crossover with the incredible story Identity Crisis (reviewed here!). The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen are missing links to Identity Crisis that I had no idea had been missing!

The wonderful thing about The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen is that while it begins as a very typical Flash story, it quickly evolves into something else. Having read Blitz (here!) as part of my Flash Year, I was actually surprised at how easy it was to return to Wally West as the Flash. Without ruining anything vital, Blitz saw Wally West and the world forget who the Flash was. Now, only a few chapters later (there is one book in between Blitz and The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen), Wally has remembered and he is in the process of re-educating many important people in his life, like the members of the Justice League Of America. And then Identity Crisis hit.

The real magic of The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen is that it fleshes out Identity Crisis without ever making it seem like it is undoing anything from that event. In other words, Identity Crisis seemed very complete each time I read it, but reading The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen made me appreciate the consequence of the book quite a bit more and made me believe that the writer Geoff Johns actually had a lot of respect for his readers. As a result, The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen may be dependent upon Identity Crisis for one’s maximum enjoyment, but it is worth picking up and reading, making it a decent story that takes one of the vital characters in the DC Universe in a different direction as a result of that event.

Wally West is reacclimating himself to the role of Flash when his wife, Linda, leaves him. Despondent over her departure, Wally nevertheless honors her request that he not search for her. He deals with attacks from Gorilla Grodd and the Turtle to pass the time. But when the Penguin attempts to set up shop in Keystone City, Wally West accidentally damages Ashley Zolomon’s car while working on it at the police garage. With Ashley in a coma, West is frustrated and his frustration only grows when the Justice League demands his explanation for why none of them can remember who he is.

Almost immediately after the murder of Sue Dibny, Wally West is involved with hunter for her murderer. Many of the Rogues in Keystone City are prime suspects and that keeps Wally hunting, even though many immediately distance themselves from the murder. But the murder of Sue Dibny and the investigation by the Justice League quickly turns into something far more personal for Wally West. As the hunt for Dr. Light intensifies and the secret that the Justice League altered his memories comes to light, Wally West learns that following that event, Barry Allen and Zatanna tried a similar spell on The Top. And in reforming Roscoe Dillon, Barry Allen may have made a mistake that could be lethal to his protégé!

The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen cleverly continues Identity Crisis while making for a compelling character journey for Wally West. West has his family taken from him through his actions in the prior volumes and as he is abandoned by Linda, the murder of Sue Dibny hits very close to home. While Linda is not dead, Wally West begins to have real and grave fears for her life. So, his intense search for her while doing his part in searching for the murderer of Sue Dibny reads as remarkably human and very compelling.

So, when Wally West learns of Barry Allen’s actions in regard to Roscoe Dillon – The Top – he is understandably shaken. Wally West’s tangential search for the Top while the rest of the League hunts for Sue Dibny’s killer is interesting and it makes for a decent team-up between Wally West and Zatanna. Moreover, what might have appeared as startlingly random in Identity Crisis, the use of Captain Boomerang as a secondary assassin, works startlingly well in The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen. Here, Boomerang’s purpose is part of a chance for Geoff Johns to flesh out the Rogues and make comparisons with the more popularly known Batman villains. Johns is up to the task and he makes the criminal syndicate for Keystone City intensely interesting.

I recall Identity Crisis being brought down some by the artwork, but that does not seem like a problem for The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen. In The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen, the lines are strong, the sense of movement is wonderful and the colors are vibrant. This is a good-looking book that is easy to enjoy.

Ultimately, The Flash: The Secret Of Barry Allen might be very dependent upon what came before and Identity Crisis to enjoy fully, but having read around this story, this is a great addition to the DC Universe and one that I am eager to see how Johns and other writers follow up on it!

For other DC Universe books that feature the Flash, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
JLA: Secret Origins
The Return Of Barry Allen
Wonder Woman: Land Of The Dead


For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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