Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Process Of Finding Himself And Remembering Wally West Is Chronicled In The Flash: Ignition!

The Good: Decent character development, Engaging plot, Decent artwork
The Bad: Resolves the main character conflict in a ridiculously simple way
The Basics: The Flash: Ignition follows up on Geoff Johns’s prior works and shows a stunning underestimation of the power of the Spectre, but tells a damn good story!

There is some irony to my main beef with The Flash: Ignition. The Flash: Ignition follows directly on the heels of Blitz, which resulted in everyone in the world forgetting that Wally West was the Flash. That mechanic was achieved using The Spectre. The Spectre is not omnipotent, as evidenced in things like Blackest Night (reviewed here!) where the Spectre is infected by a black ring (even briefly). But The Spectre is supposed to be very close to omnipotent. At the point in the history of the DC Universe that The Flash: Ignition comes up, Hal Jordan is the Spectre. And yet, the story of The Flash: Ignition is hinged on the Spectre’s wave of the hand being ridiculously flawed.

The Flash: Ignition finds Wally West, two months after the events in Blitz having no knowledge of who the Flash is. In fact, he and Linda resent the Flash for the miscarriage that Linda had previously. The book is all about the process of Wally remembering, but he is not the first to know of his dual identity. So, to be clear, the main fault with The Flash: Ignition is that when a godlike entity changes all existence, it is not really changed. The irony here is that after his run on The Flash, Geoff Johns would become the most prolific and important writer of Hal Jordan Green Lantern books in decades. In fact, he still is. But at the time of The Flash: Ignition, his perception of Hal Jordan was one that would allow the character who was the most powerful embodiment of willpower to have such a drastic oversight as incompletely altering reality.

Wally West is a mildmannered mechanic for the Keystone City Police Department. The low man on the totem pole, he works the night shift repairing cars with Wheeler and Wheeler’s daughter. With the Flash nowhere to be found, Keystone City falls prey to one of the Rogues. The police department is attacked by a Rogue who is freezing detectives and killing them. When Detective Morillo is joined by a new profiler and a new detective comes to try to solve the murders.

But at night, Wally West has frustrated conversations in a diner with a man who seems to know more about him than he consciously acknowledges. The man is Leonard Snart, Captain Cold, and he resents the killings that are being carried out in his name, with his apparent modus operandi. He has civil discussions with Wally West until the day that a mysterious stranger provides Wally with the ring that has the Flash’s costume and he begins to remember his real identity. Snart confronts the Flash and fills in some of the details, but until Wally is able to confront the stranger who gave him the ring, he finds himself questioning his own existence and motives. The killings continue and as Wally moves closer to remembering his identity, the killer gets closer to him and to finding him a threat.

The Flash: Ignition is not all about character development, but it is strongly motivated by the character elements. That helps the book feel far less plot-centered than it otherwise could be. The killings – the murder mystery – and the process of Wally West remembering who he is are treated almost independent of one another. The main, important, action follows Wally West and his internal musings and the surprisingly peaceful conversations between him and Leonard Snart, who is characterized in The Flash: Ignition with remarkable depth and humanity.

Geoff Johns has a real flair for creating vibrant characters and in The Flash: Ignition both Wally West and Leonard Snart are reborn for the readers that they almost do not care about the murders being carried out with Snart as the main suspect. The main problem – in the plot sense – for The Flash: Ignition is that the adversary is created almost identically to the prior Geoff Johns adversary. Sadly, the villain who is defined early in the book as Mr. Element comes into his own almost in the same way that Hunter Zolomon became Zoom in the prior volume. So, while Johns has interesting characters, it seems during his tenure on The Flash, his main way of having characters degenerate into villains was the result of good people studying prior villains!

The artwork in The Flash: Ignition is both good and consistent. It is, however, a point where the devoted reader of The Flash is bound to get pissed with the lack of consistency in the volume. Clark Kent is pretty consistently rendered. Wally West is not. But more than that, Leonard Snart is not rendered in a way that makes him instantly recognizable to readers his first panels of The Flash: Ignition. Wally West might not recognize Leonard Snart, but the reader – of course – should be able to. Linda is more consistently rendered through the modern Flash books than Wally West or Leonard Snart is.

Beyond that, the art is wonderful and has a decent sense of movement within the panels and between panels. Between the artwork of Alberto Dose and the writing of Geoff Johns, the process of Wally West running into time slowing and rediscovering his powers is rendered in a compelling and interesting way. While The Flash: Ignition works exceptionally well in context (and is now presented as a complete story as the omnibus of Geoff Johns’s works on The Flash), the full magnitude of the book is lost without the prior volume. This is a middle act and it is a good and compelling one, but on its own . . . it feels like a portion of a much bigger story and fans will want to read the volumes that precede and follow this one!

As my Flash Year races toward its end, it is reading books like The Flash: Ignition that make Wally West one of my favorite superheroes and one of the most well-rounded ones.

For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Born To Run
The Return Of Barry Allen
Terminal Velocity
Dead Heat
Race Against Time
Emergency Stop
The Human Race
Blood Will Run
The Secret Of Barry Allen
Full Throttle
Flash: Rebirth
The Life Story Of The Flash


For other graphic novel reviews, check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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

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