As The Flash heads toward its oversized issue #50 in March, the next story arc about Flash's Rogues will be "hugely significant" in not only Barry Allen's life, but "just as much" in the life of Wally West, according to co-writer Robert Venditti.
Over the last few months, readers have been introduced to the "New 52" version of Professor Zoom in Venditti and Van Jensen's The Flash, a storyline that finishes up this month in #47. And although the showdown between Zoom and Flash has involved multiple super-powered characters, the ending is poised to be a one-on-one, character-focused battle between Zoom and Flash alone, as Barry's father Henry looks on.
That personal confrontation will be followed up in J anuary with a new story arc about the Rogues, one that leads to the oversized The Flash #50. The Rogues storyline will also bring a new artist to the book — Jesus Merino — as long-time The Flash artist Brett Booth moves to Aquaman in March.
Newsarama talked to Venditti to find out more about Wally West's future in The Flash, the mystery motives of Professor Zoom, and what else readers can expect from upcoming issues of The Flash.
Newsarama: Rob, you've introduced Professor Zoom, and we're getting to know him and the Zoom Crew. But we found out more recently about his evil motives, and that he wants to steal the Flash's power for himself. When you and Van Jensen put together the ideas for this villain, what were the core traits you wanted to make sure you included in this version of Professor Zoom, and how have those been incorporated into the villain thus far in the story?
Robert Venditti: The core trait we wanted to keep was the very long-game style of planning, and that he's a highly intelligent individual — in some respects, even more intelligent than Barry. But unfortunately, Zoom applies all of this intelligence and his gifts and his powers in pretty much wholly negative ways. So in that way, he's very much the opposite of who Barry is. And we wanted to preserve that, because that's who has been historically.
Whereas Barry is historically heroic, Zoom is almost unfailingly villainous. That was the seesaw we wanted to keep; that seesaw between the two. So everything we did with the character fed into that.
So as we learn more about his motives — because we're going to discover even more about him in The Flash #47, which is the final climax of this story arc — we're going to learn that there's even more going on beneath his efforts to lead this crusade against the Flash, and efforts to take the Speed Force from other individuals who possess it. This is all a very deep-seeded part of Zoom's personality; his feelings of persecution, selfishness, and things along that line.
Nrama: You mentioned the next issue. I was a little surprised when the big showdown started between Zoom and the Zoom Crew and Barry, but all of the sudden, you guys took the whole story aside as Zoom took Henry and Barry. It felt like, at the end of the last issue, that it's leading to a personal story involving Barry, Henry and Zoom. Was that something you wanted to do, was make sure that it's about the characters as much as the big action?
Venditti: Very much so. It's going to be a very character-focused fight, I guess is the way to describe it. It's different from any kind of battle that Van and I have written before, not just in terms of how it plays out, but also structurally and the way we weave background elements from Zoom's past into the story as well.
It's a sequence that spans almost the entire issue, and it really demands the best from everyone in the group. You know? Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund had to do things with the storytelling, Andrew Dalhouse had to do things with the coloring, and Van and I with the writing, to really tell the story in a fight that we hope is exciting and different than what people have seen before, and again, reveals a lot of these elements that I was just speaking about.
The fact that Henry is there and is going to be present during this fight is no accident. Who Henry represents in the life of Barry Allen, what Barry's mother's murder represents in the life of Barry Allen, who both of those parental figures factor into the life of Eobard Thawne are all huge elements that will be part of the fight, and will explain again who Barry is at his core, and by contrast, who Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom is at his core and just how opposite they are.
Nrama: You mention Nora Allen's murder. It's going to play a part in this? That's why they're back at the house, right?
Venditti: Absolutely, yeah. It's hard to go into too much detail without sort of giving it away, but Zoom does have these feelings of persecution that he's never been given an honest shake. There's a selfishness and an envy that has just rotted him out at the core and led him to become such an antagonist for the Flash.
And we'll find out exactly how that all came about and what is driving him on a very, very deep level and far back into his life, to lead him to have such a single-minded, focused mission: to eradicate not just the Flash as a person, but all memory of him. He doesn't just want to kill the Flash; he wants to destroy everything that the Flash has represented, and everything that the Flash has built up that is good and decent in Central City.
Nrama: We met and we've gotten to know the Zoom Crew. Will we see more of them going forward?
Venditti: Yeah, those characters are definitely out there in the DCU. There are things that can be done with them. In The Flash #47, however, this is just Flash and Zoom, one-on-one; two titans of the Speed Force, two masters of their own abilities in their own respective times going head to head and seeing who comes out on top.
Nrama: You mentioned the art team. But Brett Booth is leaving after the next issue, starting on Aquaman in March. Can you talk about what he brought to the title?
Venditti: Yeah, in terms of what he brings to the title, he brings so much energy in his layouts, and in the way he treats the characters — his beautiful images of the Flash running full tilt or Flash bouncing around the panel in multiple images, zipping about everywhere. Of course, he's able to do similar things but in a different way with Zoom as well.
We focused a lot on the Speed Force and speed-enabled characters throughout our run, which really played to those strengths that Brett has.
It's been… probably close to 20 issues on the book we've been together? One of the amazing things about him is the work ethic he has. If you look at the 20-issue run, I'm trying to go back and think in my head, but there weren't many times we had a fill-in artist. Monthly comic books is a really grueling industry to be in, particularly if you're an artist. You have to produce 20 pages of art every month, and in some cases, like in The Flash #47, Brett actually produced 22. So for him to stay consistent and stay on the book and turn that stuff in and never blow his deadlines speaks to his professionalism, and is a great strength to have when you're on a monthly title.
I know he's excited about where he's going, and I hope he enjoys it.
Nrama: I know you've got one more issue of this storyline. But we've seen solicitations for what comes after that, and I know you've got the Rogues coming up. And obviously, you're heading toward The Flash #50, which is an oversized issue, focusing on the result of his growing tension with the Central City Police Department. What can you tell us about what's coming up?
Venditti: Yeah, this is going to be our first chance in this run to work with the Rogues, which is one of the great comic book villain pantheons in not just DC, but in all of comic books. You know, you've got Captain Cold, you've got Mirror Master, you've got Trickster and others as well. These are all such fun characters to read about and to write. And Van and I have been really looking forward to working with them.
It is a big story. It is going to turn things on their head a little bit, in terms of who the Rogues are in relation to the Flash and how they are set against each other. And it will all lead to big events in The Flash #50.
But there are even larger events that are coming after that.
So this next arc is going to be hugely significant, not just in the life of the Flash, but even more so — or just as much — in the life of Wally West.
Nrama: That's interesting. We've seen Wally playing more of a part recently. He's a smart kid.
Venditti: He is a smart kid! We all have gifts, we all have things we're really good at, and as we've seen in previous issues, he has a skill with mechanics. But yeah, he is a smart kid, he is a good kid, and we're going to start to see some surprising things from him in the forthcoming issues.