Barry Allen will have his hands full in the next few issues of The Flash dealing with Captain Cold. But in early 2018, the original Wally West will get a big re-introduction into the title, starting Barry and Wally on the road toward the "Flash War" event that divides them next spring.
And according to The Flash writer Joshua Williamson, "Flash War" is "the biggest Flash story in a long time."
The involvement of Captain Cold and the Flash Rogues begins this week with The Flash #36, kicking off the "Cold Day in Hell" storyline that takes the title into next year. Then the 700th issue of The Flash and Flash Annual #1 push the title closer to the much-anticipated "Flash War" that brings Barry and the original Wally into conflict.
Wally, who was re-introduced in 2016 to the DCU after a long absence, has since been spending most of his time in DC's Titans book. But in 2018, Flash writer Joshua Williamson says Wally will "play a major role in The Flash main title."
The title also has an impressive list of artists slated for upcoming issues - several of them fan-favorite Flash creators - including Carmine Di Giandomenico, Howard Porter, Scott McDaniel, and Scott Kolins.
Newsarama talked to Williamson to find out more about Captain Cold's role in the story, what happens when Flash meets Gorilla Grodd again, and why the writer says that "not everything is as it seems at first glance" in The Flash.
Newsarama: Josh, this week starts a new storyline that takes Barry even deeper into Iron Heights prison, encountering many of his more classic Rogues. What's your hope for this story?
Joshua Williamson: To showcase some of the Rogues, to reintroduce some older storyline elements we dropped…and to get Barry back on the path of hope.
At the start of The Flash: Rebirth, Barry was his happy self, but because of events in the series - tormented by Thawne, his break-up with Iris, his separation from Kid Flash, and being infected by the Negative Speed Force - Barry has grown progressively darker. After "The Button," "Color of Fear," and "Running Scared," Barry has been spiraling. He felt a lot of guilt and was becoming self-destructive, slowly pushing his friends and family away.
During the "Negative" and "Bloodwork" storylines, Barry admits that he has a problem and that his actions don’t just hurt himself but the people around him. Barry starts to work to recover, to make amends, to let go of his anger, to be better… to get back on the path to be the Flash we all know and love.
Recently, Barry was sent to Iron Heights to preserve crime scenes, but he’s not allowed to investigate. He’s locked up with the Rogues and the worst criminals Central City has to offer.
But the thing is… Barry feels like he belongs in Iron Heights. That after everything he’s done he should be locked up with the criminals. Barry still feels guilty for the hurt he has caused to people he loves.
His biggest issue is his mother’s death. At Barry’s core, he will always feel responsible for his mother’s death. It’s such a huge part of who he is. And that will never change. He will never forgive Thawne for killing his mother... but can Barry forgive himself?
This story is about getting him back up from that - helping him find his own redemption, find some kind of forgiveness so that he can rebuild what he lost. It’s about Barry’s issue with trust and forgiveness.
Barry’s guilt is a prison he’s built for himself and the only way to escape it is to forgive himself for his “crimes.”
Also, this a big story I’m building with the Rogues. It started with "Rogues Reloaded" in The Flash #14 through #17, and this is the next chapter. This arc, “A Cold Day in Hell,” is only three issues long but it’s a big piece in the Rogues story we’re building.
One of the things I’ve loved about working on The Flash is the ability to play the long game with some stories, and this piece of the Rogues story is part of that.
Nrama: Let's talk about the Rogues, because Captain Cold in particular is featured on the upcoming covers. He's a fan-favorite Flash villain. What's his role in this story? How do he and the Flash interact?
Williamson: Captain Cold is one of my favorite Flash villains, so I take every chance I get to write him!
At the end of "Rogues Reloaded," Flash told Cold that he felt like Cold was wasting his potential. Cold is a genius. And not just a criminal one. The fact that he can build the cold guns shows how smart he is. He could be using that mind for good, and yet he chooses it for his own personal gain. Again, to the Flash it’s a waste of a brilliant mind. And Flash told Cold all of that.
And that speech inspired Cold. He had been thinking small. He realized he could be doing more. So, when Cold got to Iron heights at the end of The Flash #17, he positioned himself as the new kingpin of crime.
Since then we’ve dropped hints about the “new boss of crime in Central City.” That was all Cold building his network to really run a bigger criminal organization than we’ve ever seen from the Rogues. The only two things standing in Cold’s way of complete control of all crime in Central City is Copperhead and the Flash.
Cold always makes The Flash confront certain ideas. Can people change for the better, or not? Flash always hopes that the Rogues will turn over a new leaf and become better people. Flash really wants to believe that they can, and Cold tests that belief.
Nrama: The 700th issue of The Flash is also coming up, featuring Gorilla Grodd, although it sounds like it ties into the recent revelations about Raijin. Can you tease what that issue is all about and what readers will get to see in that story?
Williamson: The Flash #39 (a.k.a. Flash #700) is the start of a storyline called “Perfect Storm,” where a few big storylines we’ve built since our first Flash storyline “Lightning Strikes Twice” come to a head. Flash is forced to deal with a lot of threats at the same time, more than we’ve ever had come at him at once.
We’ve held off on using Grodd for awhile and felt this was the right time to get into our take on his character and what he has been up to the last few years.
Grodd is such interesting character to me. He’s more than just a giant gorilla, or even a warrior king. He’s more than an angry ape that wants to kill. He’s smarter and more psychologically calculated than most give him credit for. Sure, Grodd could rip you apart with his bare hands, but he can also wreck your mind. I wanted to showcase that.
In Flash #39, Barry is working to rebuild the life he lost and make amends. We get a bit of a tour of his life, with a few surprise returns…
Raijin was revealed in Flash #35, to be a big part of Black Hole. He and Meena, the new Negative Flash, are on a mission with Black Hole to learn all of the secrets of the Speed Force and to control it for themselves. They attack at the worst possible time for Barry and The Flash family.
Carmine has been drawing up a storm in these issues. It’s really exciting.
Nrama: The upcoming art looks like quite a line-up. With this new storyline that starts this week, you've got Howard Porter drawing the Rogues. Brings back memories of the Rogues War he did with Geoff Johns. How's it been working with Howard?
Williamson: Howard Porter is the best. We were just on the phone yesterday talking about some new villains we’re going to introduce next year.
Working with Howard is great. Before I start scripting an issue, I call him and pitch him what I’m thinking. Then we talk it out, see what he’s thinking and then I start writing. I’ve been a big fan of Howard’s and followed his career since he was on The Ray series in the 90s. Getting to work with him on The Flash is a dream come true. He brings experience and energy to the story. He knows the character well and knows that world. Talking to him about the scenes always give me ideas and pushes me to make the book better. I know that whatever crazy thing I put out that Howard will make it a million times better. Which is what you want with your collaborators.
It’s funny you mention Rogue War. I look at that story frequently. It’s one of my favorite Flash stories and Rogue stories. I’ll say those issues inspired me a lot recently.
But Howard isn’t doing every issue of “Cold Day in Hell.” Scott McDaniel does Flash #37, which is a really fun issue. I’ve loved his work since Daredevil and Nightwing. He uses that same style on The Flash here to show how fast the Flash can move.
And then Scott Kolins does Flash #38. Seeing Scott draw the Flash and the Rogues again was a dream come true.
Nrama: Wow, you've got quite a line-up. And Scott's another Flash veteran.
Williamson: It was so cool seeing the work he did on these pages. Obviously, I’ve loved Scott’s Flash work and it was a blast to watch him dive back into that world here. His pages are terrific. You can tell he was at home with The Flash again.
All three issues are colored by Hi-Fi to keep the tone consistent across the issues. They’ve all been the dream team.
We also had the multiple artists here so Howard would have the room to start working on "Flash War" early. That way we could really make sure "Flash War" is something special and that Howard that the time to make it a story Flash readers will never forget.
Nrama: Let's talk about "Flash War" and the future of the book. How would you describe your plans for The Flash in 2018?
Williamson: Big, bold, crazy and fun.
Starting in January we have two big issues coming out. First in The Flash #39 is the start: “Perfect Storm.” Which, like I said before, that whole storyline will have major ramifications for the Flash.
Then we have The Flash Annual #1 drawn by Christian Duce which is a "Flash War" prelude that teases up "Flash War" and other big stories that will be in The Flash for the next year and beyond.
There are a lot of Easter Eggs and teases for the future in that Annual. It has some stuff we’re really excited to share.
That annual is starring the original Wally West and reintroduces him to The Flash series, since he’s mostly been in Titans the last two years. After that issue, he’ll play a major role in The Flash main title for a while. Barry, the original Wally West, the new Wally West, Iris West and a few other characters are going to be spending a lot of time together…
And of course, "Flash War" is coming in the spring…where something happens that brings Barry and the original Wally West into conflict for the first time. It’ll be the biggest Flash story in a long time.
Nrama: Wow, then on that note, is there anything else you want to tell fans about The Flash?
Williamson: Like I’ve been saying... We have a lot of big stuff planned for The Flash next year. Lots of ups and downs. It’s going to be a roller-coaster ride. Know that we’re working on an epic Flash story and that not everything is as it seems at first glance…
I’m a big fan of the Flash, too. And it’s been awesome to take the Flash on this journey. There will be a lot of surprises next year, and things that will make Flash fans happy along the way as we dig into one of the biggest years ever in The Flash title.