The Flash #46
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Scott Kolins and Luis Guerrero
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Picking up on narrative threads from the beginning of "Rebirth," The Flash #46 also serves as a love letter for fans of classic Wally West stories, as writer Joshua Williamson teams up with iconic artist Scott Kolins on the road to "Flash War." There’s a lot of fan service to be had in this tale of two partnerships, as Williamson and Kolins not only delve into Barry Allen and Wally West’s evolving dynamic, but lay down their expository tracks while leveraging the sprawling connectivity of the DC Universe.
If you thought Geoff Johns’ DC Universe: Rebirth #1 had emotional stakes, you probably had to brace yourself with Williamson’s previous issue of The Flash, in which Wally not only reunited with his aunt Iris West, but suddenly remembered all he had lost thanks to the DC Universe’s reality shift - including the loss of his children. It’s that fallout that Williamson runs with in The Flash #46, as Wally himself seems untethered in time, as images of previous continuity flash before his eyes, including Victor Stone’s gold look from the Technis Imperative, or a particularly heartbreaking scene in the Flash Museum. It’s disorienting not just for Wally, whose tenure as a superhero has been defined by smaller but arguably more lasting difficulties, but for longtime DC readers themselves, who are reminded of cherished storylines that suddenly might no longer exist within the greater continuity tapestry.
But it’s that tapestry that also gives The Flash #46 so much energy, and even a sense of hope. The fact that these stories are being referenced is almost like bringing them to life, and Williamson deftly uses the greater DC Universe to sell the point. With Wally having lost years of his life, it’s a no-brainer that Barry would turn to colleagues like Zatanna, Martian Manhunter, or Batman in search for answers, and these guest appearances really lend a certain pop to the proceedings. But there’s also a sharp counterpoint to Barry and Wally’s relationship, as Williamson also focuses on a tale of two Reverse Flashes, as Eobard Thawne and Hunter Zolomon struggle with their own unique partnership. While their storyline doesn’t quite have the emotional zing as 30-odd years of stories might, Williamson deserves credit for finding a way to inject that familial throughline of the Flash even to his greatest enemies.
Meanwhile, what can you say about Scott Kolins on The Flash that hasn’t been said before? He’s iconic, lending both a sense of energy and a sense of drama to his pages. Seeing Hunter Zolomon hunched over in his jail cell immediately imbues him with a sense of thoughtfulness, while a striking image of Thawne literally crackling with scarlet lighting gives him such a sense of menace. But Kolins also does superb work selling the emotions going through Wally, as he grapples with anger and frustration over his lack of answers — in particular, watching Wally break down towards the end of the book is a real highlight. Colorist Luis Guerrero works nicely with Kolins’ inks, in particular balancing out the warm reds of Barry with some nice cool background greens.
Given that this is only a prelude to Williamson’s upcoming "Flash War" arc, he deserves a lot of credit for giving The Flash #46 so much emotional weight. For some, that might be because he speaks to nostalgia, that sense of legacy that the Scarlet Speedsters have passed like a baton since the release of Showcase #4 — there are plenty of unanswered questions to what’s happened to Wally West and the DC Universe as a whole, and seeing answers even be teased can’t help but appeal to certain fan speculation. With so many winks and nods to the greater DC mythology, it’s easy to find something to enjoy in The Flash #46.