THE FLASH #49 BY JOSHUA WILLIAMSON, HOWARD PORTER, AND HI-FI
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
THE FLASH #49’s end-of-issue twist filled me with disappointment. Despite on-point dialogue by Joshua Williamson and beautiful art by Howard Porter, I can’t say that I was a fan of this issue. I’m holding out hope that Williamson redeems this issue with next issue’s finale, but that remains to be seen.
78 %
Regrettably Disappointing

THE FLASH #49 sees our heroes Barry and Wally racing against each other to try and save the lives of Wally’s lost children. However, this race has unintended consequences on the entire world, causing the Justice League to intervene. This issue is a wonder artistically, with Howard Porter truly outdoing himself to show how destructive the Speed Force is to the universe around it. He really sold the idea that the Flashes were wreaking havoc.

Joshua Williamson’s dialogue throughout the issue was pretty great when the two Flashes argued, but I wasn’t really sold on the end-of-issue twist. Overall, THE FLASH #49, while a wonder to look at, was a disappointing book.

Wally Goes Rogue in THE FLASH #48

The Amazing Race in THE FLASH #49

In the last issue, Zoom told Wally that his pre-Flashpoint children, Irey and Jai, were allegedly still alive and trapped in the Speed Force. Wally went running after them, but not before Barry showed up to stop him. In THE FLASH #49, Barry races against Wally to try and get him to stop running. All the while, they argue at each other about Barry’s hypocrisy in telling Wally not to run into the Speed Force, while in FLASHPOINT, he did the same exact thing to save his mother.

While this is happening, superpowered individuals throughout the universe notice the negative effects this race has on the Speed Force. For one, it creates a giant, worldwide lightning storm that calls the attention of the Justice League. On top of that, heroes like Swamp Thing, Zatanna, The Atom, and even the Highfather of New Genesis notice disruptions in the Green, the Microverse, and Magic itself.

THE FLASH #49
THE FLASH #49 page 6. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The League convenes to try and stop the Flashes before they hurt themselves or someone else. Superman tries to catch up with them, to no avail, and they succeed in breaking the Speed Force barrier. However, when that happens, Zoom shows up and tells the Flashes that he was manipulating them all along. He sees himself as the only hero worthy of being the Flash, and taps into previously unknown forces called the Sage Force and the Strength force, becoming more powerful than both Flashes.

Zoom’s Revenge in THE FLASH #49

This reveal really cheapened this story arc, I believe. What really sold me on FLASH WAR was the idea that Barry and Wally would have a massive ideological difference and actually battle each other, leading to some sort of split between the former best friends. I wanted to see Williamson explore Barry’s hypocrisy in fighting Wally for doing something he did in the past. Wally was incredibly sympathetic throughout this storyline, but now he comes across as sort of a patsy for Zoom who let his grief overtake him.

The two Flashes did trade some cutting barbs, but beyond that, there wasn’t much of a “war” between these two Flashes. Barry even just relents, out of nowhere, really, midway through this issue and helps Wally break the Speed Force barrier. There went any conflict they could have had. Instead, this arc looks to be turning into yet another “two heroes fight but then team up against a common enemy” story. I had such higher hopes for it. Of course, the arc isn’t over yet and we’ve yet to see the final part. However, judging on this current issue, I have to say I’m disappointed by the direction the arc went.

Damning Dialogue in THE FLASH #49

Despite my criticism, I still enjoyed one crucial aspect of this issue: the dialogue. The philosophical argument between Barry and Wally was on point throughout the issue, until Barry’s heel-turn. Wally makes some legitimate accusations against Barry, and Barry had a hard time defending himself.

I liked that Wally was finally truly addressing Barry’s tendency to keep huge secrets in order to, in his mind, protect everyone else. He failed to tell Wally that other people were missing since the New 52 reboot. Wally wasn’t the only one trapped out of the time-stream. Wally gets justifiably mad at Barry when he admits this. He’s been keeping the knowledge that Wally’s kids could still be alive somewhere secret.

I Still Miss My Flash: The Original Wally West

They’re some truly damning accusations leveled towards Barry, and he deserves it. Throughout Williamson’s entire run, it’s been a constant trait that Barry’s exemplified again and again. He kept his secret identity secret from Iris, he kept Wally’s existence secret from Iris, he didn’t let anyone know he willingly freed Godspeed from prison. Wally was totally in the right this issue. This, of course, all goes back to why I was so disappointed in not seeing this argument come to a head, but until that happened, I truly enjoyed the back and forth between Barry and Wally.

Beautiful Art in THE FLASH #49

Howard Porter is THE FLASH #49’s secret weapon. He’s the glue that holds this issue together. Despite my reservations about the issue, I never was disappointed by Porter’s art. His two-page spreads, especially, are a thing to behold. They’re some of my favorite pages from the entire Rebirth FLASH run. My favorite of the two, the first spread, shows Barry and Wally in center frame.

It also shows their super-speed shadows in the background, dismantling an armada of tanks. It’s an iconic Flash image, seeing the two Flashes effortlessly complete a herculean task before continuing like nothing happened. Plus, the expression on Barry’s and Wally’s faces show their emotions throughout the issue quite amazingly. Barry looks determined, defensive, and a little worried for Wally, while Wally looks just intensely angry.

THE FLASH #49
THE FLASH #49 pages 4-5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Final Thoughts: THE FLASH #49

THE FLASH #49 gave me quite a few conflicting emotions. I was really ramped up and excited to see the Flashes argue about issues close to their hearts. The reveal near the end dashed this excitement, though. It truly disappointed me. I won’t lie and say I loved this issue. It has its positives, like the dialogue and the art, but I can’t recommend it unless you’re already reading this arc and don’t plan on stopping.

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