Comic Corner: The Flash – Race Against Time

Wally West: The Flash (at the time of this storyline anyhow) is the fastest man alive. His fast-paced stories have high stakes, but when the writers add characters and problems from across centuries, things really start to heat up. The Flash: Race Against Time is the sequel to The Flash: Dead Heat. It spans issues #112-118 of The Flash and chronicles the adventures of two time-traveling speedsters, one pinballing through time and the other trying to live up to the legacy of another century.

Race Against Time picks up shortly after the end of Dead Heat, explaining that the man shown at the end of Dead Heat is John Fox, the Flash of the 27th century, who came to the 20th century hoping to meet but just missing Wally West, the Flash of that era. He spends a while acting as the Flash in Wally’s place, saving many lives but letting the latest bad guy, Chillblaine, get away several times. After some time in the present, he reluctantly tells Linda that his era’s history indicates that Wally never returns from his latest round with the Speed Force. In an attempt to distract and get closer to her, John enlists her help in tracking down Chillblaine.

Meanwhile, Wally finds himself bouncing through time as he tries to use the Speed Force and his love for Linda to make it home. His jumps take him across centuries, each time landing closer to his own time but also placing him squarely in the path of people who need his help. In the 64th century, he find himself having to help govern people who he had previously freed, while in the 30th century, Wally runs into the children of his mentor, Barry Allen, and must help them overcome their hesitations long enough to become the heroes they were meant to be. Finally, in the 27th century, he runs into John Fox wearing what the reader may recognize as his prior costume. Wally helps John stop a time-traveling criminal named Chronos, then gears up for one last jump and hurls himself into the time-stream. After he leaves, John muses that since the history books tell of a great disaster in the 20th century, Wally must never actually have made it home and resolves to go to that time and avert the catastrophe himself, leading into the ending of Dead Heat and the events of this storyline.

Back in the present, the super villains Polaris and Kadabra kill Chillblaine and combine his technology with their powers to create a fast-moving, massive glacier in the city. John saves a few lives, but is unable to do much to stop the destruction. He and Linda unsuccessfully attempt to destroy the machine. While all this is going on, Linda realizes how John has been manipulating her and walks out on him, re-declaring her love for Wally just before being frozen. Wally finally makes it back to the 20th century and rushes Linda to S.T.A.R. Labs for treatment, then, with a little help from John, takes down the bad guys and makes short work of the glacier. This, however, does not cure Linda. Angry, Wally starts to fight with John but is interrupted by the arrival of two time-traveling 27th century law enforcement robots called Speed Metal that want to execute John for violating the laws of the 27th century. Unwilling to let someone be punished without a trial, Wally helps John destroy the Speed Metal. Inspired by his techniques in the fight, John figures out a way to use Wally’s speed to thaw out Linda. With the girl rescued and the day saved, John recognizes that he does not belong in the 20th century and heads off into the timestream for parts and dates unknown, leaving Wally and Linda to celebrate their reunion.

Unlike Dead Heat, Race Against Time focuses most of its character attention on a few individuals, allowing for more character development and giving the reader a chance to get to know Wally, John, and, to a lesser extent, Linda a little better. Unfortunately, this means that the side characters, such as Wally’s Aunt Iris and the villains in this story, exist in this context to help the reader better understand the main characters. As a consequence, characters who are not featured up on any of the covers are usually somewhat glanced over in favor of the main storyline. Additionally, while there is some character development in the course of the tale, aspects of the characters are sometimes pushed to the side in favor of driving the plot forward. Linda suffers the worst from this syndrome, as she is frequently relegated from her role of strong, smart investigative reporter to nothing more than the motivation for John and Wally. However, in the many instances where the narrative manages to balance itself out, it takes the time to explore the main characters to a point where they seem much more like real, believable people rather than the exaggerated personalities of Dead Heat, though they do still suffer from oversimplifications in some parts of the book.

The art style fits the story well. The lines become blurred or eliminated altogether often enough to convey the speed at which events happen for both Wally and John, but the artwork becomes detailed enough at serious moment to convey the gravity of the events at hand. The details on people and nearby scenery during important or quiet moment usually flow naturally into the blurred and less specific depictions of high-paced action and work well to get across the idea that for the Flashes, traveling through time blurs together many things and individual, personal moments soon become the only things which stand out clearly in their memories. Much like the continuing legacy of the Flash, which this book does a good job of exploring, the details of each rescue tend to blur in people’s minds, but the important, defining moments of heroism for each Flash throughout the ages stand out in the collective memory of the DC Universe and reminds its populace what it means not only to be a hero, but what it means to wear the moniker of the Flash and to ride the legacy of lightning into whatever obstacles the future throws at the speedsters of legend.

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