WRITER: Mark Waid
PENCILS: Craig Brasfield
INKS: Andrew Pepoy
COLORS: Tom McGraw
LETTERS: Tim Hawkins
SYNOPSIS: Our story begins, once again, with Waverider soaring through space and time in order to relate his mission to the reader. In case anybody has forgotten, Waverider is attempting to find out what late-20th century hero become the villain known as Monarch and rules the future (where Waverider is from, the year 2030) with an iron fist.
In modern day Keystone City, we see Wally West zooming through the crowds at the local Flash Day. Wally basks in all the attention, thinking to himself that they never would have done something like this for him back in New York. While mingling with the crowd, Wally is approached by a woman by the name of Bonnie Blackmon, who says that she has stumbled across some papers from her employer that she thinks she might need to bring to somebody's attention. Waverider appears and takes this opportunity to disguise himself as a patron of Flash Day in order to make contact with Wally. As Wally and Bonnie begin to discuss things, Waverider indeed makes contact and begins to look 10 years into the future to the year 2001.
In 2001 we are introduced to man named Michael Edwards. As he arrives home from work, we also see his wife and son, David. After much playfulness between the two, David asks Mike if he can go play outside. Something is obviously awkward about this situation. David is somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. His mom and dad are hesitant and discuss things in a roundabout manner, but say that it is fine, so David goes outside to play. While David is outside, his parents discuss the typical adult life things until Mike suddenly starts flipping the pages of a magazine in rapid succession. It is then revealed to the reader that Mike is secretly Wally and his wife is Bonnie, both with new hairstyles, Wally with his hair dyed brown instead of red, and all living undercover as part of the witness relocation program.
Years earlier Bonnie testified against her employer Diogenes who had been running a secret criminal organization. Diogenes has a power where if he makes physical contact with a person, he can instantly learn all about their past and personal life. He used this ability on both Wally and Bonnie during the trial, so the two had to escape. In the process, the two fell in love and Wally quit being the Flash forever.
Wally also informs the reader that after discovery of the metagene, scientists discovered it was indeed possible for some heroes to pass along acquired traits to their children, to which he gives positive and tragic examples. He mentions something about David, but the reader doesn't quite get the full story.
Outside, David is riding his bicycle. He notices one of the neighborhood kids chasing a ball into the street into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Of course the little girl doesn't see the truck, so David begins to pedal as fast as he possibly can, causing the tires of his bicycle to catch fire along the way. He superspeeds himself ahead just in time to save the little girl from being hit. Wally (Mike) sees this just as it happens, quickly runs outside, scoops up David and rushes him to hospital. It is at this time that we learn David developed superspeed around the age of two, but he only inherited Wally's speed, not the frictional barrier that prevents things outside forces from affecting him when he runs. Hence why David has been admitted to the hospital with burns, broken bones and more.
To complicate matters, Leonard Snart has been spying on the Edwards family for quite some time. This latest incident proves that Mike Edwards is the Flash. Snart reports to Diogenes, who is quickly planning both his escape from prison and his revenge on the Flash and his family. Snart is ordered to bring together some of Flash's old enemies, although Diogenes and his son will contact Golden Glider, as Snart and his sister parted ways years earlier when he decided to give up crime. Diogenes, after some time, makes contact with Wally at the hospital via phone to both let him know that he knows who they are and to distract Wally long enough to kidnap David.
Wally returns home, narrating about how witness protection makes you give up everything from your previous life. But there was one thing that he just couldn't leave behind. He digs around until he finds what he's looking for--his Flash ring, complete with costume inside. It's time to suit up and take action.
As the Flash, Wally makes his way through Diogenes's assembled villains in different instances--Weather Wizard, Sloe and Steddy with Mister Sprynt, Rainbow Raider, Golden Glider and who Wally calls the sixth Chillblaine, and a character by the name of Paradox. In each encounter, Flash gets his with an energy blast that seems more intense with each encounter. Eventually he figures out that the blasts are stealing his speed. By the time he is finished with Paradox and bursts in on Diogenes and his son at STAR Labs, he is only slightly faster than a normal human.
Diogenes reveals that the plan all along has been to take Flash's speed and give it to his son. Turning on the machine grants the younger Diogenes superpowers for just a moment before the powers prove incompatible and kill him. The grief of losing his son kills the older the Diogenes. Tina and Jerry McGee inform Wally that the energy has returned to the storage container on the machine. He can regain his powers if he so chooses.
Back at the hospital, David wakes up and apologizes to his dad for disobeying and running fast. Wally informs him that he did the right thing and gives him a gift--the Flash ring.
Back in the present, Waverider quickly vanishes after examining the future. Bonnie, in the process of trying to tell Flash about the files, is interrupted by her employer. He makes contact with her and escorts her off while Wally is left to wonder if it was just a simple misunderstanding and whether or not he will see more of her in the future.
THOUGHTS: This is yet another story that, while part of the Armageddon 2001 story, really seems to set itself further apart. Personally, I thought Ostrander's Hawkworld story was pretty much off to the side, but Waid took Flash off into another place entirely. There was never one moment where Wally might have been tempted to gain extra power or lord over a single person. He never even took any form of revenge, really, instead opting for simply defeating the villains per usual. Waverider is barely even a supporting character here. It's truly baffling how this is supposed to be part of the crossover and really have nothing to do with it.
OK, so WAid's story by itself is actually pretty darn great. It's the tale of a more mature Wally out to protect his family. Simple and to the point. But it's also about the love between a father and son, as well as becoming a legacy story. It works really really well as a Flash story set in the future, but it's a terrible Armageddon 2001 story.
The art is pretty much the DC standard at this point. Everything looks good and flows really well. No real complaints here.
Not much has changed on the villains in the decade between the frame story and the future. It is pretty cute that Golden Glider is on her sixth Chillblaine in an effort to replace her brother and also act out whatever weird sort of libido issues she might have. (Read the issues, I'm not kidding. She dresses dudes up like her brother and then proceeds to refer to them as lovers.) Why Waid didn't use more of the Rogues, I'm not sure. We are still quite a way away from the "Return of Barry Allen" story, so Reverse Flash was pretty much out. From what I can tell, Paradox is only in this story, even though he was touted as one of Wally's former villains. Go figure.
Either way you look at it, this issue is a good one for die-hard Flash fans. It is a good example of what Wally will eventually become toward the end of the Waid stories. However, don't expect much in the way of shockingly amazing art or Armageddon 2001 dystopian gloom.