Today, Spencer and Michael are discussing Convergence: Speed Force 2, originally released May 6th, 2015. This issue is part of Convergence. For our conversations about the rest of Convergence this week, click here.
Spencer: What does it mean to be a family? It’s a broad question with probably millions of valid answers, but at their best (and at my most idealistic), I think families exist as a sort of support system. Spouses support each other through thick and thin; parents protect their children and teach them the skills they need to be self-sufficient adults, but also act as a safety net for when they fail; children eventually return the favor and usher their parents through old age. In an ideal family no one member is carrying all the weight — everybody has something to contribute. That’s a lesson the Flash, Wally West, needs to be reminded of in Tony Bedard and Tom Grummett’s Convergence: Speed Force 2, an issue that reestablishes the importance of the familial bonds between Wally and his kids and as well as their roles in the family without Linda.
Before Wally can reach any epiphanies, though, he still has to fight off Flashpoint Wonder Woman! I have a few issues with her character (that I’ll get to in a bit), but I appreciate how cunning, resolute, and absolutely savage she comes across as here — this Wonder Woman is a force to be reckoned with, as she should be. She eventually subdues Wally and binds him with her lasso, but the truths it reveals ends up hurting her far more than Wally.
When discussing last month’s issue I questioned why exactly Wally and his kids were being paired up against Flashpoint Wonder Woman, and I suppose this is my answer. Wonder Woman is typically a character who personifies love (when she became a Star Sapphire in Blackest Night she was said to love “everything”), but her Flashpoint persona has lost her way. Pairing her against a character whose loving bonds with his family and friends are his greatest strength is an ingenious way to further explore both characters.
Of course, while this isn’t really Bedard’s fault, I do have to take umbrage with a version of Wonder Woman who has lost her love for humanity all because a man treated her badly. It just feels petty and unduly diminishing to the character — and sure, the Flashpoint universe is awful and there are probably some other circumstances contributing to her stance, but her disastrous relationship with Aquaman is given all the emphasis in the narrative.
All gender issues aside, I think why this bothers me is because it fails to address the different kinds of love. Wally’s love for his wife is different from his love for his children, which is far different from whatever love bloomed in Diana and Arthur’s affair, and which is different still from the kind of love Diana would normally have for her Amazonian sisters. Diana cites her falling out with Arthur as turning her off love, but she never loved the other Amazons? That kind of love would be a much more direct parallel to the love Wally feels for his family — why is Diana so distant from her people? I suppose it’s a very minor complaint, and Bedard is clearly making the best of what Flashpoint gave him to work with, but I do feel like that would create a stronger parallel between Diana and Wally.
Still, that scene is effective in rattling Diana — enough to actually convince her to change her mind and retreat, which may be the most satisfying victory Wally could land — and especially in reminding Wally why his family are such a vital part of his life.
Wally spent most of his year feeling unmoored by his separation from Linda, and working obsessively to break down the dome and return to her. That’s admirable, but all the while Wally was drifting further and further from his kids. Reuniting his family would be the best-case scenario, but in the meantime, Wally overlooked how much his kids needed him and, perhaps even more significantly, how much he needed his kids. If Wally is ever going to find Linda again, it can only happen with his children at his side, because they’re all a part of the same family, and their strength comes from being together. That’s also why its so significant that Wally can only K.O. Wonder Woman once Jai and Iris return — it’s making literal this otherwise more metaphorical idea of finding strength through family.
I also want to explore Wally’s confession about being a bad father for a second. Is he right? Probably not, but the lasso proves that Wally at least believes it to be true, and Bedard doesn’t hesitate to call Wally out on not always being there for his kids while under the dome. Still, if Wally’s done any harm to his kids, it doesn’t seem to have had any lasting effects.
Jai and Iris have learned from their father’s heroic example and are becoming fine heroes in their own right, and it’s having a supportive, strong family bond from the very start that helped them develop so well. I mentioned in my introduction that a family acting as a support system is the ideal, but that doesn’t mean it takes a perfect family to pull it off — perfect families don’t exist. What it takes are family members who love each other so much that they’re willing to admit their mistakes and work together even when times are tough. It’s a sad fact of life that many people will never find those kind of bonds, but I’m grateful that Wally West has, if only to provide inspiration for all of us, as the best comic storylines so often can.
If this is the last time I ever get to see Wally West and his kids, I’m glad that Bedard is sending them off with such loving, emotional fanfare — I know this is how I want to remember them, but how about you, Michael? And what’s your take on Grummet’s art (and all those wonderful splash pages!) and Fastback? I didn’t get a chance to address either of them.
Michael: Yeeesh that read of Flashpoint Wonder Woman is frighteningly accurate Spencer. Basically Flashpoint (Geoff Johns?) gave the most recognizable superhero feminist symbol extremely un-feminist motivations. It’s such an implosive concept it’s insane to try to wrap my mind around it.
Kudos also to Spencer for making sense out of Bedard’s choice to have Wally face this particular Wonder Woman as his Convergence combatant while simultaneously reminding us of Diana’s brief stint as a Star Sapphire. I would’ve loved to follow that particular Blackest Night thread further, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Most superheroes are typically selfless, but Wonder Woman does indeed come to mind as more of an ideal example of selfless love or “agape” (putting my old Catholic school teachings to good use Mom!). After all, she is the embodiment of Greek myth — and currently a god in The New 52…the God of War…moving on!
Flashpoint Wonder Woman’s bullshit motivations aside, I liked how she surprised both Wally and myself with her attacks. Wally was caught off-guard because he was relying on what he thought he knew about his opponent instead of evaluating the situation at hand. Speed-of-Hermes-disarm! Fuck-your-vibrating-molecules-wall-slam! Count Vertigo DNA-bomb-toss! While Flashpoint Wonder Woman inherently sucks as an idea, she is quite the expectation-subverting warrior. On the one hand I like how she cuts through Wally’s plea for peace as he appeals to her alpha-female superiority. On the other hand I get annoyed by dumb comic book characters that refuse to listen and prefer to SMASH because…SMASH!; especially in a supremely dumb event that is based on SMASH for SMASH’s sake.
We talked last month about how one of the downsides to Convergence: Speed Force was that Wally West’s great Flash tales usually incorporate a larger “Flash family” ensemble. I still think that that is true, but Bedard probably thought that the best Flash family relationship to focus on was Wally and his kids. The story of Wally, Jai and Iris doesn’t seem like anything particularly new however. The “superhero father needs to learn to trust his superhero kids” routine has been done in books like Batman and Robin and Fantastic Four and movies like The Incredibles. I am by no means saying that Bedard needs to redefine the notion of the superhero family in a two issue tie-in story; I guess I would’ve liked a little more depth? I’d say that Fastback was a pretty sufficient substitute for the various members of the Flash family, however. In fact, I’d say that he actually functioned as a stand-in for some of those speedsters as well. Maybe it’s because he’s a pre-Crisis character, but he came off as a Jay Garrick-type most of all. The way that he obliged Wally by racing the twins out of danger and combined with his grandfather nurturing/indulging of them was very Jay-like. And I guess since he’s so cartoony and therefore a bid childish I was somewhat reminded of Bart Allen.
As far as Tom Grummett’s artwork goes, there’s a classic and simplistic style that he employs here that works for characters of yesteryear. I had to flip back to the credits to double-check that Grummett was the sole artist on the book because some of the character work seemed very Dan Jurgensy to me. Then I was reminded that Grummett was a ‘90s mainstay himself, so all of my questions were answered. If I had any complaint it might about a lack of background detail while the city crumbles around our heroes. That said, I’m pretty sure I saw an Amazon lifting up a car Action Comics-style, which pleased me greatly.
This one of the few Convergence tie-in “finales” that I’ve read; so far I’d say that these stories don’t want to engage in any kind of ending or finite resolution. This makes sense really, given the confines of the Convergence narrative: Wally and the twins can’t reunite with Linda for their happy ending because ya know; they’re not on Earth and everything. City stealing planetoids aside, writers like Bedard who have a genuine affection for characters like Wally probably don’t want to tell a “final story.” Besides getting all of our hopes up and taking our nostalgic-soaked dollars, I don’t really believe that DC has plans for their briefly-returned heroes like Wally West. So it’s probably for the best that we don’t close the book on Wally West in this issue because neither you, nor I, nor creators like Tony Bedard and Tomm Grummett want that. After all, this is comic books: nothing ever really ends.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?
Thanks for mentioning Fastback, Michael. You’re right that he’s a kind of speedster stand-in, especially as Bedard may only be limited to “Week 1” characters and therefore not be able to pull, say, Jay or Johnny Quick or even Barry from one of the other domed cities from the other weeks.
But I also think Fastback is a visualization of how the Amazons see Wally and his kids. The Amazons think that their age and their love and compassion make them weak and silly — they might as well be as weird and cartoony and ridiculous as Fastback. There’s really no difference to the Amazons.
Or maybe Bedard just thought it would be fun to play with a super fast turtle, I dunno.