REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES WALLY WEST FLASH
As much as I believe the DC Universe Signature Series to be the finest line of super-hero action figures presently available, I did have to wonder just a little bit if doing a figure of Wally West during his days as The Flash was really necessary.
Now, it was certainly preferable to, say, anything from the "New 52". But there were already figures of Jay Garrick as The Flash, Barry Allen as The Flash, and Wally West as Kid Flash. And frankly, Barry Allen's Flash Costume and Wally West's Flash costume were extremely similar, nearly identical except for a few relatively minor details. Was this action figure warranted?
And then I thought about it. The Flash has always been a popular character. And Wally West operated as The Flash for over twenty years, from the time of Barry Allen's apparent death during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, to his return not long after the Infinite Crisis. And Wally West continued to operate as The Flash after Allen's return, even as Barry Allen resumed the role as well.
Wally West as The Flash proved to generally be an extremely popular incarnation of the character, and West was a member of the Justice League during some of its greatest adventures, and was also The Flash in the excellent animated Justice League series.
So, yeah, I'd say a figure of Wally West as The Flash is justified. And he has been added to the DC Universe Signature Series. Let's consider the history of the character, and then have a look at his action figure.
Wally West was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino and introduced in The Flash #110 (1959). He was the first Kid Flash, and the third Flash. IGN has ranked Wally West #8 on their list of the "Top 100 Super Heroes of All Time", stating that "Wally West is one of the DCU's greatest heroes, even if he doesn't rank as the original Scarlet Speedster".
The character was the nephew of the existing Flash character's girlfriend and later wife, Iris West. During a visit to the Central City police laboratory where Barry Allen worked, the freak accident that gave Allen his powers repeated itself, bathing West in electrically-charged chemicals.
Now possessing the same powers as the Flash, West donned a smaller sized copy of Barry Allen's Flash outfit and became the young crimefighter Kid Flash. Wally had a strained relationship with his own parents and often looked to his beloved aunt and uncle for moral support and guidance.
This costume was later altered in The Flash #135 (1963) to one that would make him more visually distinctive. The original red was replaced with a costume that was primarily yellow with red leggings, gloves, and ear-pieces. This was the Kid Flash that appeared in the DC Universe Classics line some time ago.
In addition to his appearances within the Flash title, the character was used as a member of the Teen Titans, where he became friends with Dick Grayson, then known as Robin, later known as Nightwing.
Sometime later, Wally contracted a mysterious disease: the more he used his speed powers, the faster his body would die. Wally subsequently retired from his hero role, and from the Titans.
During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry gave his life to save the Earth when destroying the antimatter cannon that was aimed at Earth. Initially unaware of this, Wally was coaxed by Jay Garrick into assisting the heroes against the Anti-Monitor's forces. During the final battle with the Anti-Monitor, Wally was struck by a blast of anti-matter energy, which put his disease into remission. In the aftermath of the conflict, Wally took on his fallen mentor's costume and identity.
The decision by DC Comics' editorial staff to radically change their fictional universe saw a number of changes to the status quo of the character. Wally West became a less powerful new Flash than his predecessor. For example, instead of being able to reach the speed of light, he could run just faster than that of sound. Also, the character had to eat vast quantities of food to maintain his metabolism.
Those changes were quickly followed up and 1987 saw the publication of a new Flash comic, initially written by Mike Baron. These stories focused not only on the Flash's superhero exploits, but the state of Wally's wealth. West won a lottery, bought a large mansion, and became something of a playboy. The character's finances and luck continued to ebb and wane until Flash vol. 2, #62, when his playboy ways ended and his fortunes stabilized.
The 1990s also saw further modifications to the look of the character, with a modified uniform appearing in 1991. This modified costume altered the visual appearance of the traditional Flash costume, with a belt made of two connecting lightning bolts meeting in a "V" at the front (where Allen's costume had a single bolt in a horizontal band), removal of the wings from the top of his boots, a change in the material of his costume, and opaque lenses added to the eyes of his cowl. This modified design utilized elements of the costume designed by artist Dave Stevens for the live action television series, The Flash.
A difficult encounter with a particularly vicious foe, the first Reverse-Flash (Eobard Thawne), also served to increase the speed of the character, forcing him to push past a psychological block he had placed on his powers. To prevent himself from truly "replacing" Barry, Wally had subconsciously limited his speed so that he could never become his mentor's equal, but Thawne's bragging that he would become the true Flash forced Wally past this block as he feared Thawne replacing Barry more than he feared himself doing so.
After this encounter he was Barry Allen's equal in speed, and eventually became even faster. Though he still had not been able to recover Barry's vibrational/phasing abilities (he could vibrate through objects but they would explode instead) he gained several new powers that Barry never had. He was able to share/steal speed, use his speed to kinetically upgrade his attacks, and super heal others.
Writer Mark Waid expanded on the character's powers thematically and further redefined the character by introducing the Speed Force, an energy source that served as a pseudo-scientific explanation for his powers and that of other fictional speedsters within the DC Universe. Using this concept as a basis, the character's ability to tap into the Speed Force was used to expand his abilities. The character was now able to lend speed to other objects and people and create a costume directly out of Speed Force energy. Traditional powers such as the ability to vibrate through solid objects were also restored.
The 2000s saw writer Geoff Johns revitalize the character further by introducing new versions of characters such as Zoom; making significant use of the Rogues; and marrying the character to longtime girlfriend Linda Park.
After Johns left the series, sales dropped significantly and DC editorial decided that it was time for the status quo to change once more. Using the miniseries Infinite Crisis as a narrative device, the character of Wally West and his family were seen leaving for an alternative reality. This allowed the character Bart Allen to become the fourth Flash and headline a relaunched third volume of the title, called The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.
The critical reaction to this new version of the character was mixed and the character was killed off in the final issue of the short-lived third volume. Bart would later return in the "Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds" story. It was decided that Wally West should return; and the JLA/JSA story "The Lightning Saga" was used to return the character to Earth along with his wife and children, who appear to have aged several years.
The character next appeared in All Flash #1 (2007), seeking vengeance on those who had killed Bart Allen. This was followed by The Flash vol. 2, which resumed publication after the long hiatus with issue #231 (October 2007). The series found the character struggling with trying to raise his two super-powered twins, plagued by accelerated growth and their inexperience in the heroic game, a task made more difficult by Wally's unemployment, his inability to keep a steady job, and the mistrust of the League for his decision to bring two children into the fold. The series was canceled with issue #247 (February 2009).
In Final Crisis, the character was reunited with Barry Allen, who had returned to life.
Interviews with The Flash: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver revealed that the character would adopt a newly-designed costume in the limited series that reintroduces Barry Allen as the Flash. The new costume is heavily inspired by the original changes made to the suit in Flash vol. 2, #50 (cowl lenses, "wingless" boots, the belt-line V-shape, and the darker red color of the suit), which were slipping in and out of usage when the character was drawn by different artists. Wally's costume has also been given a straight cowl which cuts off at the bottom of the nose, similar to Batman's. Wally has also gained a new symbol identical to the symbol worn by his animated counterpart in the Justice League animated series, to further distinguish Wally from Barry Allen. After the end of "The Flash: Rebirth", Barry Allen became the star of a new ongoing "Flash" series, with Wally West making only one, out-of-costume appearance during the series' 12-issue run.
As to his overall powers and abilities, Wally's primary superpower is his ability to control the speed of which his body vibrates and to move at super speed, which he uses primarily to run at super-human velocities. This super speed is derived from his connection to the Speed Force: a vaguely defined extra-dimensional energy force from which most speedster heroes draw their powers (while the original Flash, Jay Garrick, can draw upon the Speed Force, Jay is one of the few speedsters that is a metahuman first, allowing him to keep a degree of super speed even when the Speed Force was cut off from the others).
While many hypothesize that the Speed Force is to an extent sentient, most utilize it primarily as just a tool, drawing upon it and using it when necessary; however, Max Mercury, a veteran speedster, has been able to commune and communicate with it, making it his life's goal to unlocking its secrets with many calling him the "Zen Master of the Speed Force". The Speed Force serves as the ultimate measure of velocity in the DC Universe. They are often referred to in terms of barriers: Sound Barrier, Light Barrier, Time Barrier, Dimensional Barrier, and finally the Speed Force Barrier.
While most to all speedsters can make a connection and draw upon this force, West "mainlines" power from the Speed Force itself and cannot be cut off from the source. This connection to the Speed Force allows him additional abilities than other speedsters, such as lending and taking speed (which manifests in different ways, ranging from becoming speedsters themselves to bolstering others metabolisms and healing abilities, allowing them to recover from injuries in a fraction of the normal time), as well as absorbing kinetic energy in a less direct manner; he once absorbed the kinetic energy of the entire planet Earth while standing at the North Pole when his teammates were forced to move the planet to prevent possible earthquakes. Wally has also found a way to create a costume out of pure Speed Force energy.
Like all Flashes, Wally is surrounded by a protective aura that allows him to resist the heat created by the pressure of compressed air caused by moving at super speed as well as other environmental consequences of moving at such velocities. It is not known how Wally is able to circumvent the damage moving at such great speeds would normally have on the environment, but it has been hypothesized that his protective aura allows him to "side step" such environmental consequences. Because of his powers and connection to the Speed Force, he can run at varying speeds for extended periods of time without needing rest or causing damage to his body. It is his connection to the Speed Force that constantly rejuvenates him while running making it so he does not literally feed upon his own body to generate the energy for super speed. Even so, as a consequence of his sped up metabolism, he finds it necessary to eat often and in great quantities to help supply the chemical energy needed to run like he does.
Using his abilities, Wally can run at such speed that he can run on water, create powerful vortices with his arms or body, and vibrate at such speeds that he becomes invisible to the naked eye. Wally can also match the vibrational constant of solid objects and vibrate through them, passing his molecules through the spaces in between the atoms and molecules of the matter he's vibrating through. Unlike other speedsters, once he became one with the Speed Force some of his abilities changed, one of which is that the objects Wally is vibrating though become atomically unstable and explode a second or two later. While this has its drawbacks, Wally has learned to use this offensively in battle.
Wally can also use his speed in a variety of clever ways in combat from creating a powerful whirlwind/tornado lifting and trapping his foe (which, if he chooses, can be used to knock his opponent out by robbing them of their oxygen supply), to binding and trapping his foes with whatever's lying around before they have a chance to react, to pummeling them with hundreds of super speed punches in a few seconds. Like many of the more powerful speedsters, he is able to run at such speeds where he is able to travel through time, although being able to control and fine tune his temporal destinations is quote "extremely tricky".
Wally is one of the fastest of all the Flashes, arguably one of the fastest beings that has ever existed and it has been remarked that Wally and Barry Allen are the only two speedsters that were fast enough to even outrun death.
Some interpretations of Wally are shown as having above average strength. On the Justice League episode "The Brave and the Bold Part 2" he asks the gorilla Solovar how much he weighed, who responded that he weighed around 400 lbs. Wally then proceeded to lift Solovar and run to safety.
So, how's the figure? Very impressive, and surprisingly distinctive. Please note the various costume modifications that are mentioned in the character's history above. While Wally West certainly maintained the look of his predecessor's costume, certain steps were taken to make it his own.
Now, I might have liked to have seen the most recent (pre-New-52) incarnation, with the modified emblem more akin to his animated counterpart, and the straight cowl coming across the nose instead of angled above it, but in fairness, West didn't get much chance to appear in that costume before the events that have resulted in the fiasco that is the present DC Universe. Clearly, Mattel's objective was to create a Wally West Flash figure that most closely resembled how he was best known for the majority of his time as the Flash.
As one would expect, the figure mostly uses established body parts. That's to be expected. However, this Flash does have an entirely new headsculpt. Comparing it to the Barry Allen Flash figure is interesting. The jawline is a little rounder, perhaps wanting to indicate a younger individual. The wings on the earpieces are different, looking more like lightning bolts. Wally's facial expression is somewhat less serious than Barry's. One side of his mouth has a slightly cocky grin to it. And the eyes have been blanked out as white, which was common for Wally West as the Flash, but not for Barry Allen.
The uniform is essentially the exact same color red, with one key difference. In order to simulate the concept that this costume is somehow made from the Speed Force, as well as to emulate the detail that it was usually given in the comics, the entire costume has been given a metallic finish. This, as much as anything, really sets the figure apart from the figure of Barry Allen.
The traditionally yellow details have been painted metallic gold. Here is where I have a slight criticism. I personally would've used a brighter shade of gold. Gold seems to be one of those paint colors that can be all over the map. I've seen a bright yellow gold, and I've seen darker gold that looks like it's been left to tarnish for a century. The gold used on Wally West here is a fairly straightforward gold, but given that the classic Flash costume used yellow, I would've been more inclined to use a brighter yellow gold. It still would've had a metallic finish, but been a little more in line with the Flash's traditional colors.
West has the lightning bolt bands around his wrists, but they're distinctly thicker than the Barry Allen Flash. The lightning bolt belt has been redone, well in keeping with West's look, where the one-time straight-across lightning bolt favored by Allen has been replaced by the seeming two lightning bolts that meet in a "V" in the center.
West's boots, unlike Allen's, do not have the little wingtips on the sides, but they do still have the heavy ridged treads on the soles. This is something common to any speedster super-hero, and it's certainly common to any speedster super-hero figure. Barry Allen has them, Kid Flash, Jay Garrick, the Reverse-Flash, the Blue Lantern and White Lantern versions of Barry Allen, and now this figure. Mattel's gotten a lot of use out of those specialized feet.
The lightning emblem inside the white circle on the chest is present and accounted for, but here is where I have to take slight issue with Mattel. I see no reason why they couldn't have used the same one that they did with Barry Allen -- unless they lost it or something -- and frankly, the one used on Wally West just doesn't look quite as good. The lightning bolt is slightly thicker, and its various points on either side just aren't as well -- aligned, for lack of a better term. It just looks a little sloppy. And I have come to expect better than this from Mattel and the Four Horsemen in this line. As much as anything, it looks like they tried to add a little forced perspective to it, and between that and the musculature that it has to be imprinted over, it didn't work very well.
On the whole, though, the figure looks very decent, and looks distinctive enough from the Barry Allen Flash to certainly stand on its own merits.
Of course, the figure is superbly articulated. The Flash is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivels, knees, and ankles.
So, what's my final word? Wally West is one of several youngsters that we've seen grow up and take on new identities in the DC Universe. Dick Grayson gave up his Robin identity to become Nightwing. Roy Harper put aside his Speedy identity to initially become Arsenal, and then later, to honor his mentor, became Red Arrow. And Wally West chose to honor his mentor's apparent sacrifice by taking on his identity as The Flash. And now, all three of them have been brought into the DC Universe line, Nightwing and Red Arrow having done so during the DC Universe Classics series.
This is an impressive figure. I love the metallic finish, the headsculpt is distinctive and appropriate, and it's a superb rendition of the character as he was best known during the time when he took on his mentor's role and went on to have some amazing adventures as The Flash. My initial ambivalence was misplaced. Wally West, as The Flash, deserved this figure, and it's a good one, and I'm glad to have it. So will you.
The DC UNIVERSE SIGNATURE SERIES figure of WALLY WEST as THE FLASH definitely has my highest recommendation!