After being written out of DC continuity entirely by the publisher's 2011 New 52 reboot, Wally West, aka the Flash, made a surprising return in 2016's DC Universe: Rebirth one-shot. His reappearance began a domino effect across the DCU, as heroes and villains began remembering their previous reality, some of them recalling their entire previous existence, while others only picked up bits and pieces of a life they once lived.
But while this has been good news for most of those affected by Wally's return, the speedster himself has experienced more pain than relief. His wife, Linda Park, refuses to accept the memories of her and Wally's previous life, and worse still, neither of their children exist in DC's new reality. Depressed, Wally entered Sanctuary, a mental health facility designed to help heroes and villains alike recover from the exclusive sort of trauma superpowered adventures can bring on, after Zoom manipulated him into "breaking" the Speed Force, with the promise that this would reunite him with his kids.
But even here, tragedy continued to follow Wally. During one of his sessions, the Flash lost control of his powers, resulting in the deaths of virtually every other Sanctuary patient. In a panic, Wally faked his own death and framed Harley Quinn and Booster Gold for the accident, making it seem like an intentional slaughter. Now, his actions exposed, the man who was once one of the brightest, most positive lights in the DC Universe, is in prison.
Which is where Scott Lobdell and Brett Booth come into the picture. In September, the writer/artist team launch Flash Forward, a six-issue miniseries that will reveal the next chapter in Wally West's story as he attempts to put his life back together. It's a big challenge, but according to Lobdell, that's what made the gig so appealing.
"Often when you read about the marketing of an event, you'll see a variation of, 'After this issue...nothing will ever be the same!' But then the next month's issues come out and -- everything is the same," Lobdell told CBR. "Reading Heroes in Crisis, it was very clear that Wally's story couldn't end on the ninth issue. So much had happened to him over the last year, and going back to Rebirth and going all the way back to the New 52 and Flashpoint... everyone agreed we'd be doing a huge disservice to a character that it could easily be argued is one of the greatest fan favorites in all of comics."
But Flash Forward is about more than Wally's future; the series will also deal with the fallen hero's past, with a particular focus on what he's been doing since his DC Universe was wiped out nine years ago.
"It was stated more than once, in the books and out, that the return of Wally West was about returning hope to the DC Universe. I think by the end of this series people will see we're not treating Flashpoint, New 52, Rebirth and Heroes In Crisis as separate stories with Wally West in them," Lobdell explained. "Rather, we'll see all of these turning points have been about telling one epic Wally West story. With Flash Forward, I'm using all the breadcrumbs Wally has left behind over the last nine years to tell a story that ties up some threads and starts weaving new ones.
"Trust me when I say Brett Booth wouldn't let me do anything other than write a love letter to his favorite character."
That may be an understatement. From the start of the New 52, the artist has been a vocal Wally West advocate, and even designed and illustrated the other Wally, aka the current Kid Flash, in his debut in 2014's Flash Annual #3.
"They share the same name and are cousins, but [are] two different characters. Working on both has been a dream come true, and I was honored to get the chance to design and redesign them! I’ve been asking for this project for nine years now," Booth said of his excitement for Flash Forward. "It's nice to finally get a chance to draw him solo! I’m hoping this leads to more projects for the character, he’s been neglected for far too long! "
Of course, every superhero story needs a villain, or at least an antagonist of some sort, and Flash Forward is no different. The cover for the first issue, illustrated by Evan 'Doc' Shaner, features a mysterious face, with what appears to be gears inside his forehead, looming behind Wally. Lobdell was quick to dispel at least one theory regarding the character ("That character is definitely not the android Hourman from Grant Morrison's JLA run."), but did confirm they're important to the overall plot, while teasing that readers may have already met him in another book.
"He is a great newish character who has been introduced in the last year or so. He was in place editorial before I had my first meeting for Flash Forward. Fortunately, he is such a cool character who is going to be pushing Wally way far out of his comfort zone.
"I say fortunately because his 'comfort zone' since Heroes In Crisis has been about feeling really bad considering his involvement in the death of so many of his colleagues," Lobdell continued. "And his attempted frame of both Harley and Booster."
Flash Forward #1, by Scott Lobdell, Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund, with covers by Evan 'Doc' Shaner and Inhyuk Lee, arrives in stores Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.