SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Flash #49 by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Hi-Fi and Steve Wands, on sale now.
The current “Flash War” between Wally West and Barry Allen is both one of the most personal Flash stories while also having some of the highest stakes of a solo superhero comic in recent memory. Wally West’s quest to rescue his missing children from the Speed Force is heart-wrenching and relatable, while Barry Allen’s determination to stop Wally is not only rooted in his love for his nephew but the desire to not see him make the same mistake he did with Flashpoint.
As compelling as “Flash War” has been, it’s mostly been very personal affair between the two Flashes and not quite a war; but this week’s penultimate installment sees a third Flash enter the game, changing the dynamics of the conflict in a whole new way.
Everything about “Flash War” was put into motion by Hunter Zolomon, the one-time Rogue Profiler and ally of Wally West. Zolomon was a disgraced federal agent whose incorrect analysis of a criminal led to the death of his father-in-law, the dissolution of his marriage and the end of his career. Hoping to make things right, he specialized in the Rogues of Central and Keystone City and worked with the Gem Cities’ police departments and The Flash. However, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a militia from Gorilla City staged a breakout for Grodd, and was badly injured as a result.
Confined to a hospital bed, Zolomon reflected on everything bad that had happened to him and begged The Flash to let him use the Cosmic Treadmill to go back and save his father-in-law, marriage and career., When he was refused, he took it upon himself to break into The Flash museum and attempt it, but without a link to the Speed Force, it literally blew up in his face and displaced him from the timeline. What that meant was that his own personal timeline ran parallel to time, allowing him to travel up and down it, giving him the illusion of superspeed.
Inspired by Eobard Thawne, Zolomon became Zoom and rather than dedicate his life to killing or getting revenge on The Flash, he had convinced himself his purpose was to make Wally West a better hero through tragedy. Thus, he began targeting the people closest to The Flash. But even when he was engaged in the most despicable of actions, he claimed his goals were to help Wally in his own twisted way.
He hadn't been seen since the dawn of The New 52 and the shifts in continuity, but he reappeared recently and it was revealed that he had teamed up with Thawne in the 25th century. Following the death of Eobard Thawne at the hands of Iris West in the "Running Scared" story arc, Hunter Zolomon was stranded in the future, which refocused him into seeing The Flashes as unable to be the heroes he wants them to be and planning on taking their place to do a better job himself.