THE FLASH VOL. 2: SPEED OF DARKNESS deals a lot with the aftermath of what writer Joshua Williamson laid down in volume one. Godspeed (a.k.a. August), has had a big effect on Barry Allen, Iris West and Wally West. Not only did the three of them all lose people they had a connection with in their civilian identities, but in their professional capacities they are all equally as affected—albeit pretty differently. Speed of Darkness focuses on this encroaching darkness both literally and metaphorically.
Meena Dhawan represents a big loss in everyone’s life. In his super heroic identity as the Flash, Barry is feeling the loss of an important ally in the aftermath of the Speed Storm. Not only was Meena given the gift of speed, but as a talented scientist, she had a unique understanding of exactly what was happening to her body and the bodies of everyone else who was affected. This made her a perfect ally to help the Flash train all these new speedsters in how to harness their abilities for good.
In many ways, she represents the best of what came out of the Speed Force Storm, where Godspeed represents the worse. Williamson created a great balance with the invention of both of these speedsters.
Even in his civilian identity as Barry Allen, the Flash was fascinated by Meena’s scientific knowledge. The result was the fast, but powerful, personal relationship that developed between them. This connection would seem to present a pretty big obstacle in the way of anything developing between Barry and Iris, but the lack of Meena in Barry’s life is what allows him to go out on a date with Iris in Speed of Darkness and finally give their iconic relationship a real chance at life in the Rebirth continuity.
For Kid Flash, Meena represented his very first mentor and, in tandem with his aunt Iris, one of the people who connected him with the Flash and allowed Wally West to reclaim one of the most well-recognized legacy mantles in DC Comics history. In the wake of Meena’s presumed death, Wally is forced to rely solely on the Flash to guide him in the direction of unleashing his full potential. In comparison to Meena, the Flash is not as open with Wally (he doesn’t even know that boring Barry Allen is the man behind the mask!), who reads this as a lack of trust.
Some of the “darkness” that the title refers to and that Williamson develops throughout this volume is the growing rift between the Flash and Kid Flash. Later on in the issue, the duo is forced to face down an actual representation of darkness in order to save Iris (who does a pretty good job holding her own until the speedsters show up), in a gauntlet that forces both Flashes to work together and combine some of their best tricks and classic comic book moves. In order to achieve such greatness, they’re forced to overcome the rift that’s grown between them.
Although there is an overarching narrative throughout Speed of Darkness, this volume feels more like a collection of separate stories that are thematically similar, whereas THE FLASH VOL. 1 dealt with much more linear storytelling. This volume also takes place over a greater length of time than its predecessor and includes the first date night issue I alluded to above (which has some definite holiday vibes). This is neither good nor bad when compared to the first volume. It’s just something that sets it apart. It will be interesting to see if Williamson returns to a more strictly overarching narrative in his third volume, or if there is going to be more of an emotional through-line for the next piece of the series.
Most of the issues also feature a different artist. The fascinating thing about the shifting art team is that fans of the Flash and its cast of characters get a chance to see different design elements highlighted and celebrated by individual voices that we generally wouldn’t get to consider over the course of a single storyline. Jorge Corona (you may know his art from the kickass WE ARE ROBIN series) draws the first issue in the collection and does a truly tremendous job. His rendering of the new version of Wally West is out of this world and I am hoping that he gets a chance to draw my personal favorite speedster again sometime very soon! Joining him in this collection are Davide Gianfelice, Neil Googe, Felipe Watanabe and Oclair Albert, who all put some really cool panels on the page!
Fun Fact: You can buy WE ARE ROBIN VOL. 1: THE VIGILANTE BUSINESS right here.
Let me know in the comments section below which artist you thought shined the brightest in Speed of Darkness! The Flash stories afford artists the opportunity to display some outstanding creativity and this volume is no different. Williamson gets to the heart of the series’ three leads, challenging and examining why they work so well together and what bonds them together, even more deeply, as a loving family.