Flash War is here, and Joshua Williamson explains what set it in motion

Image credit: DC Comics
Image credit: DC Comics /

The ultimate showdown between the Flashes of two generations is upon us, and the man writing the conflict helped give us a look into how it came to be.

Barry Allen vs. Wally West is the debate right at the heart of “Flash War,” the epic story that kicked off this week in The Flash #47. It’s tempting to call it the Coke vs. Pepsi of superhero comics, because there is no “right” answer to who’s better. Barry Allen was the hero who ushered in the Silver Age, but as writer Joshua Williamson reminds us, Wally West was the rare sidekick, maybe the only one, to rise up and fully assume the role of his mentor, becoming the Flash to a whole generation of fans.

There’s always been a spirit of competitiveness between the two speedsters, but never the kind of outright conflict that has been teased in the build-up to “Flash War.” Part of it is that Wally isn’t fully himself these days, buffeted by the return of memories that haven’t been part of him for years. But even though Barry hasn’t been able to help Wally with that particular problem as much as he’d like, the two men have recently mostly been on the same page.

That changes big time in The Flash #47, the true kickoff to a story Williamson can’t believe he and artist Howard Porter are actually getting a chance to tell — even though it’s one he’s been planning for some time.

“It’s really crazy, because I started pitching this to DC or talking about this with DC right after issue 1 came out, so this is a long time ago that we’ve been planning this and talking about it,” Williamson said to FanSided in a recent phone interview. “About a year ago, I finally pitched it to them in a more solid form of what I wanted to do, and I went into that meeting thinking, ‘There’s no way they’re going to let me do this. This is not going to happen.'”

Slowly, the pieces began to fall into place so it did. Citing the need for a story-driven reason to have Wally West in the fold, Williamson and his editors actually considered several previous arcs for his full-fledged return to the main Flash series, but it wasn’t until the “Perfect Storm” storyline that it worked out. From there, it was all about finding the perfect villain for “Flash War,” and as regular readers know, it turned out to be Hunter Zolomon, a.k.a. Zoom.

While the impetus for the events of The Flash #47 is Iris West potentially facing justice from the future for killing Eobard Thawne — and how the two Flashes butt heads over the right way to deal with that — it’s already apparent to us, if not the heroes, that Zolomon is the man behind the curtain. Prior to “Flash War,” Zolomon had his own encounter with Thawne, and while it appeared the two Reverse-Flashes might join forces, he eventually left his predecessor to his fate and ended up a bit of a changed man as a result.

The Flash #47 - Flash War Part 1
Image credit: DC Comics /

Zolomon has always had a unique drive to make Wally a better hero by exposing him to the kind of tragedy that he has faced in his own life, but he’s starting to ponder whether he needs to change his methods.

“Hunter kind of moves past certain ideas,” Williamson said. “When we get into ‘Flash War,’ you’re going to see that he’s very manipulative, he says certain things he doesn’t mean, and you’re gong to see where his motivations have changed and see that his end goal may not be what he is saying.

“When people are saying, ‘oh, these guys are going to ignite this,’ part of me thinks that’s a good thing, that we should be talking about this.” – The Flash writer Joshua Williamson

“I like writing Hunter, because I think his ideas of trying to make better heroes, and how the world needs them to be better heroes is very interesting, and if they’re not going to do this willingly, he’s going to make them. I think when you get to this story, he’s realizing he can’t just do it that way. He has to figure something else out, and he realizes that making them fight with each other, they’ll run down the path together.”

The special torment he has cooked up for Wally is revealed before the end of issue #47, and it’s as personal as it could possibly be. Despite that, Williamson can’t help but feel like it’s Barry Allen who may actually understand what Zolomon is really about.

“Hunter’s one of my favorite villains, so I feel like I know his motivation, and I was going to try to play with it and go kind of back and forth,” he said, noting that “Blitz” was one of his two all-time favorite Flash stories. “What’s interesting about that is that Barry understands that stuff now. It’s weird that Barry is the hero that Hunter always wanted Wally to be. There are so many parallels between these characters, which is something we dive into a lot.”

The Flash #47 - Flash War Part 1
Image credit: DC Comics /

Before “Flash War” runs its course, the conflict between Barry and Wally is going to force fans to take sides. But Williamson also suggested that they’ve long been doing that anyway.

Recounting his time spent with fellow DC writer Tom King on the convention trail together, Williamson said the duo would ask fans who their favorite Flash was and get a wide variety of answers, including not only the two speedsters in “Flash War,” but also Jay Garrick, Bart Allen and even Thawne. That kind of debate is not only “very present” in the current story, it’s an ongoing one — and the writer thinks that’s fine.

“When people are saying, ‘oh, these guys are going to ignite this,’ part of me thinks that’s a good thing, that we should be talking about this, because part of the fun of comics are these types of conversations,” Williamson said. “I think the way we’re doing it is respectful to these characters, and I think the stories that will come out of it put the characters in really good spots that will be different. And I think fans of both sides of that particular argument will be happy.”

All of that is to say that “Flash War” probably won’t settle any Barry vs. Wally disagreement, but it should be one heck of a ride for people on either side. Part 1 of the story is on sale now in The Flash #47, with the remaining three chapters releasing bi-weekly wherever new comics are sold, and a special epilogue in The Flash #51, on sale July 25.