It’s over. You’re too late.
-Words rarely spoken to Wally West, a.k.a. the Flash
He is a member of the Justice League of America, a group of the greatest heroes on Earth. He stands amongst such legends as Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Batman. Well, perhaps stands isn’t the right word-because he’s the fastest man alive. He’s Wally West, but he’s better known as the Flash. He’s not a character who gets the same reputation in the general public as these other well-known comic characters, but he’s the star of the show in the latest in a series of Justice League of America books-Stop Motion.
The book opens as the League is dealing with a large number of objects dropping towards the planet-meteor isn’t quite the right term. This particular crisis leaves Wally feeling mostly like a fifth wheel, as this is a problem better suited to the powerhouses of the League. Yet, he is able to perceive something about them that others cannot-even though it doesn’t seem to answer the question of where these objects came from. He does, however, sense something else as he gazes at the fragment-something that seems to speak the name of Iris West-his aunt, and the wife of his predecessor, Barry Allen. Before he can investigate that further, however, Wally gets word of some unusual murders in his home of Central City-unusual because they all happened simultaneously.
As far as plot goes, this is pretty standard fare. This isn’t to say that this is a bad or boring book-it’s not. There are murders going on, and there is an excellent explanation of what is going on, as fact after fact is uncovered. But what really made this book for me was the various characters in it, and it all starts with Wally West. I’ll admit that back in the day, I was more familiar with the Barry Allen version of the Flash, with the costume popping out of a ring instead of being stored as kinetic energy-but that character died saving the world (long story). As a result, I was completely unfamiliar with the Wally West character. I’m not sure how well he matches up with the version in the comics these days, but he certainly comes off as a different kind of hero here. Married, works well with the local police, and doesn’t use a secret identity; he’s not Wally acting as the Flash-he’s Wally West, also known as the Flash. And one has to admit, if you’re committing a crime out in the open, there are better places to do it than Central City-where the Flash can take care of a very large number of problems between seconds.
Wally’s got a good supporting cast in Stop Motion as well. I’ll admit that I really liked the pair of Central City’s Finest, Jared Morillo and Fred Chyre-competent police officers in charge of metahuman issues, who also get the somewhat-less-than-joyous job of investigating these murders. The difficulty of living with a speedster is illustrated by Wally’s wife, Linda, who is very supportive of his activities-even though it puts a significant burden on her to support the family (being a super hero doesn’t exactly help in paying the bills). As an encounter with the doctors Pradash and Metz of S.T.A.R. Labs demonstrates, being a public superior doesn’t diminish the level of fascination that the general public has for them.
I’d be remiss, though, if I failed to mention Wally’s interactions with the League itself. I did find it interesting that he has a slight inferiority complex compared with the heavy hitters (and is pointed out by no less than the Man of Steel himself). It seemed odd to me-he’s been in the business for quite some time. Seeing the other League members through his point of view puts an interesting spin on them-his awe of Superman, his respect of Wonder Woman, his discomfort of having the Martian Manhunter peeking into his mind, and the amazement that Green Lantern wields the vast power of a power ring and still appears to be fairly well balanced.
From the Watchtower of the League, to the streets of Central city, to a meeting at “the Great Constant”, I’d say that Stop Motion is a pretty decent book to spend an afternoon with-especially if you enjoy the adventures of the Justice League or the Flash in the comics; or if you’d like to get reacquainted with the super heroes you might have been reading about in your youth (or if, like me, you remember these guys from the old Saturday morning cartoons). The Flash isn’t as darkly gritty as Batman or as powerful a Boy Scout as Superman, but he is a pretty normal guy in attitude. Even if he’s the fastest man alive.