Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for DC's Heroes in Crisis
The Heroes in Crisis event shocked comic fans when it began with the mass murder of DC superheroes. It shocked them again when it was revealed that Wally West was the killer. But the last issue of the event has finally revealed the whole truth, and some things were NOT as they seemed.
That doesn't mean that writer Tom King and artist Clay Mann have 'taken back' the biggest, or most heartbreaking surprises from Heroes in Crisis #8: Wally West still lost control over losing his family, and the eruption of Speed Force energy killed dozens of the heroes who surrounded him. But now that Wally West's motivations in covering up the crime and revealing the heroes' secrets has been explained, he faces his final fate and judgement. But it isn't the one fans will be expecting... it's something far more in keeping with the legacy of The Flash, and the heart of the Wally West fans knew.
If the identity of the killer didn't already prove that DC fans should read this story for themselves, then we'll offer up one final SPOILER WARNING for Heroes in Crisis #9, and get right down to it.
The Death (Suicide?) of Wally West
For those who may have missed out on the Wally West reveal, or struggle to wrap their minds around any science-fiction/time travel plotline, the time loop at work with Wally isn't quite as complicated as it may seem. To keep it simple, Wally killed his fellow heroes during an emotional breakdown, overwhelmed not only by his own grief, but witnessing the pain of every hero in Sanctuary who came seeking similar treatment. Once he realized what he had done, he understood what he must do, as well. All of which was outlined in his confession, even if his thinking and motivations are reserved until the final issue, Heroes in Crisis #9.
Wally staged the scene to distract the Justice League (Batman, mainly) by making Booster Gold and Harley Quinn false suspects. He then traveled five days into the future to meet his older self, killed him, then returned to place the body among the other dead heroes. Clearing the presumed-dead Wally West of any suspicion, Wally had given himself five days to force Superman's hand, and admit to the world the truth about Sanctuary. With it, the truth that Earth's heroes are as bruised, broken, and imperfect as anyone else. Once the five days passed--as they finally did in the last issue--Wally awaited the arrival of his younger self, knowing he would be killed, starting the loop over. Except... that's not what happened.
The Truth: Wally West Saved Himself All Along
In case anyone had forgotten, Wally West still learned what it means to be a man, a hero, and a friend at the foot of Barry Allen, one of the greatest heroes the DC Universe has ever known. So for the fans who witnessed Wally's worst moment, his greatest failure, and most tragic mistake, but refused to believe Wally had become something he wasn't? It's those fans who are rewarded in this final issue, once the young, panicked, and heartbroken Wally runs straight into his older self... and winds up held in them, being told that he isn't as alone as he feels. For those confused, the issue makes it clear: this is how the scene always played out, with Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Harley Quinn, and Batgirl arriving to intervene and give the young Wally a moment to pause.
In that moment, Wally explains his younger self's thinking--in the process, allowing the reader to understand exactly what was driving him to cover up his accident. The first question addressed is why Wally didn't just travel back in time to before the deaths occurred. But since Barry doing exactly that in Flashpoint is what lost Wally his family in the first place, he knows he can't. Instead, he does what only he is able to: acquire the secrets of Sanctuary before they can be digitally destroyed, and convince the heroes to show the world that "other people are like me, so they don't have to be like me."
Even the heroes present can see the truth in Wally's motives, as a net positive for mental health awareness. That if people "knew we were making mistakes... what happens when you don't get help... maybe they'd get help before they made mistakes like I'd made. Like I was making." The story became one of what happened when Wally West finally collapsed under the weight of his family being blinked out of existence. And in the end, the story concludes because Wally becomes the only shoulder he, himself, can cry on. It's an unexpected use of The Flash's ability to traverse the future, but one granting Wally a step forward as a character. Where the role would once have been played by Barry as a father figure, Wally can now do it himself.
The time travel fans out there will see the immediate problem with this conclusion, just as young Wally does. If he refuses to kill his older self, he won't return with a body, won't get his five days, and create a new future. The older Wally, having lived through these events once before, offers a simple reply: "Yeah. That's true. But then Booster says..." Never one to miss a cue, Booster Gold leaps in with a solution now possible with Wally accepting the aid of his friends. A short trip into the future to produce a clone of the older Wally, and they return to let him close the loop. Wally does so with the knowledge that Booster, Beetle, Batgirl, Poison Ivy, and even Harley are family... and will have his back again when he returns to this spot in five days' time.
Where The Finale Leaves Wally West
Regardless of his intentions, Wally knows (like everyone else) that he must still answer for what he has done. It was "his responsibility, even if it wasn't his intention." After taking a crushing knee from Harley directly to his most vulnerable area, Wally returns to the steps of Sanctuary where he is discovered by Superman and Barry Allen. Next seen with handcuffs being taken into custody by Batman and Wonder Woman, Wally's closing narration does show some level of acceptance for his reality. He's done running away from it, at least. He may have lost his wife and his children, but in the end, he didn't lose himself. Because he was stopped... by himself. That's the kind of emotional storytelling only possible when you're dealing with a Flash.
While the synopsis for this final issues posed a question to the Justice League--"Should the tragedy cause them to redouble their efforts to help their hurting comrades, or will they need to close up shop?"--the answer offered is the most hopeful one. Sanctuary is back up and running in the final pages. Booster Gold has accepted that he isn't alone, either (seemingly still crashing with Blue Beetle). Harley and Poison Ivy have a fresh start. And while he may be locked away for what he caused, Wally West came out of his crisis still breathing, too.
Heroes in Crisis #9 is available now at your local comic book store, and direct from DC Comics.