Fan Fic / Flash By Northwest
Flash by Northwest
is a Justice League Unlimited
fanfic written by Merlin Missy, and co-written with Dotfic, in 2007. It is set after the JLU
series finale "Destroyer" and the flashback in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
The story starts when Vixen drops dead immediately upon reading a book she finds in the founding Leaguers' conference room. Turns out the book is in fact a magical puzzle-trap that transports anyone who reads even a word or line of its text inside the realm of the book's story; said story happens to be a Sam Spade-esque murder mystery where Vixen's alter ego Mari McCabe is the murder victim. The League's Original Seven soon get transported into the story, as well, and find themselves de-powered and in various roles according to the book's plot; the central role goes to the Flash, whose identity in this universe is that of the main detective, ex-cop turned private eye Wally West.
Fortunately, the seven all still have their real memories, and in the real world Zatanna is working alongside Dr. Fate to find a way to get them all out safely; unfortunately, in the book's universe each one of them is revealed to have a motive to kill Mari, whether their characters directly interacted with hers or not. Now, as the seven work on solving the book's murder mystery, they are forced to face their characters' darkest secrets and confront friends turned into foes by the book's magic, as well as confront their own real-world issues...
It can be accessed here
(For ease of differentiating between John
Stewart and J'onn
J'onzz, the former will be referred to simply as Lantern and the latter by his full name, unless otherwise indicated.)Spoilers abound, both for this story and the canon series.
Tropes in this work include:
- Absence of Evidence: In the book's plot, Mari McCabe is killed via gunshot. The gun is at the scene of the crime...but there are no fingerprints on it. Plus, Everyone Is a Suspect, but there's no hard evidence at the crime scene to implicate any one particular person...though there is plenty of circumstantial and disconnected evidence elsewhere throughout the story to implicate each of the Original Seven.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Shayera's character in the book's universe suffers from this kind of treatment, just as she herself had to do in the real world following the events of the Thanagarian invasion. In the book, her character was accused of being a spy for the other side during World War II, but in this universe some damage control was done by her richest supporters claiming that she was in fact a double-agent.
- Alternate Universe: Invoked in-universe with the magic book—the setting of the story takes place in a crime-noir world where the heroes don't have their superpowers and everyone they know is in a completely different role from canon. For example, Wally West becomes a rather seedy detective in the mold of Sam Spade, John Stewart (Lantern) is a rich socialite, J'onn J'onzz is a shady accountant, and Bruce Wayne is a movie producer and a genuine playboy. However, certain characters' book counterparts don't share the same name, such as Carter Hall being named Joe Gardner in the story (which gets Shayera into trouble when she repeatedly calls him Carter). note
- Anyone Can Die: Because of this, Zatanna makes a point of warning the heroes to do their best not to die in the story's plot.
- Big Damn Heroes: In Chapter 12, Lantern and a disguised Shayera show up just in time to save Wally, Diana and an injured Clark from Helena Bertinelli and her mobsters, who moments earlier had the trio pinned down by gunfire.
- Big Fancy House: Bruce's character lives in one, natch, although his isn't quite like the actual Wayne Manor but is a composite of various memories of several rich people's mansions. Also, Lantern owns one which he shared with Mari's character, and he's surprised to see that it's actually his house when he sees it for the first time (in the real world, he rents an apartment).
- Blackmail: This is revealed to be Clark's character's motive to kill Mari. He had taken some scandalous photos of her and was extorting money from her in exchange for his silence; prior to her murder, she had refused to pay him another cent.
- Boom, Headshot: Bruce's character is killed this way.
- Brought Down to Normal: Everyone who enters the book. Zatanna is the sole exception, as she's able to go back and forth between the book's world and the real world through magical assistance from Dr. Fate, but she only stays long enough to give the heroes information on where they are and what they need to do while she works on a way to free them from outside.
- Chekhov's Gunman: The book's version of Harvey Dent is given two brief in-person scenes in the story—his first appearance has him getting Wally out of a jam with the police, and later he shows up to offer help (and probably something more) to Bruce. While meaningful, given that this is a very different Harvey from what we're used to, he's ultimately not given much more development yet he's the one Wally has to reveal the killer's identity and motive to in order to break the book's magic power and bring all the heroes back to the real world, and that happens when Harvey conveniently calls just after The Reveal has been made.
- City of Adventure: Los Diablos.
- Conspiracy Theorist: The book's version of Vic Sage, not unlike his real-world counterpart (the Question), but in the book's plot he used to work with Wally before mysteriously disappearing after making wild claims about government conspiracies. He shows up in Chapter 9 to give Wally some cryptic and much-needed information.
- Continuity Nod: Several throughout the story. Examples are listed below:
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: The book-universe's Oliver Queen is a mob boss, a crooked political figure and Los Diablos' mayor, and the owner of a shady nightclub.
- Crapsack World: Los Diablos, where the book's in-universe plot unfolds, is a shady expy of Los Angeles with aspects of Metropolis and Gotham City thrown into the mix. Plenty of the police are corrupt, the rich trample on the poor, the mob is in full swing, adultery runs rampant, and local journalism is more sensational than factual.
- Culture Clash: A minor example in the second chapter—Clark is initially surprised that while Lois writes the stories he presents to her, they're all submitted in his name instead of hers. Then he realizes the time period is in the 1940s, shortly after World War II and some twenty years before gender equality would begin picking up speed in Real Life.
- Deadpan Snarker: Even in the fictional world, where she's one of several suspects in Mari's murder, Shayera's still got it.
Lantern: Do you have any good news?
Shayera: Fine. I'm fine. Lovely weather we're having today, don't you think?
- Dirty Cop: Oliver Queen and Harvey Bullock hint that Wally used to be this.
- Dirty Old Man: The book's version of Perry White, as observed by Clark in Chapter 4.
- Disappeared Dad: Book!Tim Drake grew up without a father, as his mother was pregnant with him during an era when pregnancies out of wedlock would have been scandalous; this fact also contributed to him and his mother growing up in poverty when previously she was an aspiring movie star. Book!Bruce is his father.
- Drives Like Crazy: Shayera, as revealed in Chapter 7. She uses this to kill Joe Gardner.
- Eagle-Eye Detection: Employed here and there by Wally, most prominently in Chapter 13 (with some assistance from Lantern).
- Easter Egg: One review for the fanfic actually used this term to describe various elements that show up in the story, which are part and parcel of both DCAU and comic-book continuity. Chief among these is the fact that several characters, major and minor, are re-cast in different roles in the magic book's in-universe tale, including established comic characters who didn't actually show up in DCAU canon proper. Examples include Guy Gardner as John Stewart's chauffeur, Livewire as a random prostitute, Bane as a briefly-mentioned drug addict, Booster Gold and Ted Kord (the Silver-Age Blue Beetle) as flat-mates sharing an apartment complex with Diana, and General Zod as a mentioned-but-never-seen political figure in Los Diablos.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: At least, among the original seven, with their varying motives intertwining.
- Eye Scream: Book!Joker gets a thrashing that is so severe, one of his eyes gets swollen shut and the other is simply gone when the beating finally stops.
- Face Your Fears: Late into the story, Shayera theorizes that the book's power is designed to make whoever enters its pages do this; in the heroes' case, it has to do with the fears they face regarding just being themselves as opposed to their superhero alter egos.
- Genre Savvy: Bruce, naturally. As soon as he realizes they're in a detective murder mystery and that they are all potential suspects, he advises the others to find any evidence that could eliminate them from having a motive (as all of them start the mystery with having an opportunity). Unfortunately, it turns out that all of them have viable motives, direct and indirect, to kill Mari.
- Girl Friday: Diana's role to Wally in the book's plot. The trope itself is discussed between them on a number of occasions, in the context of Humphrey Bogart detective movies.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Hinted to be Lantern's mental reaction when J'onn informs him that Mari and Diana were in some scandalous pics together (he wasn't present during the deliberations leading to this reveal, at Bruce's insistence, in order to not make himself look more guilty).
Lantern: That's an...interesting mental image.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: The book universe's versions of Hal Jordan and Harvey Bullock, respectively.
- He Knows Too Much: The heroes discover in their investigations that Mari's character in the book was planning to make a big announcement at Bruce's party, but was murdered before she could do so; the theory is that the announcement must have included a secret that somebody didn't want getting out. Additionally, this is revealed to be Diana's specific motive to kill Mari, as both women were in some of Clark's scandalous photos; Clark notes that if Mari's intended announcement was about the photos, Diana's reputation would have been sullied.
- If I Can't Have You: Bruce's theorized motive to kill Mari. She was his studio's primary star, but she was planning to leave him for a director who would allow her more creative control over her roles despite being able to pay her less than Bruce.
- The Jeeves: Alfred's character in the book serves as this for Bruce, of course. There's also Rex Mason (Metamorpho pre-transformation) who serves as Lantern's chief butler and head of the Stewart household staff.
- Kill The Creditor: Wally's motive to kill Mari, albeit an indirect one—J'onn, as a larcenous accountant, had loaned Wally money that was skimmed from Mari's accounts, but Wally couldn't pay the loan back. The theory is that he may have killed Mari as a way to get the loan forgiven.
- Lights Off, Somebody Dies: The book's murder mystery begins this way, during a party at Bruce's mansion.
- Like Brother and Sister: Wally and Shayera, which is briefly noted by the latter at one point. It's also a Continuity Nod to the canon series episode "I Am Legion," where Flash plainly says Shayera is like the big sister he never had...only, you know, short.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: J'onn J'onzz's character is murdered and the body set up to look like a car crash into a tree. However, Bruce, Lantern, Shayera and Clark notice discrepancies at the crash site.
- Morality Pet: The book's version of Question, here identified by his real name of Vic Sage, wanted to be this for Helena Bertinelli (Huntress). Sadly, as he reveals to Wally, it didn't work.
- Morally Bankrupt Banker: Morally Questionable Accountant in J'onn J'onzz's case. His character in the book, here named Jean Jones (the first name being French), is an accountant for John Stewart and Mari McCabe, but under orders from Lantern he's been sending a fixed monthly sum to Shayera's account to pay for her expenses. It also turns out that his specific motive to kill Mari is because he's been skimming money from her accounts for himself for some time, and one theory is that her intended announcement was to reveal that she knew about the skimming and was going to expose him.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Within the book's universe, there is suspicion that Lantern may have killed Mari (who is his wife in the story) so he could be with Shayera...and there is alternate suspicion that Shayera did it because she was tired of being the mistress.
- Non-Idle Rich: Bruce and Lantern's characters.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Wally, as noted by Bruce in Chapter 5.
Not that Wally wasn't smart—Bruce not only knew what Wally did for a living but had copies of all his school transcripts and job performance evaluations in the Batcomputer—but Bruce had never known anyone else who went to such great lengths to hide the fact. It seemed odd to be in a world where Wally was the detective and he himself was genuinely nothing more than the playboy.
- Brought up again and lampshaded in Chapter 12 when Wally's able, at a glance, to show exactly how one person has died and the possible cause.
Wally: Skin discoloration, bright pink pigmentation. Crusted vomit around the mouth, indicative of nausea. No visible trauma to the rest of the body, though for now victim must remain clothed. Looks like he was poisoned.
(he sees Lantern and Shayera staring at him)
Wally: You know I do this for a living, right?
Lantern: It's easy to forget.
- Oh Crap!: Chapter 13. "Please, no."
- OOC Is Serious Business: Wally knows that any time Bruce Wayne is afraid and shows it, the situation is very bad.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Diana to Wally, when she finds out her character in the story is his character's secretary.
Diana: I. Do. Not. Do. Your. Typing.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: In-universe, going hand-in-hand with Your Mind Makes It Real; one prominent example is Lantern's ongoing Love Triangle with Shayera (his ex) and Vixen (his current number) playing itself out in the book's story by portraying John Stewart and Mari McCabe as a married couple and Shayera Hol as John's mistress.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The book universe's version of Harvey Dent, here an un-scarred District Attorney. Specifically, he advises the police to cut Wally a break, despite Wally being implied to have been a corrupt cop in the past, as he's doing the best he can to crack the murder case; and later he visits Bruce and admonishes him to help himself by letting Harvey help to prove his innocence in the case.
- Red Herring: Two of them. One is the question-mark-shaped pendant found by Wally and Diana at a crime scene, leading them to think the book's version of the Riddler is involved in the mystery somehow. Turns out the pendant was a gift from book!Question to book!Huntress, who dropped it by accident when she gunned down book!Oliver Queen for reasons unrelated to the main mystery. There's also book!Joker as a suspect for book!Tim's murder.
- The Resenter: The book's version of Tim Drake is revealed to be this toward both Mari McCabe and Bruce Wayne. As he explains to a disguised Bruce in Chapter 7, his mother was supposed to be cast in the movie role that would eventually make Mari famous, but Bruce cast Mari in the role instead, and Tim and his mother subsequently grew up destitute. When asked why his mother didn't simply get another movie role, Tim replies that it's because she was pregnant with him.
- Late into the story, Katma Tui—who in the book's universe is one of John's maids—is revealed to have been this toward him. They were lovers during his war service, then he set her up as a maid in his wife's employ and put his mistress Shayera in a comfortable house close by; Kat resents that she never got that kind of treatment, the kind she believes she rightfully deserves.
- Reset Button: One of two theories Zatanna proposes about how to get the heroes out of the book safely—if they can play out the story's plot right through to the end, even if any of them dies in-story, they will be brought back to their previous conditions in the real world.
- Rich Bitch: Tim Drake views Mari McCabe as this, although his having a personal reason to hate her may be coloring his viewpoint.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Book!Oliver Queen.
- Shout-Out: Chapter 13 reveals that Wally has labeled the buzzing feeling he gets in the back of his head whenever he's found a good clue as his "Spidey-sense."
- Situational Sexuality: In the book's universe, Diana is in a relationship with Audrey, her Kasnian friend in the real world, and she also flirts with a female receptionist, the book's version of Thanagarian officer Paran Dul, in an attempt to get information Wally can't get the normal way. Then there's book!Harvey Dent, who seems to want to be more than just a friend to Bruce.
- Son of a Whore: In the book's plot, Tim is Bruce's illegitimate son with Selina Kyle.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Vic Sage pulls this on Wally late in the story after paying him a visit at his office to reveal that Helena Bertinelli killed Oliver Queen.
- Twisting the Words: Clark's character in the book has a reputation for this.
- The Unreveal: It's never made clear just what Mari's intended announcement was going to be.
- Unstoppable Rage: Bruce goes through this in Chapter 12, resulting in him going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the book-universe's Joker. Diana and Lantern just barely show up in time to restrain him and calm him down.
- World War II: Referenced a number of times in the timeline of the book-universe's plot. Among other things, John Stewart was a war hero and Shayera Hol was accused of being a traitor.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: The heroes are in the book's universe for a period spanning at least several days. By the time they finally get out, they learn that they've been in there for only nine hours according to real-world calculations.
- You Killed My Father: The book's version of Oliver Queen murdered Helena Bertinelli's father.note
- Your Cheating Heart: Zig-zagged. According to the book's mystery plot, John was cheating on Mari with Shayera, and Mari herself is rumored to have cheated on him with Bruce.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: One of the book's powers; as Zatanna explains to the heroes, it forms its reality out of what it picks up from the minds of the people it sucks in. Additionally, she warns them that if they are pulled out of the book before reaching the end, any injuries they've sustained up to that point may remain with them in the real world.