The Crash of the Flash


Speed kills.

As I’ve said before, I didn’t like the most recent comic series starring the Flash. From the beginning, I thought it was a series that was very poorly thought out, with a popular character unceremoniously booted into comic limbo and replaced by an almost entirely new and untested character.

Let’s take a look at where things went wrong, and how they may yet be salvaged.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the character’s long history, there have been a variety of Flashes through the decades. In the 40s, there was a Flash named Jay Garrick who ran around with a metal helmet on his head. The Flash most people are familiar with was Barry Allen, a police scientist who made his debut in the ’50s. He wore a distinctive red uniform that every subsequent Flash has worn. During the “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Barry Allen died saving the universe, and his sidekick, Wally West, who previously went by the name of Kid Flash, took over as the newest Flash. Wally was considered the fastest and most powerful of all the Flashes — since he was able to tap into the interdimensional “Speed Force” that powered all superspeed characters, there were no real limits on how fast he could run.

Bart Allen made his first appearance as Impulse in 1994. He was the grandson of Barry Allen, born in the future with an accelerated metabolism. Many of his best adventures were comedic, playing up both his superspeed and his irritating hyperactivity. In 2003, Bart took on the mantle of Kid Flash, in one of the more enjoyable storyarcs of the revived “Teen Titans” series. (It was revealed that he had a photographic memory, and deciding he wanted to be a more efficient superhero, he read every single book in the San Francisco public library in a matter of minutes.)

Built up alongside the various Flashes were the members of his Rogues Gallery, better known as just the Rogues. Most had no powers of their own but used various super-scientific weapons to commit crimes. They included Captain Cold, the Mirror Master, Heat Wave, Captain Boomerang, Weather Wizard, and many more. Captain Cold was generally acknowledged as the leader, and he insisted that they follow a strict code of honor — they avoided drugs and preferred not to kill anyone, unless they couldn’t avoid it. I remember them saying more than once that they liked being simple bank robbers, and didn’t want to be the world-conquering egotists who faced most other superheroes.

And then, during the “Infinite Crisis,” Wally got sucked into the Speed Force, along with his wife and infant children — readers were told that he’d never come back. There was no grand farewell for the character, he made no great heroic last stand, and no one seemed to mourn his passing. Remember, Wally had been a major player in the DC Universe ever since his debut as Kid Flash back in late 1959. I, for one, felt that DC tossing him aside so quickly and with so little care was disrespectful, both to the character and to his fans.

At the same time, Bart was pulled into the Speed Force and artificially aged four years, going from being a teenager to being an adult. He was basically an entirely new character, as many of the appealingly humorous aspects of his personality had been transformed replaced with angsty whining. It’s no great surprise that his new comic wasn’t that popular.

DC, however, went into panic mode recently — they resurrected Wally and his family in the latest issue of “Justice League of America” (a comic so bad that I decided not to make myself review it, with cover artwork so outrageously inept, I feared I’d run afoul of the A-J’s filtering software just describing it) and had the newly drug-abusing, kill-crazy Rogues beat Bart to death. DC has been claiming that they’ve planned this all along, but frankly, no one believes them. Bart’s ending is just too abrupt and absurdly violent — DC seems to think that the fans didn’t like Bart when what they didn’t like was watching DC produce badly written and poorly planned comics. No one would’ve complained if Bart had been kept alive — heck, I suspect most Flash fans will be angrier about Bart’s death than they were about his short-lived Flash career.

This seems to be common practice for comic companies. Got a series or character you expected to be insanely popular that is instead unpopular? Don’t tell readers it’s your fault — use the character as a scapegoat and kill him off! We saw Marvel do the same thing to Ben Reilly at the end of the much-despised Spider-Man “Clone Saga” of the mid-’90s. They blamed the character for their misfortunes instead of who was truly at fault — the editors, the writers, the company bigwigs who pushed the story forward.

Right now, everyone is very hopeful that putting Mark Waid back on as the Flash’s writer will return the series to greatness. Waid is the writer who’s most well-known for writing Wally’s best adventures, and he is the writer who I’d most like to see writing about the newly-resurrected Wally.

But I’m also expecting Waid to do something that DC isn’t expecting. I think that Waid is smart enough to see through DC’s likely bulldada about Bart being a “bad character.” I’m hoping that Waid will also find a way to resurrect Bart, either as an adult, or as a teen. After all, Waid created Bart and wrote his adventures for several years — I suspect he has a vested interest in seeing the character continue. Expect Bart to make his return sometime in the next year or two — and most importantly, expect his return to be a good story. Mercy knows, someone needs to remind DC how to do that.

No Comments

  1. Man From Future Said,

    March 13, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    oh they figured out what to do with Bart alright.