April 18, 2011

Why I Don’t Like Barry Allen Generating the Speed Force

Category: Opinion — By @ 10:53 am

Flash: Rebirth featured a number of retcons, some of them explained away by time travel, others explained as new information, and others simply stated with no explanation at all. The most galling one to me was the revelation that the Speed Force is generated by Barry Allen with every step he runs, and that all other speedsters (including those who preceded him like Jay Garrick, Max Mercury, and Johnny Quick) depend on Barry’s existence for their own.

There are two things that bug me about this.

First: it doesn’t make sense. The speed force was introduced to do two things: provide a hand-wave explanation for the impossible physics of super-speed, and tie all speedsters’ origins together. Where do Flashes get their energy? The speed force. Simple, end of story. But now the speed force gets its energy from Barry Allen. So we’re right back where we started: Where does Barry get his energy?

Second: it elevates Barry Allen above all other Flashes permanently.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it were simply a matter of: Barry’s back, and here’s why he’s important now. That would be the same kind of thing Mark Waid did when he had Wally West become the first Flash to mainline the speed force and gain new powers, or that Bilson & DeMeo did when they had Bart Allen absorb the speed force. In those cases, it was still a progression, and you could imagine that whoever came next would follow in their footsteps and become the most important Flash now.

What bothers me is that they didn’t want to take that route. They instead wanted to take the route that Barry Allen was not only the most important Flash now, but that he has always been and always will be the most important Flash ever. It flat out tells us that we’ve been reading about a second-rate Flash for the last 25 years. I know there are people who hold that opinion, but it’s galling for it to be declared canon.

It’s like two kids trying to one-up each other in a bidding war, and one pulls out, “well, I bid infinity!” — and because it’s the author of the series, not to mention the Chief Creative Officer of the company, it sticks instead of getting laughed off.

Adapted from a comment made last year. I was reminded of it by this recent Reddit discussion: What’s your least favorite retcon?