Comic-book futures are constantly changing. We’ve seen four* major versions of the Legion of Super-Heroes, many different “true” versions of the near future, and a half-dozen variations on the eras that brought us villains like Abra Kadabra and the Reverse-Flash. Given the latter’s newfound obsession with changing history in Flash: Rebirth, it seems highly appropriate that his origin tale rewrites itself repeatedly over the course of the issue. It’s fascinating to watch the twists and turns as his life starts down one path, then stops, backs up, and takes another.
Strangely enough, the creepiest history rewrite is the one in which he doesn’t actually kill anyone.
The story makes him into a truly scary threat, far beyond anyone else in the Flash’s stable of enemies, because he can (and does) literally defeat anyone he wants before actually fighting them. (Well, anyone except Barry Allen.) That makes him more interesting than the simple obsessive stalker he’s often portrayed as, but it also makes him incredibly overpowered. It also downplays his role as a speedster in favor of his role as a time traveler. Super-speed is really unnecessary for the power that makes him most dangerous.
Two of the themes Geoff Johns has woven through this relaunch are very much present here: First, the speed of modern life, in which everyone is trying to do five things at once, is already exaggerated in present-day Central City, but taken to an extreme in the future shown here, where the worst thing anyone can do is waste your time. Today people keep in constant touch with each other and the internet with mobile phones and smartphones, but in the future, everyone constantly has a floating screen near his or her head. Some people, like Thawne, have several, showing how many ways their attention is split. Multitasking isn’t simply a feature on your computer. It’s a critical life skill.
Second: a character explicitly states the admonition against dwelling on the past and to move forward instead. The key symbol here is Barry’s inability to let go of his mother’s murder case, and the theme was excellently described by Bizarro98 on Comic Bloc. (The message is kind of undermined by the fact that the series has been focused on re-establishing old versions of various characters and dynamics at the expense of newer versions, though.)
Long-Term Reader Thoughts
It seems like the Thawne/Allen feud should have come into play in a story about Eobard Thawne studying the historical Barry Allen. Its absence, and the fact that the Flash legacy apparently stopped sometime before the 25th century, make me wonder if Chain Lightning is being removed from canon (though Thawne did refer to it briefly during Flash: Rebirth. On the other hand, the conclusion of the main section of the story connects very nicely with The Return of Barry Allen.
The Flash #8: “Reverse-Flash: Rebirth”
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Scott Kolins
Colors by Brian Buccellato
*I’m counting the Five-Years-Later Legion separately from the classic version, since I get the impression that the current series ignores the FYL run.