Opinion: Saying “Goodbye” to The Flash Story?

The new Flash Story begins in September.  This time around, there is no speculation about the focus of the book, or who will be behind the mask.  It looks like Flash’s new launch will take off without baggage – an all-new Flash for the all-new DC.

Well, sort of.

In the cases of Batman and Green Lantern, it has been announced that the stories and key elements will (more or less) continue.  In the cases of Superman and most other properties, the stories are looking more and more like a fresh and somewhat rootsy start.  For Flash, it appears the new series will be a pretty hard reset.

I doubt that the changes came down to a decision of Barry Allen vs. Wally WestDC’s 75-year history is not literally disappearing, and there is no reason to assume it won’t still influence the line going forward.  I drew a related conclusion from Kelson’s piece earlier this week: DC’s One Year Later initiative was essentially a demo for the upcoming “New 52” relaunch.

I submit that most fans of the Wally West character are not primarily attached to West himself, but the arc of the Flash Story from 1956 to 2005.  The story where, after many an amazing adventure, Barry Allen died to save the universe.  Where the protégé picked up as the mentor left off.  Where the young Flash struggled and persevered, then smashed all of the boundaries of super-speed.  It was a superhero story, but it was also a story about love and respect.  In that sense, Wally West and the Flash title were DC’s most relatable property for a very long time.

The word “legacy” is perhaps too melodramatic for an adventure comic.  Flash had humanity to spare, on a cosmic scale, and it allowed for the story to communicate in a unique way.  The Batman Story is known the world over.  The Superman Story, perhaps even more so.  The Flash Story, while not a household tale, was appropriately dynamic and, unlike the others, was effectively shaped by the passage of time.

DC Comics began deconstructing the Flash Story in 2005.  When the Wally West series ended abruptly in advance of Infinite Crisis, Flash returned in the form of an aged Bart Allen.  After a year-plus run the change was scrapped and West returned as Flash.  By this point, the Story was running on fumes and losing momentum.

Bart Allen had been rendered unrecognizable, then murdered.  Mark Waid and Tom Peyer tried to keep things running, but the Story was marked a lame-duck and the curtain called yet again on the eve of Final Crisis.  Barry Allen returned en masse, fundamentally violating the internal rules of the Story and draining power and resonance from many of its key extensions.  West’s last hurrah was some decent on-panel time in Blackest Night, but he and his new family were all but missing from Flash at that point.

The new Flash Story began with the post-Rebirth Geoff Johns Flash.  Rebirth, poised as a redefinition of the existing roles, instead set the table for the bolder decisions ahead.  Some of the pieces we’ve been told are being kept on the board are the ones the Johns was still playing with:  Barry, the Rogues, and the Central City Police Lab.

Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato’s upcoming Flash already looks amazing.  The two have truly redefined the character’s look.  At the core, it’s still a magazine about super-speed, and Flash still has the coolest costume of all-time.  I’m sure there will be daily announcements and sneaks that reveal more.  Even this week’s revelations via Manapul’s Twitter feed have altered my expectations.  What has come out in previews and sneak-peeks smacks of new ideas, from the first-issue splash page to the exploration of the mental application of super-speed.  I would never dismiss something before giving it a fair shake, and I think anyone who loves the Flash would be doing themselves a disservice by avoiding the book due to a secret identity preference.

The thing is, for the last 25 years, super-speed is nowhere near all Flash has been about.  I hope DC recognizes this and holds on to some of that magic.


14 thoughts on “Opinion: Saying “Goodbye” to The Flash Story?

  1. Mike W

    I for one am a little more upset about the treatment of Wally. It isn’t that I dislike Barry but it was Wally West who I followed from start to finish. Am I not going to read the new series? No. I plan on picking it up. I would prefer that it mother Barry however, beggars can’t be choosers. As long as it is a solid story I will continue to read it. There is a reason why Wally ranked higher than Barry a few months back on the all time list of greatest superheroes of all time.

  2. Zachary Adams

    I don’t want to claim to speak for anyone else, but I’m not dismissing anything out of hand. There are probably a dozen N52 books that look like they’d be worth my $2 digital, Flash included. I’m just not prepared to make the financial or emotional investment in a universe that’s had ninety percent of what I loved about it stripped away, particularly after years of broken promises from the publisher and CCO.

  3. Steve

    I understand what you’re saying, but in this case, the Story WAS the character and the character’s journey. If you plugged Barry Allen into a similar story with Jay Garrick as his mentor, it would fall totally flat. To use an old literature term, Wally’s story was a blidungsroman. A coming of age story. The only way to continue telling this kind of story is to continue passing down the Flash mantle. And we all know that is not the direction DC wants to go in. You can’t have a bildungsroman with a morally superior adult who’s also a genius. If I want to see stories similar to Wally’s time on the Flash, the new Flash book is the last place I would think to look. I have a feeling that the new Ultimate Spiderman will tell a similar story, though, and I’m on board for that.

  4. Kyer

    Nicely written, but I’m one of those who got on the Flash bandwagon because of Wally and not because of the Flash identity itself. I first saw him in the cartoons and then in the trade Terminal Velocity then I think it was Return of Barry Allen followed by Dead Heat. Barry interested me because Wally loved him….it was the same way that Linda interested me…because. of. Wally’s. interest. (Still, without Wally around I don’t go hunting stories that had only Linda. Found one and it nigh bored me to death.) Since then I’ve seen some Barry in the old books and Final Crisis on, and whereas I don’t dislike him….would rather spend my cash on hunting down more of Wally’s past than Barry’s re’launched’ future.

    Still cannot get over how Bart survived and Wally & Iris (as wife or even girlfriend) did not.

    Manapul’s art looks great as usual, but I’ll be watching that book trough the eyes of bloggers only…got over a hundred Wally books to hunt down.

  5. Savitar

    I, for one, love the word ‘legacy’. To me, this is what separated Flash from all other DC heroes; the idea that the Flash mantle would be handed down through the ensuing generations (mostly through the Allen and West family lines) all the way to the 30th century and XS.

    This cemented even further the strong family ties already exhibited by Wally and Linda. We even got different characters using the Flash mantle such as John Fox and Walter West which led to terrific stories. Flash became a mythos until itself within the DCU.

    DC seems to be dismissing all of that now with this re-launch. Back to just Barry just being the Flash. I’ll read this new book, but I feel as if something special and unique has been tossed aside in favor of bigger sales.

  6. Richard Guion

    I think your opinion puts the who DCnu and Flash saga in the perfect perspective. On the other hand, I think it backs my justification for not jumping into collecting the new books right away. I am not excited about any of them, except for–The Flash. That one I may enjoy in a collected edition if it turns out well.

    But I think that “generational saga” that we witnessed, from Showcase #4 to Flash Volume 2 #225 (2005) (I refuse to let Cavalieri’s issues be the final word) was a rare and special thing. We got to see a kid sidekick grow up and take his mentor’s place and even surpass him in many ways. I still have all those comics, plus the other DC Comics with generational changes–Grant Morrison’s JLA, for example, featuring Kyle Rayner as GL. I think I will have more of a kick digging out my old comics rather than reading DCnu.

  7. married guy

    I’m picking up issue 1. I’m interested enough to see where Manapul is going.

    That said, I MISS WALLY!!!
    He’s MY Flash.
    I grew up with him, and although Johns & Didio seem to disagree, I still believe he can exist as the Flash ALONGSIDE Barry.

    Hopefully, when the reboot of this reboot comes along wally will be reinstated to prominence in the DCU

  8. Realitätsprüfung

    I think it makes sense to drop the whole legacy angle at this point. For 2 reasons:

    1. No one’s going to do it better than Waid did it, and more importantly

    2. That “arc” ended in like 1995-7 or so.

    Since then, Wally has simply been “the Flash”, not the up-and-coming legacy character. He was every bit the heroic character Barry was. And it was great, too. But it’s also been the same exact concept as Barry’s book was, way back when, right down to the costume, the Superman races, the reporter wife and the silly rogues.

    So the biggest room for change is in going back and starting over. Reinventing. That just makes sense. And us “oldies” will still have our back issues to enjoy, and it looks like the new Flash series will be pretty good, with the “new” Barry Allen.

    Win win.

    1. Ben Hall

      I agree with the back issues statement you made. No matter what form the media takes in-story or out, we will have the back issues. The thing us “oldies” need to remember is that these stories aren’t really happening in our reality and we need to take it in stride. Fictional realities can be redefined by new talent every few years. Even though I wish the big two heroes still aged, I have come to realize that for business to continue heroes have to remain static to an extent.

  9. Esteban Pedreros

    Well Greg, I respect your opinion, but I’m petty that way.

    I think that you are wrong in one aspect, I did grew up reading Wally West, and the stories that I most cherish are the ones that take place between Flash 62 and Flash 100, the reason for that is that I read them when I was 14 to 18 years old, so they resonated with me in a way that no other story ever did.

    Wally West is not only a story about legacy but about maturity, and the struggle to get there and that makes him a more complex character in my eyes because he is a character that made tons of mistakes during his youth (Flash 1-61), and had to learn self-respect (Flash 62-100), in order to become the greatest Flash ever (Flash 101-150)… then Johns came around and everything went to hell.

    I’m curious about what Francis and Brian are doing, they have been insanely nice with us, the fans, and I have developed and inmense amount of respect for both of them, but if Flash wasn’t working is only because of the decisions that DC took. The Captain decided to steer the wheel in one direction, he was wrong, and he’s been trying to turn the ship around ever since, but nobody realizes that he is blind, has no sense of smell, and no idea of what he is doing.

  10. Brian Fowler

    A few months ago, when talking about Batgirl, Gail Simone used the term “soulmate” character.

    For me, that was, is, and will always be Wally West. My first Flash comic ever was 66, the issue after Born to Run ended, with an Aquaman guest-starring spot. And I was hooked. Through the fight with Kadabra, the cross-over with GL, and then the atomic bomb of my own personal comic fandom: The Return of Barry Allen. Keep in mind, when I picked up issue 66, I’d never heard of Barry Allen. As far as I knew when I started that book, Wally was the one and only Flash. There had been a few mentions here and there of his Uncle Barry, and I’d kind of gotten an understanding of him being the “replacement” but it meant nothing to me.

    Didn’t matter… Mark Waid had me, lock, stock, and barrel. And he told what I still consider to be the greatest Flash story ever with Return of Barry Allen. And then I grew up with Wally West. He got married in my teens, had the twins in my early 20’s.

    I never developed a real opinion of Barry Allen. Didn’t like him, didn’t dislike him, he was just “the past.” When he returned in Final Crisis, it was a really cool moment, but it meant nothing to me. Flash: Rebirth was decent, but it felt too much like they had just replaced Hal and Co. with Barry and Co. and re-told GL: Rebirth. Far too many similar beats, with Black Flash replacing Parallax, and the Professor replacing Sinestro as the long-dead arch-villain returned. But it was okay, Wally was still there, and awesome. The new Flash-family splash is one of my favorite pages in recent comic history. Also, they decided to completely ruin the concept of the speed force, which I may never totally forgive…

    Then Blackest Night: Flash was… Actually, pretty lame. Then they pulled the Wally back-up. Then The Flash ongoing started and was… Just really dull. And Wally was basically gone, other than popping up a couple times, basically just to say “gee whiz, Uncle Barry, you sure are the greatest.” And the Speed Force announcement wound up leading nowhere.

    I used to not care either way about Barry Allen. I gave him a chance. The result of reading all these Barry-led books, combined with them holding Wally back to emphasize Barry… Now I effing hate him and hope he gets killed off again real quick.

    Manapul’s art looks amazing on The Flash, but I won’t be buying it, or anything else from DC. Too many times they have canceled my favorite books, shelved my favorite characters, and flat out lied to me about Wally West. I’m out until Wally is back. And I mean Wally West, married to Linda, with two kids, and as The Fastest Man That Ever Lived.

  11. Ben Hall

    I just want fair prices and good stories with interesting supporting casts. Whether we have Barry, Wally, Jay or Bart doesn’t matter as long as the story is good. I also want as few leaps in logic as possible. Unfortunately I think delays will be more extensive with this line wide reset then before the reset.


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