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 West. DC’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.