Geoff Johns’ Flash: All About Speed?

Monday’s post about how Wally West’s dynamic character makes him harder to reboot than Barry Allen got me thinking about something Geoff Johns said to Hero Complex when he took over the book back in 2009:

But you look at what the theme of Flash’s book has been for the last 200-something issues with Wally West and it’s been about a man trying to fill someone else’s boots. It doesn’t really have anything to do with speed. I mean, it has something to do with speed, but it was not totally what the book was about. The new Flash that I’m doing is all about speed.

At the time, I found it disingenuous because Geoff Johns wrote six years of that run himself, and he could have focused more heavily on speed with Wally West if he’d wanted to. And I found it worrying because he felt Wally’s defining characteristic was wanting to be like Barry Allen. Not the journey of becoming a hero, not learning to be an adult, but specifically trying to be someone he’s not.

But now I find the quote even more annoying, and here’s why:

Geoff Johns’ Flash, from Rebirth through Flashpoint, is not all about speed. It’s not even about hope, as suggested in Blackest Night.

It’s about a man so driven by grief that he nearly destroyed the world. Not even through speed, but through time travel.

The great over-arching Flash story from 2009-2011 might have been more appropriate for Booster Gold or Rip Hunter. (Or maybe Green Lantern/Hal Jordan, considering that it sounds a little like Emerald Twilight and Zero Hour when you break it down that far.)

Oh, well. Time to chalk it up as one more missed opportunity from that run, and Move Forward.


42 thoughts on “Geoff Johns’ Flash: All About Speed?

  1. Kyer

    Again, (and I’m probably alone in this) I don’t think Geoff Johns was ever all that interested in Wally West. Maybe the Flash, definitely his idea of Barry Allen…but Wally? No more than Didio. It’s all words out of the side of their mouths.

    What Geoff Johns seems most interested in is putting his mark on as many tree markers of the DCU as he can before leaving for the next one. (Yes, I used those words on purpose. Take them where you will.)

    Aquaman is currently good, but frankly I’m afraid to get into anything GJ does for the fear that he’ll get bored half way through and dump his ‘continuity’ on some future writer before moving on to the next character.

    Meanwhile the new Flash is everything I’d hoped Barry would be…sans wife Iris and Wally’s family/friends. Of course for me that in itself made all the difference between insanely following the new stories and just watching from the sidelines.

  2. CraigM

    Geoff’s run felt like it was more about the Rogues then it was about Wally. Granted, he tried to put some personal stuff in there for Wally (Linda breaking up with him, the twins being killed/born) but most of it felt forced and very little of it worked. He did more character work on Captain Cold than he ever did on Wally West.

      1. Kyer

        Agree with all of that and if I had ever really been a fan of villains I’d probably like the run more. As it is I really loved the plot action of Crossfire (Wally up against foes on both sides of the river) Blitz (a friendship gone majorly sour) and Ignition (character introspection and a cool Batman/Flash scene.

        Before and after, though….eh if not downright ugh.

  3. Javi

    See, I think Johns is a Wally fan, based on the fact that he has fan letters printed in two Wally issues and the line in Blackest Night where Wally says he’s Nightwing to Barry’s Batman and Barry says he’s Flash to his Flash. However, Flashpoint has soured me on Barry and his heroism to the point that I’ve yet to buy a New 52 issue of Flash. I have 5 or 6 in my pullbox, but I can’t bring myself to buy them, great reviews or not. And I never saw why Barry was the best candidate for Blue Lanternhood based on his return post Rebirth.

  4. Stephen

    I like both Barry and Wally as the Flash, though I’m slightly more fond of Barry. I think they were both great Flashes and each made their own mark in the superhero community.

  5. married guy

    I enjoyed most of Geoff’s Wally Flash run.
    Especially his first year & a bit. Yeah it fell away towards the end, but overall it was an enjoyable ride.

    Every issue since his return has been horrid for me. Flashpoint was a polished turd, and I kick myself for getting sucked in by it.

    On the upside, I am really enjoying the current series. Still living in hope of a Wally West return somewhere down the line, but overall happy to plunk down my $5 each month.

  6. Mike W.

    It’s gettin’ pretty thick in here. I’m sorry Geoff but Wally’s character isn’t more difficult to reboot. Take away the fact that he got his powers as a kid and instead of having Barry under the mask make it be Wally. At least then the personality behind the character would fit the character. Completely write Barry Allen out of the equation. If DC can put out a Nightwing book alongside Batman and Robin then there is a place for the further adventures of Wally West/Flash — The Fastest Man Alive! All the back pedaling we have read about or heard about through the Internet etc. has lost all merit with me.

    Am I reading the new title? Yeah I am. I think if you are truly a fan of the superhero you should give it a shot. Having it sit around and not be read is almost as bad as me and Batwoman. I waited and waited to read it and now I am behind about 8 issues. I buy them all I just haven’t gotten around to reading them. I haven’t heard a thing about it. So buy the thing and get it out of your system. If you haven’t read it or given it a shot you maybe shouldn’t be making comments about the new series now being any good.

    Do I want Wally West back in the costume? Yeah, of course I do. But until DiDio and Johns pull their head out of their, well you know, I have to say I am enjoying the ride thus far.

    1. Nick

      I liked the “Death of the Rogues” arc. “Hot Pursuit” was lackluster to me because of the jarring switch in artwork and how neither style complemented each other at all.

  7. Jesse

    Agree with everything you’ve said here. To me, the weirdest thing about Barry’s return was that it was never really Barry, but rather a new character idea that Geoff Johns had, who is an amalgam of some parts of Barry and Wally, just as his new costume is. The writing and art on the new Flash series are good, but would also have been good with Wally. Instead, we have a new characters that alienates both Barry and Wally fans in pursuit of the ever-elusive “new readers”.

      1. Kyer

        The only *bad* things (or as close to bad) things that I can say about the new series in itself is that I miss Barry’s marriage, don’t care for Captain Cold’s sleevless look, wish the back-history ‘Gem’ issue hadn’t been pulled, (and miss Wally, naturally). Most if not all of those were Editorial decisions.

        I’m not feeling alienated by Barry and his new series.
        I’m feeling alienated by DC Editorial dogma.

        1. Stephen

          Well, if I were you, then I would just enjoy the series while feeling alienated from the DC Editorial dogma.

          1. Kyer

            There is also the fact that I’m borderline on liking the book enough to spend dollars on it while at the same time there is this ‘dog’ on the other side of that figurative fence giving me the hairy eyeball.

            Currently there are other ‘likes’ I have had since childhood which have not bit me in the rear caboose that I would rather slaver that money on (Sherlock, Doctor Who, Tolkien.) Jackson and the Tolkien Estate have as yet not risen up and demanded that I accept their versions of things if I want to see them at all. They have not strung me along with empty promises nor pulled those promises with a smile and a haughty “What promises? Wally who?”

            Yeah, there is all of *that*.

  8. Mike W.

    That whole 2009-2011 run is an atrocity IMO. I understand they did it. I understand they wanted, but didn’t need, to bring back Barry just like they did with Hal Jordan etc. It worked great for Hal, I thought anyway, and they explained everything and made Hal a cool superhero again. And because of the nature of Green Lantern they were able to satisfy everything and everyone and still have both Hal Jordan and Kyle Raynor(Rayner sp?)

    The Flash Rebirth and subsequent ongoing title relauch etc. thing though… hmmm… it tripped at the starting gate.

    By the creators etc. alienating every single current reader who was digging The Flash I think they really just dug their own graves with all of it. I can’t wait for the day when they come out and finally say, “Sorry we screwed up. The way we brought Barry back was poorly executed.” At this point I am curious if we will ever hear that.

    And yeah I agree they really should have maybe made the whole Flashpoint thing be about the Flash but not have The Flash as the main character. Booster Gold and Rip Hunter trying to find the Flashpoint and realizing that changing it would redo everything and would then rewrite history would have been a better solution. Perhaps pull Wally and Family out of the Timeline to protect them etc. and then maybe reset everything. Wally and Linda and the Kids would exist outside of time and would become some kind of super powered agents of time. Ugh… I really need to quit coming to this site this all just PO’s me to know end.

  9. Kyer

    The 2009-11 run was so disappointing there are no words. I came into Flash just weeks before it started, fresh off of reading Return of Barry Allen, pumped to see Wally again with his hero…

    Rebirth was disappointing because Barry was so…down all the time. But I though, ok, give him a bit of time. Then The Rogues and that was good (not great) I thought it a good start (but kept wondering where Wally, Jay, and Max had gotten to…)Road to Flashpoint…I was enjoying the look of the new character, but then I heard about The Intervention and blew a gasket. The series then went straight into Flashpoint… me an utter train wreck of maiming and gore and the destruction of all I’d come to love.

    Looking back on all of that, the new series is a breath of fresh air, but to me is seriously lacking. Like going to a school reunion and discovering that all your best friends and favorite teachers passed away. It’s a reunion with lots of good food in an nice area…but not what you came for, so you smile an nod and wish for happier times.

  10. Mr. F

    I’m sorry…I just don’t get all the hype about Geoff Johns as a writer. I have to agree with Kyer that his main focus seems to be taking a certain character and mutilating their continuity, then just dumping them to run on to his next project.

    The 2009-2011 run was so incredibly disappointing I don’t even want to talk about it. “Death of the Rogues” was a good start but “Road To” and “Flashpoint” were just 9 issues of build-up to nothing, ending with a battle scene with all his favorite characters and then a massive reset.

    (Sorry everyone, but I’m about to go off on a rant here about how much I dislike Johns’ writing style.) In my opinion the guy is like a little kid writing comic books…he just throws all his favorite characters in a battle scene together, retcons important continuity to fit in some characters he made up and then leaves to another series or makes all the changes “blink away” in a hastily thrown-together epilogue.
    Remember how bad-ass that fight was between Wally, Nightwing and Grodd when Wally had to run all the way from the Mexican Border to punch Grodd across multiple states? Then, remember during Rogue War how much of a buffoon Grodd suddenly looked like when he was summoned by Mirror Master, only to blunder into Dr. Alchemy and take each other out like they were the Three Stooges just pages later? What was the purpose of even having Grodd/Alchemy involved in the Rogue War except to go, “ooh cool, Grodd and Dr. Alchemy”? It didn’t hinder Wally much, it didn’t move the plot and there was no development of either character! Classic Geoff Johns…
    (Also, the new Justice League is a boring, abysmal joke)

  11. Mr. F

    …and, Geoff is wrong about the entire Wally run being about trying to fill Barry’s shoes. Mark Waid’s run was just as much about speed as it was about following in the footsteps of your mentor. I mean, that’s kind of how Wally filled the shoes…by running faster!
    How about the Grant Morrison story where Wally races Krakkl? How was that more about Barry than it was about speed?
    “Speed” and “Time” are two completely different things. I don’t think Johns realizes that moving so fast you move through time is something that is ONLY possible in fiction.

  12. Kyer make a bad situation for Wally fans even worse:

    Just watched the new Young Justice season opener. No Wally in the intro. No Wally in the ep. No Wally in the next episode teaser. There is a very slight possibility that he might be the Flash now (solely hypothesized due to Dick now being Nightwing there), but given the current DC lethargy to Wally…I fear the worst. If he’s alive there, it may be as a powerless person like he was after quitting Teen Titans in the original book series.

    Kyer is majorly bummed, sad, and depressed. We only got to see Wally and Barry together twice in first season. I wanted so much more of that!

    1. Mike W.

      Now that is interesting. Hopefully that is the case but highly unlikely with the just mentioned Flashpoint animated feature. I’ll have to check out the latest episode though.

      1. Kyer

        A forum poster has stated that the May 2nd episode will be called Bloodlines and feature Barry, Jay, and Wally. I can’t find anything to confirm this yet.

        Still, his being in one episode doesn’t mean he’s still a speedster or that it won’t be a ‘farewell’ episode like the 90’s retro was Wally’s ‘farewell’ issue with the books.

        I’m a pessimist. Entertainment people made me so. 🙁

        1. Kyer


          Having typed the above it just dawned on me where I saw the title Bloodlines before. Wasn’t that this horribly gory Aliens ripoff event?

        2. WallyEast

          I’m seeing that the May 5 episode is called “Earthlings.” That’s followed by “Alienated” and “Salvage” according to Wikipedia.

          1. Kyer

            Yeah…hence the title on the toy boxes.
            Could really have wished for more background stories on the first season characters before they jumped into an Unlimited format where character stories will be few and far between…especially with the roster they are planning to implement.

            I get the feeling we’ll never get to see our speedsters running open range together again even in TV land. 🙁 Know that DC ED book division isn’t *supposed* to have influence over the cartoon one…but it’s like thinking no Supreme Judge and Congressmen ever hook up and decide on a policy on the sly. I’d like to believe that…but human nature says this happens.

      1. Kyer

        I don’t…in comparison. Much prefer matured characters of at least early college years. Kids of any age never interested me all that much, not in any show or fandom. I always gravitated towards adults even in real life. (Made me *real* popular during school years.)

        Anyway, I’d much rather have a young Wally then no Wally at all and dearly hope that it wasn’t Wally who died seeing as Dick got real quiet there when he told Tim not to die on the mission. Probably refers to Jason, but who knows?

        1. Lee H

          When he next shows up he should be 21. I really don’t understand what the problem is. After 26 episodes the show makers have proven that there will be pay off for their long form mysteries and subplots.

          Either way, he’s still going to be in the comic for the foreseeable future, and the video game next year.

          1. Kyer

            I keep googling for info on that video game you mentioned, but am only finding fan “What we want to see in a game..” links.

            If the comic refers to Kid Flash…not terribly interested in that book. At least not enough to put in an order for it.

            If only they still sold comics in grocery stores. 🙂

  13. Eyz

    Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
    Also, Geoff Johns’ run on Wally seemed way mroe focused on the Rogues than Wally and his own aspirations/goals.

  14. Javi

    Wally’s run stopped being about replacing Barry with Flash #79, which came out in 1993, I believe. Barry may have popped up in a few guest appearances post that issue, but from then on, it focused more on Wally’s continued evolution as a man, his love with Linda, and the Speed Force. Since he’s apparently off the table, I wish some interviewer would ask Johns what his post Rebirth Wally plans were.

    1. Kyer

      Yep. Especially the Wally Is Going To Be Awesome (Trust Me) part. I’d have liked to have learned more on that. Then ask why it’s impossible now only set in another dimensional Earth.

  15. Savitar

    The ’09-’11 run really turned into a promo then a lead into Flashpoint. The series never really had a chance to develop into anything significant or important before the chain got yanked on it. The beginning of the series was decent but then Road To Flashpoint took over. So the series feels incomplete to me.

    As for Johns’ previous run, I really can’t read it anymore. For me, he now belongs with Bendis as one of the most over-rated and over-hyped writers today. He focuses too much on the villains and is way too graphic with the violence. (When he gives you a full page splash of Black Hand blowing his brains out, something is wrong)

    I can tolerate his work when he co-writes with someone else. As this for a guideline, my favorite work of Johns is his run on JSA and Hawkman.

    But for Wally, I don’t see where he did anything to expand the character beyond some cosmetic *BANG* moments. To me, Waid accomplished far more in this department than Johns ever did.

    Yes, Johns brought the Rogues back to prominence but again at the expense of Wally. Again, the level of violence was disturbing. Over time, Zoom turned into a one-trick pony in trying to make Wally ‘better’.

    As for the current series, I have read it and enjoyed it. The art is phenemonal. The stories could use a little more polish though but I can overlook that.

  16. Brian Fowler

    I give Johns a ton of credit for the first half of his Wally run, especially and culminating in Blitz, which is one of the best Flash stories ever written. I think post Blitz, it started slowly creaking downhill as he began pushing Wally closer and closer to acting like Barry.

    His Barry run wasn’t actively bad, but it was quite dull and static. Flashpoint was a mess. Overall, I kind of wonder if the Rebirth-Flashpoint is enough to really taint his first few years of Wally West stories. It’s borderline.

    The new Flash book is solid, but massively overrated in some quarters. The art is stunning, but the writing is just kind of there. There’s nothing bad about the stories Booch and Manapul are telling, but there is also not much of a hook in them. And Barry has had very few actual character moments, and he’s kind of feeling personality free at the moment.

  17. Javi

    Kinda like Hal in GL? Hal has a personality I guess, it just feel like it doesn’t have any depth, especially if you compare it to how Marz wrote Kyle Rayner.

    1. Brian Fowler

      Oh, no where near as bad as Hal Jordan. In something like 8 years, Geoff Johns failed to give Hal Jordan a single notable character trait. And I LIKED most of his pre-Flashpoint run on the book, because so many other characters were really deep and interesting. But Hal is a block of wood.

      Barry’s not that bad. But I don’t feel like we’ve been given any hook into who he is, outside of maybe a couple pages in the “date” issue a couple back. Which wouldn’t be a problem with some characters, but given that pre-Flashpoint, Johns didn’t give him much of a personality either, and what little he did have seems to be completely gone, I literally don’t feel like I know anything about how Barry Allen ticks.

      It’s partially a function of DC’s general direction of “more action, less plot/character moments.” It’s fine for Superman and Batman, because I already know who Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne are (and, also, I don’t think I’m being insulting to Booch and Manapul when I point out that Grant Morrison and Scott Snyder are significantly better comic writers than they are) but Barry Allen has never really been given a 3-dimensional character, and it drags the book down for me.

      The sad part is it’s still better than most of the Nu52. *Shrug*

      1. Kyer

        Sadly, I agree with you (but have been trying to overlook it because I’m guessing the ‘lack of personality’ comes from DC’s decree that nothing ever changes rather than a lack of imagination or writing skill.

        It’s hard to have a personality develop in a static atmosphere courtesy of DC Editorial. This is one of the reason’s I’m not rushing to buy floppies and am eagerly waiting for trades like I was: there’s really nothing to ‘rush’ for. Nothing I feel that I ‘must have’ because I’m one of those odd people who love character development and personality quirks that affect a story and create the dreaded “continuity”.

        Flash is interesting…Barry is (sadly) not. This is still loads better than the other books that have little to nothing of interest to me.

        Well, I’ve heard that Animal Man is good and it is about a family man..unfortunately for me it’s not a ‘family book’ being dripping with gore. Yeesh.

        Lost a lot of my curiosity on Earth-2 once I saw Jay and then later learned that The Trinity were the same characters as in Earth-1. Imho, a great opportunity lost to showcase other characters like Thomas Wayne or someone else from the Bat World as an alternative universe Batman. This says to me that DC is hunkering around the circled wagons even more than I’d thought it was after SDCC.

  18. Brian Fowler

    What has me side-eying Earth 2 (out today, btw) is that the JSA and the Trinity are also 5 years into their career. No generational elements and such there, which was kind of the appeal of JLA to me.

  19. Realitätsprüfung

    Actually, I think Geoff Johns is/was right on all counts:

    First, he was speaking of themes, and vol. 2 was squarely about legacy – Wally earning, and then exemplifying, the legacy of Barry Allen.

    Second, gearing up for his post-Rebirth run Johns also said that thematically what Green Lantern is to space, the Flash will be to time.

    Was that wholly achieved? No. His run was shorter than he probably wanted – probably because he was cut down from doing some of the stuff he wanted. But if you look at the first arc of the book, the themes were indeed speed and time.

    It’s a shame Johns couldn’t / didn’t get to do a lengthier run, since he isn’t a strong short-arc writer; he’s better at the long game. And Flashpoint was obviously not meant to herald a reboot, nor the end of his run, so there isn’t a whole “story” to be had from his 3 main arcs. It’s a disjointed and clumsy wrap-up to what had a very promising beginning.

    So what did he REALLY have planned for Flashpoint and beyond? I’d like to know.


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