As hinted at in our review of the issue, Teen Titans #26 reveals at last the New 52 origin of Kid Flash, a.k.a. Bart Allen.
Stop reading now if you don’t want to find out.
In the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe, Bart Allen was the grandson of Barry Allen and Iris West, born in the 30th century to which his grandparents had relocated. His inherited super-speed caused him to grow rapidly, and he was raised in a virtual reality environment to keep pace with his hyperaccelerated metabolism. His father and aunt were executed on false charges by a corrupt government (it had been infiltrated by Dominators), and his grandmother broke him out of custody and brought him to our present day, where Wally West was able to figure out how to stabilize his metabolism. (This is the long version. You can tell it shorter easily.)
In the New 52 DC Universe, Bar Torr was the son of missionaries killed by the Purifiers, black-ops enforcers of an oppressive government. He witnessed the killing at the age of seven, hiding to protect his baby sister Shira, and their childhood was spent in petty crime on the streets of various planets. Eventually he turned her over to an orphanage for protection, and went on to infiltrate the organization that had killed their parents. He was too young to fight, but a perfect candidate to be an expendable smuggler…until a piloting accident granted him super-speed. He killed a bunch of the Purifiers, then went on to lead a rebellion against the Functionary…until he nearly killed his sister, who had become a soldier on the government side. He abandoned his cause, turned state’s evidence, and in a witness protection program, was sent into the past with a false name and false memories as Bart Allen.
At Long Beach Comic Con, Scott Lobdell mentioned that he wanted to change Bart’s origin because the whole point of the New 52 was to be able to deliver something new and different, and he thought that it was important to follow through on that promise even two years into it. Well, he certainly delivered something different.
But I also find it interesting to see which elements he kept:
- From 1000 years in the future.
- Parent(s) killed by a corrupted government.
- Simulated memories up until his arrival in the present day.
To be sure, they’re not the core traits I chose, which is probably why I have trouble seeing him as the same character. I suppose he isn’t, at that: he’s Bar Torr.
It’s an interesting enough origin, I suppose, if you’re setting someone up who wants to atone for past deeds…but it could work for any power set. There’s nothing in his story that has any thematic relation to speed. Barry’s and Wally’s origins feature lightning (and Wally’s is related to his dream of being a hero). Jay Garrick’s golden-age origin is fairly generic, but his New 52 origin ties him to the Roman god Mercury. Bart Allen’s classic origin, with the accelerated childhood in VR, ties directly into his speed and his impulsive nature.
The other problem is, the way his history is presented here, it reads as if the rebellion he led was just, and his betrayal of it actually seems worse.
Maybe it’s that I just finished a massive project to re-read and comment on Les Miserables, but it’s like watching Enjolras lead his followers almost to victory, then change his mind because he saw his brother among the soldiers*, and betray everyone at the barricade to save his own skin.
Or imagine that when Luke Skywalker discovered that Darth Vader was his father, he turned on the rebellion and helped the Empire take it down, and spent his life trying to make up for all the people he killed when he blew up the Death Star.
“I have to atone for the fact that I led a rebellion against an oppressive regime” just doesn’t seem like an effective character hook. It only works if you make it clear that the regime was right all along, and neither the framing sequence nor Bart’s narration gives any indication of that. Maybe this isn’t the whole story, and something next issue (or, heck, last issue – I’m not a regular reader of the book) will shed some more light on it.
*Interestingly enough, in the book there’s an implication that one of the soldiers is Enjolras’ brother, and he kills him. It’s perfectly ambiguous as to whether he’s speaking literally or metaphorically.