“Flash War” Sounds Like a Terrible Idea

At NYCC, DC announced “Flash War” will spin out of “Metal” next year. DC and Joshua Williamson are promising that it will settle once and for all “who’s the best Flash.” It starts in January 2018’s Flash Annual #1 and runs through Flash #46.

I really want this to be a joke, because it’s the last thing the fandom needs. We’ve been through it before, and it basically broke the fandom.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Flash fans mostly got along. Whether your favorite was Barry Allen, Wally West, or Jay Garrick, or you liked Bart Allen as Impulse. It wasn’t perfect, and Barry’s fans missed him terribly, but at least DC treated the character with respect, and fan disagreements never reached the level of, say, Green Lantern fandom, which had been fractured by Emerald Twilight.

Then Infinite Crisis happened in 2006. Wally vanished mysteriously, and Bart was aged up to an adult to take over as Flash.

Wally’s fans hated that he was gone. Bart’s fans hated that he was being handled wrong. Barry’s fans hated that he wasn’t back. Fans on a very creator-friendly message board hounded the writers of the book until they went offline, back when that sort of thing was unusual.

For the next few years, DC kept changing direction, satisfying nobody in the fan base. They killed Bart, teased Barry’s return again but brought back Wally instead, gave Wally superpowered kids to share the book with…

Then Flash: Rebirth hit in 2009. Of course, Rebirth wasn’t just about bringing Barry back (along with Bart, Max, and Jesse Quick)… it was about insisting that Barry was the best. (They literally made every speedster in the DCU except for Thawne dependent on Barry.) And the places we were told we’d see Wally and Bart starring were scrapped, cancelled and revamped. Flashpoint, the first (and still only) big Flash-centric event, killed Wally off unpowered in a sidestory, and he vanished completely in the New 52. Post-Flashpoint Bart was unrecognizable. Jay was MIA for a year.

Now, a decade after Infinite Crisis and half a decade after Flashpoint, we’re finally at the point where Barry, Wally and Jay all have at least some presence and respect, though Bart’s missing again. Barry, Wally, Jay and Jesse are all heroes on TV. Barry’s appearing in movies, and Bart will be in the upcoming Young Justice revival. Barry and two versions of Wally all appear regularly in comics. Jay’s been hinted at, and unlike the carrots dangled re: Barry & Wally in the past, we have reason to believe they’ll follow through with Jay.

So why the hell would we want a “Flash War” to settle “Who’s the best Flash” and dredge all that up again?

Your favorite Flash, my favorite Flash, those are matters of taste. “Who’s the best” shouldn’t be legislated and made canon.


14 thoughts on ““Flash War” Sounds Like a Terrible Idea

  1. Married Guy

    I’m with you mate.
    This sounds like a bloody terrible idea!
    As a HUGE Wally fan, I’ve been pretty peeved for a decade. Even his treatment now rankles me no end.
    This is going to fan the flame wars across all comics message boards.
    DC’s insistence that Barry is the best is hurting the Flash corner of the DCU no end.

  2. Lia

    Oh geez, this is going to be a disaster. Glad you’ve called it out; maybe we can blunt the effects within the fandom if we point it out in advance and everybody keeps that in mind.

  3. Jesse Richards

    On the face of it, you’re completely right – and perhaps no DC character has been mangled as badly as the Flash ever since Wally disappeared and they aged up Bart.

    But this sounds like a stunt to get the fanbase just as riled up as this. I’m sure the ending will be some sort of compromise – just like most of the Flash/Superman races. I’m happy for any Flash event or Flash focus.

    Of course, there’s always a chance they’ll just conclude it’s Barry and for the first time ever I’ll punch a comic book in its face.

  4. August "Augie" Stroshine Jr.

    Do we really need to know who the best Flash is? I don’t think so. Jay Garrick was the first and without him the others wouldn’t exist. Barry was the revival of superheros during the Silver Age (and my favorite). Then the “Torch” was passed to Wally when Barry died during The Crisis on Infinite Earths. As big of a fan of Silver age Barry that I am, bringing him back was a mistake. We need to move forward, Wally needs to be Today’s Flash, then some day he can pass the “Torch” to the next generation of The Flash.

  5. golddragon71

    Ever since Flash Rebirth…(actually, I think we can go back as far as Green Lantern Rebirth on this one) DC has been fanning the fires of fan civil wars. Never mind the fact that Barry himself said the more the merrier in Blackest Night #5, The powers that be seem dead set on saying. there’s only enough room in our universe for this Flash…(and maybe this Kid Flash, since he’s on TV)
    I looked back at the old lettercols in Wally’s early issues and while I suppose it’s possible DC was filtering out the more rabid Barry-centric fans, It seemed to me the letters were never so hyperbolic as the message boards and facebook posts became when it was a matter of Barry or Wally. At first, I thought we’d get a sample of this battle after the Return of Barry Allen in 1993 but that never really happened.
    After Flashpoint and the New52 were announced, (and Wally was put increasingly on the back burner since Flash Rebirth) things started heating up. the Flash fandom became a black or white battle. you had to be either pro Barry or pro Wally and if you were on either side the other side were saying you weren’t a true Flash fan.
    For five years we fought back and forth. Barry fans told Wally fans to “get over it!” “The real Flash is back!” while Wally fans just wanted Wally to be able to maintain a presence in the DCU “You want Barry to be the lead Flash? fine! just let Wally be in a team book or show up for big situations” or…”ok, so everyone is de-aged and marriages are wiped out… that’s ok, let Wally get back to being a teenager and be kid Flash again! we can accept that!”
    Which is what DC did. but not the way we wanted. They gave us an alternate Wally West. after four years of pleading for Wally to return we got a completely different Wally. Different attitude, different backstory.. (and yes, different ethnicity) Fans of Pre-Flashpoint Wally would now be saddled with a rock and hard place scenario. “You want Wally West, you got him. Now don’t complain about the changes we made to him because we’ll just call you racists if you insist he needs to be caucasian”
    Eventually, we got Rebirth and Classic Wally returned. and for a whole year we could relax and enjoy having the beginnings of a new Flash Family (or as I like to call it, a new Speed Force) being built up. Then we got hints that Jay Garrick would be re-entering the DCU. Not as the New52-ized Earth Two version, but as the Classic Winged Hat Golden Age hero.
    Suddenly, everything went south.
    Both Wally’s are captured by Deathstroke and Damian Wayne (Robin #5) is made a scapegoat for writers who want to give classic Wally a heart condition. Now Wally’s powers can kill him. (and if current issues and solicitations of Titans are to be believed, they do.) Barry meanwhile is stuck with negative Speed Force Powers that cause as much destruction as the bad guys Flash fights.
    now classic Wally fans are left wondering. “are we being punished?” Is this all part of Dan Didio and Geoff Johns’ master plan? To bring some hope back into the DCU but then to destroy that hope by killing our characters in a way that’s so final and definite that we’ll have to wait twenty or thirty years to see them again. (And if we don’t like it, all we can do is go back through our back issues?!?)
    At the end of the Flash’s third season the Speed Force, in the form of Nora Allen, said that like every runner, Barry has reached his finish line. Was this a coded message to Clasic Wally fans? Even if Wally somehow miraculously survives his current situation, are we just being dangled on the hope for the future? or is this a cruel game being enacted by the powers that be? If it is…. I’m not sure I can stay on anymore.
    As Danny Glover often said in lethal Weapon, “I’m getting too old for this $#!&!”

  6. Lee H

    A poster on the CBR forums chatted with Williamson a little at NYCC.


    “-He is a big fan of Wally and a huge reason behind this storyline is that he wants Wally in the book more.

    -This story arc reflects his desire to bring back a Flash family, which he said wouldn’t be possible to do without Wally.

    -This story arc is not Civil War, nor is it a competition, it is a different way of examining the Barry/Wally relationship (he compared it to brothers or a father and son).

    -He said there would be a disagreement between the two at the center of the story (which really is unexplored territory in my personal opinion).

    -He said he thinks Flash fans will be happy with how it ends.

    -For the record, I did not ask about other members of the Flash Family other than Barry, Wally, and NuWally.”

    1. Kelson Post author

      That would be a lot more reassuring if it didn’t sound so much like what Geoff Johns told us during the lead-up to Flash: Rebirth.

      Maybe it’s only marketing trying to play up the “Who’s the best Flash” thing…but that’s what Williamson himself was plugging at NYCC (see the link at the beginning of the post):

      “Let’s see who’s the best Flash,” Williamson said, teasing the storyline’s premise. “That’s one of the ramifications that comes out of Metal… We have ‘Flash War’ coming out.” The writer promised that when Flash #46 arrives, fans will know once and for all which is hero to don the red and gold is the one most worthy of bearing the name of The Flash.

      THAT’s where this concept deteriorates from “interesting character arc” to “let’s split the fandom.” Not the heroes disagreeing, but making someone’s personal preference of “who’s the best?” official — not to mention the centerpiece of a major story.

      1. Daniel

        The fandom is already split. It has never been more volatile and split than it is now. In the past there was this begrudging depression around Wally fans because he was gone. Now that he’s back there’s a banner to wave.

        This is addressing their biggest concern. Do you want to continue this miserable status quo, where Barry and Wally don’t interact and we just accept that Barry is automatically THE Flash? At least they’re talking about it instead of ignoring it while Wally whiles away in an awful team book.

  7. Daniel

    Eh, I’m not sure. Who’s better shouldn’t be left to canon? Wasn’t that the point of The Return of Barry Allen? Terminal Velocity? Wally’s entire character arc is defined by him stepping into Barry’s shoes and surpassing him to make the mantle his own.

    I understand the volatility of the fanbase given DC’s many, many mistakes and that advertising the arc this way is a dangerous line to tread, but I disagree that the topic shouldn’t be broached. Wally’s inferiority to Barry is a big deal. Barry’s return and de facto replacing Wally as if he was always superior is a big question mark. Wally, for no apparent reason, watching Barry be The Flash while he wastes his life away in Manhattan is a big deal. Wouldn’t Wally think he could do the job better? He did, after all.

    These are questions I think are fine to ask. I think, when you have two people with the same name, comparing them is natural. Weighing them against each other is natural. It happened with Wally and Jay, and Barry and Jay, too. Jay, as a character, was just more accepted in taking a step back than either Wally or Barry. Wally and Barry haven’t had that conversation because DC has avoided it. Who really is the better Flash? When the world is doomed, and the JL need a Flash to call on, isn’t it important to know who the better choice is?

    Stuff like that is why I think, at some base level, it’s inevitably going to be Barry because that’s the horse DC has hitched their wagon too, but if they’re asking the question and writing a story about it maybe they’ve reconsidered it. They’ve treated it like a foregone conclusion until now and that implication, that conclusion has led us to this dour situation where Wally seems mistreated because fans have it in their craw that he should be in Barry’s place. Time to define their position right now. This is something that should’ve been done after Flash Rebirth. It made more sense then. But better late than never, I say.

  8. golddragon71

    I don’t know.
    Back when Grant Morrison restarted the JLA in the mid 90’s Wizard magazine had all sorts of what if? battle scenarios. One of them was current League vs Classic League (Year One I think) Wally and Barry went at it full-tilt (I think the prognosis at the time was Wally wins over Barry (and that was one of the closer battles)
    The point is, those kinds of what ifs are all fine and good for fan magazines or internet Banter (I was kinda hoping DC All Access would do a vs based on the Rebirth Wally vs Barry scenario…..minus Wally’s heart condition) I just don’t think it’s as good an idea for DC to make an official decision with it. (Hal and Kyle never had to fight it out!)

  9. FlashFan111

    I agree, Flash War is a bad idea. If this story is not handled well, the backlash from fans will probably be huge.

    Also, if Wally wins or if Wally becomes the main Flash again I am going to drop the Flash book. Barry will always be THE Flash to me.

    1. golddragon71

      I don’t think you have to worry about Wally becoming THE Flash for a while. Warner Bros. still has a bit of leash pulling over what DC does (Barry is the main Flash in both the TV series AND the current films) As a result, DC won’t confuse the “morons” at home by making a different Flash the lead.
      MY main concern the last couple of months is that WB was going to insist that Classic Wally needs to be permanently shelved (killed off) due to NuWally’s increasing importance.

  10. momoney433

    Ugh, as a huge Bart fan who went through all of this…. UGH. I love the Flash family. I own the drawn pages of Impulse where he dreams of meeting his grandpa Barry. I grew up reading about Barry through Wally’s love and reverence for him. I can’t stand this lack of cohesion that has existed since Infinite Crisis.

    Bring me back to the days of Wally and Linda, Bart and Max, Jay and everybody else who made up the family that I love. Barry being a part of it doesn’t mean it all needs to become a mess.


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