Flash writer Joshua Williamson posted a nice little tidbit on Twitter yesterday which excited a fiercely diehard segment of Rogues fandom: the apparent return of the Top in January’s Flash annual! It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been happy, as unfortunately Turbine and then the later iteration of New 52 Roscoe Dillon never really hit the mark for us. So this news is very much welcome and appreciated. No other details yet, but the annual will also bring back Magenta for the first time in a long while, so there’s much to look forward to in January.
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.
Adapted from this Tweetstorm.
When I first watched “Fast Enough,” the Flash Season One finale, I was relieved that they weren’t jumping into Flashpoint, and that they weren’t wiping out an entire season’s worth of stories (not to mention elements of Arrow). There’s only so far you can take a reset button without removing tension or basically creating a new show.
But as the summer has gone on, the storytelling logic feels less important, and I’ve looked at the characters’ actions from an in-universe perspective (spoilers ahead):
A few months ago, Dan Didio said that “we’re leaving every door open” after Convergence. It’s easy to read that as suggesting that all those old versions of the characters are now officially out there somewhere in the multiverse….
…except they aren’t. Not according to Convergence #8 anyway.
Spoilers for Convergence #8 below
This is something that’s been percolating in my head for a while, and I thought I should post it before the Wally West conversation becomes totally dominated by this week’s Flash Annual. This isn’t about the New 52 version, but about the two decades in which Wally West was DC’s primary Flash, and how that relates to Barry Allen and the “ownership” of the Flash identity. I’ve seen it suggested that legacy characters like the post-Crisis Wally West are like stalkers or identity thieves. It’s probably no surprise that I don’t see it that way.
What’s in a Name?
The way I see it, there are two kinds of super-hero identities:
- Who you are.
- What you do.
For Bruce Wayne, Batman is who he is. It’s the way he deals with his childhood tragedy. While Dick Grayson as Batman is interesting, he has less of a personal connection to the mantle than Bruce does.
Green Lantern is what Hal Jordan does. For Jay Garrick (at least when he’s younger) and Barry Allen, the Flash is less who they are and more what they do. Bart Allen? Impulse is who he is (pre-Flashpoint, anyway), and Kid Flash is what he does. (If you think about it, “Kid X” almost invariably implies a “What you do” identity, because kids grow up.) Arguably, being the Flash is more a part of Wally’s personality than it is of Barry’s, which is built more around his scientific outlook.
“What you do” identities can be passed along a lot more easily than “who you are” identities. They’re careers, businesses that can bring on a partner and move on to a successor. That’s why we’ve got four-plus in-continuity Robins (DC even referred to the Robin identity as an “intern program,” which fits perfectly)…but Batman successors in the present day (i.e. not Beyond) always hand the cowl back to Bruce within a year or so.
My take: Wally West didn’t steal his uncle’s identity. He inherited the family business.
Imagine the Flash Detective Agency, with Barry Allen as sole proprietor. He brings on his nephew Wally West as an assistant, shows him the ropes, takes him on as partner, and when Allen meets his untimely end, West steps up to keep the agency going. He takes over any open cases that Barry was working, sees a lot of the same clients, inherits a cell phone full of contacts (some of whom will talk to him, some of whom won’t)…and also inherits a lot of the enemies that the Flash Detective Agency has made over the years. Like anyone taking over an existing business, he’ll do some things the same and others differently. He’ll lose some old clients and win over new ones. He’ll make new enemies. And eventually he’ll make the business his own.
This is a bit more literal for Jesse Quick, who inherits QuickStart Enterprises from her father as well as taking on a variation of his superhero identity.
Or to take a non-comic book example, it’s easy to imagine that Veronica Mars will one day take over her father’s detective agency for good. That won’t make the agency any less the real Mars Detective Agency, nor will it make her accomplishments any less valid. The same goes for Wally West as Keystone/Central’s resident super-speedster.
Of course, the chances are rather slim that Keith Mars will come back after 20 years, take back the business, put Veronica on receptionist duty and then rewrite company history without her presence…
After the jump we will have a major SPOILER to discuss regarding Wally West in FLASH #30 – do not go forward unless you’ve read the latest issue (or unless you don’t mind being spoiled)…
SPOILER AHEAD – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED