Lately, I’ve been trying to figure out just what is more dangerous in the DC Universe – to be a Robin or to wear a lightning bolt on your shirt? There seem to be a lot of beloved characters falling by the wayside lately, and it bears some examination. After all, Jason Todd, Stephanie Brown, and now Damian Wayne have all died while wearing the symbol of Robin. It hasn’t been the safest role to take on in the DCU…although I would make an argument that running fast seems to attract even more trouble.
In the latest print issue of Smallville Season Eleven we find the conclusion of the story arc that features Bart Allen, the Impulse of the Smallville-verse. In this story, Clark and his good friend Bart are reunited in a globe-hopping battle against the Black Racer, the enemy of Flashes past and present. In the end, Bart saves the day…but sacrifices himself to do so. All we are left with are Clark’s plans to build “a big statue” to Bart, and another Flash that has left some form or other of DC continuity.
This adds to the demise of the Wally West of Earth 16 in “Young Justice”, and the deaths and disappearances of Flashes over the years. Let’s take a partial toll here:
- Barry Allen died saving the Earth in Crisis on Infinite Earths, remaining basically “dead” until Flash Rebirth.
- Jay Garrick and the rest of the JSA died over and over again soon after CoIE while in a continual time loop, fighting the battle of Ragnarok. This is where they stayed for several years until they were brought back into DC continuity.
- Wally West has been in and out of the Speed Force, presumed dead more than once, killed in the Flashpoint series without ever having taken on the mantle of Flash, and now does not even exist in the New52. He was killed once again on Earth 16 in Young Justice as noted above.
- Bart Allen was pummeled to death by the Rogues while serving as the fourth Flash, being brought back to life some time later. And, as noted above, his Smallville-verse self just took a one-way ticket (presumably) into the Speed Force.
The toughest part of all this for me is the way the actual deaths are being handled lately. Bart’s passing in Smallville felt forced…it wasn’t truly necessary. Yes, he got rid of the menace…but how did that help Clark and the rest of the Smallville gang? Believe it or not…exposure to Speed Force energy somehow cleansed Clark of the tracking radiation Luthor was using to follow Superman’s every move. This allowed Superman to resume acting as Clark Kent without being found out by Luthor.
In other words…Bart’s sacrifice was made so that he could act as a “spot-remover” to some radiation that was creating an inconvenience for Clark.
I have supported (and continue to support) the New52 volume of The Flash, as it represents some of the finest scripting and art in the DC lineup today. I’m not the guy that would ask “Where’s Wally?” for the thousandth time to Dan Didio at a con. I do like most of what I see from DC – I’m a DC guy and have been for over 40 years of collecting. I’m just sad to see the plot device of killing off speedsters used so much. It seems that being a Robin or a Flash means you are wearing a red shirt in the metaphorical sense as well as in the literal sense…and both roles are simply too valuable to the history of the DC Universe to continue to be treated in that way.