Two weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised by the clever Wonder Woman relaunch. This week brings the new Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #1, and with it the mystery of just who will be DC’s Scarlet Speedster for the long term.
(I was tempted to say “until the next Crisis,” since DC’s 75th Anniversary in 2010 is only 3 1/2 years away, and goodness knows we shouldn’t expect a Flash to make it out of one of those.)
Anyway, SPOILERS FOLLOW, so beware.
We’ve been warned not to “get too attached” to the first Flash we see, but depending on how you look at the issue, and how you define “Flash,” that could apply to either Jay Garrick or Bart Allen. The plot, near as I could figure, revolves around an attack on Keystone Motors’ super high-tech automobile factory. Its new automated systems have taken away older workers’ pensions and forced them onto picket lines. One of said workers, Thatcher, plants a bomb in the factory. Bart and his extremely unappealing roommate, Griffin, work at the factory, so when the bomb goes off, Griffin is trapped under the wreckage. Bart’s been telling everyone he’s lost the Speed Force, but to save Griffin, he channels it again, even though using it could now kill him. To Be Continued….
If we take DC’s admonition at face value, the “first Flash we see” is Jay, and obviously he’s not going to be the star of this book, because duh, he’s old, and who wants an old Flash? No, all signs point to Bart in the red spandex — and that’s when my nose started twitching. If Jay is a red herring (so to speak), and Bart is the Flash to whom attachment would be unwise, could this set the stage for Wally West to return?
Maybe — but I’m also of the opinion that Donna Troy will only get a 5-issue stint as Wonder Woman before Diana reclaims the title; and I’m not confident that DC would pull two such baits-and-switch. I will be sorry to see Wally go, as I grew up with him not just in Flash and Teen Titans, but also guest-starring in titles like Secret Society of Super-Villains. I thought New Teen Titans railroaded him into retirement, and was happy to see him succeed Barry. According to 52, he’s “taking time off” to be with Linda and the twins, so there’s some good news. Still, he’s conspicuously absent from this issue, appearing only in memories.
Speaking of Barry, though, the new Flash:TFMA hints, perhaps obliquely, that he could return to active duty. Jay and Bart both get first-person narration, and so does Barry. Now, that could just be Bart “hearing” his grandpa as he dreams, but Barry was still spry enough to help subdue Superboy-Prime, at least for a while. If the Speed Force is gone for everyone except Bart, that may well mean that Barry’s essence, katra, whatever, could be channeled through Bart — and if the problem is Bart’s body being too weak to handle it, maybe Bart will be sacrificed so Barry could live?
Eh, probably not. In fact, I daresay it would be the opposite, since Bart appears to be set up not just to be the new Flash, but also to have a ready-made love interest in the form of Valerie Perez, STAR Labs intern. You remember that Bart’s now 20 years old (at least physically), same as Wally when he got his own series.
In the final analysis, I don’t dislike Bart, but I don’t like much about this series’ implications. DC may consider Wally-to-Bart comparable to Barry-to-Wally, but neither Infinite Crisis nor the final issues of Wally’s own book made the case to retire him. In fact, Wally under Geoff Johns was arguably at the height of his popularity. By contrast, Barry’s book was cancelled after years of the “Trial of the Flash” storyline, when all concerned were ready for a change.
It also disturbs me that DC apparently wants to turn back the clock, via Bart, to the 20-year-old Wally that Mike Baron inherited after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Maybe it’s just me being (I don’t know) grumpy, but can’t Jason Todd or somebody be the sower of wild oats, while Wally and Linda struggle to balance superheroics and domesticity? Wally has shown that he can grow into different roles, having taken many opportunities to mature throughout his career. Now he could be a working superhero father, something relatively rare in the DC Universe (Animal Man is the only other one which comes to mind). That sounds more intriguing than revisiting the slacker speedster, especially since Bart’s maturations have been accomplished by fiat.
Another intriguing departure would be Ms. Perez’ ascendancy to Flashhood at the expense of Bart’s speed, but odds are DC’s too invested in the “Fastest Man Alive” subtitle. There’s also the allure of the “Flash legacy,” which sounds like keeping the line of succession within the West/Allen family, so that excludes her too.
I suppose it could be worse: Bart could be the fake-out, and that idiot Griffin could be the new Flash….