If you haven’t heard already, DC kicked off its Heroes Con announcements yesterday with a couple of bombshells about the future of the Flash.
The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive is cancelled effective with this coming Wednesday’s issue #13. The next ongoing Flash title will pick up the numbering of FMA‘s predecessor, cancelled in 2006 with #230. The new/old book will be written by Mark Waid and drawn by Daniel Acuna. Before the ongoing title resumes, the next Greatest Flash Stories volume is scheduled for August, and an All-Flash special is set for
September July. DC has already solicited Flash:FMA issues #14 and 15, but the CBR account of yesterday’s DC panel seems to say that those solicitations were fake. DC’s September solicits are due out on Monday, and of course there may be more clarification as the weekend progresses. Update: Today, DiDio clarified that Flash #231 would be out in August.
Waid naturally wasn’t saying who would be the next Flash, but told Newsarama “Those who pick up the last issue of Flash: The Fastest Man Alive next week will get a big part of it there, and those who pick up the end of the Justice League/Justice Society team-up the same day, when it ships, will get another gigantic part of the puzzle right there too.”
Scipio Garling claims this confirms his theory that the “Lightning Saga” was about the Legionnaires’ attempt to bring back Barry Allen, and that’s hard to dispute. I’ve noted before that DC tends to stammer around the topic of Barry, and again, that August Greatest Flash Stories book is very Barry-heavy.
Still, there are a couple of big arguments against the Barry-is-back theory. First, Barry is widely seen as DC’s “patron saint.” This may mean nothing more than “he got an heroic death that didn’t seem like a stunt,” but that still counts for something. DC can use the revivals of Kara Zor-El, Jason Todd, Hal Jordan, Donna Troy, et al., in one of two ways: either to convince us (and itself) that a Barry revival would be no different; or to affirm that Barry is still beyond a line which DC crosses at the risk of its own credibility. I’ve said that Iris was Barry’s Gwen Stacy, but Barry is the Gwen of post-Silver Age DC: an era-defining character whose death becomes a milepost.
Even so, Iris came back, and we see what’s been done to Gwen in the past few years. Barry is also Wally West’s Uncle Ben, and you’d have to think that one way or another, Barry’s return combined with Wally’s familial responsibilities would put the kibosh on Wally’s superhero career. While Wally has moved past superheroics as a way to honor his uncle, he’s obviously spent over a year getting used to not being the Flash — not being in the superhero spotlight at all, in fact — so if Barry wants to do it again, I don’t see Wally getting in his way.
Nevertheless, DC-Earth has moved past Barry. Consider the Rogues, so carefully examined these past several years in the context of an allegedly “mature” sensibility. Their old bouts with Barry are remembered almost fondly now, as examples of a more innocent time. A grudging respect has been overlaid on their relationships with Barry’s memory. However, if Barry comes back, all that goes out the window, because naturally they’ll just try to kill him again. Moreover, the new Rogues have no respect whatsoever for Barry, and in fact might be even nastier to him, just because they’re younger and more capable. Barry was never the hippest guy on the JLA Satellite to begin with, but does DC really want to set up that kind of generational conflict? It might work for the Justice Society, but not for the Flash. DC might feel burned by the reaction to Bart-Flash, but I don’t see it “skewing old” in response.
And speaking of “old,” despite their friendship, Barry is not Hal Jordan. It’s one thing to revive Hal in the context of a rejuvenated Green Lantern Corps, where he can play off John, Kyle, Guy, et al. Jay Garrick notwithstanding, whoever is the Flash tends to be “the” Flash. Again, I don’t see too many writers, even Mark Waid, making Barry cool enough for the kids today.
That’s why I’d like to see Wally back as the Flash. Thanks to JLA Classified‘s prolific schedule, Wally’s been in about as many issues as Bart over the past year or so, and he continues to be before the public in “Justice League” and “Teen Titans” episodes and DVDs. The new/old title will pick up with Wally’s numbering, not Barry’s (although Barry’s title picked up Jay’s numbering from Jay’s Flash Comics, so it may not mean much). Waid is most identified with Wally, and (due to Geoff Johns’ five years on the title) would return to him at a significantly different point in the character’s life. Assuming Linda and the kids would come back too, Wally would be one of the few big-name superheroes having to deal with new parenthood. There wasn’t much wrong with Wally at the end of The Flash vol. 2 #230, so it would be relatively easy for him to return to action.
I do feel compelled to point out an October 2005 Lying In The Gutters column, interesting in retrospect, which had Waid returning to Flash … to write Bart. The timeline doesn’t quite match yesterday’s Newsarama interview, where Waid says the plan had been “in the works for nearly a year,” and Waid is no fan of Rich Johnston anyway, so just because one part matches doesn’t mean the other one does. There’s also DC’s admonition not to “get too attached” to the first Flash we saw, post-Infinite Crisis, which now looks like it refers to Bart. [Update: Even more so, in light of DiDio's comments later in today's panel.]
In any event, I certainly can’t wait for Wednesday now….