You can blame this one entirely on Twitter in general, and Justin Aclin and Ben Morse in particular, but after various tweeted conversations this morning, I feel like I have to come clean and admit something to the comics internet as a whole: I am a Wally West fan.
I feel much better having admitted it to you all. Be warned: There’s a “Why did we bring Barry back, again?” rant ahead, in light of the end of Flash #12 from last week.
I know, I know; Wally West doesn’t have the historical significance of either Jay Garrick or Barry Allen, and he’s been almost entirely absent from the DCU since the end of The Flash: Rebirth (Seriously, he’s appeared, what, twice since then? And both times, pretty much as quick cameos to back up Barry in some form or another), but that doesn’t lessen my love for the character one bit. Y’see, Wally is just a far, far more interesting character than either Jay or Barry (Not so hard in Barry’s case, considering he lacks inner conflict so much that Geoff Johns was forced to retcon in a murdered parent and Barry’s culpability in said murder in order to generate some, but the less said about that the better); he’s an essentially uncomplicated hero – Remember when he used to start each issue with “My name is Wally West. I’m the Flash – The fastest man alive”? No conflict over who he is there, refreshingly – whose life, nonetheless, gets complicated around him, whether it’s juggling family life and superhero duties (Hey, remember that his daughter Iris became the new Impulse? Of course you don’t, considering that she, too, has been pretty much absent from the DCU since Rebirth) or managing to struggle to live up to the legacy of his fallen mentor, only to end up surpassing him and dealing with all the emotional mess surrounding that.
And that’s just it: Back before Barry was brought back to life, Wally was unique in the DC Universe: He was the kid sidekick who was actually living the dream, the one who had grown up and grown into the mantle he was left behind. Dick had been Batman once already by that point, but only temporarily, same with Donna’s short stint as Wonder Woman, but Wally was the Flash – he’d been accepted by Barry’s peers, and was no longer living in the shadow of the legacy he’d inherited. Heady stuff… and all of it, wiped away when Barry returned.
I would be less upset, I guess, if Barry’s return has led to more than the twelve issues of delayed gratification that the most recent Flash series turned into (Five of those twelve were lead-ins to Flashpoint, and a sixth was Brightest Day bait; only the first six issues were really a Flash story, as such, and even that was pretty much a tease for something that may or may not happen later), or if Wally had continued to have any real presence in the books at all. Logically, he should really be a member of the current Justice League, formed by two of his oldest friends, because… well, what else is he doing these days? He had previously been a member of the Justice League in Dwayne McDuffie’s run, until he, weirdly and suddenly, wasn’t… but why, beyond a need to underscore Barry Allen as the Flash, can’t he join his friends now? Why can’t he appear anywhere, it seems, unless he’s telling Barry how much he loves him (The Flash #11) or running around in general chaos (Blackest Night)?
I have no inherent problem with the idea that Barry Allen is back and he’s the Flash getting all the focus now, but only if he earns it; I want Barry Allen to be as interesting – or, at least, his stories to be as interesting and entertaining – as what we got from Wally, and I want to see why Barry deserves to be there instead of Wally (or Jay, or even Jesse Quick or Iris or XS or Bart, for that matter). Change can be great, as long as it’s additive and brings something worth reading; this particular change, however, after, what, almost two years or so, just feels reductive to the characters involved (Even Barry Allen. I mean, c’mon: is Barry really a better character because his mother died when he was a kid? Wasn’t he better as the noble hero who sacrificed everything, instead of the guy who came back, whined about it and acted like your grumpy uncle complaining about texting and the internet?) and to the Flash concept in general, and I admit to kind of wishing that it’ll be undone as one of the magic changes brought on by the end of Flashpoint.
Okay, fanboy rant over. I’ll go back to hoping that Barry can earn his place in my heart again, now.