He’s the fastest man alive, but you won’t really know him till you read the best comics starring Barry, Wally, and more…
Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman may be the recognized trinity of the DC Universe, but it’s The Flash who’s the most important to DC Entertainment, even if the world doesn’t always see it. The most important moments in DC’s real and fictional history have included members of the Flash Family. Jay Garrick’s Flash was one of the company’s earliest heroes, Barry Allen’s arrival in 1956 was the start of the Silver Age of Comics, Wally West became the flagbearer of DC’s focus on second generation heroes in the 1990s, and Barry’s time travel caused the recent company wide reboot known as New 52. Quite a lot of accolades for the world’s fastest man.
It was rare to see The Flash get the kind of mainstream accolades of DC’s big three, or even Green Lantern, but that’s changing thanks to Barry Allen’s new hit TV series, as well as him soon appearing in the upcoming Justice League films. However, if you’re just getting into Flash thanks to his new media success, it still might be hard to find any good books starring the speedster. Well, I’m about to drop some Flash Facts on you with this list of the top 7 Flash comics any fan should definitely check out, along with some speedy bonus entries. Read on, though don’t scroll too fast…
7. Terminal Velocity
As seen in: The Flash (Vol. 2) 96 – 100
The ’90s were a time of transition, not just for The Flash, but for comics in general. After Barry Allen’s death (he got better), sidekick Wally West took on the mantle of the fastest man alive. As Wally learned his powers and dealt with the massive legacy in front of him, series writer Mark Waid introduced The Speed Force concept, with is this power all speedsters tap into, and some are forever consumed by it, a fear Wally must face in Terminal Velocity while also battling a dangerous collection of terrorists.
This isn’t just a great showcase for Wally’s brand of heroism or the late Mike Wieringo’s amazing artistic talent. Terminal Velocity shows what makes Wally unique while simultaneously explaining why he should be surrounded by other superfast folks in his supporting cast. You’d think filling a book with characters with similar powers would make them all less special, but Waid’s smart brand of characterization keeps them all well defined, especially when he uses Wally’s powers to express West’s fears and inadequacies, which makes it all the more exciting to see Wally overcome them.
6. Grant Morrison and Mark Millar’s year
As seen in: The Flash (Vol. 2) 130 – 141
Grant Morrison and Mark Millar are two of the most high profile and provocative creators in mainstream comics, both famous for marrying Silver Age concepts with a modern edge. When the two were much less famous in the ’90s, they were writing partners who brought their similar sensibilities to The Flash when Mark Waid took a year-long hiatus. And their stories verged from weird to introspective to world ending, and they were always interesting.
Stories included Wally being sidelined with a broken leg, taking part in an intergalactic race against an ersatz Sonic The Hedgehog, and the introduction of the grim reaper of speedsters, the Black Flash. Plus, the two Scottish writers did a Mirror Master story stuffed with Scotland vernacular that makes zero sense to most Americans. My personal favorite of the run? When Morrison/Millar handled the final part of an action-packed crossover with Green Lantern and Green Arrow and turned it into a legal drama set mainly in a courtroom. Maritime law never seemed so exciting!
5. The Secret Of Barry Allen
As seen in: The Flash (Vol. 2) 207 – 217
Identity Crisis was a grim and gritty take on the DC Universe that seemed so current in 2004, but has aged terribly, looking more desperate in its attempt to seem mature. Still, even if the violence towards women and faux-heavy prose look stupid now, writer Geoff Johns made the most of it. Identity Crisis’ themes of corrupted heroes and secrets became a launching point for Wally West to reexamine his mentor’s life, as well as make The Top one of the most dangerous foes West ever faced.
In addition to learning about how Barry Allen compromised his morals with altering the minds of evil men, Wally West also finds out that resident goofball The Top was actually one of the most dangerous villains Barry ever faced. When Wally returns Top to his previous mental state, it sparks a civil war among Flash villains, with Wally trapped in the middle as he’s dealing with a fractured view of his hero. On top of that, this collection also includes one of the best Flash vs. Superman races ever put to paper.
Bonus Entry #1! The Best Flash Cartoon: Justice League Unlimited
Before his live action debut, The Flash of the Justice League was easily the best version of Wally seen outside the comics. Surrounded by gods, aliens, and freaking Batman, Flash was brilliant comic relief on many episodes of the DC Animated Universe’s shows, and he had some of the coolest moments too. Fans no doubt remember Flash’s races around the planet to punch Lex Luthor, but his best episode is Flash And Substance, a fun one-off that shows how Wally’s certain brand of relaxed superhero-ing works in his hometown of Central City.