A Crisis of Chronology: The Flash

By | April 18th, 2010
Posted in Columns | % Comments

With this week bringing the first issue of a new Flash series written by DC superstar Geoff Johns, now is as good a time as any to get acquainted with the Scarlet Speedster. While the sane approach for new Flash readers would be to read the new Flash: Secret Files and Origins and then pick up the new title, my way is much more exciting. Follow the jump as fast as you can!

By far the most influential writer to ever write The Flash was the legendary Mark Waid (who Burpee recently got to interview!). While you more or less can begin your reading of The Flash with Waid’s run, you will actually be starting with the third person to bear the title, Wally West. This will probably cause me to be attacked by some people, but please bear with me: the first Flash, Jay Garrick, has more or less been no more than a supporting character in the Flash franchise — although admittedly a very, very important one — since the debut of the second Flash, Barry Allen. To better become acquainted with Jay, I recommend my previous JSA-centric list.

The loss of Barry-centric stories, however, is one most Flash fans will not forgive me for. The sad truth is that this column relies (primarily) on canonical stories, and since Crisis On Infinite Earths, there have been few stories revisiting Barry’s pre-crisis life. If you really need some comics starring Barry, the only things I have to offer are JLA: Year One, Flash & Green Lantern The Brave and the Bold, and the aforementioned Crisis On Infinite Earths. Instead, I highly recommend Mark Waid’s somewhat difficult to find The Life Story of The Flash, which combines sequential art and prose to tell the tale of Barry Allen in biographical form. However, with Geoff Johns’ love of the Flash and origin stories, I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon saw a Flash: Secret Origin or something similar relatively soon.

So do we (finally) start Mark Waid’s run, with Born to Run, a tale that recaps Wally’s early years as Kid Flash (another reason why this is a fine place to start). While not all of Waid’s run has been collected in trade, all of his best and most influential work on the character has at some point been available. Unfortunately, what I would call his crowning achievement, Terminal Velocity, has been out of print for some time, but if you can find it then I urge you to grab it quickly (I’m just full of poor speed puns today).

Between Waid and Johns’ runs, which are probably the most renowned, Grant Morrison had a brief stint on The Flash with co-writer Mark Millar. While not near as definitive as the former two writers’ runs, Morrison and Millar created concepts that would often be revisited, such as the Black Flash and uniforms made of pure Speed Force. Following this was the Impulse storyline Mercury Falling, which had a very important effect on the Flash family (though I will leave it up to you to find out what that is).

I talked plenty about Johns’ run on The Flash in this column two weeks ago, but its importance certainly bears repeating. While I would not go so far as to call it as great as Waid’s run, it is still incredibly enjoyable. I would, however, go so far as to say that I prefer Johns’ handling of the Rogues to Waid’s, but that’s just splitting hairs. During this, I would also recommend reading at least the first volume of Johns’ Teen Titans, as many character changes occurred with Bart Allen within its pages (changes which were loathed by some fans). As with a lot of DC lists, you may skip Infinite Crisis if you are familiar with it already, but if you are not it would be wise to read it for its effects on the title.

Continued below

Note: if you didn’t read the previous Johns-related column, I must remind you that half of his run is no longer in print and difficult to find.

Following Infinite Crisis we have a new inheritor to the mantle of the Flash! Briefly. Bart Allen’s career as Flash, as opposed to Impulse or Kid Flash, was very short lived. Wally West’s return happened in the pages of the JLA/JSA crossover The Lightning Saga, but Bart didn’t leave the costume until shortly afterward. Wally’s few years back were relatively uneventful, and the only really important story from this period is Waid’s The Wild Wests, even though it is quite a let down compared to the rest of his work.

While Final Crisis brought Barry back from the clutches of the Speed Force, it’s hardly necessary reading for the purposes of this list. The reasons for his return are given in Flash: Rebirth, so reading Final Crisis (again, in terms of this list) would serve very little purpose other than saying “Hey, he’s back!” However, the tie-ins Rogue’s Revenge and Legion of Three Worlds have very important repercussions in the Flash’s status quo, so I highly suggest them. The former merely wraps up some loose threads from Bart’s Flash career, while Legion of Three Worlds brings back a familiar character. While not quite Flash-centric, the latter has ties many ties to The Lightning Saga, so feel it isn’t completely out of place (though Superman and the Legion of Superheroes may be a good thing to read in between the two). While I thought Rebirth was fine, it reads completely differently than the rest of Johns’ Flash, so be sure to keep that in mind.

You have now caught up with the fastest man alive! As usual, here is our in-order list of trades:

  • The Life Story of The Flash
  • Born to Run
  • The Return of Barry Allen
  • Impulse: Reckless Youth
  • Terminal Velocity
  • Dead Heat
  • Race Against Time
  • Emergency Stop
  • The Human Race
  • Mercury Falling
  • Wonderland
  • Blood Will Run (the newer edition)
  • Rogues
  • Crossfire
  • Blitz
  • Teen Titans: A Kid’s Game
  • Ignition
  • The Secret of Barry Allen
  • Rogue War
  • Infinite Crisis*
  • Lightning in a Bottle
  • JLA/JSA: The Lightning Saga
  • Full Throttle
  • The Wild Wests
  • Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge
  • Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds
  • Flash: Rebirth

//TAGS | A Crisis Of Chronology

Walt Richardson

Walt is a former editor for Multiversity Comics and current podcaster/ne'er-do-well. Follow him on Twitter @goodbyetoashoe... if you dare!


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