There’s a new television show debuting out this fall you may have heard about. It’s called The Flash. While those that frequent this website likely know who Barry Allen is, for many he is one of the pseudonyms used by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Catch Me If You Can. If you fall into that particular category, or perhaps you’re just a longtime reader looking for a refresher, the Infinite Comix staff has put together a list of 10 stories to check out to get you up to speed on The Flash.
Showcase #4 is one of the landmark issues in all of comics, credited with resurrecting the superhero genre and kickstarting the Silver Age of Comics. It’s here that readers were introduced to police scientist Barry Allen, who gets struck by lightning and ultimately becomes the Flash. This story was later revisited in 1988’s Secret Origins Annual #2, introducing new concepts to the Flash’s origin and tying into his eventual death – concepts which would later be revisited by Geoff Johns in The Flash: Rebirth.
2. “The Brave and the Bold” (Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold #1-6)
Mark Waid’s six-issue miniseries solidified the “bromance” between Barry Allen and Hal Jordan. Each issue stands alone, putting the titular duo in various scenarios which serve to further define them. Whether they’re joining Green Arrow to take down fascist police officers or going on a camping trip with their predecessors (Jay Garrick and Alan Scott), the interplay between Barry and Hal — and each character’s reactions to the situation at hand — inform the reader of just who these characters are. If that doesn’t incite curiosity, any superhero book written by Mark Waid is worth checking out – especially one steeped in Silver Age history.
3. “The Flash of Two Worlds” (The Flash vol.1 #123)
Throughout his publication history, Barry Allen has played a role in some of the most significant moments in the DC Universe. Perhaps none was bigger than the landmark story “The Flash of Two Worlds.” This is the story that birthed the Multiverse, and has been cited by Grant Morrison as a point of reference for his universe-hopping The Multiversity. With the legendary creative team of Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, The Flash #123 sees Barry Allen meeting Jay Garrick – the original and Golden Age Flash. Featuring interdimensional travel and a double-dose of speedsters, “The Flash of Two Worlds” is not only a landmark issue, but is generally considered one of the greatest comics ever written.
4. “Flash vs. the Rogues” (Collection)
Admittedly, this is a bit of a cheat. It has long been claimed that after Batman and Spider-man, the Flash has the best villains in comics. It’s a difficult statement to refute, especially when considering the baddie union known as the Rogues. This collection features Barry Allen’s first encounter with the troupe’s original lineup, culminating in their first team-up – “The Gauntlet of Super-Villains.” Though they’ve evolved over the years, it’s remarkable how much of the original traits endure to this day for the likes of Mirror Master, Heatwave, and Captain Cold.
5. “The Death of Iris Allen” (The Flash vol.1 #275-284)
Superman has Lois Lane, Spider-man has Mary Jane Watson, and Barry Allen has Iris (West) Allen. Or at least he had her, until Barry’s enemy from the 25th Century, Professor Zoom, murdered her. The result is a part revenge, part time-jumping adventure that would shape the direction of Flash comics for decades to come. Sadly, DC has yet to reprint this tale, so readers looking to check this out will need to dive into the back-issue bins at their local comic shops.
6. “The Final Fate of the Flash” (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8)
Perhaps no single event has defined the current readership’s view of Barry Allen than the 1986 maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. The standard by which all comic book events are judged, the chief aim of Crisis creative team Marv Wolfman and George Perez was to streamline the (at the time) current DC continuity by eradicating confusing or outdated concepts. Yet the series is now most remembered for Barry Allen sacrificing himself to save all of existence from the Anti-Monitor. In a medium where death is malleable, Barry Allen remained dead for 23 real-world years, during which he was hailed as one of DC’s greatest heroes.
7. “The Life Story of the Flash” (OGN)
If digging through back-issue bins is too time-consuming, or if the cost is just too high, The Life Story of the Flash is perfect way to catch up on Barry’s life through the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths. A collaboration writers Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, with art by Gil Kane, Joe Stanton, and Tom Palmer, this 96-page original graphic novel is an enjoyable summation of Barry Allen’s career. The biographical tale is told from the perspective of Barry’s wife – Iris West-Allen – which keeps the writing both familiar and fresh.
8. “Rebirth” (The Flash: Rebirth #1-6)
As mentioned before, Barry Allen died in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. 23 years later, Grant Morrison would resurrect Barry in the pages of 2006’s Final Crisis. However, it would be up to Geoff Johns in 2009’s The Flash: Rebirth to formally reintroduce Barry to the greater DC Universe. Ethan Van Sciver’s art is brilliant over the course of the six-issue miniseries, capturing the kinetic energy of DC’s speedsters in a way that had never been done before. By the time the series concludes, Johns makes the “boring and square” Barry relevant to modern audiences.
9. “Flashpoint” (Flashpoint #1-5)
Perhaps the most controversial item on the list, it’s also the one with the most tumultuous history. Originally conceived to be the Flash’s version of the “Sinestro Corps War,” Flashpoint was reworked to be a catalyst for DC’s company-wide relaunch in 2011. As a result, the core story is a little messy. However, Barry Allen’s emotional journey is the glue that manages to hold the story together. The final sequence of Barry with his mother is one of the most impactful moments in recent memory and serves as a reminder that, despite his expansive powers, Barry is one of the most relatable characters in existence.
10. “Reverse” (The Flash vol.4 #20-23, #23.2, #24)
The final entry on this list is also the most recent. After DC relaunched its line of comics with The New 52, The Flash – a title that had been helmed by acclaimed scribes such as Mark Waid, Geoff Johns, and Cary Bates – was handed to the unproven writer/artist team of Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. After 19 issues (plus a #0 and an Annual) of gorgeous artwork, their writing was able to match the quality of the imagery. “Reverse” introduced readers to a new, ruthless Reverse Flash and would serve as the capstone to a run that remained fun in the midst of DC’s new, “grim and gritty” universe.
Note: This article was originally published at InfiniteComix.com