Back in 1985, Barry Allen died in the mega-event Crisis on Infinite Earths, and he would stay dead for the next 23 years. Did that mean there were no Flash comics published in between? Absolutely not! To a generation of readers, there is one, true Flash: Wally West. Though he has been reintroduced in the pages of the current Flash series, many will tell you it just isn’t the same. With that in mind, here’s a look back at ten of the most iconic stories featuring everyone’s favorite red-headed speedster.
1. “Crossroads” (The New Teen Titans #39)
After years of filling the role of Barry Allen’s kid sidekick, as well as token speedster on the Teen Titans, both Wally West and his longtime friend Dick Grayson finally decide to discard the costumes of their youth. George Perez’s striking cover provides all the information readers need to know. This marks a major step in Wally’s progression from also-ran to elite runner.
2. “Nobody Dies” (The Flash #54)
Though Wally’s early adventures as the Scarlet Speedster vary greatly in quality, one true diamond in the rough is this done-in-one penned by William Messner-Loebs with art by Greg Larocque. Proving that Wally will do whatever it takes (despite his jerk-ish personality) to save lives, Messner-Loebs has the hero take on the open air, as in freefalling. From a plane. With no parachute.
3. “Born to Run” (The Flash #62-65)
Origin stories have existed for as long as comic books have been published. Wally West received the origin treatment in his first appearance way back in The Flash (vol.1) #110. However, when a kid writer named Mark Waid took the reigns of the title with The Flash (vol.2) #62, his first order of business was to flesh out Wally’s origin over the course of four issues. Waid developed Wally’s relationship with his mentor, Barry Allen, and laid the foundation for what would be a legendary run of over 100 issues.
4. “The Return of Barry Allen” (The Flash #74-79)
Not only does “The Return of Barry Allen” mark a watershed moment in Wally West’s career, it may in fact be the finest Flash story ever written. Since the events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally had operated with with the spectre of his predecessor looming over him. This is the story that changed all of that, forcing Wally to truly become the hero he aspired to be. Not only is this a fantastic, coming of age tale for Wally, but it also features some incredible action sequences as rendered by longtime Flash artist Greg Larocque as well as the dastardly return of one of the Flash’s fiercest foes.
5. “Terminal Velocity” (The Flash #0, 95-100)
Another storyline from Mark Waid’s run, “Terminal Velocity” might be the most impactful story in the history of theFlash franchise. This is the story that introduced an element of the Flash mythos that continues to drive storytelling to this day: the Speed Force. If introducing one of comics’ ultimate deus ex machinas wasn’t enough, Mark Waid delivers an explosive, compelling story focused on the relationships, sacrifice, and fortitude of the Flash Family.
6. “The Human Race” and “Emergency Stop” (The Flash #130-141)
In the midst of Waid’s legendary run, he took a hiatus for a year to focus on other projects. DC managed to fill his shoes with another comics legend by bringing on JLA writer Grant Morrison and his apprentice, an up and coming writer by the name of Mark Millar. The two collaborated to produce 12 issues of Flash insanity. For three issues, Wally must race against what is essentially Sonic the Hedgehog. In another, he must manipulate the Speed Force to construct a suit which can support his broken legs. Morrison and Millar also split Wally up into an emotional spectrum of Flashes years before Geoff Johns would incorporate it into the Green Lantern mythos. Perhaps most memorably, these two would introduce the spectre of death for DC’s speedsters: the Black Flash.
7. “The Dark Flash Saga” (The Flash #152-159)
Mark Waid’s final storyline in his epic stint on the title is perhaps his most memorable. Sadly, it currently remains uncollected, forcing readers to dig through back-issue bins or go with the digital format (via Comixology). Wally West is forced to overcome a future version of himself from a dark timeline and save his fiance from being totally erased from existence. This is one of the biggest, craziest Flash stories ever told and is a testament to the unique storytelling comics can offer.
8. “Rogues” (The Flash #177-182)
Following Mark Waid, another up-and-coming writer, Geoff Johns, took control. In a run that would help propel him to stardom, perhaps Johns’ most defining strength was his handling of the Flash’s rogues gallery. Comprised of largely self-contained stories, “Rogues” offers readers an insight as to who the Rogues are in a modern context, introduces several new and compelling baddies, and finally gives these foes a strong “relationship” with the successor to theirFlash.
9. “The Secret of Barry Allen” (The Flash #214-217)
Despite the controversy that surrounds it, Identity Crisis made a profound impact on the landscape of the DC Universe as evidenced by Geoff Johns and Howard Porter’s “The Secret of Barry Allen”. Wally uncovers that his uncle engaged in some unsavory activities at the expense of the villain The Top, leading to conflicts against members of the league and his own conscience.
10. “Rogue War” (The Flash #220-225)
The crescendo of Geoff Johns’ run, “Rogue War” sees former Trickster, James Jesse, leading a crew of reformed villains against Captain Cold and the Rogues. Caught in the middle is Wally West, who is simultaneously facing off against Hunter Zolomon, a.k.a. Zoom, the latest to take up the mantle of Reverse Flash. The insanity does not stop there as more members of the Flash franchise (including a couple of surprise guests) pop up to do battle in an all out war. New readers should not be scared off by this, especially if they’ve read the aforementioned “The Secret of Barry Allen”. This is Johns at his best, delivering epic payoff for longtime readers while remaining accessible to new ones.
Note: This article was originally published at InfiniteComix.com