The Flash by Mark Waid Book 1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Greg LaRocque
Since the tragic death of Barry Allen during the Crisis, Wally West has held the mantle of The Flash. On a visit to his grandfather’s, Wally uncovers an old scrapbook made by his late aunt Iris chronicling his days as Kid Flash. This triggers a series of flashbacks that retells Wally’s first short-lived run as Kid Flash (he would later go on to a much more prolific tenure as a member of the Teen Titans). Further, we get a series of adventures that have Flash teaming up with Aquaman and the return of the classic Rogue Abra Kadabra. There are also two large size annuals included that tie into the universe-wide events of Armageddon 2001 and Eclipso: The Darkness Within.
Mark Waid’s opening handful of issues begin to establish a few elements of what would continue through his tenure. You can see the sort of cautious first steps, playing with established supporting characters from the previous writers William Messner-Loebs and Mike Baron. In later volumes, these supporting figures will be dropped for a more speedster family-focused title. However, these are still fun though fragmented pieces of a beginning.
The first comic is The Flash Special, a celebration of the multi-generational look at the three Flashes (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West). Tying these three together is the story of John Fox, a historian from the 27th Century who is attempting to stop a villain in his time period whose origins connect to each of the Flashes of the past. In the process, Fox is transformed and becomes the Flash of his own time period. This will not be the last time we see John Fox, but it will be awhile before he returns to the pages of the Flash and ends up becoming a member of the Justice League of the 853rd Century in Grant Morrison’s DC One Million.
At this point, there had been Year One style stories told for most of DC’s major characters in the wake of the reboot in 1985. Superman had Man of Steel, Batman had Year One, Wonder Woman has George Perez’s opening arc of her title, Green Lantern had Emerald Dawn. Even Hawkman and Hawkwoman had Hawkworld. Yet, The Flash had been overlooked for a good eight years. Waid’s first significant arc is “Born to Run,” Wally’s look back at becoming Kid Flash. It is a straightforward, yet well-told story that reminds us the core of Wally’s character. Wally West is a figure whose personality has varied wildly over the years. My reading of The New Teen Titans has shown me that to compare that interpretation with Wally as the Flash leaves us with two incredibly different characters.
Early on in the West-era of the Flash, he dropped the whole secret identity shtick and was publicly known as The Flash. Wally had gone through a bout of imposter syndrome, understandable when you consider the nature of his awe for Barry and the tragically heroic bar that Barry set for the mantle of the Flash. Barry had gone public with his identity near the end of his time as The Flash, so from the get-go in Mike Baron’s run Wally also didn’t attempt to hide who he was. Waid reminds in his Born to Run storyline that once upon a time Wally (as Kid Flash) was unaware that his partner in crime fighting was his aunt Iris’s boring old boyfriend, Barry Allen.
After this strong arc, the rest of the collection becomes a mixed bag with the one-off Aquaman story and two-part Abra Kadabra battle. The two annuals included reminding old timers like me that our nostalgia for the bloated crossovers in the annuals is unfounded as those stories feel painfully padded to meet the 64-page requirement. If this is your first taste of Mark Waid on the Flash, you might question why this long run has so much popularity among comic book fans. Trust me, things get much better. It does take until volume 2, in my opinion, for Waid to begin to work his magic, and even then it is just the beginning. When book 3 rolls around we get a spectacular series of stories that re-establish and introduce elements to the Flash mythos. But more on those when we get there.