The Flash by Mark Waid Book Three
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mike Wieringo
After Professor Zoom’s defeat, Wally has cemented his place as The Flash and has a renewed confidence in this role. Right off the bat, he’s reunited with former lover and Titans’ ally, Magenta. As he tries to navigate helping her despite the protestations of his girlfriend, Linda Park. Former Titans’ teammates Nightwing and Starfire stop by Keystone City to help battle the organized crime syndicate The Combine. In a series of one-off stories, The Flash takes on Abra Kadabra, new villain Razer, and the terroristic cult Kobra. The most significant change in Wally’s life occurs with the arrival of Bart Allen, his nephew from the 30th Century. Bart is brought to 20th century Keystone City by Iris Allen, the widow of Barry and the aunt to Wally. Max Mercury lingers in the background and shows up to deliver a life-changing message to Wally.
This particular volume of Mark Waid’s run gave us two fantastic things: Bart Allen and artist Mike Wieringo. While it isn’t quite clear in these pages, we’re presented with Bart Allen who will go to be one of the most unique “sidekick” characters DC has ever had. At the time, Robin (Tim Drake) was the headlining sidekick of the time with the Superman clone Kon-El taking a close second. Bart Allen’s arrival would lead to a trinity of sorts where Bart’s characterization would be that of the reckless fish out of water. That’s not entirely communicated here, as Bart is just introduced in the final couple collected issues. His real character will be worked out in a later volume.
Mike Wieringo died from aortic dissection at his home in 2007. We lost one of the great artists of the 1990s and early 2000s. It was incredibly impressive to see his development as an artist in these issues of The Flash. The first couple are a little rough, but you can see his stylistic trademarks on the edges. Eventually, he comes into his own, and I was so happy to see that Wieringo style that strongly appealed to me as a teenage comic book reader. Wieringo was the co-creator of Bart Allen, and it’s the perfect character for his presentation style. Allen exemplifies the movement and speed the Flash family is all about. As much as Wieringo is associated with The Flash, he only stayed on the title for one year, contributing covers for an additional two years. He would later re-team with Waid on an incredible Fantastic Four reboot.
There is not as strong of an overarching storyline in these pages as there was in the previous two (“Born to Run,” “The Return of Barry Allen”), so stories are shorter in length. This means there is a wide range of quality in stories. I personally found the opening Magenta/Nightwing & Starfire story to be pretty dull mainly because of the lackluster villain The Combine. This group appears to be a personal project of Waid’s because he keeps bringing them back to no real avail. In a later issue, there is a mention of how they are taken down in another issue of another title, reasonably anticlimactic for something built up immensely in this volume.
The highlight for me, beyond Wieringo’s art and the introduction of Bart Allen, is Issue 91, “Out of Time.” This story comes in a quiet space between a storyline involving Wally being sued for failing to save people who were harmed during his battle with a villain and the arrival of Bart Allen. Wally is in the middle of a rescue on a bridge with a police helicopter about to crash. Wally is running as fast as he can but realizes he will never physically be able to reach the craft in time before it hits the bridge and the people onboard are killed. Max Mercury shows up and takes a more central role for the first time in this series, setting himself up as the eventual mentor figure for Bart. He encourages Wally to use Johnny Quick’s mantra to enhance his own speed, and this pushes Wally to a point where time essentially freezes around him. Focusing further, Wally breaks through a wall that was holding him back and is able to save everyone, despite his earlier fears. This marks the next step in the character’s development and will reach a crescendo in the next volume.