Flash Facts: The Mark Waid Years
In 1990, Mark Waid’s legendary writing career began when he scripted his first issue of THE FLASH. Waid would continue to work on Wally West for nearly a decade, building a world that would keep the character running for years.
The Flash run by Mark Waid is the series that got me into comics. FLASH #82, by Waid and Wieringo, was my first comic book and kicked off my love of comics that has been going on for 27 years. This book is also the reason Flash is my favorite character, but more importantly Wally West. This run, starring Wally, took him from a guy who was cocky yet also unsure of himself and catapulted him to one of the strongest heroes in the DCU. Waid also added tons of characters (Linda Park, Impulse, Max Mercury, Savitar, etc.) and ideas that are till being used today. The biggest one is the Speed Force. He gave a reason for why and where all speedsters get their speed. While most fans are more familiar with Barry, it's Wally that will always be MY Flash, and It's all thanks to the awesome writing of Mark Waid.
Over the past couple years DC has, thankfully, been releasing this run in trade. While it's not yet complete, I know book 7 is coming out shortly, we still have 6 books that we can talk about. Luckily I've read Waid's entire run so I can also talk about the contents of book 7, which is also one of my favorite arcs. I'm gonna break down the best aspects of each volume.
While this starts of with a couple one shots and ends with an Aquaman team-up and a battle with Abra Kadabra, it's what's between those stories that really stands out. Waid took over the book with issue #62, in arguably one of his best Flash stories ever, "Born To Run". It was in this arc where he expanded on Wally's origins and really fleshed out his character and personality. Before this, all we really had was the compacted Silver Age origin, "he gets struck by lightning the same way Barry did and becomes the sidekick to his idol".
But Waid gives us so much more to love about Wally in this short 4 issue arc. He paints a picture of a kid who was ignored by his parents but had a special relationship with his aunt Iris, who was also his best friend. So when he got the chance to live with her his life took a turn for the better. From there we see him get his powers and develop the bond with Barry that we all knew and loved. We get to see him train and learn how to use his newfound powers. We see him deal with his powers potentially killing him and then overcoming all obstacles to stabilize his powers when he saves his father from a tornado.
This was the arc that tuned Wally from a cocky, egotistical jerk and onto the path to the hero we all know and love today. It's also the book where he meets his future wife Linda Park.
Arguably one the best arcs of Waid's run was "Return of Barry Allen". What starts out as one of the best cliffhangers ever, with Barry showing up at Jay Garrick's house, turned out be one of the most tryong moments of Wally's life. At first he was skeptical, I mean Barry died saving the Mutiverse so how could he be back. Bu then his skepticism turn to joy that he has his uncle/idol back. But with Barry not acting like himself and Wally questioning whether the world needs 2 Flashes.
The truth starts coming out and we learn that it's not Barry, it's Eobard Thawne aka Professor Zoom (The Reverse Flash). It was this arc that also introduced Max Mercury to the book, who would go on to be an integral part of the Flash mythos. We also see more of Jay Garrick and the beginning of the Flash Family that would soon grow in the upcoming months.
By the end of this arc along with Jay, Max and Johnny Quick, Wally is able to defeat Zoom and fully come into his own as the one, true Flash. He was able to finally put the ghost of Barry Allen to rest. The arc also ends with a revelation that his aunt Iris, who was previously thought dead, as actually alive. Setting us up for the inevitable reunion.
Waid was just warming up.
This is the one guys, this volume contains the first issue of Flash (and my first comic) that I ever read. It was the 3rd part in a 4 story arc. It sees Wally take down his former girlfriend Frances aka Magenta with the help of his former teammates Nightwing and Starfire. Not only does this arc have Wally facing off against a villain it also puts a strain on his relationship with Linda. But it inevitably only makes them stronger. It was regular life issues mixed with being a superhero that made this book so special.
The best part about this book, was the incoming of Mike Wieringo. His art is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the Flash. He would go on to become one of my favorite artists of all time and holds a special place in my heart.
Following that arc we see Flash getting sued by someone that he failed to save because he was to busy "grandstanding" as his accuser said to him. It was something you didn't see much in comics, but it still resonates with me to this day. He's the fastest man alive but he couldn't save everyone. Alison, the victim, not only has half of her face burned but lost he legs as well. It seemed like everything was going wrong. The mastermind behind this was once again, Abra Kadabra, whom Wally eventually takes down again.
Which leads into one of my favorite issues of this nearly decades long run, issue #91. After he asks Johnny Quick for his speed formula, so that he can be fast enough to save "everyone", he literally moves so fast that time stands still. After a quick chat with the speed guru himself (Max Mercury) he realizes he can't be everywhere at once, and that's ok. We also get the first tease about the speed force in this issue.
Remember I said Aunt Iris would return, well she does in the final arc of this book, "Reckless Youth". The how and why of her return is all tied into the introduction of Bart Alen aka Impulse. Bart would go on to become one fo my favorite characters and still is to this day. Wally is asked to help "set" Bart's powers because they're aging him rapidly. Coming from the 30th century where he lived his life in VR, he has no real concept of reality which makes for an interesting dynamic between Bart and Wally.
It's in this arc we see the threat of Kobra growing as Linda begins to get death threats and they increase their power in Keystone, which leads into the next big arc.
This volume contains one my top 5 favorite Flash stories, "Terminal Velocity", but before we jump into that story we get a prelude issue. This book opens up with FLASH #0, beautifully illustrated by Mike Wieringo, which takes Wally on a trip to the past. After a quick blast through a recent battle he had, we get a brief origin of Wally again. But it's his final destination on this time trip that makes this one so special, he gets to talk to his younger self. See he remembered someone coming to talk to him during a really hard moment in his life on this specific day, but he had no idea it was actually HIM. This issue has always stood out as something really unique and is a pefect example of the heart that this series had while Waid was writer.
OK, back to "Terminal Velocity". After returning from the past, Wally's powers seem to be out of whack. Not to mention that he gets a vision of the future where he sees Linda die. He quickly begins to train Bart in the ways of "speed" so that he will be ready to take over for him in the event of his death. With the threat of Kobra looming over Keystone City, it will take the entire Flash family to overcome this battle.
This arc is perhaps one of the most important arcs in the history of the Flash. We learn more about Max Mercury's LONG history, Jesse Quick is introduced, and most importantly we learn about the Speed Force. This was the most interesting concept ever introduced to the Flash mythos. Max explains it as an extradimensional force that all speedsters tap into and draw their power from. But it is also the place that they go when they're at the end of their "run". See the Speed Force eventually "calls out" to speedster drawing them in when they run at speeds they've never reached before. Max has heard the call many times but always stops, which bounces him forward through time.
Learning this, Wally thinks all hope is lost for him. But after entering the Speed Force, following his defeat of Kobra, he's brought back. The bond/love that he shares with Linda, essentially makes her his "lightning rod" which helped him return from the Speed Force. Not only did he return, but he came back even more powerful.
This next book covers yet another 2 awesome story arcs, "Dead Heat" and "Race Against Time".
"Dead Heat" was a crossover with IMPULSE and saw the introduction of Savitar, the self professed God of Speed. He was a speed cultist who was able to draw from the Speed Force and share to with his acolytes. Wally had never faced someone like this before and it was one of the hardest battles he evr fought. Once again it took the combined help of all his friends to stave off Savitar, with his newfound powers Wally was able to supercharge his friends by lending speed. But not everyone made it out alive, Johnny Quick lost his life. With no other options he figures the only way to rid himself of Savitar is to trap him in the Speed Force. Which worked but this time Wally didn't return, as we later learn he was flung forward in time.
Leading us to "Race Against Time", which sees John Fox (Flash of the 25th Century) come to the present day. Trying to replace Wally and developing feelings for Linda along the way. The best parts of this arc though, was watching Wally travel across the future on his way back home. A highlight was when he met the Tornado Twins, Barry and Iris' kids from the 30th century. Don't question it, time travel is a huge part of the Flash. Barry and Iris spent time in the future before CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
With Linda's life in jeopardy, Wally is finally called back to his time and saves her, further cementing one this as one of the best relationships in comic book history.
While this is probably my least favorite volume, it was still had some fun moments. In this book, we see Wally kicked out of Keystone due to all the damage and crime he seems to attract. So when a little town in California hears about this, they recruit him to come be the hero of their city. They give him a house and an assistant, which leads to a lot of funny moments. Eventually Wally returns home after discovering that there was a plot to get him out of Keystone.
The end of this book sees him square of against the Rogues who are powered up by Neron and have taken over the city in his absence. After tricking Neron, Wally takes back his city and returns home for good.
The last story is a team up with Kyle Rayner aka Green Lantern and their Golden Age counterparts Jay Garrick and Alan Scott. It was a fun little team-up that helps strengthen the relationship between Wally and Kyle, which ends up becoming a friendship that carried over into the Justice League book by Grant Morrison.
Stay tuned for my coverage on this book once it gets released!
Here are some key arcs of the series I spoke about above:
BORN TO RUN (Flash by Mark Waid: Book 1)
RETURN OF BARRY ALLEN (Flash by Mark Waid: Book 2)
TERMINAL VELOCITY (Flash by Mark Waid: Book 4)
DEAD HEAT (Flash by Mark Waid: Book 5)
CHAIN LIGHTNING (Flash by Mark Waid: Book 7) I'll get more into this one when the book is released later this year.