Look, Geoff Johns and Dan Dido were, for some ridiculous reason, so intent on returning Barry Allen to “current” DC continuity they went and shoved the story of a certain red-headed, Caucasian, relatable and endearing Flash mantle-holder under the already frayed, tattered and bulging continuity carpet. Yep, when the New 52 properly excised DC books from over 70-years of continuity, this deluge of “new” and “bold,” but essentially neither, returned heroes to their beginnings while effectively neutralizing one of DC’s greatest strengths: legacy.
You see, when a hero of the DC Universe “passed on,” another took up the mantle and continued that nasty “L-word” the New 52 despised so much. When Hal Jordan turned on the Green Lantern Corps and became Parallax, Kyle Rayner was there to begrudgingly take his place as GL of Sector 2814. Jack Knight accepted the Cosmic Rod and Starman moniker when his father’s old enemies came calling. When Green Arrow was presumed dead, his son Connor Hawke drew back more conservative arrows in defense of Star City. And when Barry Allen, aka The Flash, apparently disintegrated during Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally West–formerly Kid Flash–filled the void left by a former ‘fastest man alive’.
And fill it he did. Yes, there were growing pains at first; Wally never thought himself as capable as Barry, which led to a lot of paralyzing psychological obstacles which, on more than one occasion, completely diminished Wally’s super-speed. But Wally got through it by plowing forward with the help of friends, and with the love of his life, his anchor, Linda Park.
And, at the height of his career he was faster and more capable than Barry ever was. Can I effectively support this last statement? Hell yes. Sorry, I mean…HELL YES!!! Here’s why the almost forgotten Wally West is the superior Flash, and why Barry Allen is…well, he’s kind of a dope.
Wally West was the First to Learn About — and Mainline — the Speed Force
Yes, 2009’s The Flash REBIRTH series cemented Barry’s return to the DC Universe after making planet-fall from some undisclosed temporal location in the pages of Final Crisis. It also decided to essentially re-explain the Speed Force. Instead of the boundless energy whose origin was unfathomable simply because it was, firstly, a universal truth, and forever permeating all of time and space, it was now something created by Barry’s accident, and perpetuated/charged by his repetitious running. Oh, and said perpetuation was retroactive, so the Speed Force seeped backwards through time as Barry generated it in the present. I’ll let that simmer for a minute.
Anyway, before that bit of noodling, the Speed Force was a nearly sentient dimension of infinite energy from which speedsters drew their extraordinary, well, speed; an unquantifiable wellspring of never-ending power channeled by those gifted with the correct, sometimes altered (through lightning-charged chemicals) biology. Its existence wasn’t even considered by Barry who thought that lightning and a mixture of somewhat volatile chemicals were enough to explain jaywalking at Mach 1.
However, when Wally was The Flash, he ran into time-bouncing, Speed Force guru Max Mercury; Max made contact with this limitless, anomalous energy once before, and passed this knowledge onto Wally who utilized this infinite energy in new and interesting ways.
While Barry was simply running very, very fast, creating whirlwinds with his index finger and vibrating through car washes, Wally was cognizant of, and mainlining the Speed Force, leading to more of the following advantages:
Wally, at the Peak of His Powers, was Faster Than Barry
Not sure if that’s the case now, since, y’know, Barry is now the epicenter of the Speed Force, but pre-Flash: REBIRTH, Wally was running post-light speeds through black holes, from planet to planet, and roughly the length of a Galaxy. He was… he was very, very fast.
Wally Could Absorb and Redirect Kinetic Energy
Instead of just outrunning the hell out of everything, Wally was able to remove, or grant additional speed to, the object of this super-heroing. He was also able to change the direction of any object, dangerous or otherwise, currently following a flight path towards his heart, eyes, nipples, etc. So, Wally had options when it came to a hailstorm of bullets; he could…
2. Completely remove any and all kinetic energy propelling them forward, causing every single bullet to freeze in mid-air and tumble onto the sidewalk, or….
3. Redirect the bullets towards the person(s) (or things) foolish enough to fire them at a very Speed Force-conscious super-person.
He Created His Costume from Pure Speed Force Energy
Since he’s naturally surrounded by a Speed Force aura, he decided to, in a manner, manipulate a layer of the always surrounding energy into something more solid and reflective of the classic, crimson-colored Flash uniform. Keep it in a ring?? That’s preposterous. It’s much more convenient, and efficient, to wrap yourself in a costume oozing from your pores.
Run Through Time without the Cosmic Treadmill
Sure, Wally needed it in the beginning, but after solidifying his bond with the Speed Force, Wally was able to move back and forth in time under his own power. Oh, and he was also able to move through Hypertime, meaning, yes, he was able to travel between dimensions.
Beyond his mastery of the Speed Force, Wally sealed his speedster superiority by…
Single-handedly Putting a Stop to the Accursed New 52!
He’s the poster child for excised continuities; a representative of the usually unsung collateral damage when reboots or relaunches kick heartfelt comic history to the figurative curb. He’s the icon of DC’s shame; a returning sacrifice who refused to allow the concept of “new” to override the concepts of quality and history.
After the events of “Flashpoint,” and the formation of the New 52 Universe, Wally West, OUR Wally West, was nowhere to be found. Thankfully, his presence would reconstitute itself after drifting through the Multiverse for an undisclosed period of time. Yep, DC realized that the financial success of the New 52 was not necessarily a spiritual one, so they returned our Wally to the DC universe, who brought with him an influx of lost time, and the treasured continuity so many of our heroes lost due to the sharp dismissal of histories deemed grossly unnecessary.
Still superior? Yes. Why? Because….
Wally was Simply a More Interesting Character
Wally initially struggled as The Flash, overwhelmed by living up to the “perfect” image of easily expressed heroics displayed through Barry’s impeccable crime-fighting career. Wally had to earn his place as the next Scarlet Speedster, and through struggle, he became the greatest Flash who ever…uh…Flashed!
Also, Wally surrounded himself with a very interesting cast of characters, including speedsters Jay Garrick, Max Mercury and Bart Allen, aka Impulse. He also had a blue-collar job, a wife whose love was strong enough to untangle Wally from a sometimes overpowering Speed Force, and eventually, two Speed-Force-imbued children. With Wally, you got more than an always late forensic scientist who fought crime; you got family, commitment, personality, and emotional growth.
Heck, Johns was painfully aware of Barry Allen’s incredibly shallow, one-dimensional characterization; the writer’s response was to insert the story of his mother’s murder in 2009’s Flash: Rebirth. Did this help? Well, in this reader’s mind, Barry was still as appealing as white bread, so no, it didn’t help. Not at all.
Of course, Wally later learned that Barry’s seemingly perfect, crime-fighting career was not perfect at all, because….THIS:
Barry Voted for a Dr. Light Lobotomy, and Subjected The Top to the Same Questionable Treatment
Remember Identity Crisis, when Zatanna mind-wiped (translation: magically lobotomized) Dr. Light after raping Sue Dibny aboard the Justice League Satellite? Yeah, his actions weren’t going to fly, so the Leaguers present decided that he should never remember his actions, or the information that led to those actions, i.e. the secret identities of superheroes and their loved ones. So, when it was put to a vote, Flash was all for reducing Dr. Light to the state of a drooling buffoon.
Afterwards, Barry doubled up on poor decision making after dealing with one of his especially unstable rogues, The Top; he was hopeful Zatanna’s magically-induced, psychological meddling might help excise the bad bits from Top’s brain. Did it work? For a time. And when it finally stopped working, The Top was more malicious than ever. So….bad move x 2, Barry.
Look, I don’t dislike Barry, but I’m not his biggest fan. I mean, we didn’t need him to return; he was kicked to the curb for a reason (YAWN-inducing), and now that he’s back, well, so is the boredom…and my increasing disinterest.