Hello everyone, and welcome back to COMFORT FOOD COMICS Presents: SPECIAL INGREDIENT.
In every column, we look at a newer comic and the “Special Ingredient” that made it extra delicious. It could be a character, a location, a plot device, a callback to a previous issue… basically anything that jumped out to me and made me think “mmm, that really improved the taste of this comic.”
There were a lot of great comics this week with a lot of great elements, but one issue in particular had so many special ingredients it was like putting all the toppings on your ice cream until they’ve almost drowned out the taste of the ice cream itself. In this case, the issue is The Flash #761, the ice cream is Barry Allen (vanilla, because what else could Barry be?), and the tasty toppings are every other DC super-speedster.
What’s going on now?
The Flash #761, by Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, Hi-Fi, and Steve Wandscontinues the “Finish Line” storyline that will be the conclusion of Joshua Williamson’s years-long run as writer on the title. Personally, I haven’t been the biggest fan of the run or this story so far. In my opinion, there has been a lot of referencing, homaging, and (weak) imitating of other runs and other stories, and “Finish Line” has already featured the re-appearances of a few characters who had been gone for a couple of years.
But, in this issue, in this moment, so many speedsters appear simultaneously but none of them really become the focus of the story for too long, and so they manage to shine as a group. Williamson doesn’t have to worry about getting each character’s voice quite right, or giving them a satisfying arc. They’re there to serve a purpose, beat the bad guys, and look great doing it, so you can enjoy the taste of them for a second and then quickly move on to enjoying the next flavor, without any of them lingering long enough to go sour.
So who all shows up?
Right off the bat, on page 1, you’ve got John Fox, the Flash of both the 27th and 853rd Centuries, appearing with a new Kid Flash and watching a historical record of the events of this issue. Created by Mark Waid and Mike Parobeck, John is a fun look at what the Flash might be in the future and has appeared in a few good stories that immediately come to mind whenever he pops up, like The Flash vol 2 #112-118, and DC One Million #1-4.
Max Mercury and Jesse Quick continue their appearances from the previous issues, where I was happy to see them as well, although at the time it seemed like they would only appear as ghosts. Jesse Quick was created by Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck as the daughter of golden-age heroes Johnny Quick and Liberty Belle, and Max is usually credited as a Mark Waid creation, with Greg LaRocque, although he is based on a golden-age character named Quicksilver who was created by Jack Cole and Chuck Majouzian. In this issue, they have finally been pulled free of the Speed Force, and Max plays a key role in the story, meditating (as the so-called “Zen Guru of Speed” should) to summon other speedsters through the Speed Force, and delivering all of our other delicious toppings, including:
- XS – grand-daughter of Barry Allen and cousin of Impulse; a great reminder of the 2nd incarnation of the Legion of Superheroes, often forgotten or absent in other versions of the Legion.
- Krakkl – Wally West’s friend from Radioland! A Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and Paul Ryan creation from Flash vol 2 #136-138, Krakkl is so fondly remembered that his world even earned a place on the official Multiversity Map!
- Jay Garrick of Earth 2 (the New 52 version) – okay, the James Robinson post-New 52 Earth 2 comic wasn’t mind-blowingly good and isn’t going to be a special ingredient often, but many of the designs were just plain awesome, including this version of Jay Garrick’s (presumably designed by Nicola Scott). And the other Jay shows up too, if you like him better.
- Kingdom Come Flash – He lives between the ticks of a second! This one is also just another example of a great design.
- Walter West – A cool-looking but slightly evil alternate version of Wally West from The Flash vol 2 #152-159.
- Jai and Irey West – Wally West’s twins and the co-stars of his final run as the star of The Flash series, before the return of Barry Allen.
- Avery Ho, The Flash of China – Okay, Avery’s been a regular in this run, but she’s still awesome and everyone should read New Superman (and the Justice League of China) if they haven’t already.
So why are all these Flashes a Special Ingredient?
Umm… because they’re awesome and there’s so many of them and they’ve been in great stories?
That’s the obvious answer, but there are also the deeper implications beyond that. A lot of recent DC Comics have been about DC Comics’ continuity – how does the multiverse (or is it a metaverse?) work, who is from which universe, who has been rebooted, who remembers it, etc. – but bringing all these speedsters and Flashes in to this event together throws a lot of that out the window and instead reinforces that it’s all connected, and it all co-exists. There’s no “this character can’t be there because that version of the Legion doesn’t exist anymore” or “you can’t use Wally’s kids because Dan Didio etc etc.” After years of pushing Barry Allen and trying to build a new Flash family around him, finally we have a moment acknowledging the last great, big Flash family, and uniting the two. It’s no coincidence so many of these characters are tied to Wally West, or are alternate versions of him, and it really feels like a special moment to finally see acknowledgement of how big a role Wally’s time as the Flash played in the development of the larger Flash mythos.
The Flash volume 2 contains most of the best stories for a number of the characters I mentioned, with individual issues having already been called out. Obviously one could just start with Mark Waid’s first issue, number 62, and just go right until the series ends at issue 247, but if you have the time there’s a lot of good stuff before that, by Mike Baron and William Messner-Loebs among others. Impulse vol 1 is also a great run for Max Mercury and XS, as well as Impulse himself of course.