I’m a big Flash fan. I love Wally, Barry, Bart, and Jay. I love the way the laws of physics crumble around them. I love the relationships in the book, from Rogues to loved ones. The Flash is easily one of DC’s best heroes, and I wouldn’t mind if they turned the JLA into “Flash and Batman, plus those other guys.”
One thing I realized the other night, though, is that one of the coolest things about the Flash franchise is that they are a bunch of legacy characters that I actually care about. Two Wildcats, a bunch of Hawkmen, a Dr. Mid-Nite or three, and a family of Starmans? Ehhh, that’s okay, I guess, but give me the Flash any day. Jay’s the most interesting character in the JSA, Barry seems like one of the more fun dudes from the Silver Age, Wally is one of the most well-rounded characters in the DCU, and Bart is that young kid trying to live up to not one legend, but three.
Seriously, think about it. Wildcat’s son just has to live up to “being the son of a guy who dresses up like a cat and hits people really hard.” Hawkman has to hit things with maces. Wonder Woman’s mom was basically so much like her daughter that she replaced her on the JLA and I didn’t even notice. Who cares that there’ve been like six Atoms? He shrinks. Who does Stargirl have to live up to? A slacker, a dead man, a blue alien, and a scientist. That lineage is so square you could use it as cool repellent. Bart’s got it rough, man.
I’ve often joked that the JSA is a team of guest stars. Generally, they’re (Wildcat) the kind of characters (Wildcat) that make me go, “Oh, man! It’s Wildcat from that one comic! That’s pretty cool!” It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I’m haven’t really been sold on most of them. I’m down with Black Adam, Jay Garrick, and sometimes Mr. Terrific, but the rest? Ehhh. They’re all right. They’re like the DC Comics version of the Secret Defenders. “Hey look! It’s Darkhawk, Dr. Druid, and what’s her name with the shadow powers!”
Being a guest star isn’t all bad, though. In the past few years, Barry Allen has put in enough work to become the best guest star that ever did it. Every time he’s appeared lately has been rocking.
The first one that comes to mind is during the tail end of Geoff Johns’s run on the Flash. He’s wrapping up loose ends, having the Rogues go wild, and letting Zoom run free. Zoom ends up going to get Professor Zoom, Barry’s nemesis, and uses his speed powers to use the time treadmill to force Wally to relive the worst day of his life over and over.
“It’s a bad day, Uncle Barry,” may well be one of the best lines of Geoff Johns’s career. It is exceeded, however, by the next one.
In Infinite Crisis, Superboy Prime has gone nuts and is just dismembering Teen Titans left and right. He’s screaming how they’re making him just like them, it’s their fault he’s pulling off their limbs, and what’s the deal with this rock and roll music kids listen to these days, anyway? The Flashes grab him and try to get rid of him. Jay Garrick hits the wall early, Wally pushes too hard, and only Bart’s left to keep fighting. Superboy Prime taunts him, causing Bart to freak out. Mid-freakout, a voice comes out of the ether. “Bart. You’re not alone, either.”
“Grandpa?” beats “It’s a bad day.”
The next one is much more recent. In Final Crisis, a New God is dead, John Stewart is arrested, and J’onn J’onnz is dead. Jay and Wally are investigating the death and locate the place where he died. Coincidentally, it’s in the same place that Jay first met Barry.
Look at that. Barry is the busiest dead man alive.
Zoom is a pretty awesome guest star, too.
“I’m fueled by tragedy!”