The Flash: Born to Run
Mark Waid, writer,
Tom Peyer, artist
(DC Comics, 1999)

Mark Waid is one of the most important comic book writers of the past ten years or so, and this, one of his early works, demonstrates his potential as a writer. This is a Flash: Year One for Wally West, the current incarnation of the Flash; it was one of Mark Waid's first efforts when he took over the title.

When Wally West was first introduced decades ago as Kid Flash, he was a kid who happened to luck into the same kind of accident that gave Barry Allen (in current DC continuity, the second Flash; Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, is the first) his super speed powers. He was also the nephew of Barry Allen's girlfriend, Iris West; his time as Kid Flash is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to him. At some point, the decision was made to sideline Kid Flash, and so he was given an illness of some kind that meant he would die if he used his speed.

Eventually, Wally West was reinstated as Kid Flash, due in no small part to reader demand (the single most important force in the world of comics; after all, you have to keep them happy to keep your titles selling). In Crisis on Infinite Earths, the mid-'80s DC continuity shakedown, Barry Allen sacrificed his life, and the mantle of the Flash fell to Wally.

It took Wally a long time to prove himself the successor to DC comics' most honored hero, both to himself and to his detractors. In the beginning of his time as the Flash, he was so caught up in not repeating Barry's mistakes that he even charged for his services as a superhero. Eventually, he overcame his feelings of inadequacy, and realized that even if he superseded Barry's power as a speedster, he would never have to worry about superseding Barry in his memory.

The Flash: Born to Run (originally printed in issues from 1992, '95, '97 and '98) covers all of this -- Wally's relationship with his aunt Iris, gaining his powers, losing them, gaining them again, and dealing with Barry's death. In it, we gain a real sense of both Waid as a writer and West as a character, and how different Wally feels about his power than the bulk of superheroes do. Batman does what he does because he doesn't want anyone to go through what he did. Superman, Wonder Woman and many others like them act as vigilantes out of a sense of duty to the world, just like Barry Allen. Wally West is the Flash because it's what he loves, and he couldn't imagine doing anything else. The end of Born to Run even gives us a glimpse of a life that might have been had Wally never gone to visit his aunt Iris that fateful summer.

[ by Sean Simpson ]

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