The Flash: Terminal Velocity
Mark Waid, writer,
with various artists
(DC Comics, 1995)

The Terminal Velocity story arc is arguably the pinnacle of Mark Waid's run on The Flash; it is the centerpiece around which everything else he did on the book revolves. He laid the groundwork for the events of Terminal Velocity starting almost with his first issue of The Flash, introducing questions about what really fueled Wally West's and Barry Allen's powers. Here, the truth is revealed: the Flash, and all DC speedsters for that matter, are granted their power from the Speed Force, an energy field of functionally infinite power that touches a few, granting them the speed that allows them to move almost as fast as light.

The same Speed Force is the speedster's heaven, as well, and it's calling Wally, even as it grants him further power. He has had a glimpse of the future, a future where he is forced to use the ultimate potential of his power, and, in doing so, is unable to save the life of the woman he loves because that same use of his speed will send him to the Speed Force itself, a place from which he cannot return. And he's not ready to leave his life behind, most especially not Linda, even as KOBRA threatens to destroy Keystone City and take over the world. (It's a comic book. What were you expecting?)

This story is, by far, my favorite of the entire Flash series; it's the most romantic, the most tense (I remember reading the penultimate chapter of the story arc back during its original run and waiting with bated breath for an entire month to find out what happened), and the most rife with conflict and character development. It explains to a great degree how Wally's power works, and what sets him apart from the other speedsters. Waid's dialogue is equally sharp and well-written, and even his approach to how Wally uses his power is fresh and inventive.

If you're new to the Flash, Terminal Velocity is as good a starting point as any (although I most strongly recommend starting with Born to Run and then The Return of Barry Allen, followed by The Life Story of the Flash to round out understanding of how Barry Allen and Wally West are very different people). It's also good if you want to convert non-fans of the Scarlet Speedster to fans, since it shows just how well Waid can handle the characters.

[ by Sean Simpson ]

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