Seriously, guys — what are we supposed to do for our Flash fix now that the show is in mid-season hiatus? Besides revisiting our coverage of the show to date?
Fortunately folks, there are literally 76 years worth of Flash stories to tide us over, not only in television, but in the comics as well. Below you will find our suggestions for some of the best non-CW Flash stories that capture the quintessential nature of the Scarlet Speedster.
Longer stories from the bookshelves/digital services:
Flash: The Return of Barry Allen
From 1993, courtesy of Mark Waid — a.k.a. the writer who put the Flash back on the map — and artists Greg LaRocque and Roy Richardson. In a time where Wally West, the one-time Kid Flash, now wears the mantle of the Flash, and is just starting to come into his own as a great hero, Barry Allen, the original Flash thought to have died saving the entire universe, seems to have returned. What does this mean to Wally, now that his hero is back? Is he demoted? Redundant? Questions abound, and take a turn for the sinister as Barry seems increasingly unstable. The end of the book portrays heroism and character growth in a manner few stories in any medium have ever reached.
The issues, Flash (second volume), numbers 74-79 are available digitally if you can’t track down a copy of the trade.
Flash: Rogue War
From 2005 and the creative noggin of current DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and the kinetic pencils of Howard Porter comes a tale that features the Flash, naturally, but really puts the spotlight on Flash’s villains, the best Rogues Gallery around, with the possible exception of a certain bat-eared individual. There’s a reason that Heatwave and Captain Cold are the best parts of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow — there was a great history of violence and honor among thieves for the fine actors Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell to draw upon for their roles in CW’s version of the DC Universe.
Rogue War starts with a profile of Heatwave, but really heats up (sorry for the pun) a couple issues later, when Flash’s classic Rogues — Cold, Heatwave, Weather Wizard, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Magenta, Pied Piper, the Top and two versions of the Trickster — engage in an all-out war with each other, before shifting their mission and confronting Reverse Flash/Zoom. Flash, meanwhile, is suffering the emotional fallout from an earlier confrontation with Zoom, even as he has to battle the new generation of Rogues — Girder, Murmur, Plunder, Tar Pit and more. And the battle picks up more of Flash’s greatest foes in the form of Dr. Alchemy and Grodd . . . then Kid Flash joins in . . . then the Golden Age Flash . . then the original Reverse Flash . . . ay yay yay. let’s just say this is all out bananas brawling, but somehow never loses the intrigue or emotional resonance.
Quick story From the long boxes/digital service:
Flash (volume 2) #30
From 1989, a great one-off story written by William Messner-Loebs with pencils by Greg Larocque. The Flash has a big date with a very attractive model. Midway during the movie, everything freezes, and Flash seems to be the only one who can move. Why? A very interesting examination of the Flash’s powers (not to mention his uncertain social life). Bonus: This was during Flash’s days as a member of Justice League: Europe, so we get to see his mom have an impromptu field trip to Italy, complete with guest cameo by Power Girl and nearly as much action as her son is experiencing.
From streaming services — short attention span:
On Netflix, check out Justice League Unlimited Season 1, Episode 25: “Divided We Fall.” After overcoming an all-out brawl against Power Girl and analogs for old Superfriends characters Apache Chief, The Wonder Twins, Samurai, and Black Vulcan, Lex Luthor is still standing — well, Luthor merged with Brainiac. The big guns of the Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, and, of course, Flash) are the only ones remaining. Flash really stands out in this one, being the first to defeat a robot doppelganger of himself, then proving to be the only one who can stand against the Luthor/Brainiac gestalt by pushing himself as he’s never pushed before. Watching the Flash stand out amongst his peers = priceless.
Looking for lighter fare than staving off the apocalypse? In Justice League Unlimited Season 2, Episode 5: “Flash and Substance,” the rather grim Batman and the even more grim Orion accompany Flash when his home city holds an event in his honor. The contrast between the Flash’s optimistic outlook and approach with his compatriots is on display, as is his effectiveness.
“Central City builds statues to this fool who makes bad jokes, who concerns himself with pitiful men like the Trickster. I don’t understand,” says Orion to the Bat.
Accordingly, it’s pretty damned funny watching Orion utterly hosed by Captain Cold. Trickster, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, the Flash Museum . . . this one has it all folks.
From streaming services — kill an afternoon:
An animated movie also on Netflix, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox stars the Barry Allen Flash, and examines many of the same time-travel themes that the show is currently exploring. It goes deep into alternate comics worlds, where Wonder Woman and Aquaman are kind of evil and there’s actually a hero called “The Canterbury Cricket.” No joke. Which is just to say that it should fill your Flash/time travel jones almost assuredly without spoiling anything that may happen in the CW series’ own “Flashpoint” plot.
For folks who love hate-watching terrible TV
Three words: Unaired television pilot. Yes, there was a pilot made in 1997 for a live-action Justice League series. So, if you want to see how good we have it now in comparison to crap from the past — or if you’ve always thought that your Flash should be a wise-cracking goofball mailman — by all means, check out this dud of a pilot, now available thanks to the miracle of the internet. See, old school dorks who wanted to see it had to get bootleg copies at comic conventions. Maybe it’s worth it for seeing David Ogden Stiers as Martian Manhunter.
Unlike that last suggestion, all the above are worth your time for good, solid Flash-based entertainment. Even so, were counting the days ’til Grant Gustin and company return.
Images: DC Comics, DC Amimation