The Flash by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar


By Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Ron Marz, Chuck Dixon, Paul Ryan, Ron Wagner, John Nyberg, Paul Pelletier, John Lowe, Will Rosado, Sal Buscema, Pop Mhan, Joshua Hood, Chris Ivy, Ariel Olivetti & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-6102-3

There are many super-speedsters in the DCU and most of them congregate in the conjoined metropolis of Keystone and Central City. Wally West, third incarnation of The Flash, lives there with his true love Linda Park, his Aunt Iris and fellow fast-fighters such as Jay Garrick. Impulse (a juvenile speedster from the future) and his mentor/keeper Max Mercury – the Zen Master of hyper-velocity – live in Alabama but often visit as they only live picoseconds away…

Created by Gardner Fox & Harry Lampert, Garrick debuted as the very first Scarlet Speedster in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940). “The Fastest Man Alive” wowed readers for over a decade before changing tastes benched him in 1951. The concept of speedsters, and indeed, superheroes in general were revived in 1956 by Julie Schwartz in Showcase #4 where and when police scientist Barry Allen became the second hero to run with the concept.

The Silver Age Flash, whose creation ushered in a new and seemingly unstoppable era of costumed crusaders, died heroically during Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985-1986) and was promptly succeeded by his sidekick Kid Flash. Of course, Allen later returned from the dead – but doesn’t everyone?

Initially Wally West struggled to fill the boots of his predecessor, both in sheer ability and, more tellingly, in confidence. Feeling a fraud, he nonetheless persevered and eventually overcame, becoming the greatest to carry the name.

At the end of the 1990s the grand, old-fashioned Fights and Tights mythology and methodology was given a bit of post-modern gloss when Caledonian wizards Grant Morrison and Mark Millar turned their considerable talents to the third incarnation of the Fastest Man Alive. Reprinting Flash (volume 2) #130-141, crossover episodes Green Arrow #130, Green Lantern #96, plus portions of The Flash 80-Page Giant #1 and JLA Secret Files #1, this rousing paperback collection (also available digitally) begins with Wally living with his one true love Linda Park, and enjoying a celebrity life as the current Scarlet Speedster.

Triptych ‘Emergency Stop’ (illustrated by Paul Ryan & John Nyberg) kicks off as a disembodied costume targets old villains. Absorbing their powers – and eventually their lives – it undertakes a sinister master-plan.

Continuing its grisly campaign in ‘Threads’ The Suit – ghost, pre-programmed super-technology or something else – proves more than a match for Keystone’s peace officers and even her superhuman guardians. Max Mercury, Jay Garrick and Impulse are not enough to save West from crippling injuries, and it takes a quantum leap in his abilities before Wally can save everybody from certain death in astounding conclusion ‘Fashion Victims’

Following that superb saga, the Celtic lads get a chance to show American writers how it’s pronounced as Scottish villain Mirror Master attacks the recuperating hero and kidnaps his lady in ‘Flash Through the Looking Glass’.

As ever the understated excellence of Ryan & Nyberg act as the perfect vehicle for all those high-speed thrills, never better than when Garrick takes centre-stage for the moving ‘Still-Life in the Fast Lane’, a poignant parable that shows how even the swiftest men can’t outrun old age and death…

During this period DC was keen on recreating and reviving old heroes, with “legacy” versions of many old stars popping up. After Hal Jordan and John Stewart stopped being Green Lantern new kid Kyle Rayner picked up the ring just as Connor Hawke inherited his father’s role as Green Arrow and Wally followed Barry Allen.

‘Death at the Top of the World’ was a 3-chapter company crossover from March 1998 that began in Green Lantern #96 with ‘Three of a Kind’ (by Ron Marz, Paul Pelletier & John Lowe). The three heirs – who don’t particularly like each – other opt for a communal Arctic cruise to break the ice (sorry!) only to stumble into a plot by super-villains Sonar, Heat Wave and Hatchet that culminates in a devastating and murderous attack on the other passengers by world-class menace Dr. Polaris in Green Arrow #130, (Chuck Dixon, Will Rosado & Sal Buscema).

The concluding chapter by Morrison, Millar, Ryan & Nyberg – played as a classic courtroom drama – tops off this thoroughly readable tale in fine style and offers a chilling prologue and cliffhanger for the next astounding epic…

‘The Human Race’ commences with ‘Radio Days’ as 10-year-old Wally plays with his Ham Radio kit, chatting to an imaginary friend before we sprint into the present-day to find the Flash seconds after his last exploit, cradling an alien super-speedster who has crashed at his feet, gasping out a warning with his dying breath…

When two god-like alien gamblers materialise and demand Earth’s fastest inhabitant replaces the dead runner in a race across all time and space the entire planet learns that if a contestant isn’t provided Earth is forfeit and will be destroyed…

With the Justice League unable to defeat the cosmic gamesters, Wally has no choice but to compete, but almost falls apart when he discovers his opponent is Krakkl, a radio-wave lifeform who used to talk to him across the cosmic ether when he was a kid.

Now Wally has to beat a cherished childhood memory he thought a mere childhood fancy to save his homeworld… and if he does, Krakkl’s entire species will die…

Ron Wagner steps in as penciller for ‘Runner’ and ‘Home Run’, as, pushed to the limits of endurance and imagination, Flash criss-crosses all reality before despondently realising he’s in a match he cannot win… until valiant, self-sacrificing radio-racer Krakkl shares a deadly and world-saving secret…

Cosmic, clever and deeply sentimental in the fashion comics fans are suckers for, this stunning saga ends with Earth enduring after a spectacular ‘Home Run’ with its victorious but ultimately oblivious hero on course for the ultimate finish…

The drama escalates in tense thriller trilogy ‘The Black Flash’ (Miller, Pop Mhan & Chris Ivy, with additional pencils from Joshua Hood) as a demonic entity that abides beyond the velocity-fuelling energy field dubbed the Speed Force comes for the exhausted, jubilant hero in ‘The Late Wally West’.

Over the decades, elder speedsters have noticed that their ultra-swift comrades have all been hunted and taken by a supernal beast before their lives ended and when the creature is captured in photos apparently stalking Wally they do all they can to thwart it. Tragically, they succeed…

Unable to kill the Flash, the thing destroys his beloved Linda instead…

Jesse Quick, second-generation hero and a legacy who lost her dad to the Black Flash, takes over Wally’s role as crushed, depressed and broken he loses his connection to the Speed Force, following Linda’s funeral. However, after weeks of shell-shocked mourning he moves on, planning a new life in a foreign country, but the Black Flash is spiteful and never gives up…

Thus, when the beast attacks powerless Wally at the airport in ‘The End’ Max Mercury, Garrick, Impulse and Jesse all confront the creature until the true Scarlet Speedster rediscovers the inner fire necessary to not only face and defeat the thing, but also bring back Linda from the Great Unknown.

That would be a perfect ending to this tumultuous tome, but there’s still hidden gem ‘Your Life is My Business’ – by Millar & Ariel Olivetti – as Wally has a few drinks in a pub with the author while laying out the next fictionalised episode of his comic book and even a Who’s Who fact page detailing the secrets of ‘The Fastest Man Alive’ to bring the high-octane fun to a close.

Fast, furious and utterly fabulous, the Flash has always epitomised the very best in costumed comic thrills and these tales are among the very best. If you haven’t seen them yet, run – do not walk – to your nearest emporium or vendor-site and catch all the breathless action you can handle, A.S.A.P!
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