Greetings from the Odinson,
The DC Universe Rebirth era of comics is in full swing. DC Comics is attempting to move forward by embracing the current continuity of The New 52 and merging it with the classic concepts and highlighting the values and traditions of what came before.
In The Final Days of Superman we witness the heroic sacrifice of the New 52 Superman, a peculiar death scene that may or may not have ties to a certain Superman Special released twenty-four years ago (more on that at a later date). It seems the Post-Crisis Superman, or Pre-New 52 Superman depending on your preference, has returned to the fold and brought with him many secrets to be revealed in due time. Wonder Woman is embarking on a quest to finally solve the mystery surrounding her convoluted and often changed secret origin. Bruce Wayne is back as Batman but now he is embracing the help of his rapidly growing Bat-Family. Aquaman’s attempt to make peace between the surface world and Atlantis is once again plagued by the revenge-seeking machinations of Black Manta. And, Green Arrow and Black Canary have rekindled one of the greatest comic book romances in the history of the medium.
Though it remains to be seen if this latest “Rebirth” will be a renaissance for DC and once again position them as a true challenge for the distinguished competition, one thing is for sure, nobody does a fresh new start as often nor as well as DC Comics. They have had a lot of practice at it.
The Golden Age, the dawn of the caped crusaders, eventually gave way to the sci-fi Silver Age of comics. The Pre-Crisis DCU was restructured and overhauled into the Post-Crisis DCU. Whether it’s a Crisis in Time or The New 52 or a Rebirth, change comes in many different forms with many different names. However, throughout the entire History of the DC Universe there has been one constant, one singular proponent that has helped usher in, influence, and guide these significant times of change, and that protagonist, ladies and gentlemen, is The Flash.
Which leaves the Odinson asking one question.
Is the Flash the Glue that Holds the DCU Together?
The answer lies in the sands of time, or back issues, as we have come to know them. Whether it’s Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, or Bart Allen, no matter who it is bearing the mantle at the time, the Flash has been at the epicenter of major change in the DCU every single time.
Let’s take a look.
Flash of Two Worlds (1961) – This moment in DCU History is significant for many reason not the least of which it is the very first time Barry Allen the Silver Age Flash meets his predecessor Jay Garrick the Flash of the Golden Age. With a retcon of explanation that brought about the concept of parallel worlds and established the current continuity of DC Comics as taking place on what would become known as Earth-1 and the continuity of the Golden Age having taken place on what would be called Earth-2, this moment in Comics History saw the birth of the DC multiverse.
Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) – Flash-forward (pun intended) a few decades and once again DC History reaches a nexus point for universal change, and right at the center of it all is the Flash. As one of the few beings that can traverse the multiverse, Barry Allen is taken prisoner by the villain of the piece. Allen’s story plays out in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 as the Scarlet Speedster makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save the world. During this final heroic feat, the Flash runs so fast that he begins to pop in and out of different points in time like in Crisis on Infinite Earths #1 when he interrupts a duel between Batman and the Joker and in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 when he crosses paths with Wally West and the rest of the DC Heroes on their way to the final showdown with the Anti-Monitor. This first Crisis closed the door on the first nearly fifty years of DC continuity and ushered in the Post-Crisis era of DC Comics. Wally West would graduate from his sidekick role of Kid Flash and take on the mantle of the Flash which he would take to new and astounding heights over the next twenty-five years. To get the full scope of the Flash’s influence on this seminal moment in DC History check out the Crisis on Infinite Earths Novelization by Marv Wolfman where the entire epic is retold from the point of view of Barry Allen as his final moments of high-speed heroism rocket him through the story from beginning to end in the blink of an eye.
Flash: Rebirth (2009) – This chapter in DCU History not only saw the triumphant return of Barry Allen but it also revealed that the Speed Force, the electric fuel that gives speedsters their powers, was not just an intricate cog in the machine that is the DCU, but that it is also a divine conduit for which those who can access it, i.e. those that bear the mantle of the Flash, can not only survive universal change but affect it, and cheat death itself. Now, this was not just a plot device that allowed the return of Barry Allen, it will come into play once again in DC Universe Rebirth.
Flashpoint (2011) – No good deed goes unpunished. Unfortunately, Barry Allen will have to learn this lesson the hard way. The Scarlet Speedster uses his super human speed to travel back in time and stop the murder of his mother. He succeeds. He also succeeds in completely altering the course of DC History. When he awakens in the present day, the world is completely different. There is no Superman. Thomas Wayne is Batman, a deadly vigilante out to avenge the death of his son, Bruce. And, the Kingdom of Atlantis is about to go to war with Paradise Island in a battle that will destroy the world. Finding out he was manipulated by a hated foe, Barry Allen struggles to fix reality. He succeeds, sort of. The Flash succeeds in resetting the timeline and saving the world from Armageddon, but a new DCU is born in the aftermath – The New 52. Which brings us to the present.
DC Universe Rebirth (2016) – Once again, preceded by lightning in the sky, the world has changed. This continuity is no longer The New 52. It is not the Post-Crisis DCU. Nor is it the Pre-Crisis DCU. It is all of these and none of them. It is a Rebirth. And, right at the epicenter of this universal change is the Flash. Like Barry Allen in Flash: Rebirth before him, emerging from the incubational power of the Speed Force is Wally West, the man who carried the mantle of Flash for twenty-five years, a hero who was erased from DC continuity five years ago. He returns, and with him, he brings a warning. There is a reason why the DCU keeps getting reset and retooled. Someone is manipulating the DCU on a multiverse level. And once again, the Flash may hold the key to saving the DC Universe in the years to come.
These five events are the most significant, influential, and expanding moments in DCU History and right at the center of them all is The Flash.
So, is he DC Comics’ reset button that keeps restarting the events of continuity hoping to one day get it right? Or, is the Flash the glue that holds the DC Universe together? Is he the stalwart defender of existence that no matter what Crisis, Zero Hour, Flashpoint, or Rebirth may come along he will always be there to usher in the next chapter of DC Comics History?
Is the Flash the shepherd of universal change?
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell