- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Flash Top Ten Graphic Novels
'Vibrating . .time traveling . . welcome to the family business, son.'
The Flash was always a hard sell to more sophisticated, modern audiences. He fitted right in in the goofy 60's, his Rogues Gallery perfect for the zany stories that were then popular; Flash usually saved the day in the nick of time, only to be late for his date (every time!). Oh, the irony.
Comics grew up, and the Flash was, ahem, slow to move with them. DC seemed to not really know what to do with the Flash, so they did what Marvel and DC usually do...they killed him. Barry Allen died a hero's death in the epic Crisis on Infinite Earth, and The Flash was relaunched, with former Kid Flash, Wally West, as the new Flash. A (then) hot writer was brought in, Mike Baron, and this Flash was different...he was not as fast, he had limitations (he had to eat vast amounts to fuel his speed), he was more temperamental etc. A 'modern' Flash. Personally, I preferred Barry Allen as the Flash, but I came to like Wally, and he was fortunate enough to have some great writers do him justice.
What makes the Flash unique? Legacy. I like the fact being the Flash is almost an occupation - Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen have all been fine Flashes. It's a family affair, and this gives Flash his hook. He may not be the most exciting, or strongest, or smartest, or funniest, but baby,he was born ro run....
Enjoy my speedy jog through the best the Flash has to offer. He's worth your time.
Images are used under Fair Use (Comic Single Panels)
10. The Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus, Vol. 1,2 and 3
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Scott Kolins, Various
I've cheated a bit here, by putting 3 omnibus volumes together, but I could have easily listed a top ten of Geoff Johns material only, so felt this fairer; all the material in these three collections can be found in smaller volumes, but do seek them out one way or another.
Volume 1 collects Flash volume 2 issues 164-176, Flash: Iron Heights 1, Flash Secret Files 3, and Flash: Our Worlds at War1, and Volume 2 collects Flash volume 2 issues 177-200, plus the DC First: Flash/Superman Special, Volume 3 collects The Flash volume 2 issues 201-225, The Flash 1/2 ( the "Rogue War" prologue), and Wonder Woman #214 (part of a crossover with the Flash title)
The three volumes make up an excellent read, and will show you just why Geoff Johns is one of the best writers around anywhere, and one of the two best Flash writers of modern times (Mark Waid being the other).
Volume 1 collects together a handful of story arcs, all of which vary from solid to excellent, but the overriding theme is Johns mission to turn the Rogues from jokey villains into serious characters, which he does well. You actually come to like these people! Johns takes the Stan Lee approach - there are no 'bad' people, just people making bad choices.
The art is excellent, the speed of the Flash is always captured well, and the Brian Bolland cover gallery of the individual covers is stunning (only Alex Ross does better covers)
Volume 2 covers 3 distinct story arcs, again with excellent characterisation for the Rogues throughout, and nice new angles given to Gorilla Grodd and the new Professor Zoom.
Volume 3 polarises fan opinion a little, but I enjoyed the twilight of Johns run; it tied directly into Identity Crisis, then led to the Rogues War storyline which ran awhile. Slightly darker in tone perhaps, but still a good read.
All in all, these omnibus volumes provide a great read. Great humor, action, characterisation and most of all, fun.
Faster than a speeding Dollar....
9. Superman vs. The Flash
Writer: Various Artist: Various
I had to include this volume in here, as the Flash/ Superman races were a guilty pleasure of mine growing up! Yes, the race was always contrived, and DC became quite adept at ensuring a tie, but just the idea of Superman and Flash in a race against each other was enough for me.
This collection includes a great walk down memory lane, starting with Superman issue 199, way back in 1967, written by Jim Shooter, all the way through to the modern era; Superman races against 3 Flash's, Barry Allen, Wally West, and Jay Garrick in the various tales. My personal favorite is the DC Comics Presents issues 1 and 2, 'Chase to the End of Time' tale, which has a great Professor Zoom cameo.
Its nice to compare era's, and interesting to see how the modern heroes have been significantly depowered since their Silver Age days; multiple laps of the Earth in the 60's gives way to barely 1 in the modern era.
If you want some classic Silver Age flavored fun, this book is for you.
On Your Marks....
Superman Issue 199 Review - the first Superman/ Flash Race
8. JLA: Year One
Writer: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn Artist: Barry Kitson
Mark Waid writes a darn near perfect Flash, and his love of Silver Age characters is apparent here. Waid effectively retcons the birth of the Justice League of America, which includes giving a much meatier role, and clearly defined character, to a certain Barry Allen. Barry is shown as one of the driving forces of the JLA, and Waid shows us just why The Flash shines so much in the team setting.
There are cameos aplenty, and some new concepts intertwined with older, established continuity.
Its a great Silver Age homage, which makes you feel like a kid again when reading it. Simpler times, simpler heroes, but great writing and art.
Barry Allen gets a lot of the center stage spotlight, and has rarely been written better.
The Flash was a major player in the Silver Age Justice League
7. Showcase Presents: Trial of the Flash
Writer: Cary Bates Artist: Carmine Infantino
For me, one of the greatest storylines in comics full stop, but for the Flash a seminal one. Pretty revolutionary in its day, for allowing writer Cary Bates 2 years to spin out his storyline; the powers that be at DC knew that the book would be cancelled soon with low sales anyway, so let this experimental idea get green lit.
The story sees Flash's nemesis the Reverse-Flash attempt to murder his wife-to-be; Flash stops him, but breaks his neck and kills him in the process. The Flash is charged with manslaughter, and his life starts to unravel - he can't change back to Barry Allen anymore as he is officially missing, his bride to be has a breakdown, The Rogues, sniffing blood, but a huge beat-down on the Flash, and even Wally West betrays him, by giving evidence for the prosecution (against his will).
Its superhero soap opera, but a fantastic read, and a reminder of how much story the old time writers would cram into single issues; at 600 pages, albeit black and white, this is fantastic value.
Do yourself a favor and pick this up, its rather wonderful!
The Trial of the Flash had some great covers too...
The Showcase volumes are great value....
6. Flash & Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold
Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Barry Kitson
That man Mark Waid again, this time giving us depth to the friendship and affection between The Flash and Green Lantern, something that Geoff Johns and others built on. These two were the proverbial odd couple - 'man without fear' Hal Jordan, risk-taking, girl chasing man about town; Barry Allen quiet, dependable, methodical. Yet the two meshed perfectly as personal friends, and as heroes in the Justice League.
This volume collects together The Brave and the Bold 6 issue mini-series, and each issue told a different story with a different theme, and from a different time. Waid especially nails the differences in the men's personal lives, with Hals women chasing and on-off relationship with Carol Ferris, and Barry's true love for his wife, before and after her death.
Plenty of (written pitch-perfectly) cameos from fellow heroes and supporting cast from past and present, this is a love letter to a bygone age. Written perfectly, and drawn in a sympathetic Silver Age style, its a truly great read.
The Silver Age 'Odd Couple'
Who is Your Favorite DC Comics Speedster?
5.The Flash Chronicles, Vol. 1
Writer: Various Artist: Carmine Infantino
Although I have listed Chronicles Volume 1, the series as a whole is excellent, and I would recommend seeking out all the other Flash volumes, the reproduction quality is excellent. Do remember as well that you can get all the early Flash stories a lot cheaper in the Showcase black and white volumes, which are great value.
As you would suspect, this takes us back to the beginning, and obviously everyone needs to see where it all began. Volume 1 collects together Showcase issues's 4, 8,13,14 and The Flash issues105 and 106. We have true four color comic book history here; with Showcase 4, we have the birth of the Silver Age of comics, ushered in by mild mannered police scientist Barry Allen becoming the Flash; I can never read that story without a smile on my face! We see Flash's origin, the first appearance of the costume in the ring, the first appearance of his 'Rogues', its all there.Its a nice collection, original covers reproduced, sharp colors throughout.
Its comic book history, and that's enough for me.
Born to run..
4. The Flash: Rebirth
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
This is the one that saw Barry Allen return from the dead, after 25 years! As much as I came to like Wally West, as soon as Barry returned, he was my Flash again. Geoff Johns does a great job of showing us Barry as a man out of time; so much has changed while he has been gone. Friends have died, allies turned to enemies, a whole new crop of heroes he has never known etc
As well as Johns firmly establishing Barry's personality and new situation, he also throws in a major plot point that changes the entire Flash mythos, and shows us why Barry is the one, true Flash - he is not, as we all believed, part of the Speed Force, he actually created the Speed Force! All the DC Universe speedsters derive their speed from him. Johns also retcons in some history that explains why Barry Allen became a police forensic scientist.
Its great stuff, a perfect reintroduction of The Flash to the modern DC Universe. Van Sciver's stylized art is fantastic, perfectly capturing the speed and motion of the Flash. Highly recommend this one.
Now You See It....
A Video Gallery of the best Flash Covers
3. Crisis on Infinite Earths Absolute Edition
Write: Marv Wolfman Artist: George Perez
I've listed the Absolute Edition here, but Crisis is available in other cheaper formats as well; the Absolute Edition, apart from its fantastic, over-sized art, includes some great extras, including background on the decision to kill The Flash. Either way, seek it out....
Crisis on Infinite Earths was a huge event in comics, and again The Flash is heavily involved. His role in Crisis is absolutely pivotal, and although killed off, he dies the perfect hero's death, respected by his writers to the last.
Most people will probably know about the Crisis on Infinte Earths, the deasth of the DC Multiverse, and the desperate battle to defeat the Anti-Monitor. This is 'widescreen comics' before widescreen comics, literally unputdownable. Like many, I genuinely thought we'd never see Barry Allen again, but am pleased I was wrong. Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Dick Giordano and Jerry Ordway produced one of the great comic book 'events', and The Flash was one of its main stars.
If you have never read Crisis, you don't know what you are missing! buy it now!!
The (now not so) Final Fate of Barry Allen...
The Flash makes the ultimate sacrifice
2. The Return of Barry Allen
Writer: Mark Waid Artist: Greg La Rocque
One of my favorite ever stories this one. Originally published in 1992, The Flash issues 74 -79, at a time of great DC upheaval; Superman was dead, the Bat was about to be broken, and various other Silver Age stalwarts were being screwed around with. Wally West has worked hard to make The Flash identity his own, all the while feeling he is still unworthy of Barry Allen's legacy, and like everyone else is stunned when Barry Allen returns from the dead.
But Barry seems angry and upset, and soon lets Wally know he wants his legacy back, as Wally is unworthy of it. He also descends into violence, savagely beating people and then trying to kill Wally. Something is very wrong...and therein lies the great twist at the end.
I'll leave it at that, so you have to pick it up to find out. Its a classic, superb writing, clean,pleasing artwork and great characters. Heaven!
Check out Mark Waid's other Flash books too!
Something is very wrong with Barry Allen....
1.The Flash of Two Worlds (DC Comics Classics Library)
Writer: Various Artist: Various
The Flash has always been an integral aprt of DC history - the first Silver Age comic book character; one of the first major characters to actually die; one of the first characters to be successfully replaced under the mask, and, with my choice here, the first character to feature in a multiverse story, 'The Flash of Two Worlds'. That one story shaped DC continuity and history forever, and its a great story. It won a bunch of fan awards when it was published, and is still a great read today.
This collection features that main story (worth the price of admission alone) and the next 5 that teamed up the Golden Age Flash with the Silver Age Flash, and Earth-1 and Earth-2. There's some great work here from Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, its a real fun read.
If you love DC's history its essential reading.