Now I’m sure about half of you thought I was going to say Barry Allen. Maybe about five people thought that I might say Bart Allen or Jay Garrick. While I love all three of those characters, you’re wrong! I’m just kidding. There’s no right or wrong answer (or is there..?). I love all aspects of the Flash and that includes everyone who has put on the boots…or the winged hat. However, in my opinion, Wally West IS the Flash and is who I think of first when I think “The Flash.” Here is exactly why that I think Wally is numero uno. There might be a couple of spoilers from the Heroes in Crisis mini-series. So beware if you have not read that yet!
So I’m in my mid-30’s and thus, a child of the 80’s. I grew up with Wally as the Flash. We all know his backstory. Lightning struck twice and Wally was given the same powers that Barry was. He went on to become Kid Flash, sidekick, and partner to The Flash. With his friends, he formed the Teen Titans and fought the good fight until a Crisis occurred. During this epic conflict, Barry Allen sacrificed himself to stop the Anti-Monitor’s super-weapon in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8. Wally finds his costume and vows to take his place, honoring the memory of his mentor.
I didn’t read much of his series until Mark Waid hopped on the title. After going back and reading Volume 3 from the beginning, I found that it was Waid who breathed life into Wally and the series really started picking up. Wally finally stepped out of the shadow of his mentor in the story “The Return of Barry Allen” (Flash #74-79). The events of this story allow Wally to become his own man and stop a villain that was hell-bent on tarnishing the memory of Barry.
From here, there were a myriad of stories that showed readers just how much Wally surpassed Barry. Stories like Terminal Velocity, Dead Heat, Chain Lightning, Blitz, and Rogue War give us threats that Barry never had to tackle. Along the way, Wally gained new skills and abilities that Barry never had, some of them dangerous. While these obstacles weren’t always easy, Wally did overcome them.
While tragedy seems to be a part of a hero’s life, there has also been great joy in Wally’s. As the Flash, Wally found his true love – Linda Park. I consider love to be an important theme in the series, especially after issue 100. Linda is Wally’s anchor throughout all his adventures. Without her, he would be lost to the depths of the Speed Force. Readers really get to explore the relationship of Wally and Linda, something I don’t think they got to do with Barry and Iris. Additionally, we are finally introduced to the children of Wally and Linda – Jai and Iris West. Their birth and subsequent aging creates a whole new dynamic for the Flash family. Not only does Wally have to continue with the Flash legacy, but he now has new responsibilities that come with fatherhood. At the same time, he must train his children how to grow up as heroes and use their abilities properly. That’s something that Barry never really dealt with. He sacrificed himself before his children Dawn and Don were born. While Barry was a father figure to Wally, he never experienced what Wally did.
We finally get to the day where Geoff Johns got his hands on the Flash. While I absolutely love his work (it’s among my favorites), especially with Wally, he decided it would be a great idea to bring Barry back. Don’t get me wrong, I love Barry, especially during Final Crisis, Flash: Rebirth, and Blackest Night. However, I didn’t want him to come back, supplant Wally, and then completely push him and his family into limbo. That’s just what happened. Wally’s family just disappears and are rarely seen or heard from. Barry takes his spot back on the Justice League and the Flash series relaunches to Volume 4 with Barry again as the Flash. In my eyes, this demeans everything. It throws away all the character growth that Wally has gone through. Additionally, it cheapens the sacrificed that Barry made to save the multiverse. I have always felt that Barry was the one death that should not have been retconned because of the level of the sacrifice he made. Yet, what’s done is done and Barry came back. There was still room and opportunity for both to exist in the DCU. There could have been a second book, titled something like Speed Force, that chronicled Wally and his family. There were four Green Lanterns at the time, why That didn’t happen though and DC decided to reboot the entire universe with Flashpoint.
Flashpoint. My goodness. This is the one bane of my existence when it comes to DC. I can forgive many things, but not this. There was absolutely no reason for it nor for the end results. As a result of the time manipulation that Barry does, the universe is reset and its inhabitants have lost years of their lives. Additionally, some characters that readers have grown fond of totally disappeared. Case in point…Wally West. The Wally that we all know and love totally disappeared from time and space. Eventually, a new Wally was introduced, but he wasn’t the same. He didn’t have the same personality as pre-N52 Wally. He was a completely new and different character that was named Wally West and that’s fine. We just wanted OUR Wally back. Eventually, DC decided to right these wrongs and rolled out their Rebirth line, which brought Wally back after being trapped outside of time. There was finally hope that both Barry and Wally could exist in the DCU! Yeah right. DC pulled the rug out from under readers with their latest series, Heroes in Crisis, where they killed Wally West. They. Killed. Wally. West. Now, the series isn’t over yet so we don’t know the end results, but still…they killed him after bringing him back!
Now that we’ve finished the history lesson on Wally, we come back to the point of this article.
Why is Wally West the best Flash?
It’s because he is the one who has endured the most in terms of obstacles and pain. He began as a sidekick to Barry and ended as the Fastest Man Alive. Wally bridges the gap between the older heroes in the Justice League and the younger heroes in the Teen Titans. He is the mold that every young hero should aspire to be. In terms of powers, Wally is faster than Barry, more skilled than Barry. He has more abilities than Barry – speed-lending, time-travel without the Cosmic Treadmill, molecular acceleration to the point of explosion. He mainlines the Speed Force and can’t be cut off from it. Wally can solidify the Speed Force to form constructs, such as his costume. All of these are abilities that Barry does not have. I would say his accomplishments are greater than Barry’s. He’s overcome more threats in terms of sheer magnitude and also numbers – he’s even outraced Death in the form of the Black Flash. That doesn’t even come close to his greatest accomplishment – fatherhood. These assortment of reasons are exactly why Wally West is the best Flash, outshining all others. Wally is a hero who went on to do great things, yet he never forgot his roots. He took the best of those who came before him and he forged his own path, making the Flash legacy his own.
Hopefully, Wally West’s story isn’t over yet.
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by Sean Scott