Or – “With Each Blessing, There Must Come Some Form Of Payment…”

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There’s a hidden message in that image right there… I don’t think that it will surprise much of anyone, either. Bart Allen’s run as The Flash has been a troubled one, damaged by “stunt-casting” the writer of the all-important first arc, and by having what could have been a fascinating book about a fourth-generation hero turn into standard-issue paint-by-number dullardry. We all know by now that Bart’s book is being cancelled, and if you’ve read the review of JLA #10, you probably figured out why. At this point, it’s just a question, honestly, of where the chips are going to fall…

Previously on Flash, The Fastest Man Alive: Bart Allen spent a few years (relatively) in the speed force, returning as the embodiment of that extra-dimensional kinetic energy. Flash1.jpgHe had some adventures that made no sense at all, then a new writer sent him to the police academy to become more like his Grandpa Barry. This intriguing premise had no time to gestate, as this is the age of the giant event comic, and the monster had to be fed. The Rogue’s Gallery, greatest enemies of the previous Flashes, teamed up with Inertia, Bart’s only real foe of note, and concocted a plan wherein the power of the speed force was stolen from him. Unbeknownst to the Rogues, Inertia just wanted all the power for himself. Beaten and bruised, at the mercy of Flash villains in full command of their evil faculties (something they haven’t been, apparently, for several years) Bart is stunned to see the Black Flash, a seven-foot Spectre of evil that hangs around Stuckey’s heralds the death of a speedster. As the issue begins, The Flash (excuse the expression) flashes back to a lesson taught to him during his virtual reality childhood. After losing yet another foot race, he asks the simulation of the Grandfather why he loses…

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Powerless and already injured, Bart remembers this lesson as he faces his greatest rogues. Meanwhile, Grandmother Iris and would-be-girlfriend Valerie try desperately to reverse Inertia’s speed force absorbing machine. Iris reminds Val that unless she can fix the machine and return Bart’s powers, that an explosion will result and thousands will die. But no pressure, or anything… With that, Iris West-Allen leaps into action, helping her grandson fight off his inherited psycho-squad.

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Don’t you wish your grandma had that kind of moxie? They quickly duck out of the line of fire, and Iris tells Bart what’s going on. “She explains everything to me, and I actually SMILE at the irony.” He agrees to keep the Rogues busy until Valerie can counteract the machine’s feedback. Iris tells him that they can just leave, that she can get him out of here, someplace safe, but Bart won’t leave. A hero, after all, is someone who stands when their legs are gone. She tries to talk him out of it, but he applies a CHOKEHOLD, cutting off her oxygen, and knocking her out. I… I’m speechless at that. Bart grabs her tranquilizer gun and radios Valerie, who gives him the BAD news. She thinks she can discharge the energy buildup, but it will mean losing his speed force powers, possibly FOREVER. As for Inertia, his comeuppance is coming…

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Yeah, Piper! I knew you couldn’t be that much of a jackass, not like the other rogues. Bart runs for his life, dropping Mirror Master and Weather Wizard with the last two tranqs, but then getting tackled. Captain Cold, Heatwave, and Trickster let loose, beating him senseless, as Abra Kadabra finally looks closely at Inertia and puts two and two together. “[The Flash] has the same youth in his eyes our would-be “leader” has in his..”

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The Rogues are outraged that a green little punk like Inertia scammed them into working for him. “I want to kill the Flash. ALL of us do… But look at him! This child. He ISN’T the Flash,” mocks Kadabra. He is taken aback when, suddenly, Bart laughs. When Kadabra asks why the jocularity, Bart gathers his strength, and says “I AM THE FLASH!!!” He busts loose of the four Rogues holding him, and simply goes nuts all over them, and it’s bowling-shoe ugly to watch.

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What destiny, you ask? Flash thinks back to the moment when his Grandma told him the truth about what comes next, but he wasn’t impressed to hear Inertia was behind it all. “I can toss that chump like a salad. I just DID!” But she points out that he had the entire Titans team with him, and this time, Inertia has the help of the Rogues. Iris levels with him… “This is the FUTURE, Bart. It’s going to happen. In some dimension…”

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So, that’s it then… Remembrance distracts him for a moment, and Inertia kicks him hard in the face, and takes off at a (perfect human) run for the machine. The Rogues all realize that if either of them gets their speed back, it’s all over for them. Flash realizes that it will also kill his friend Valerie, and gives chase. With no speed-force powers, it’s one body against another, but Bart has had the hell kicked out of him, while Inertia is younger, fresher, and has a head start.

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The Rogues, thinking that Flash will be repowered, fire all their barrels, bombarding him with their powers of fire, ice, lightning… Meanwhile, Mirror Master, Trickster and Piper attack Inertia (and I’m not certain, but I think they killed him.) Crawling the last few inches, Flash sees the power discharge itself, and smiles, knowing that Valerie succeeded in saving everyone, and then collapses…

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And with that, the fourth Flash… dies. We see a cutaway of Titans Tower, as Robin answers his phone, hears the news, and collapses, stunned. At JSA headquarters, Liberty Belle (the former Jesse Quick) finds The Flash (the original one, mind you) at the monitor station. She tells him what happened, and Jay and Jesse are seen crying together… My god, I can’t imagine how much that must hurt him. His metaphorical sons dying, over and over, while he can do nothing but watch… I cannot imagine that kind of anguish. The last thing we see is the exterior of Keystone City’s Flash museum, and we hear the final words of Bartholemew Allen.

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Sigh… That truly sucks. There was no rhyme or reason to the cancellation of Wally’s title before Infinite Crisis, I will grant you that. And this book has been less than stellar, across the board. Even at it’s very best, it was stretching to beat average, and I don’t know that maintaining things as they are would achieve. But I’m saddened that DC felt the need to kill off yet another Flash to get where they’re going… Death in comics is always a bit of a cop-out, and it seems like one of the tools that writers (and editors) grab for when they don’t have anything creative to do. Bart’s elevation may have come too fast, but he was a good character, and I, at least, will miss him.

This was a moving issue, even if there were some plot points I didn’t really get. Iris has repeatedly told us that the future is NOT set in stone, and I would swear that she actually told Wally the exact opposite of what she tells Bart here. It’s nice to see him going out heroically, but it reminded me of the death of Superman. So many unlikely coincidences had to take place in a row to make it happen that there wasn’t much drama to it. Tony Daniel’s art was nicely done, especially the palpable rage on Flash’s face when he flips on the rogues, but the story wasn’t quite up to snuff (pun totally intended.) It’s a good issue, but not a great one, and not the landmark I want when a beloved character dies. Flash unlucky #13 is worth 3 out of 5 stars, mostly on the strength of the art and dialogue. With Wally back (as seen in JLA #10) and his series restarting, I only hope that DC can make this loss work, the way Barry’s has turned him into the patron saint of superheroes… And Wonder Girl? Robin? Young Justice kids are apparently the new JLI members, I’d watch your backs.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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24 Comments

  1. June 20, 2007 at 3:49 pm — Reply

    It’s too bad they had to kill Bart really. But with the problems this series had, and the fan backlash at having Bart take up the mantle of the Flash, perhaps DiDio decided to get back at everyone.

    “You want Wally back!?! Ok, FINE! I’ll cancel this series, but at a cost – I’m killing Bart too! Mwahahaha!”

    I like Bart, he’s a hero I felt like I grew up with, and to see him go out with a whimper is really not what i wanted at all.

    Sigh…

  2. Brent F.
    June 20, 2007 at 4:07 pm — Reply

    You know, I like this. I’m glad Bart went out a hero and tried his best to live up to the legacy of the Flash. We can’t expect every sidekick to successfully fill his mentor’s boots or even survive as long as they did.

  3. June 20, 2007 at 4:10 pm — Reply

    I wasn’t quite enamoured of Bart Allen, but I didn’t really hate him. I’m extremely pleased, though, that he died as an honourable man in the Flash outfit that was rightfully his, rather than an obnoxious, freaky-haired kid who thought in Pictures and sucked the enjoyment out of everything he was in.

  4. Brent F.
    June 20, 2007 at 4:21 pm — Reply

    I really hope Inertia is dead too. Clones are just awful, unless they are Bizarro clones.

  5. June 20, 2007 at 4:37 pm — Reply

    Brent: the only problem I see with the Legion trying to resurrect Bart in the future is the Legion already had XS, Bart’s cousin.

  6. Maximus Rift
    June 20, 2007 at 4:54 pm — Reply

    It’s kinda sad to see Bart go. The character I liked as Impulse and Kid Flash was made a Flash too soon IMHO and now he’s gone. Hits me hard, especially so close to Connor’s death (whom I consider to be the best Superboy we had). Nice way to send him off though.

  7. Brent F.
    June 20, 2007 at 5:13 pm — Reply

    Stephen: Wasn’t XS only a member of the second Legion?

  8. Scott C.
    June 20, 2007 at 7:03 pm — Reply

    This SUCKS! Sorry I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bart being the Flash but there was no reason to kill him off. I wonder what this means for other speed force powered characters (ie Jay Garrick and Jessie Quick)? Return to full speed or are the West family the carriers of the Speed Force now?
    I was hoping at the end of this issue we would see the return of Wally and a good resolution to Bart’s story like:
    1. Bart de-powered for a while then ultimately regaining it
    2. Bart returned to being a teenager as before Infinite Crisis
    3. Bart sharing the Flash name with Jay and Wally
    I’m hoping this is just a temporary death like Connor’s (going on over a year thank you very much DC!) but hey if Ice (Tora) can come back so can Bart.

  9. C. M. Heights
    June 20, 2007 at 7:12 pm — Reply

    Bart was one of my favorite Waid Creations. Fun loving as Impulse and dedicated as Kid Flash.

    I will never understand the logic of “planning” this arc for an entire year which involved hiring bad writers, approving said bad writer scripts to be printed which turned fans against a character with so much potential, just to revert back to where you start and basically say, “Ha! I told you so!”

    I am happy that he did die a hero but in my mind that doesn’t really count as much since he always was a hero.

    Double sigh….

  10. June 20, 2007 at 7:42 pm — Reply

    Um, much as I hate to say this because it sounds like I am defending 13 dreadful issues and the waste of a good character, I can remember all the way back to the disappearance of Wally West in Infinite Crisis where DC’s editorial staff told us not to get to attached to the “new Flash – he may not be around very long.”

    That Flash IV would be a temporary character has been the plan along, I think – though who he would be and why he’d only be a temp and who would replace him were supposed to be stories much better told, IMO.

  11. Alex
    June 20, 2007 at 8:54 pm — Reply

    “With that, Iris West-Allen leaps into action, helping her daughter’s son fight off his inherited psycho-squad.”

    Iris West is the paternal grandmother of Bart.

  12. Christian
    June 20, 2007 at 9:03 pm — Reply

    It´s a great resolution I think. Anyway, Bart is from the 30th century (as I believe he is the one the legion brought back). And if you really need a teen Flash, now you´ve got two to choose from.

  13. June 20, 2007 at 9:54 pm — Reply

    Iris West is the paternal grandmother of Bart.

    Mmm. I even knew that. My only excuse is that I had a short turnaround to try and get these issues online today. :)

  14. June 20, 2007 at 9:57 pm — Reply

    I’m hoping this is just a temporary death like Connor’s (going on over a year thank you very much DC!)

    Um… I had thought that Connor was going to be not only merely dead, but really quite sincerely dead. Did someone indicate that it was meant to be temporary?

  15. Baal
    June 20, 2007 at 10:48 pm — Reply

    I’m done with the Flash forever. I dropped Flash shortly after Wally’s debut (Baron made him such an unlikeable ass) and I think the only time I returned was around Bart’s debut. I loved him as Kid Flash and only started buying this title for him. DC lied to me about the future of this series and killed off one of my favorite characters. I’m voting with my dollars now: No more Flash ever.

  16. June 20, 2007 at 10:56 pm — Reply

    I’m done with the Flash forever. I dropped Flash shortly after Wally’s debut (Baron made him such an unlikeable ass) and I think the only time I returned was around Bart’s debut.

    I’ve always said, if a book displeases you, there’re dozens of other books out there that could replace it. Of course, I’m going to be at least checking out Flash #231, if only for Waid, one of my favorite writers…

  17. C. M. Heights
    June 20, 2007 at 11:28 pm — Reply

    In Waid we trust. Maybe he can spin this whole thing around like he did with “The Return Of Barry Allen” storyline…

  18. JacinB
    June 21, 2007 at 9:44 am — Reply

    I was among those glad to hear that Bart’s time as Flash was nearing an end. But, just the same, I’m not sure I like the way it ended …

    Yes, his run on the title character was horrible (due to just awful writing) and he never really got a chance to get his feet under him and really start being Flash.

    Yes, he got to go out a hero — and was possibly responsible for saving our own universe and even a few others (see also: Justice League of America #10).

    But, I don’t think that killing him was, necessarily, the answer. It had been previously shown that the Flashes were all living within the Speed Force. Then, when Bart returned, he internalized the Speed Force.

    Fine. Whatever.

    Why not just write the Speed Force that the Speedsters (and Wally’s family) were all living in off as a seperate DC Universe — part of the multiverse, but a world not the one we’re familiar with? That way, you could explain ‘this’ Bart’s return as one of the anomalies that the Monitors meant to correct. His death fixes the anomaly and, as a by-product, ‘our’ Speed Force. The fixing of the Speed Force, then, allows for the returns of Wally and his family (as we’ve already seen) and ‘our’ Bart …

    But, hey, what do I know. I just read the comics. You apparently have to be smarter than me to write them.

  19. Adam
    June 21, 2007 at 11:44 am — Reply

    So not happy about this….the way I’m looking at this, it’s the second Titan to get punked out. First it was Superb….err Tom Welling (and yes, he was the best Tom Welling ever, and my fav. character), now Bart gets the ax.

    And both of them, IMHO, died for no reason. Tom died to stop the multiverse from happening, oppps, it happened anyway. And Bart died saving the SpeedForce, which was never in real peril cause Wally was back.

    I fear for the rest of my beloved Titans. Especially Cassie, even though she getting her own mini. What’s the point of having young heroes, who are great characters, as they balance living up to the legacy they will one day take over and being themselves, if they’re not going to die before taking over that legacy.

    Beware Titans you’re days might be numbered :(

    Bring back Bart! Bring back Tom Welling!

  20. Mark I.
    June 21, 2007 at 12:05 pm — Reply

    Bah. Hey, I wanted Wally West back as much as anyone, and thank goodness they did it. But I also liked Kid Flash, and it’s not like Bart had been Kid Flash for decades and decades. I mean Tim Drake has been Robin for nearly 20 years now. It wouldn’t have killed anyone (literally) to keep Bart in the role for a while.

    I hope this isn’t a Spoiler-esque excuse to bring back Barry Allen so there can still be a Dead Flash to “inspire” the fight for justice. That’s just motarded.

  21. kettch
    June 22, 2007 at 1:42 pm — Reply

    I might be reading too much into it, but there’s a panel during Bart’s death scene where he thinks, “Val did it.”

    When Valerie Perez arrives at his side, he chuckles to himself, “Heh. Val.”

    A bit odd for someone to find humour at the arrival of a loved one during his last moments.

    Unless… he was thinking of ANOTHER Val. One from the same century he was born in. One who could’ve been approached by his grandmother for help in her plan to save her grandson.

    I’m wondering if somewhere off-panel at the epilogue of JLA #10, Iris Allen, Meloni Thawne, and Jenni Ognats are all waiting anxiously for Brainy to tell them the Legion’s mission was a success.

  22. June 23, 2007 at 7:26 am — Reply

    I can remember all the way back to the disappearance of Wally West in Infinite Crisis where DC’s editorial staff told us not to get to attached to the “new Flash – he may not be around very long.”

    I had that thought too, but what DiDio actually said was not to get too attached to “the first Flash you see.” That was Jay, at the start of issue 1. No hope from that corner. I think the Legion idea is a lot more promising; the trouble is that even if Bart comes back, we’ll always have this sad little third volume of FLASH that ends with the hero’s death.

    It’s irrational, but I actually feel guilty now for being part of the negative reception this title got. I thought, and think, it was a mistake to age Bart and make him Flash. And it’s not my fault that DC felt they had to kill him to fix things… but I still feel bad.

    – Z

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