Mark Waid's Flash (Part 1)

A column article, The Full Run by: Maxwell Yezpitelok

Welcome back to The Full Run, where we pick a comic book run we like and try to recap/review every single issue in only a few lines, because our attention spans are really there is an ant in my bagel. This time we'll take a look at the beginning of Mark Waid's 1,000-issue run on The Flash [citation needed].

A short recap for anyone reading this who isn't already familiar with The Flash, probably a psychopath: Wally West used to be teenage superhero Kid Flash, but he grew up and dropped the "Kid" part. There were two Flashes before him, but one is dead and the other is fighting demons in another dimension. OK, go!

Flash #62 (Early May 1992) – "Flash: Year One, Born to Run! Chapter 1: Thunder Struck"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Jose Marzan Jr.)

This comic's title is almost as long as this review. Wally runs into his grandfather, Professor Ira West, and recalls the time an awfully convenient bolt of lightning struck him when he was a kid, giving him powers identical to The Flash (whom he had met five minutes before). We also witness the first meeting between young Wally and his Aunt Iris' boyfriend Barry Allen, a big dork.







Flash #63 (Early May 1992) – "Flash: Year One, Born to Run! Chapter 2: Inherit the Wind"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Wally recalls his first adventures as teenage sidekick Kid Flash, who initially looked like a midget version of The Flash (he would later develop his own fashion sense). Barry Allen still hasn't told him that him and The Flash are the same guy, for some reason. This is mostly a retelling of old stories, justified by the fact that we are now seeing them from Wally's perspective.







Flash #64 (Late May 1992) – "Flash: Year One, Born to Run! Chapter 3: Reflections of Youth!"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Wally continues his trip down memory lane (it must have been a slow month). Young Wally tries to take on his first supervillain on his own and completely screws up. Oh, and then The Flash takes him to the doctor and they learn that Wally's awesome new powers are killing him. Obviously we know things turned out fine, but it's still kinda heartbreaking. Damn you, Waid!







Flash #65 (Late May 1992) – "Flash: Year One, Born to Run! Chapter 4: Live Fast… Die Young!"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Jose Marzan Jr.)

The Flash forbids young Wally from being Kid Flash, per the doctor's orders, and so Wally goes back home to his lame parents. Feeling emo, he runs away and climbs up a tree. His dad goes after him and they're both caught in a hurricane -- but then Wally cures himself of his condition through sheer willforce and saves the day. And then they all lived happily ever after!

(Except for that time Wally's dad turned out to be an alien spy and tried to kill his mom, but that's another story.) Anyway, that's the end of "Flash: Year One, Born to Run!" which was a great start to Mark Waid's run and would set the tone for the rest of his stories: less humor and supporting characters, more action and focus on Wally's powers.




Flash #66 (July 1992) – "Fish Story"

(Mark Waid / Michael Collins / Roy Richardson)

Wally goes on a cruise ship with his friend Linda and plays a match of tennis with himself. Things are going swell until that asshole Aquaman sends some whales after the ship. Turns out he was being mind-controlled by some woman, but he's still an asshole. Except for the minimal development in Wally and Linda's relationship, this is a pretty inconsequential issue.








Flash #67 (August 1992) – "Misdirection"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Jose Marzan Jr.)

The last time we saw evil-future-magician Kadabra was back in issue 23, when Wally threw a burning car at him. A disfigured Kadabra reappears in the middle of a basketball game between Keystone City's local team and Flash (Flash is winning). Kadabra and Wally are fighting when a cop from the future comes to take Kadabra back to his time… accidentally taking Wally too.








Flash #68 (September 1992) – "Beat the Clock"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Wally is trapped in the 64th century, Kadabra's home turf. Cops in the future are total jerks, it turns out, and Kadabra despite being a complete lunatic is a bit of a folk hero for the oppressed masses (their Che Guevara, if you will, if Che was a crazed future wizard). Wally swiflty frees the people, then takes Kadabra back to the present and dumps him on jail. The end.

I like the last page of this issue: Kadabra is sitting in a dark cell, begging the guards to "pick a card" because he just wants some attention. Who gave him a deck of cards? Do they realize he can probably kill someone with that? But whatever, this scene is a great look into the mind of the guy that would turn out to be the most important villain in Waid's run.





Green Lantern #30 (Early October 1992) – "Gorilla Warfare, Chapter 1: The Trouble with Gorillas!"

(Gerard Jones, Mark Waid / M.D. Bright / Romeo Tanghal)

The trouble with gorillas, apparently, is that they rise up and fight other gorillas. The evil Gorilla Grodd escapes gorilla-prison and overtakes Gorilla City! The good gorillas try to call their friend Flash at the Justice League headquarters, but he appears to be busy so Green Lantern takes the call. Also appearing are Rex the Wonder Dog and an office in Washington full of telepathic apes.







Flash #69 (October 1992) – "Gorilla Warfare, Chapter 2: Life in the Fast Lane!"

(Mark Waid, Gerard Jones / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

Meanwhile, Wally has an encounter with Green Lantern's enemy Hector Hammond -- you know, the little dude with the big head and the mind control powers. Hammond forces Wally to take him to Gorilla City: looks like Hammond and Gorilla Grodd are in cahoots. Wally frees himself in time to run into Green Lantern, and then they both yell "What are YOU doing here?!" (spoilers).








Green Lantern #31 (Late October 1992) – "Gorilla Warfare, Chapter 3: Gone Ape!"

(Gerard Jones, Mark Waid / M.D. Bright / Romeo Tanghal)

Hector Hammond and Gorilla Grodd take possession of a meteor capable of controlling evolution, which they use to turn Green Lantern into a monkey and make Flash's head grow giant. By the way, I've just realized that the ape in charge of the telepathic monkey agency in Washington is Detective Chimp (they call him by his real name here: Bobo T. Chimpanzee).








Flash #70 (November 1992) – "Gorilla Warfare, Chapter 4: Quite a Head on His Shoulders"

(Mark Waid, Gerard Jones / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

Green Lantern and Flash thwart whatever the evil plan here was, and things go back to normal. You know, this crossover isn't as fun as it sounds on paper: they're obviously trying to tribute the Silver Age of comics, but it's done in an awkward, early 90's way. Also, the artists don't seem to be having as much fun with it as the writers. Probably because apes are hard to draw.








Flash #71 (December 1992) – "Nowhere Fast"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

The police ask Wally to protect a very talkative witness that some criminals want to kill. Unfortunately supervillain Dr. Alchemy is one of those criminals. Meanwhile, Linda passive-aggressively announces she's taking a job in Midway City and will be moving there soon. Wally's distracted thinking about that the whole issue, and Dr. Alchemy turns him into a gold statue.








Flash #72 (January 1993) – "Chemistry"

(Mark Waid / Sal Velluto / Roy Richardson)

Wally (no longer made of gold) defeats Dr. Alchemy and succeeds in not getting the very talkative witness killed. Yeah, whatever. The important thing here is that Wally chases a Midway City-bound train to confess his feelings for Linda, and then they kiss as the romantic theme from Top Gun plays. Or least it did in my mind as I read that scene.








Flash #73 (February 1993) – "One Perfect Gift"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

Wally "Flash III" West and Linda enjoy a Christmas dinner with Jay "Flash I" Garrick (no longer fighting demons in another dimension) and Jay's wife (no longer sleeping with Wally's friend Mason). It's a quiet, inconsequential issue… except for the last page, when Barry "Flash II" Allen shows up on Wally's doorstep, looking surprisingly chill for someone who is dead.








Flash #74 (March 1993) – "Trust"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

"The Return of Barry Allen" begins here! Everyone is pretty stoked that Barry Allen (a.k.a. "The Bestest Flash ever") is no longer dead: even Green Lantern makes an unscheduled guest appearance to greet his old friend. Wally isn't sure if this is really him, but then Barry says something sappy about his wife/Wally's Aunt Iris and Wally is convinced.








Flash #75 (April 1993) – "Running Behind"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

Now that Jay Garrick (the original) and Barry Allen (the best) are back, Wally is suddenly the guy least deserving to call himself Flash and starts thinking of other names (I liked "Mister Zip"). Then all three Flashes fight some terrorists or something, and Wally becomes concerned when he notices that Barry seems more violent and obsessive than usual. But he's totally not an impostor.








Flash #76 (May 1993) – "Identity Crisis"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

Wally and Barry fall into a deadly trap while fighting some supervillains. Barry manages to free himself… and leaves Wally there to die, saying there can be only one Flash (makes sense to me). Meanwhile, Jay asks his old superhero friends Johnny Quick and Max Mercury to come out of retirement, because clearly there aren't enough people with superspeed in this book already.








Flash #77 (June 1993) – "Suicide Run"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

Barry Allen has gone nuts, and Jay Garrick tries to stop him with the help of Johnny Quick and Max Mercury (Barry whoops their asses). A depressed Wally (oh right, he didn't die last issue after all) quits being The Flash and roams the streets inexplicably dressed like Don Johnson. I'm not kidding. At this point Wally finds a book from the future that explains everything.








Flash #78 (July 1993) – "Blitzkrieg"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

So, Wally found a biography of Barry Allen written in the future that was brought back in time by one Eobard Thawne -- also known as Professor Zoom, "The Reverse Flash", Barry's greatest enemy. Apparently Zoom has been impersonating Barry this whole time because he was actually obsessed with the guy and honestly believed they were the same person. Creepy.








Flash #79 (August 1993) – "The Once and Future Flash"

(Mark Waid / Greg LaRocque / Roy Richardson)

"The Return of Barry Allen" ends here! We finally get the full story behind "Barry's" return: Zoom was so obsessed with Barry that he changed his face to look like him, then traveled back in time to replace him in history. Only he forgot to stop being so psychotic. Wally beats his face back into shape, then kicks his ass all the way to the 25th century in this epic oversized issue.

A cool thing about this story arc is that this is actually Professor Zoom from BEFORE he ever met Barry Allen (time travel and all), so we're actually witnessing the first stages of his psychosis. In a way "The Reverse Flash" traveled in reverse from his origins in the 25th century, to meeting Wally in the 90's, to fighting Barry in those classic Silver Age stories. Another cool part is that we get to see the beginning of Wally's training under Max Mercury, which would lead to great things.




Flash #80 (Early September 1993) – "Opposites Attract (Back on Track, Part 1)"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

First issue with art by the great Mike Wieringo! All the way back in Flash #2, Wally asked his then-girlfriend Frances Kane to move in with him after he won the lottery. She responded by bailing town -- but now she's back, and she's insane. This would be enough of a problem if she didn't have magnetic powers, but unfortunately she does.








Flash #81 (Late September 1993) – "Friends and Lovers (Back on Track, Part 2)"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

Linda is feeling kinda jealous since Wally is hanging out with his ex again, trying to help her get rid of the magnetic powers that make her insane. Also, they made out in TV, kinda. Meanwhile, Wally's friends Nightwing and Starfire, having just been kicked out of their own comic (The New Titans), come stay in this one for a few issues.








Flash #82 (Early October 1993) – "Into the Underworld (Back on Track, Part 3)"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally and Nightwing and Starfire fight some sort of super terrorists who want to blow up the city or something. I think these are the same terrorists that have been showing up for a while, but I'm not sure because they are all extremely generic. Not much else happens. This whole arc feels like one good issue stretched out into four.








Flash #83 (Late October 1993) – "Going Out with a Bang (Back on Track, Part 4)"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

The super terrorists have hidden a bomb somewhere in Keystone City. Frances helps Wally find it with her magnetic powers, thus proving she's not all that bad. Nightwing and Starfire dismantle the whole terrorist operation by kicking and punching everyone, then go off in search of their own comic. This was a fun action-driven story, by which I mean that I didn't like it very much.









The two "big" arcs in this batch of issues, and the ones that probably launched Mark Waid's career, were "Born to Run" and "Return of Barry Allen", both of which have plenty of action but are actually driven by drama and tragedy: in both, Wally achieves his greatest dream (becoming Flash's sidekick/Barry coming back to life) only for that dream to turn into a nightmare (his powers are killing him/it's actually a nutjob posing as Barry). The rest of Waid's early issues are okay, but they feel a little flat without that emotional element. Waid would eventually reach a better balance of all these ingredients by bringing Wally's relationship with Linda to the forefront of this comic.

About the art, I think Ty Templeton's fantastic covers during the Barry Allen arc deserve a lot of credit for setting the tone that would set this book apart from most early 90's superhero comics: artists were so obsessed with "realism" (read: muscle lines and pouches) that it was refreshing to see guys like Templeton, Weiringo, Mike Parobeck and Mike Allred reminding everyone what comic books about flying people with superpowers should really look like. However, the book's long-time interior artist Greg LaRocque was no slouch himself: LaRocque dramatically stepped up his game for his last issues before Mike Weiringo took over, and he was pretty good to begin with. I'm no good at critiquing art so I'll shut up now and show you this:

Next time: Terminal Velocity! Impulse! Zero Hour! Wally gets a haircut!

Maxwell Yezpitelok is a writer from Chile. He likes doorknobs. Find him on Twitter (@mrmxy) or outside your house OMG

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