Top Ten Flash Deaths
The cover to 2008's Flash #247, the final issue of the Wally West series, wasn't exactly subtle in its message. It showed the Grim Reaper about to strike Wally down, along with the words: "Wally West—FINISHED? " The name of the story? "This Was Your Life, Wally West". They couldn't make it more obvious. We all knew Barry Allen was coming back in Final Crisis, replacing Wally as DC's main Flash, so it seemed perfectly possible that Wally might in turn replace him as DC's dead Flash…
He didn't, of course. We were only being teased.
And it's not the first time that's happened. Flash #230 from 2006, also the final issue of the Wally West series (it's a long story), pulled pretty much the exact same stunt. Ever since DC Comics killed Barry Allen in 1985, proving that The Flash can die, they've been constantly teasing us about doing it again. And again, and again. Some of those times they've even gone ahead and done it, and some of those deaths have even stuck for more than a couple of issues.
To celebrate the release of last week's The Flash #1, we've gathered every single Flash death into a top 10 list, ranking them by them by how much time they lasted before the inevitable resurrection. We're not counting Flash-related characters like Max Mercury (died in 2002, came back in 2009), Johnny Quick (died in 1996, came back in 2009, died again in the same issue), Lady Flash (still dead), the Tornado Twins (still dead, still dead), or the variety of future Flashes Mark Waid introduced during his run (never mentioned again). So, here we go:
10. Wally West in Flash #130 (November 1997)
How much it lasted: 11 pages.
The death: Max Mercury and Jay Garrick are shocked to find Wally's dead body lying in a dirty alley. A note pinned to his chest reads: "DEAR FLASH, YOU HAVE 60 MINUTES TO SOLVE YOUR OWN MURDER"… which was kind of pointless, given that the killer signed the note with his name. Still, the whole thing was a bit of a mindfuck for Wally and his friends, as you can imagine.
The return: Turns out it was all part of a complicated time loop, which Wally ultimately saves himself from by slowing down his molecular structure to the point where he's technically dead. Both Mark Millar and Grant Morrison are credited as writers here, but it's rumored that they actually alternated issues during their run. I'm gonna take a wild guess and say Morrison came up with this one.
9. Wally West in Zero Hour: Crisis in Time #4 (September 1994)
How much it lasted: A few weeks (until Flash #0, October 1994)
The death: Being a DC crossover with the word "Crisis" in the title, Zero Hour figured it might as well get the obligatory Flash death out of the way quickly and did it in the first issue (yes, #4 was the first issue). The temporal anomalies that plagued the DCU had sent Wally to the future, seconds before a wave of antimat-- I mean, entropy destroyed everything. Being the heroic type, Wally tries to stop the entropy… by running into it. This doesn't really accomplish anything, except melting Wally's body into cosmic goo and leaving the Flash costume once again empty.
The return: Since Bart Allen had recently been introduced to Flash comics, readers had good reason to believe Wally was being replaced. That didn't happen, though: in Flash #0, Wally (sans clothes) is shown to be lost in the timestream. He finds his way back to the present at the beginning of the next issue, but not before catching a glimpse of the future, which leads us directly into our next entry…
7 (tie). Wally West in Flash #99 (March 1995)
How much it lasted: One month (until Flash #100, April 1995)
The death: Having peeked briefly into the future, Wally finds out his girlfriend Linda is about to be killed by the villain Kobra and does everything he can to stop this from happening. He even lies to her, claiming he's the one that died in his vision. Everyone believes him—he is a Flash, after all, and dying is sort of what they do. Wally's lie turns out to be prophetic when his plan fails and he's forced to push his speed to the limit to save Linda, ending up being swallowed by the Speed Force.
The return: With Wally gone, Linda leads the rest of the speedsters on the fight against Kobra, but things aren't looking too good. Who would've though a powerless reporter wouldn't be qualified to take down an international terrorist? Anyway, Wally makes a triumphant return in Flash #100, just in time to save the day, but he lets his friends think he's dead a little while longer so he can get some alone time with his girl. A little cruel, but understandable given the circumstances.
7 (tie). Wally West in Flash #49 (April 1991)
How much it lasted: One month (until Flash #50, May 1991)
The death: For a while it seemed like it was customary to kill Flash on or around every anniversary issue, and this is the one that started the tradition (Geoff Johns sort of did this when he had Zoom kill Wally's twins while they were still in the womb, in Flash #199). In Flash #14 the immortal Vandal Savage had been injected with Velocity-9, a drug that gave normal humans supers-peed but also killed them from old age within a few hours. A super-aged and super-pissed Vandal came back for his revenged in this issue, kidnapping Wally's friends and family and threatening to kill them if Wally didn't allow himself to be shot in the chest. And so Wally did just that, and Vandal left him for dead in the middle of a desert.
The return: Luckily, a few months earlier Wally had fought a technological villain called Kilg%re (pronounced "Henry"), who for some reason ended up giving him a "gift". We didn't find out what the gift was until Flash #50, when Kilg%re's machines "rebuilt" Wally's body from within and brought him back to life. The writer made it clear that this was a one time deal, thought—we don't want other writers abusing this whole "death and resurrection" idea, do we?
6. Wally West in Flash #150 (July 1999)
How much it lasted: Four months (until Flash #154, November 1999, although things weren't made clear until #158)
The death: See, what did we tell you? Another anniversary issue. This is the last part of the "Chain Lightning" saga, in which Wally and the other speedsters have to stop a villain called Cobalt Blue from killing Flashes through the ages. Yes, the whole arc revolved around Flashes dying. The last chapters of the story involved a convoluted series of plot twists, like Barry Allen dying before he was supposed to, Wally trying to replace him during the Crisis (only to fail repeatedly), and finally, Wally pushing Cobalt Blue through the timestream until they both disintegrate. Then there was a splash page of Wally running among all the dead speedsters (including Barry), while thinking: "I was Wally West. I was the fastest man alive." In other words, he was saying "I really don't think I'm gonna make it out of this one, you guys."
The return: At the end of #150, a mysterious "Dark Flash" appears in Keystone City to take Wally's place now that he's gone. This turned out to be Walter, an older Wally from a parallel universe—the parallel universe in which in "our" Wally landed after being disintegrated, only to be killed once again by the villain Kadabra. But, as you probably know by now, Wally West is some sort of eternal god-like being that can never truly be killed. Turns out he only pretended to die to fool Kadabra, who he sneaks up on by dressing himself as a time-displaced Professor Zoom. (You know, I could give this storyline like four spots on the list, if it wasn't so crappy.)
5. Wally again in Infinite Crisis #4 (March 2006)
How much it lasted: A year and five months (until Justice League of America #10, August 2007)
The death: Another Crisis, another Flash death. After the infamous fight scene where Superboy Prime took on every member of the Teen Titans ever (brutally maiming the more obscure ones), it looked like nothing could kill the damn kid. Naturally, they decided to surround him with Flashes and see if that did the trick. Wally, Bart and Jay Garrick pushed Prime to the edge of the Speed Force, which allowed some Barry, Max Mercury and Johnny Quick to pop out and help pull him in. However, Wally's strong sense of responsibility for once stopped him from abandoning his wife and newly resuscitated infant children—so he just took all of them into the Speed Force too. Bart was the only one who came out, aged into an adult and ready to take over as the new Flash.
The return: A little over a year into Bart's tenure as The Flash, the JLA and the JSA were having one of their annual get-togethers when the Legion of Super-Heroes crashed their party all of the sudden. What does all of this have to do with Wally? Well, as part of a complicated plan that to our knowledge has never been fully explained, the Legion used lightning rods to bring Wally and his family back from wherever-the-fuck. The kids were now aged into ten year olds, because there's no such thing as a toddler old in comics.
4. Bart Allen in The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 (August 2007)
How much it lasted: One year and eight months (until Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds #3)
The death: If you were wondering how long it took DC to kill Bart now that Wally was back, the answer is: not very long. In fact, the issue where Bart died came out on the exact same week as Wally's return. To add insult to injury, he also had what's probably the most undignified death of any speedster ever (kicked to death by the Rogues), which made for a bummer of a last issue. This was, to say the least, an unusual send off for what was once a humor character, kind of like having Captain Carrot die of AIDS.
The return: But, yeah, we all knew he'd come back sooner or later, didn't we? As it turns out, it wasn't really a coincidence that JLA #10 came out on the week that Bart died. The real purpose of the Legion's lightning rods was to capture Bart's essence at the moment of his death. Wally and his family coming back was just a happy side-effect (although it's been suggested that Wally's use of the Speed Force had something to do with Bart not being able to defend himself from the Rogues, in which case it wasn't so happy). In 2009's Legion of Three Worlds miniseries Bart is resuscitated as a kid, with little or no recollection of his depressing death or, more importantly, the crappy comic his adult self starred in.
3. Jay Garrick in Last Days of the Justice Society of America One-Shot (1986)
How much it lasted: Six years (until Armageddon: Inferno #4, July 1992)
The death: Okay, okay, so Jay Garrick wasn't really dead. I know. He was merely trapped in Viking heaven, fighting a giant Nazi demon for eternity. Why, that sounds nothing like death to me! Still, that didn't stop his supposed death from becoming a running plotline in the Flash comics of the time. In fact, his "widow" was a supporting character on the title, and the old minx even had a romance with Wally's neighbor, Mason Tollbridge. That should teach Jay a lesson it took Wally a while to learn: if you're going to a limbo dimension, bring the wife with you.
The return: Jay, along with the rest of the Justice Society, escaped Ragnarok with the help of Waverider in Armageddon: Inferno and has remained active ever since. He became a recurring character in the Flash title during Mark Waid's run, along with his wife Joan. What happened to her affair with Wally's neighbor, you ask? Completely abandoned and ignored as soon as Jay returned, and never ever mentioned again. To this day he probably still has no idea—though we never saw Mason again either, so I guess it's possible that he had an "accident".
2. Barry Allen in Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 (November 1985)
How much it lasted: Twenty-three years (until Final Crisis #2, July 2009)
The death: The most famous of all Flash deaths. The one that started the whole trend. Barry Allen became infinitely more interesting as a character the moment he sacrificed himself to stop the Anti-Monitor in Crisis #8—not to mention that he had one of the coolest looking deaths ever. I mean, consumed by anti-matter as he runs through a giant alien gun, jumping through time with the power of his feet? That's the way I wanna go. Marv Wolfman didn't plan for his death to stick, but it did. For a surprisingly long time.
The return: Barry's essence slowly gathered itself in the form of lightning in DC Universe #0, and he appeared soon after that in Final Crisis #2, chasing a bullet through time and in turn being chased by the Black Racer. For once, a DC Crisis brought a Flash back to life instead of killing him, starting a whole new trend that Blackest Night seemed to continue…
1. The Reverse Flash in Flash (first series) #324 (August 1983)
How much it lasted: Twenty-six years (until Blackest Night #8, March 2010)
The death: Yep, we're talking about Professor Zoom here. Zoom was accidentally killed by Barry himself, after he had murdered his first wife and threatened to kill his (largely ignored) second. Incidentally, the Flash wives deserve an article of their own: Iris was killed by Zoom in Flash (first series) #275, but was somehow saved from the future by her biological fathers, who lived/will live in the 30th century and sent her to our time as a child. Linda's no slouch herself: she's been murdered by Kobra in an averted future, erased from history by Kadabra, and killed by the Black Flash in an issue written by Mark Millar, which caused Wally to grow a goatee and turn into a douchebag.
The return: Zoom hails from the future, so this is a tricky one. The first time Zoom came back was in 1993's Flash #73, where he posed as a resuscitated Barry Allen and even spent a few months acting as a hero and fooling everyone before being ousted by Wally. However, that turned out to be Zoom from the past (or the not-quite-so-faraway future), before he even met Barry. So, uh, that doesn't count as a return from the death, because he hadn't been killed yet (although he had). More recently, he was the main antagonist in The Flash: Rebirth miniseries… but that was him from the near future, after coming back to life along with a bunch other DC characters at the end of Blackest Night. So, to clear things up: he was born in the distant future, came back to pester Wally, went back to the future, came back to pester Barry, was killed by Barry, came back as a zombie (oh, yeah, I missed that part, didn't I?), and then came back for real, only to travel in time to a few months earlier and pester Barry some more. Got it? Good.
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