We’ve had frequent occasion lately here at Newsarama to look at the current work of Mark Waid. Obviously, he’s at the editorial helm over at Boom! Studios, for whom he writes, among other books, The Incredibles and Irredeemable. The Incredibles is segueing to ongoing status, and Irredeemable simply continues to get better. The pair of books demonstrate two sides of Waid’s approach to super-heroes: one is a more optimistic outlook (displayed in projects like Fantastic Four), and the other is a view of how badly things can go (a theme he visited in Kingdom Come and Empire).
For our purposes today, we (no pun intended) flashback to one of Waid’s more optimistic moments, and one of my favorite single issues of any title, The Flash #0.
Before going any further, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the art on this book. The pencils are by the late Mike Wieringo, one of the most profoundly perfect purveyors of super-hero comics that you will ever find. In my estimation, his run on The Flash is just about peerless. This particular story required moments that were thoughtful and quiet, more conversation than action, and it was all rendered brilliantly. Waid’s story is rock-solid on its own, but I’m sure that he would tell you that it wouldn’t work in the same way with Wieringo (and his inker here, Jose Marzan, Jr.).
In terms of the story, The Flash #0 came out between issues 94 and 95 of the regular title. It’s cover-dated October of 1994, a month in which DC’s entire line did zero issues to go with crossover Zero Hour. While some stories kicked off particular books (like Starman), the zeroes for the established ongoing series were tasked with either resetting continuity (see Hawkman) or more or less providing a mission statement of sorts for each book going forward. The Flash story is one of the latter.
Within the title at the time, The Flash, Wally West, had been dealing with the arrival of Impulse, the threat of Kobra, and the consequences of Zero Hour. Wally was actually believed to have been killed in that mini-series, but he had actually ended up knocking about the timestream. While there, Wally sees himself fighting Team Turmoil and witnesses the day of the accident that gave him his super-speed powers.
The most important event, and the crux of the issue, comes when Wally appears within his own timeline at a West family gathering. He recalls that it was at a gathering like this one that a relative cheered up the despondent young Wally. In his youth, Wally had a been a huge Flash fan and a dreamer, a fact that didn’t always sit well with his . . . complicated . . . father. Wally remembered that this particular day gave him hope.
As he looks about the West home, Wally decides to check out his old room. And within the room, he encounters his depressed younger self. Catching his reflection in the mirror, Wally realizes that he himself is the relative that offered the young Wally advice. Taking a gamble, Wally tells his younger self that it’s okay to be who he is, because every dream that he’s ever had is going to come true. Re-energized by the meeting, Wally soon re-enters the timestream and begins his journey home.
There’s a lot to love about this issue, including the aforementioned art. There’s the simple wish-fulfillment angle. There’s the insight into Wally’s character and optimism. And there’s the ready identification that many of us have with the story.
Frankly, I saw a lot of myself in young Wally. Reading this story when it came out, I was near the end of college. I was working with bands and putting on shows. I was getting ready for grad school. I had a great girlfriend that I would eventually marry. Within those great times, I really identified with the notion of an older Wally reassuring his depressed younger self that it would all be okay. Looking back today, as a college professor, a guy that’s written for places that I loved as a kid (like Fangoria), and a guy that’s gotten to do stuff like be on the set of The Dark Knight while on assignment . . . there are times that I really, really wish that I could have reassured my younger self that it was okay to be into this stuff.
The Flash #0 is an entertaining story that has a lot of personal resonance for me. You can find it collected in the The Flash: Terminal Velocity trade paperback, which is a damn good larger story in its own right. There’s my Friday Flashback; what issues or stories speak to your own personal experiences?