It’s well known, or even legendary, that Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, died in the climax of Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, his last days weren’t just spent taking down the Anti-Monitor. With his death in the mega crossover, his book ended as well, but not without a chance to say goodbye and wrap up a few loose ends. With his impending return early next year, I thought we’d take a trip to October 1985, and the end of Barry Allen’s run as the Flash in The Flash vol. 1 #350.
At this point, The Flash, with a new face and new hair, was in jail after being convicted of killing Reverse Flash, Barry Allen was “missing,” and the Rogues were held captive by Reverse Flash. Wait, what? It was a mixed up situation to say the least.
Reverse Flash attempted to kill the Rogues, but Mirror Master managed to facilitate their escape. It was this attempt that inadvertently brought them together as something of a team, a theme that would stick post-Crisis, all the way to the present day.
Interspersed, Barry Allen visits his parents to say goodbye. They both have a strong sense of foreboding, that this is indeed a final goodbye and they’ll never see their son again. Of course, they are in fact right.
The Rogues band together to seek revenge against the yellow suit wearing Reverse Flash. Sound familiar at all? They secure the Cosmic Treadmill, and jury rig it so they can use it without a speedster.
The story cuts away to Barry and one of his jurors (who is from the future) as they journey through time, trying to figure out how Reverse Flash has come back to life. In old Eobard’s own time, they’re convinced he indeed died in 1983, and never returned. His hideout was booby trapped, and Flash and Nathan the juror from the future barely escape alive. Flash has an epiphany here, and realizes that Professor Zoom is not their enemy at all, deciding to head far forward to the 64th Century.
After he takes off, the Rogues arrive, and through a surveillance device discover the real culprit pretending to be Reverse Flash: Abra Kadabra. Flash and Nathan fall into a trap set by Kadabra, who is intent on keeping Flash from meeting his destined demise back in the Crisis.
A brief battle ensues, with the Flash teaming up with the Rogues to take down Kadabra, then return to the 30th Century with the person occupying Nathan the Juror’s body. The Rogues give a wistful goodbye to their longtime foe, thinking he won’t be back. In the 30th Century, Barry finds he was cleared of his conviction in the past, and his in-laws explain how they took Iris West’s “Psychic Essence” and transplanted it into a new body upon her death in the 20th Century. It was her psychic essence inhabiting the body of Nathan and helping Barry all along. The two lovers are reunited, in one of the most bittersweet endings to any book. The final caption says merely, “And they lived happily ever after… …for awhile…”
This book by Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino was a great send off to the character of Barry Allen. It also wound up as a catalyst for so many things in modern Flash stories, like the Rogues teaming up, the possibility of Bart Allen, the idea of changing fate, the ambiguity of Flash’s villains; these are all things that originated in this one single swansong issue. The foreboding and finality hangs over the entire issue, making it an intensely heavy read, but it never feels bogged down by it. Instead it just feels painful. The art was simple, especially in layouts, but held a detail and expression that was somewhat uncommon to the era.
The impending full-on return of Barry Allen really doesn’t need to negate the importance or impact of this issue, either. We have yet to find out if he’s back as a result of a Crisis altering history, or if he’s merely visiting from the 30th Century again (as he has a couple of times previously). Either way, this era-ending story of The Flash is a classic in its own right, and will remain so.
What are your memories of the Barry Allen era? Was this a fitting send-off? Does his return take anything away from the book for you? Sound off!