Flash (vol.2) #62 (Early May, 1992)
“Flash: Year One – Born to Run, Chapter 1: Thunder Struck”
Writer – Mark Waid
Penciller – Greg LaRocque
Inker – Jose Marzan, Jr.
Letterer – Tom Harkins
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Editor – Brian Augustyn
Cover Price: $1.00
As I am still in the bowels of dissertation limbo (which is why most of these blog pieces this week are a bit later than usual), I figured why not slow things down with the fastest man alive?
Gonna give a reread to a “candy” book from the early 1990’s. I refer to any book that just makes me happy and comfortable as a “candy” book. I’m needing that right now, before I jump back into the academic fray.
We open with the Flash heading into the Central City Airport to find a bomb that had been left there by a pair of recently arrested terrorists. They wouldn’t say exactly where they left it… only that it was about a half hour til it goes off. He rummages through nearly the entire airport before considering that the terrorists left it in a piece of nondescript luggage so the airport staff could “squirrel it away” in the Lost and Found.
Flash, bomb in hand, knows there isn’t nearly enough time to bring the bomb to the squad for a disarming, so he instead decides to run up the side of an airplane to get some height before throwing the bomb into the sky… where it goes boom. The airport is safe.
Moments later, Wally West slumps into a booth at a nearby food court and asks for “one of everything”. I always appreciate when it’s mentioned that Wally’s super speed burns so many calories he needs to reload. Anyhoo, it just so happens that his Grandfather Ira West is here as well. He’s described as a Nobel Prize Winner who can solve the most complex of equations, yet doesn’t realize that his glasses are on the tip of his nose. He is the father of Wally’s father, Rudolph and Aunt Iris (also, Aunt Charlotte, but she’s not terribly important right now).
Wally heads back to Ira’s house, feeling guilty all the while. They live quite close, yet Wally never really thinks about stopping in. He begins to look through some boxes while Ira puts on a pot of coffee. These boxes belonged to his Aunt Iris, and among her effects are several scrapbooks dedicated to the Flash… there just so happens to also be one dedicated to the exploits of… Kid Flash!
We next join Wally in flashback mode, as he recalls leaving his dysfunctional parents one Summer to spend in Central City with his Aunt Iris. Central City was a hyooge deal to Wally, as it was the home of his favorite superhero, the Flash! As luck would have it, just moments after getting off the bus (a ride which lasted nine weeks, in kid speak) he happens to catch the Flash in action!
It looks like a few gunmen have robbed the diamond exchange, and so Iris heads off to “call it in” so she can report on the story. This isn’t Barry’s best outing as the Flash, as he slips on some scattered jewels… and lay prone, right in the cross hairs of one of the baddie’s gun. Wally thinks quick, and undoes a nearby fire hydrant… which blasts the bad guy, saving the Flash’s life!
Flash thanks Wally before quickly heading off. Moments later, (a still wet) Barry Allen saunters up for his date with Iris… and to meet her favorite nephew. They head out to dinner, and Wally is borrrrrred by Barry’s blather.
After lunch, Iris leaves Wally with Barry so she can go to work. They head to Barry’s house, where he reveals he’s got a surprise for Wally. Barry’s good friend, the Flash should be waiting for him in the back room lab. Now, we know Barry’s not a creep… but there is something a bit off when we look at this through hyper-cynical 2017 eyes, right? Anyhoo, Wally heads back, and wouldn’tcha know it… there’s the Flash!
Flash thanks Wally again, and tells him he’ll answer any questions he might have (except one, naturally). Wally asks for his secret origin… and so, Barry gives it to him. Even going as far as to set the scene to the tiniest detail. He runs around the lab, and sorts the chemicals exactly as they were the night he was hit by the lightning. Hey, is it raining outside? That’s probably not important.
Anyhoo, we wrap up with Wally wishing something like that would happen to him. Flash’s all “lightning never strikes twice” and all that nonsense. Little could Barry imagine that the lightning had a different plan tonight.
Well, it’s a retelling of Wally West’s origin. Probably old hat for most of us, especially in the days of DC Wikias and readily available trade paperback collections and digital distribution, but back in ye old 1992, we really didn’t have all that. This sort of thing was a most welcome thing back in the day. I’m not entirely sure, but this might just be the first post-Crisis retelling of the Wally West origin story… six years after it all went down.
I really enjoyed this… and, I’m always a sucker for a good framing sequence. Having Wally happen upon Aunt Iris’ box o’ memories was a great way to facilitate this story. The airport scene which opened the issue was very well thought out, as it gives the issue the requisite action scene, and displays Wally going all out with his powers. About as pitch perfect a “jumping on” issue as you’re going to get!
Of the retooled origin, I only really have one gripe. I don’t like that Wally’s parents are shown to be so dysfunctional and absentee… seems, I dunno, a bit cliche for the time period… perhaps a bit ham-fisted in it’s showing that Wally didn’t have an easy childhood. I guess the times were a’changing, and DC figured they didn’t necessarily want Wally coming from an idyllic suburban family… plus, I guess it helps to give Wally more of an impetus to want to stay with Iris. Either way, I still fondly remember the pre-Crisis Wests, who cared for and supported their Son. Hell, I even remember Rudolph letting Wally carve the turkey that one time.
The art and coloring here aren’t helped by the weird grade of paper DC was using at the time. I recall this being sort of a distinguishable thing between Marvel and DC books of the early 1990’s. Marvel’s paper, while a bit thinner, really made the art “pop”. Across the street, DC’s paper was a bit thicker… but made the art feel a bit “flat”. I dunno, maybe it’s just me. Greg LaRocque puts in great work regardless, and we’ve discussed probably dozens of books colored by Glenn Whitmore, who is always wonderful.
Overall… this is certainly a book that Flash (Barry or Wally) fans should check out. As far as I can tell… despite numerous reboots, this is still pretty much the way it all went down. I mean, it ain’t the most creative “secret origin”… but, we in the science world always judge the reliability of an experiment on repetition… so far we’ve got two dudes hit by lightning and bathed by chemicals… with super speed being the result (not that we know that yet… considering the cliffhanger ending). Seems reliable to me! DC is currently releasing a series of trade paperbacks collecting Mark Waid’s celebrated run (pun!) with the Flash (this was his first issue as writer). This issue (and collection) also available digitally. Definitely worth tracking down.