This is the 300th trade on “the shelf”. That means that I’ve read 300 DC trades in one year, one month, and 23 days (I’m a few weeks ahead on my posts, overachiever that I am). That’s pretty damn impressive, if I may say so myself. The fact that I’m slowly but surely catching up to the present-day makes me want to keep reading at this pace, so I’ll finally know what’s been going on in the DC universe now without getting spoilers.
(I kinda wish I had Bart Allen’s powers and could just read “the shelf” in 5 minutes whenever I felt like. That’d be pretty epic).
I’m glad that the 300th trade isn’t just a random storyline, but a rather monumental one. Barry Allen is back, but as hard as everyone else tries to make it, it’s not the triumphant return that’s expected. Barry feels off, disconnected from his family and friends, as though he has to be constantly moving for fear of losing a single second. He is constantly flitting from one moment to the next, never pausing to enjoy them, feeling as though he shouldn’t have been brought back at all. This feeling is only intensified when Barry realizes that he has somehow become the new Black Flash, and that by touching a speedster he can turn them to dust. Fearful for his loved ones’ safety, Barry makes the decision to rejoin the speed force.
His fellow speedsters don’t accept this, and Wally even follows after him into the speed force itself to bring him back.
While in the Speed Force, Barry encounters Johnny Quick and Max Mercury. Alongside them he runs into an old foe that he knew to be dead, but who’s somehow managed to return: Reverse-Flash, who is still as hell-bent as ever on destroying Barry’s life. Barry knows he must stop Reverse-Flash, but while in the speed force he also learns so vital information about himself.
Barry created the speed force the day he was struck by lightning, meaning he is far more powerful than even he knew. This knowledge fills him with a new sense of purpose, which is only compounded by rage when he finally learns the truth of who killed his mother when he was a child:
Reverse-Flash killed Barry’s mother, all part of his master plan to ruin every facet of Bary’s life. Driven by this newfound knowledge, Barry knows he must stop Thawne before he can complete the final part of his plan: murdering Iris. This time though, he doesn’t have to do it alone.
Barry is accompanied by Jay, Wally, and Bart, as well as Max Mercury (returned from the speed force), Jesse Quick (recently returned to the speed force), and Impulse (Wally’s daughter who just gained speed powers and also happens to be too cute for words). Together, they manage to stop Reverse-Flash and contain him, so that at least for now, he can no longer do any harm. No doubt this will be short-lived, especially because the comic shows him being held adjacent to Zoom (seriously, who coordinated those cells??) and the two already communicating. Still, the comic ends on a bright note, with Barry accepting his own return and vowing to spend time with everyone important in his life.
As far as “return” stories go, I really enjoyed this one. Barry needed one hell of a story to make fans believe and accept that he’s back after all these years, and Geoff Johns delivered (again I ask: is there a single comic from the early 2000’s this man didn’t have his hands in???) I love the added layers to the Flash lore Johns brought to the table. It felt very reminiscent of his work on Green Lantern, with all of the paradigm-shifting storylines and expanding universe. Johns has a knack for taking a classic yet perhaps convoluted story and streamlining it. He somehow managed to increase the number of speedsters while making the story easier to follow. That’s no small feat, and I commend him for being able to do this so well. I also really like that Barry didn’t just come back good as new, but rather had to fight for his place in the world, struggling to understand what had happened to him and make sense of it all. It was a fitting “trials and tribulations” return for the character, but what makes me happiest of all is that at least for now, he gets his happy ending. His return wasn’t some sort of gimmick for Final Crisis that was reversed once that storyline was over. A part of me worried that that might be the case, but it seems Barry’s really back for good.
Where his story goes from here, I’m honestly not sure. We’ve got quite a few Flashes on the scene now, so I’m sure any future storylines will be building on the ever-expanding Flash family dynamic. At this point I don’t even care what happens, because BARRY’S BACK!!
I get way too emotionally attached to these characters, and I’ve only been reading comics for a year. To all of you who have been reading these stories for a lifetime: how are you not in therapy??