The Flash is one of the most known superheroes in the history of the comic book industry, but I feel that when it comes to his best stories he doesn’t get a lot of credit. And that’s a shame because as far as character development and great tales of heroism go, very few characters can compare to the Flash.
Regardless of who your favorite Flash is, all of them have very good stories and there is a sense of legacy with these characters; the red suit is a symbol and there is a certain moral standard to maintain, which is a theme that has been sustained throughout the years. There is also a much grounded feel when reading the Flash–he is usually the everyman of the DC Universe.
So here we present you the 15 most important Flash stories and why you should read them!
It’s hard to explain as a comic book fan (and especially as a fan of the character) how big the return of Wally West to the DC Universe was back in 2016. Ever since DC rebooted their whole comics line with the New 52 in the 2011 to mostly negative results, the Flash of many generations was cast aside in favor of Barry Allen and wasn’t seen for five whole years. It wasn’t until Geoff Johns’ Rebirth initiative took place in 2016 and the entire company had a resurgence of sorts, with Wally’s return turning him into a symbol of hope.
This particular Titans story, written by Dan Abnett, shows Wally coming to terms to the fact that his friends of the Titans completely forgot about him, but once he fights Dick Grayson (Nightwing and former Robin), Garth (Tempest and former Aqualad), Donna Troy (former Wonder Girl), Roy Harper (Arsenal and former Speedy) and Lilith Clay (Omen), they all begin to remember him and realize that time has been stolen from them.
This comic also deals with Wally failing to connect with this reality’s version of his wife, Linda Park, who has no memory of him or the kids they had together. In top of this, the villain Kadabra kidnaps Wally and summons younger clones of all the Titans, culminating in an epic conclusion that I’m not going to reveal here because I think you should read it.
I love this story because it brings Wally back to the DC landscape and it also brings back the Titans as we know in a classic tale of high stakes, heroism and altruism. The New 52 was very hit and miss in that regard, so it was a refreshing read and Brett Booth’s art is simply breathtaking, providing here what I think is the best job of his whole career.
It’s also a great entry point for you if you want to get into the Titans in a somewhat easy manner plus it offers a great story that tells you a lot of Wally’s personality and character as a hero.
The DC Rebirth initiative was a grand slam for DC from 2016 to 2018, producing a lot of great books and bringing their heroes back to their very best, but the way they fixed their continuity within the universe was through the schemes and machinations of Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan, who had been playing around with various events and in this Batman/The Flash crossover, The Button, we get to see more developments from the Rebirth one-shot.
Batman has been analyzing the button from the Watchmen series on his batcave and he is attacked by the Reverse Flash, who is beating him to death until the power of Dr. Manhattan destroys the latter. Flash and Batman analyze the crime scene and decide to travel to a different timeline through Barry Allen’s cosmic treadmill and they end up in the Flashpoint timeline where Barry stopped the Reverse Flash from killing his mother and Thomas Wayne became Batman. In this timeline we find Bruce Wayne meeting his father, Thomas, and I’m not going to say much more because I want you to read the comic.
I was pleasantly surprised with this comic because I’m not a fan of the two writers that made it, Joshua Williamson and Tom King, but I have to say that they truly delivered a great Flash-Batman story that shows a lot about Bruce and Barry’s friendship and it also continues what was developed in the DC Rebirth one-shot. You also have tremendous talents on pencils, such as Howard Porter and Jason Fabok, so that makes sure that this crossover is very visually appealing.
13. Nobody Dies. Vol. 2 #54 (1991)
The Wally West years are widely considered as the best era of the Flash and it produced a ton of wonderful stories that are definitely worth your time. This 1991 issue written by William Messner-Loebs, Nobody Dies, was one of those remarkable stories that were slowly cementing Wally in the heart of the readers.
It’s important to remember that back in those days Wally wasn’t still as loved as he is now; no writer managed to really establish him as the new Flash after his mentor Barry’s death on 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths, but Nobody Dies shows Wally at the peak of his powers and as a complete hero in his own right.
This is a one-issue story and is actually very simple: bad guys are trying to steal stuff and have no qualms in killing people and Wally goes there to stop them. As the story progresses, Wally has to save a lot of people and that includes a woman falling down from a plane, which forces the Flash to push himself even further to reach her on the air when he doesn’t even have the ability to fly.
Nobody Dies shows how serious Wally is about protecting people and how selfless he truly is, going that extra mile to save a complete stranger even if it kills him in the process. It also has fantastic art from Greg LaRocque, who is one of my favorite Flash artists of all time.
Unluckly, there are not collections of this part of the Wally West era, so if you want to read the story you’ll hae to go check comics bins. If anybody finds a book that collects them, please let me know!
12. The Death of Iris West. Vol. 1 #275-284 (1979-1980)
The late 70s and early 80s were a weird period for Flash fans because, looking back, it seemed that DC didn’t have clear idea of what to do with the character of Barry Allen anymore, so they decided to shake things off by killing his wife, Iris, in a custome party and then having Barry deal with the consequences.
It’s interesting because Cary Bates writes this story in a way that we get a certain perspective at the beginning about who killed Iris and then, as the story progresses, we get to have a different angle and things get even darker. The Flash was never a dark character (and honestly, he hasn’t been ever since, either), but this moment certainly took a toll on Barry from a psychological perspective and it would affect his story until his death in 1985.
The story is fun, it’s entertaining and the fact that it has been somewhat forgotten due to the multiple time-travelling shenanigans that we’re used to by now with the Flash, it feels like a fresh read and it’s also a time-capsule of sorts because it shows you how the DC Universe was at the time and how comics were as a whole.
I personally enjoy this story a great deal and it’s an important piece in the history of Barry Allen.
Again, no collection on this one (it’s a shame, DC! You’re not giving value to your own stories!). Again, if you find this material collected, please let me know!
Geoff Johns’ run on the Flash is one of the best runs that the Scarlet Speedster has ever enjoyed in his vast career and I think it cemented Wally West’s place as the best Flash for me, delivering great story after great story. Rogue War is, in a way, the culmination of that run and a grand finale to multiple threads that Johns had going around until that point.
Imagine for a moment a massive confrontation between the Flash’s rogue gallery and him being on the middle of the confrontation. That’s exactly what we get here and Johns does a phenomenal job in combining the emotion of an epic and the sheer fun of an action blockbuster, which would become his main trait as a writer.
This is a really fantastic story, but I recommend you to read Johns’ run before jumping into this one so you can have a greater understanding of what is going on.
The whole Rogue War story is collected in the Flash by Geoff Johns Vol. 5 trade paperback, which is quite a good purchase and you can buy on Amazon by clicking here. While you’re there, check out also the previous books from this collection, which are also very enjoyable.
Captain Cold is one of the most charismatic villains in the Flash’s rogue gallery and he is a very important figure during Johns’ run, so this one-issue origin story, Absolute Zero, is a fantastic insight into the character’s mind and how he came to be.
It’s also a great example of how the actions are not only important, but also the intent behind them. For example, many of the actions done by Captain Cold in this issue would be deemed as the ones of an anti-hero if characters like Red Hood or Punisher had done it; the difference is that our protagonist is not doing to make a better world, but rather because he does due to his own selfish reasons and that’s something that ends up turning him into a villain.
Absolute Zero is one of Johns’ crowning achievements and it’s definitely worth your time if you want to know more about one of Flash’s most important villains.
Mark Waid is a writer that has never done it for me beyond his Kingdom Come miniseries and his phenomenal run on the Flash, establishing Wally West for years to come and developing the mythos of the character. Race Against Time is just one of the many quality stories that came from his 90s run.
This story in particular is one of the most Flash stories ever: Wally has been lost once again in the time stream and he ends up in the 30th century where he is revered as if he were a god. Meanwhile, there is a new speedster in his city, Keystone, called John Fox, who wears a blue costume and starts to develop a somewhat romantic interest on Wally’s girlfriend, Linda.
I will always say that Waid’s run was his most prolific era as a writer because it seemed that he always had a new, fun concept to give to his audience and this particular story was really good in the sense that there is a lot going on without feeling overwhelming and there is a great balance between the action and the emotional component. And as I said before, it has many of the classic tropes that you can expect from the Flash: time travel, speedsters, future shenanigans and romance.
A somewhat forgotten story that has all the elements of a classic.
Barry Allen wasn’t the first Flash; that title belongs to Jay Garrick, who was the Golden Age Flash and founding member of the Justice Society of America in the 40s and whose title was cancelled in the 50s due to the decline of superhero comics as a whole. Barry would appear in Showcase #4 in 1956, with a more sci-fi based concept of the Flash mythos, and would become a massive success, establishing the beginning of the Silver Age of comics.
But in terms of continuity there was one question: What happened to Jay? This issue, The Flash of Two Worlds, answers said question by throwing Barry into a different universe where Jay was the Flash and not him. Now Jay is an older married man and has retired, but his contact and friendship with Barry inspires him to put on the helmet and be the Flash once again.
The story is fun and it’s entertaining, but it also has a lot of historical value since it’s the first time that the concept of the Multiverse is introduced in DC Comics, which would prove to be a very important element to the company. It also brought back Jay Garrick after almost a decade of absence and it expanded the Flash mythology even more.
A timeless and influential classic.
If you want to read this and many other Silver Age Flash stories, my recommendation is to go to a good source and purchase the Flash; The Silver Age Omnibus Vol 1. Many, many good classic stories, including this pñivotal one.
Barry Allen has always been a classic, wholesome and good-natured hero, but his last years prior to his demise on Crisis on Infinite Earths were very complicated and that drove him over the edge. The Reverse Flash has been torturing and ruining Barry’s life for years, even murdering people close to him in the process, and the Flash finally decides to put an end to his arch nemesis by snapping his neck, which results in Barry going through a trial for murderer.
I always been drawn to this period of the Flash’s run because I think it is really underrated: given that the character was not doing very well in terms of sales, DC decided to experiment a lot with him and this resulted in the Reverse Flash doing multiple messed up things to ruin Barry’s existence. The Trial of the Flash has been twists and turns, but it feels very natural and most of the characters work within their own pre-established personalities, further cementing the fact that Barry broke his no-killing rule and that he was about to pay for that.
The story is long (actually, it lasted two whole years), but it feels like a fitting end to all the tragedy that Barry had to endure in the 80s and it was also a proper resolution to end the first volume of the Flash, given a mere month after the publication of the last issue, Barry would die on Crisis on Infinite Earths.
To get your hands on this materail, you’ll probably have to go to a Showcase collection. It’s in black and white, but at least you get to know what the heck happened! You can find the Showcase presents: The Trial of the Flash on Amazon by clicking here.
Once Barry died, his protégé, Wally West (also known as Kid Flash at the time), took the mantle of the Flash and as we have stated before, he wasn’t very popular at the time. Many writers came and went without a clear notion of what to do with the character, but once Mark Waid came all that changed and it all started with this retelling of Wally’s origin, Born to Run.
I have to say that this is one of my favorite DC origin stories because it not only stays true to the roots of Flash and his sidekick, but it also gives another layer to Wally’s character and his motivations as a superhero. We see him idolizing the Flash and learning the ropes of the job once he gets his powers while making the mistakes that a kid would do.
It’s a very human and heartfelt story about one of DC’s best characters and a great starting point for new readers, if you ask me, because it tells you everything you need to know about the Flash before moving on to other stories.
PS: This is quite likely my favorite title of all the Flash stories that I have read.
From a story where Wally is starting out, we now have a comic where he is in his peak years and Hunter Zolomon, former friend of our hero and now a villain named Zoom, decides to turn the Flash’s life outside down.
This story is quite likely the darkest in the Flash’s vast history in the industry and it’s actually quite simple: Zoom is insane and believes that by creating tragedies in Wally’s life he is going to make him stronger. And how is he planning to do that? By going after Wally’s pregnant wife, Linda, which results in one of the darkest and most disturbing moments of DC Comics?
Geoff Johns holds no prisoners in this storyline and he really hits home here an underlying uplifting message that Wally West doesn’t need tragedies or darkness to become a hero and that he is motivated by the people that he loves and his own desire to do good. A lot of people give Johns a hard time by calling him a “blockbuster writer”, but I don’t think that, beyond Peter Tomasi and Grant Morrison, there is another writer in the industry with such a profound understanding of DC characters like Johns does and Blitz really proves that.
You can find this storyline in the Flash by Geoff Johns trade paperback Book 3, which you can buy on Amazon by clicking here.
Wait, isn´t this the third book of this run I recommend? Save your money and buy them all, you’ll thank me later!
There is no better way to earn your place as a hero than defeating your mentor’s foes and that’s exactly what Mark Waid sets Wally to do with 1993’s The Return of Barry Allen.
Barry Allen seems to have returned after his sacrifice on Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he seems to be a very different person, feeling jealously and anger towards Wally. After a couple of issues we discover that this individual is not Barry, but actually his biggest enemy, Reverse Flash, and Wally, who was never capable of defeating Thawne, must be find the strength to succeed in his mentor’s place.
This story is instrumental to understand Wally West as a character and why he ended up turning into quite likely the best and most popular Flash of all time. This story explores his relationship with Barry, his own speedster block (his own insecurities taking Barry’s role actually made him run slower) and the challenge that the Reverse Flash represents in the character’s life and mythology. All of that is combined in a wonderful story that, at least to me, represents Wally’s growth from teenager and sidekick to a man and his own hero.
This is a watershed moment in the Flash mythos and we’re grateful that is a remarkable story to do so.
Wait, you haven’t read this book?? Read my words: GO-BUY-IT-RIGHT-NOW! You’ll love it!!!
You can find this story in the Flash by Mark Waid trade paperback vol. 2, which you can find on Amazon by clicking here.
Remember also that this is the second Waid book I recommend here. His run on Flash was reeaaaally good. If you can also buy the next books, you’ll love them too.
The Speed Force nowadays is an instrumental part of the Flash’s mythos, but it wasn’t always like this and that is why Waid wrote Terminal Velocity: a story where the concept of the Speed Force, with all its benefits and risks, is introduced and we see Wally taking a hold of the source of all the speedster’s powers.
Wally has a glimpse of a future where he and his girlfriend Linda are killed and he tries to prevent it, but the more he uses his speedster powers, the more he connects with the Speed Force and loses contact with his humanity, slowly becoming an ethereal figure. Meanwhile, he has to deal with the villain Kobra and start thinking about the legacy he wants to leave if he dies, which leads Wally to plan leaving his mantle to Barry’s grandson, Bart Allen (also known as Impulse), or Jesse Chambers (also known as Jesse Quick).
Terminal Velocity works extremely well because it explores Wally’s relationship with his loved ones and what he is willing to do as a hero to save everybody. Here we can see and feel his growth from not only sidekick to hero and boy to man, but also how he becomes a leader, planning and guiding his friends through many different ordeals. It also solidifies his relationship with Linda Park and her role as his “lightning rod”, grounding him and keeping him from becoming a part of the Speed Force itself.
Heartfelt, passionate, heroic and very human at its core, Terminal Velocity is the best Wally West story of all time and a great way to see the character in his primer.
You’ll find this story in the Flash by Mark Waid trade Paperback Book 4, wich you can purchase on Amazon by clicking here.
Now wait a minute… I already recommended Mark Waid’s book 1, 2 and 4! This run is great!! Please don’t miss book 3 !!
Even though Barry Allen returns from the dead in the Final Crisis event, it was Flash: Rebirth, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Ethan Van Sciver, where we deal with the consequences of the Scarlet Speedster’s return.
Everybody is happy to have Barry back, with several superhero teams planning surprise welcome parties and to help him get his life back on track, but our hero is a lot more melancholic than we remember and he is having a hard time adapting to a world that has moved on. As the story progresses, we discover that a lot of bad things that are happening to Barry, such as his connection with the Speed Force resulting in him killing everybody he touches, were orchestrated by the Reverse Flash.
Flash: Rebirth is a really great book and a celebration of the Flash’s vast history, but I won’t deny that it has its controversies with many fans of the character. First and foremost, this was the book that pushed Wally West to a secondary role after years of character development and to many fans that has hurt the Flash book over the years (something I happen to agree with). It also retcons a lot of things in the Flash mythology, with varying results (the truth behind the death of Barry’s mother and the origin of the Speed Force are two grand examples of that).
Leaving that aside, this is a really good book, with solid characterization and bringing many somewhat forgotten characters back to the forefront, such as Max Mercury or Jesse Chambers. It also provides many elements for future Flash stories and Johns does a phenomenal raising the stakes with the Reverse Flash, becoming much more sadistic and darker than ever before.
This is beautifully complemented by Ethan Van Sciver’s incredible art. He took his sweet time drawing it and that got the book delayed a few times, which is something that has happened in his career from time to time due to the fact that his art is so detailed, but it’s definitely worth it: every character looks like their best version and every panel is vibrant and full of life and energy. I think very few artists were born to draw DC characters and Van Sciver is certainly one of them.
A very good book and, love it or hate it, a story that changed the direction of the Flash for the foreseeable future.
Geoff Johns’ retcon of the death of Barry’s mother plays a center role in this event, with our hero travelling to the past and stopping her killer, which has a butterfly effect of sorts where the DC Universe changes drastically. Superman was captured and experimented on when he got to Earth, Thomas Wayne is Batman and Martha Wayne is the Joker while Bruce Wayne died in Crime Alley, Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war with their respective troops, Hal Jordan never became Green Lantern and Cyborg is the Earth’s only superhero, working for the US government.
In this dark and conflictive timeline, Barry never had his powers and has to find a way to deal with the consequences of his actions and also bring back the timeline he knows. This leads to him trying to team up with Batman, falling in the middle of the conflict of the Amazons and Atlantis and also coping with the presence of the Reverse Flash, who is certainly enjoying the mess that Barry has created.
Flashpoint was perhaps the highest point of popularity and relevance in the Flash’s history, becoming the main and focal point of a DC event and also the moment where Barry’s morality is put to the test and he has to cope with the consequences of his own selfish actions. It’s a really powerful story where Johns shows you what would happen if the DC heroes cut loose of their moralities and the ramifications that it would have on the planet.
I also have to point out Andy Kubert’s work here because I think is best of his whole career. He has always been brilliant, but here he is on another level, adding a level of gravitas and an epic feel that fits the mood of the story extremely well. Also, Kubert is a pro when it comes to drawing superhero comics and he knows how to make them look really good, which is something that is a skill that is not valued enough, in my opinion, oon what is a visual medium.
Regardless, Flashpoint is a fascinating, captivating and very entertaining story that shows the importance of the Flash in the DC Universe and the consequences that this event had were monumental, serving as the in-universe explanation of 2011’s New 52 reboot, which, for better or worse, changed DC forever.
But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a remarkable and brilliant story, quite likely being the Flash’s ultimate story.
Hope you enjoyed this article as much as we enjoyed reviewing the material to do it. Flash is a character that gave us many, many good stories through the years, and we expect to keep reading good comics on him!