I'm a big fan of the Flash now but even before I became a true believer of the fastest man alive's exploits, a name would frequently pop up whenever the character was discussed in comic book forums: Mark Waid. There have been scores of other Flash writers that have done great works on the scarlet speedster such as Cary Bates, Geoff Johns, John Broome and Gardner Fox, but but I've heard more times than I can count that no writer did Flash better than Waid. Here are four reasons why Waid's Flash run is loved so much.
1. It Contrasted the Edgy Stories that Over Saturated Comics
The 1990s for comic books as a whole could be summed up as dark, gritty and bleak. Now that isn't to say that those types of comic book stories are bad, mind you. After all, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen are extremely grim tales and among my favorite. Having said that, one of the biggest problems with comics in '90s was that dark comic book stories were taking over the industry. During this time period Superman died, Batman got his back broken and Spider-Man had more than one of him swinging around in one of the most convoluted stories that had long overstayed it's welcome. Comic buffs recognize this era as the Dark Age for the medium and the things I just mentioned were only a few happenings at the time. Some of these pessimistic stories were told well, but more often than not, heavy violence and sex were there just for the sake of shock value. In what is widely considered to be one of the worst time periods for the industry, Waid's Flash was a much needed beckon of hope.
2. Wally West as the Flash
While the name of the Flash is widely recognized to belong to Barry Allen. in truth, numerous people have and still do carry that title. When Barry died in the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths story, Wally West, at the time Kid Flash, took over the mantle of the Flash. Main character's getting replaced happened quite frequently in the Dark Age and it still happens today but it rarely lasts for long, a year if that. Wally was the Flash for more than 20 years. The odds of this kind of big change getting done today and lasting for two decades? Absolute zero.
Let me make it clear that I do not hate Barry Allen in the slightest in spite of his blandness. I get that he kick started the Silver Age and for a lot of folks, he is the Flash. My first introduction to Wally was through the DCAU's Justice League animated series in the early 2000s. I like the character but it wasn't until I started reading Flash comics that I really became a huge Wally fan.
3. The Return of Barry Allen
Long before Barry Allen came back for real, there was a six part story that brought back the Silver Age speedster. So many people wanted to see Barry come back so, Waid brought him back. Just... not the way they were expecting. When Barry shows up alive and well, Wally is understandably very skeptical at first but his trust is eventually won over. The good times don't last very long because Barry starts acting strangely, showing jealous towards Wally for replacing him. We find out that Barry is in fact not Barry but Eaboard Thawn, the Reverse Flash, who should be dead but this is a Reverse Flash that hasn't met Barry yet. This story gives an origin story for Thawne, a three on one fight against Reverse Flash and we get some excellent character development for Wally as we see him lose his doubts and confront Thawne.
Man, I can only imagine what it would have been like reading this story in the early '90s. Thinking Barry Allen came back, seeing him go insane, trying to kill Wally only to find out it was really the Reverse Flash all along. He's revealed at the end of the fifth issue. The wait for the story's conclusion must have been a killer.
4. The Flash Family
What could be better than one speedster? A whole frickin' family of speedsters. The Flash Family is one of the most iconic in all of comics, ranking right up there with the Bat Family. As great as it is to see Wally doing things solo, I get extra giddy when Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash, Max Mercury, Johnny Quick, Jessie Quick and Impulse get together for some high speed super heroics. Impulse proved to be so popular that he was given his own series, which Waid also wrote the first run of. Hopefully the adventures of Bart Allen's books will eventually be collected in TPB form but the whole Impulse series is up on Comixology.
Currently the first two books of Mark Waid's Flash run are available and if you're a fan of the Flash or just love good comic books, I cannot recommend them enough. You can tell Waid love's the Flash and that he was having the time of his life when he wrote these stories. Book three comes out in October. The wait is unbearable.