Flash Rising, by Martha Thomases
So Barry Allen is coming back.
I like Barry Allen okay. I was sad when he died. Not as sad as I was when Supergirl died, but sad. He seemed like a nice guy, someone down-to-earth and genuine, at least as much as a comic-book character can be. His job as a police scientist seemed exotic to me in the days before the CSI shows made put it on television every night. Even when I was a long-haired freak, I liked his crew-cut sincerity.
When Wally West took over the role of the Flash in the comic, I was grouchy about it. He was different. The way Mike Baron wrote him, he was very different. Even though I like to think I’m an open-minded, progressive person, sometimes I want my comics to stay the same. I kept reading them, though, and was soon won over. Those stories were more like soap opera, making them much more addictive on a month-to-month basis.
Wally has been the Flash for 23 years. For my son, he’s the only Flash there is. I mean, he’s my son, so he’s read an abnormal number of old comics, but the Flash he knows from week-to-week is Wally. His reaction to Barry Allen’s return, as he read about it in the New York Daily News on Wednesday, is an unenthusiastic shrug.
Among the most active conversations on ComicMix are those about comics publishers’ current fascination with killing characters. I’m one of the people who thinks it’s often a facile way to get attention and some cheap emotion. Too often, characters stay dead just long enough so the same publishers can make a big noise when they come back.
But Barry has been dead 23 years. Those of us who remember him are likely to be no younger than 35, a demographic less than desirable to those who advertise in comic books. Most current readers don’t know him, or only know of him through the memories of Wally and the Justice League. If this is a marketing stunt, it would seem to be incredibly misguided.
Except for one thing: Grant Morrison is writing the story.
We’ll both cut Grant a lot of slack. He writes amazing, convoluted epics like The Invisibles, and hilarious stuff like Kill Your Boyfriend. His All-Star Superman stories move me like nothing since Alan Moore wrote the character.
Grant knows his magic and his myth. Every culture has its hero who dies, goes to the Underworld (or some other form of the hereafter, which I suppose could include the Speed Force), and then rises. There’s Jesus, but there’s also Balder, Osiris, Orpheus, Heracles, and lots more. (Even Persephone must spend half the year with Hades, and she’s just a girl.) Through the hero’s sacrifice and death, the world – even the Multiverse – is redeemed and born anew.
It’s a story so common because it reflects so much of the human experience. Every winter, the world seems to grow cold and die. Every spring it is reborn, and plants grow again. Every sex act includes the “little death” and the chance for renewal and more.
And every one of us older than ten has experienced the loss of someone we love, and the deep yearning for that person’s return. We long to be reunited, if only in Heaven. No wonder we look to religion for some hope, or at least a good story.
Final Crisis may or may not be that kind of story. It might not be everything I ever wanted for the Flash, but it should be a fun ride.
Martha Thomases, although she is the Media Goddess of ComicMix, does not receive a tax-exempt status from the IRS.