After Barry Allen died in the pages of Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1985, the character defied the rule that comic book characters always come back to life — well, almost. All rules must be broken, and as one of the DC Universe’s most important characters, Barry was bound to come back one day. In the pages of Grant Morrison’s 2008 event series Final Crisis, Barry finally returned during a new cataclysm that threatened all life in the universe. Having been lost inside the Speed Force for years, Barry had now returned to a world that had moved on without him.
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Barry helped defeat Darkseid’s invasion of Earth in Final Crisis, but it wouldn’t be until 2009, in Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver’s character-defining The Flash Rebirth, that the emotional toll Barry’s return had on him and the rest of the Flash Family would be explored. It was a seminal story that firmly established Barry as the linchpin of the DCU’s speedster family, the heart and generator of the Speed Force itself. It re-defined his role and purpose while, in true Geoff Johns-fashion, setting up many threads for exciting future storylines.
But while the miniseries served as the springboard for a new Flash comic by Johns and artist Francis Manapul, this iteration of the title would only last 12 issues. The first six explored the Rogues reacting to Barry Allen’s return, while the rest dealt with the events of Brightest Day or set up the massive, timeline-altering event series Flashpoint. What we couldn’t know at the time was the consequences that would stem from the Flash-centric event: The creation of the New 52, a relaunch of every DC Comics title that discarded the old continuity and started fresh with new origins and new directions for all of DC’s superheroes.
This meant that virtually everything that had been built to across the DCU fell to the wayside all at once, and perhaps nowhere was this more true than in the case of the Flash. Johns had spent a great deal of time and effort bringing Barry Allen back into the DCU with a series that honored the character’s past and wore its Silver Age roots on its sleeve, but all of that was largely ignored by a new, modern relaunch that discarded the old and focused on the new. Today, we look at those forgotten story threads set up in The Flash Rebirth, and wonder what the future of the Flash might have looked like in a timeline where the New 52 never happened.
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- It Was All About (The Flash) Family
- Where Are The Rogues? Bring On The Bad Guys!
- What About Wally West?
Zooms (Yes, “Zooms,” Plural)
The Flash Rebirth spent a great deal of time exploring the previously-deceased Eobard Thawne’s return to life and prominence as the one, true enemy of the Flash. Although the moment we would actually see him resurrected would come later, during Geoff Johns’ Blackest Night series, the fact that the evil speedster is so adept at time-traveling made it so that he was able to haunt Barry in the then-present. The yellow-clad speedster even teased that his return to life would come very soon.
The Reverse-Flash was the villain of the miniseries, and it would take the combined efforts of the entire Flash Family, as well as a little help from the Justice League, to knock him off of his feet and defeat him. The story ended with Thawne locked upside down in Central City’s Iron Heights maximum security prison — but he wasn’t alone. In the prison cell next to him there was another speedster villain who also used the name Zoom: Hunter Zolomon. Wheelchair-bound, Hunter spoke to Eobard, telling him he believed they could “help one another… be better.” This seemed to hint at an alliance of sorts, a union of Zooms which would have pitted the Flash against two of his most powerful enemies: Double the speed, double the threat.
Alas, we never got around to that storyline. Thawne would later be broken out of prison by Captain Boomerang during the events of Brightest Day, and the Reverse-Flash would next be seen alone in the events building up to Flashpoint.
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