SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Flash #42 by Joshua Williamson, Dan Panosian, Hi-Fi and Steve Wands, on sale now.
One of the most enduring things about The Flash as a property is how much it has become about family and community. Unlike a lot of other superheroes, The Flash really isn’t just one person; it’s a network of people that help and support each other who all just happen to have super-speed. It’s one thing about the character that’s been missing since The New 52, but it’s something that Joshua Williamson and his collaborators have slowly been rebuilding as part of DC Rebirth.
This week’s issue of The Flash comic sees a new take on The Flash family. Barry himself has lost his speed, so he needs every speedster he can find to come together and stop Gorilla Grodd, Negative Flash and Black Hole.
The first time the concept of a Flash Family was really introduced was in Mark Waid and Greg LaRocque’s all-time classic storyline, “The Return of Barry Allen”. When the seemingly resurrected Barry had started to show signs of being not all he appeared to be, Jay Garrick reached out to two old colleagues from the Golden Age of Comics; Max Mercury and Johnny Quick. Over the years, the Flash Family added Johnny Quick’s daughter Jessie, Barry Allen’s grandchildren Impulse and XS and time-travelers like John Fox. On a journey through time to fight the villainous Cobalt Blue — Barry Allen’s long-lost twin brother — Wally West discovered the Flash Family as a concept lasts for centuries, meeting future incarnations of The Flash at every stop in the timestream.
The concept was downplayed somewhat during the mid-2000s, as Wally West was lost in an alternate dimension with his family when Bart Allen took over the Flash mantle. It seemed like following the genuine return of Barry Allen that The Flash: Rebirth might signal a rebirth of the Flash Family too, with the return of Max Mercury, Liberty Belle taking on the Jesse Quick moniker again and Wally’s daughter Irey becoming the new Impulse. However, Flashpoint followed not long after, and the entire timeline was rebooted, leaving Barry Allen the only Flash for close to five years.
All In The Family
It’s no coincidence that the big return of DC Universe Rebirth #1 was of the elder Wally West returning from the Speed Force, almost at the same time as the younger Wally was granted speed powers of his own. DC Rebirth was heralded as a return to the DC Universe fans love, and the Flash Family is a big part of that; not long after, a Speed Force storm hit Central City granting even more people super-speed including Barry’s best friend August Heart who became the villainous Godspeed, and the shy teenager Avery Ho who joined the Justice League of China as that team's Flash.
The New Flash Family has had to come together to help stop Gorilla Grodd, because Barry Allen has lost his speed and Central City is currently frozen in time — anyone not linked to the Speed Force will similarly slow down to a complete standstill should they try to enter. Unfortunately, Barry plays right into Grodd’s hand and returns his Speed Force wand which returns Barry’s Flash powers to him but increases Grodd’s mental link to the Speed Force itself, allowing him to take over the minds of the two Wallys West, Avery and August, adding them to his army and stacking the deck against The Flash who now has no allies and no way to stop the Speed Force enhanced Grodd from getting exactly what he wants.