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.
There are currently at least four people in the DC Universe calling themselves The Flash, not to mention other speedsters like Kid Flash, Negative Flash, Godspeed and others, so it’s important to differentiate what makes each of these characters special and unique. We know that later this year, Barry Allen and the elder Wally West are going to clash in a storyline ominously titled “Flash War” but we still don’t fully know why they’re going to fight or how such a fight would even shake out.
However, thanks to Gorilla Grodd in this week’s issue of The Flash, we may have learned one of the difference between Barry and Wally -- and it all comes down to their personal connections to the Speed Force.
The (Speed) Force Awakens
Barry and Wally have always had somewhat different abilities, even though they got their powers in near-identical ways. Wally became Kid Flash when he was a teenager -- and a young teenager at that, around thirteen or so. As such, his body was still going through puberty and wasn’t fully ready to deal with the burden of the connection to the Speed Force. Thus, he couldn’t do some things Barry could, resulting in the side effect of giving him slightly different abilities. The biggest difference was that Wally struggled with vibrating himself through objects, and if he did, he would destabilize their molecular structure, causing them to explode.
Throughout his time as Kid Flash, his powers would cause his muscles to cramp and seize up horribly, which led to a brief retirement from superheroics to attend college. After the death of Barry, Wally West took on the mantle of The Flash, having been cured of his ailment, but found that he could no longer run faster than the speed of sound; a snail’s pace compared to his deceased uncle. It was eventually determined that Wally’s limitations were psychosomatic and based on his fear of replacing Barry; when he overcame that fear, he truly became The Fastest Man Alive.
Science vs Religion
In the latest installment of The Flash, Grodd watches as Wally fights his disciple Raijin. The simian villain notes that while he doesn’t know who this other Flash is, he can sense a difference in how he accesses his powers compared to how Barry Allen uses his. He notes that while Barry Allen mastered the science of the Speed Force, this new Flash seems to understand it on a spiritual level. This dichotomy isn’t exactly new as a concept; though it's not been so plainly applied to Barry/Wally, it was the main point of contention between old friends Johnny Quick and Max Mercury. Johnny believed his speed came from an equation — 3X2(9YZ)4A — which when said out loud granted him speed, while Max Mercury was known for his zen like connection to the Speed Force.
It’s an interesting way to look at how The Flashes use their powers and how each of them accesses different parts of the Speed Force. Neither of them are wrong, but neither of them are fully right, either. However, when it comes to "Flash War," it may give one or the other the edge. It allows each Flash to stand on their own with their own connection to the Speed Force, as well as the strengths and weaknesses which come with their specific connection. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the differences between Wally and Barry play a big part in the upcoming event.
KEEP READING: Jay Garrick Teased As Part of DC’s Flash War