Wally West is back and at his absolute best. Following the events of 2016's DC Comics: Rebirth, the fan-favorite third Flash has been returned. Taking up the mantle of The Flash following the death of Barry Allen in 1985's classic Crisis on Infinite Earths, Wally was the Flash until Barry's return in 2008's Final Crisis over two decades later. Many of today's fans grew up with Wally West as their Flash, and identify Wally's attitude with the character. Wally was somewhat aloof by the end of his tenure as The Flash, quick to joke and just as quick to spring into action.
It wasn't always that way though. Wally's historically been abrasive and brash, with a sense of entitlement related to his place in the legacy of The Flash. An argument could easily be made to sway Wally into the direction of obviously being the greatest Flash there ever was, but he's had enough failures to make it questionable. You could even argue he may be the worst. We've scoured Wally's career and found the best arguments for both. Here are 10 reasons Wally West is the best Flash (and 10 reasons why he's the worst).
20 WORST: HE FIGHTS ALONGSIDE HIS UNTRAINED CHILDREN
Wally West and Linda Park had been in love for years when they found out she was pregnant. It was a huge surprise, and completely unexpected. The pregnancy took a turn for the worse, though, when Hunter Zolomon became removed from the timeline and became the evil Zoom, Wally's own Reverse-Flash. Zoom would attack Wally by going through Linda, causing her to lose the babies. But as fate would have it, nearly a year later, Zoom would return alongside the original Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne. Wally would stop Zoom before he could attack Linda, and she would almost immediately go into labor and deliver their twins, Jai and Iris.
Jai and Iris were gifted with their own unique powers. Jai had the ability to increase his muscle mass, while Iris had the ability to phase through solid objects at will. However, their bodies were ravaged by a connection to the Speed Force, and they were aging rapidly. Once stabilized, Wally made the decision to allow the children to be heroes so they could live their lives to the fullest. While this was a noble gesture, it doesn't change the fact that Wally West took his pre-teen, untrained children out into battle with him.
19 BEST: REDEEMED THE ROGUES
Barry Allen was constantly hounded by the Rogues, a band of thieves who haunted his every step. These colorful characters were defined by a strange code of honor, rarely killing and typically just stealing from large institutions. Barry would foil them as The Flash, and while the Rogues would become more evil and more sinister over time, he still handily bested them on multiple occasions. With Barry's death, it would seem the Rogues would run unchecked, but after a few encounters with Wally, something incredible happened.
It started with Pied Piper, who turned over a new leaf. Not only would he end his villainous ways, he also became a stalwart ally of Wally, aiding him on multiple occasions. The rest of the Rogues, though still skewing clearly towards evil, would change their ways thanks to Wally's treatment of them. So long as nobody died and they stayed in Central City, he ultimately let them be, only turning up to stop them if something truly heinous were to occur. This was, unfortunately, a deal only for Wally, as the Rogues would eventually be manipulated by Inertia into taking out Bart Allen while he was The Flash, driving the Rogues back to their villainous ways.
18 WORST: HE'S A HUGE JERK
Wally was never quite the goody-two-shoes that Barry Allen was, but he was always a relatively good person. As Kid Flash, Wally had an attitude but was still civil to people he liked. However, following Barry's death, Wally changed drastically. Unable to cope with the death of his mentor, Wally's personality completely changed. He became brash and abrasive, with a short temper and constantly lashing out. The Wally West who had become the Flash was almost completely different from the one fans had grown up with, and it earned him a lot of ire during his early years.
It would be years before Wally was able to work through the issues that led him to become such a gruff and unlikeable character. It was the arrival of Eobard Thawne, posing as Barry Allen and manipulating Wally and his other speedster allies that opened the door for Wally to have a change of heart, and his relationship with Linda Park ultimately saved him from himself. Despite this, he remained a notably unlikable character for decades, with many of his fellow superheroes even hating associating with him due to his coarse nature, and even the improved Wally was still standoffish and stubborn to the point of becoming intolerable.
17 BEST: HOPE IN THE FACE OF TRAGEDY
Wally West has lost a lot. The greatest loss, undoubtedly, would be Barry's death during Crisis on Infinite Earths, a loss which would paint his life for decades to come. As time would go on, he would find himself moving from relationship to relationship, enduring a strained relationship with his family. His marriage to Linda, while a defining moment of joy in his life, would be mired with tragedy after tragedy. From Linda being lost in time or believed dead at the hands of Black Flash to the death of their twins when Zoom arrived, the two found themselves constantly at odds with what fate had in store for them.
But Wally kept on despite everything against him. He had long aspired to be more like Barry, and Barry was the embodiment of hope. Wally West managed to overcome the odds time and time again thanks to his persistent sense of hope, a belief which would allow him to accomplish impossible odds. Whether it was rescuing millions of citizens from a nuclear explosion, or as simple as convincing Earth to run alongside him in a race for the fate of the world, Wally was defined by hope as much as Barry, if not more.
16 WORST: STILL HUNG-UP ON PRE-FLASHPOINT
Wally West was trapped in the Speed Force as an act of revenge by the mad magician, Abra Kadabra. Trapped inside the Speed Force, Wally was largely saved from the effects of Flashpoint, witnessing history change from a distance. It wasn't until Wally was saved from the Speed Force by Barry Allen remembering him that his history began to change, but Wally uniquely held onto a portion of these memories. The memories were fractured and began to change to adapt to the new world he was in, but Wally still managed to cling to his old memories.
This proved to be hugely problematic. Since his return, Wally's life has stopped dead in its tracks as he tried to recapture his original life, including pursuing Linda Park despite her having no memory of their life together, as they had never married in the new timeline. Wally would join the Titans but would spend most of his days in Titans Tower, refusing to move forward and terrified of telling his aunt Iris the truth. Wally recently made steps to get out of his funk, relocating to an apartment in Keystone City and attempting to build a new life for himself, but it remains to be seen if he'll actually pull it off or continue to let the misery of Flashpoint define his life.
15 BEST: FAMILY FIRST
The Flashes have a long history of avoiding family. Barry for years refused to tell Iris Allen that he and Wally were The Flash and Kid Flash, even refusing to tell her on their wedding day. In The New 52, the Barry and Iris dynamic would be reset, as Barry struggled to find the courage to open up to Iris about his dual identity. Barry was still haunted by the memory of his mother's murder and struggled with the knowledge that anyone who knew he was The Flash would ultimately be at risk.
Wally would suffer similar hang-ups from time to time but ultimately was more open about his dual life. To be fair, he didn't have much of a choice. In order to ensure Barry's memory was honored, he publicly revealed his identity, as well as Barry's. His eventual relationship with Linda would define his tenure as The Flash, forcing Wally to re-examine his place in life and his priorities with family. Wally, though still abrasive, would slowly morph into a father figure akin to Barry as he grew into the hero his uncle knew he could be. The importance of this would be highlighted with his revival in DC Rebirth, where the loss of his family nearly destroyed him.
14 WORST: THE DARKEST FLASH
Heroes don't kill. Everybody knows that. And the Flashes are no exception. Barry once accidentally killed his nemesis, Reverse-Flash, and it nearly destroyed him as he was consumed with guilt, not to mention his life was turned upside down by the ensuing trial. Wally's no different. He supports the death penalty, but he doesn't actually kill. However, it's safe to argue that many of his rogues wish he would. While Wally West doesn't kill, he definitely goes too far.
Sometimes it isn't on purpose, like when he was fighting Zoom. Wally grabbed Zoom and thrust him into one of the time rifts he created, theorizing it would stabilize Zoom's powers. And it did but at a terrible price. Zoom was stuck at that moment in time, forced to re-watch the moment his mistake led to his wife and father-in-law being shot. Other times it's on purpose, like his inhumane torture of Inertia. Inertia had just orchestrated an attack on Bart Allen (then the current Flash) by the Rogues, which led to Bart's death, as his powers had vanished when Wally was brought back to Earth. In retaliation, Wally used his ability to steal speed to permanently slow Inertia down to a crawl. Inertia was placed in the Flash Museum with "eyes that take a hundred years to blink" forced to stare at a statue of Bart.
13 BEST: THE FIRST TO RETURN FROM THE SPEED FORCE
Lost in time following Zero Hour, Wally West had a vision of Linda's death, as well as his own fate. Desperate to change the future, Wally raced against time but soon found he was turning into pure energy. The plan to halt Kobra failed, and Wally seemingly died, fading away into the Speed Force. It seemed as if another Flash had just died, and Linda and their other allies were at the mercy of Kobra. But then, something unexpected happened: Wally West returned from the Speed Force.
It had never happened before. Max Mercury had made it known for years that the Speed Force was a sort of Valhalla for speedsters. And Max, who had been thrown through time for years trying to enter the Speed Force, also knew that to enter it was certain death. But Wally had something no one else had, and that was Linda. Linda Park has remained something of a lightning rod for Wally, and whenever he seemed to be hopelessly and utterly lost, he was always able to find his way back thanks to their love. Wally tried tapping into this again while trapped between worlds following Flashpoint, but Linda's lost memories shattered the connection, leaving him stranded until Barry was able to pluck him from time.
12 WORST: CREATED HIS WORST ROGUES
Every hero is responsible for the creation of his worst enemies. Superman made Lex Luthor, Batman had a role in the creation of Two-Face, and so on. Wally is no different. While Barry managed to largely avoid this trope, Wally has it in spades. Some of them are villains from the past, such as Abra Kadabra, who Wally pushed so far to the edge that he became a horrifying threat, removing Linda from history and later doing the same to Wally, which resulted in the destruction of Wally's life following Flashpoint.
Others, still, are directly Wally's fault. Take, for example, Hunter Zolomon, who pleaded with Wally to use his ability to run through time to save his wife and father-in-law. Wally refused, pushing his friend away rather than attempting to console him, leading Zolomon to attempt to use the Cosmic Treadmill himself in order to change history himself, but instead, a horrific accident would cause Zolomon to become disconnected from the time stream. This ability to shift this timeline, which appeared to be super speed, drove Zolomon to become the evil Zoom, motivated to attempt to make Wally a better hero by forcing him to experience tragedy.
11 BEST: HERO OF THE PEOPLE
Wally's career as The Flash started out pretty rough. He suffered something very much resembling a mental breakdown, his entire personality changing as he took over in Barry's absence. But Wally would eventually come into his own, despite rubbing so many people the wrong way early on. As the resident Flash of Central City, Wally was a well-regarded and beloved hero who worked hard to earn his reputation. It helped a lot that he maintained a public identity, making him much closer to a public figure than to a superhero like his Justice League compatriots, or even Barry before him.
The public relationship Wally enjoyed was one of the highlights of his tenure as The Flash, and something that persisted until he had Hal Jordan erase the public knowledge of his secret identity. Wally would lament shortly afterward how much he enjoyed the return of his secret identity, which allowed him the time to actually help, telling Superman that Central City's citizens would never allow him to participate in the clean-up after a big fight as a show of gratitude. Wally's unique relationship with the city would become one of the defining traits of his time as The Flash, and he'll always be remembered as a true hero of the people.
10 WORST: ERASED EVERYONE'S MEMORY OF THE FLASH
Hunter Zoloman's attack on The Flash cost Wally his family, with Linda Park miscarrying their children. Wally blamed himself. After all, the only reason Zoom knew he was The Flash was because Wally, in an effort to preserve Barry's memory, publicly revealed both their identities following Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wally's public identity had been a unique twist on the ongoing idea of a superhero. But Hal Jordan, who was then The Spectre, along with a version of Barry who was on his way to Crisis and his impending death, would arrive and offer Wally a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Hal would offer to erase the public memory of Wally's identity, with Barry's blessing as he stated he didn't really need to be remembered. Wally agreed, but in typical impulsive Wally fashion, he didn't think to read the fine print. When Hal said he'd erase everyone's memory of The Flash, he wasn't kidding, as even Wally and Linda forgot. Wally woke up in a new world where he was a police mechanic and The Flash had been missing for years. Wally would eventually remember his identity, revealing it to the superhero community afterward to restore their memories, but he threw the world into upheaval with The Flash's sudden disappearance.
9 BEST: MORE THAN A SPEEDSTER
Sure, Wally West is fast, faster even than the other Flashes. But Wally was more than a speedster. He gained a number of unique abilities thanks to his many adventures, and thanks to his special bond to the Speed Force. Wally's new powers started off innocently enough when he escaped the Speed Force, gaining the ability to lend objects his kinetic energy. This allowed him to take stationary objects and accelerate them so that they moved at his speed, and even lend super speed to non-speedsters briefly. He also would discover shortly afterward that he had the ability to weave uniforms out of Speed Force, starting with a unique piece of armor designed to support his broken legs.
Wally would learn his most useful power following an encounter with Walter West, the Flash of another Earth. To stop Walter from killing Abra Kadabra, Wally would vibrate his molecules until the two were one being. The result was the unhinged Walter having a piece of Wally's personality to calm his mood, while Wally would find he had gained Walter's ability to steal the kinetic energy of a moving object. This proved an incredible offensive capability of Wally's, used to terrifying potential at times but had several limitations, such as not being able to affect either of the Reverse-Flashes or Barry Allen.
8 WORST: DOESN'T GRASP THE BASICS AS WELL
Wally more than proved his chops as The Flash. With a 25 year tenure as DC's resident Scarlet Speedster and a highly regarded member of the Justice League of America, he was one of the more beloved and respected heroes, and a rare hero serving as a member of both the JLA and the Titans. But as The Flash, his powers tended to skew towards the application of speed and not much else. Wally was damn good with his powers and displayed plenty of aptitude for how they work, but never seemed to have a strong grasp of the basics.
Things came across much like an afterthought for him at times, not realizing how moving at a breakneck speed would affect his powers. He had trouble grasping the basics and was easily disheartened when something didn't work as he expected. He also ran into trouble with his unique physiology affecting his powers, making him unable to vibrate through objects without exploding them. When it came to the actual use and application of his speed, Wally was the fastest there was hands down. But when it came to an intelligent and creative use of his speed powers, and the physics-breaking potential that came along with that, Wally always seemed a step behind.
7 BEST: OUTRACED DEATH ITSELF
There are many incarnations of Death in the DC Universe. When a speedster dies, the Black Flash appears. Max Mercury recognized him by a telltale black smudge in a photo, having only seen it once before, in a photo taken shortly before the deaths of Johnny Quick and Barry Allen. Max and Jesse Quick raced to stop Wally and made him late for a meeting with Linda. The trio learned the hard way that death never leaves empty-handed: Wally arrived too late, The Black Flash struck, and Linda Park died in a flash of lightning.
A distraught Wally sunk into a deep depression, his powers and connection to the Speed Force seemingly gone. Wally attempted to pack up and leave town, but the Black Flash returned, seeking its true target. Motivated by the knowledge that the Black Flash would never leave him alone otherwise, Wally rediscovered his connection to the Speed Force and forced the Black Flash to chase him, racing him to the end of the universe. Upon arriving, the Black Flash vanished, as the concept of death no longer had any meaning or reason to exist at the end of time, making Wally West the only Flash to literally outrace his death.
6 WORST: A MECHANICS MINDSET
The Flash Family has always existed on the scientific side of the DC Universe. With the Speed Force giving them an immense degree of control over kinetic energy and ultimately allowing them to break the laws of physics, they've relied on this heavily science-based approach to their superpowers in order to most effectively combat the evils that plagued Central City. Barry Allen was responsible for much of this, developing a number of incredible tactics, including running on water or creating cyclones by rotating his arms, allowing them to extinguish fires rapidly.
But Wally always had trouble with this. Wally rarely displayed a mastery over these scientific abilities on par with Barry's skill. Unlike his fellow Flashes, he was never much of a scientist and always leaned more towards a mechanic's mindset, able to understand how things work on a technical level. While this proved useful when using his super speed, allowing him to do things like disassembling moving vehicles or build a computer that processes fast enough for him to read at super speed, Wally was always very straightforward in the application of his speed. As a result, he always seemed to be falling short of his true potential.
5 BEST: SURVIVED FLASHPOINT
The reveal that Eobard Thawne had murdered Barry Allen's mother radically changed the history of The Flash. Prior to his death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry's parents had always been alive well into his superhero career, and this sudden tragedy redefined the character's motivation. Desperate to save his mother, Barry ran back in time to stop Thawne but created a world-changing Flashpoint event, a butterfly effect which rewrote all of history. In the new world, Barry was much younger, had never been married, and had never met Iris' cousin Wally West, though another cousin with the same name would eventually take his place as Kid Flash.
Wally, however, would survive the Flashpoint in the strangest way. In the updated post-Flashpoint timeline, during a fight with the Teen Titans, the villainous Abra Kadabra would cast Wally into the Speed Force and erase the world's memory of his existence. Wally was trapped for years, but because he was trapped in the Speed Force, he retained his memories of the world before Flashpoint. As such he was able to cling to himself long enough to see the timeline change and to understand something was happening. Wally lost many of these memories upon finally being freed from the Speed Force, but still remembers a timeline where he was The Flash.
4 WORST: HE'S A TERRIBLE BOYFRIEND
It is absolutely undeniable that Wally West may be one of the worst boyfriends in comics. While his marriage to Linda Park was an iconic relationship on par with Superman and Lois or even Spider-Man and Mary Jane, that wasn't the case beforehand. Wally in his early days was, at best, a serial dater who moved from relationship to relationship, from flirtation to flirtation, and made a number of poor decisions as a result. Wally had a number of failed, disastrous relationships, including Tina McGee of S.T.A.R. Labs. Already at odds with Tina being 10 years his senior, the two very nearly died when Tina's jealous, estranged husband injected himself with an experimental steroid and become the crazed Speed Demon.
This even pre-dates his Flash days, dating back to his relationship with Francine Kane. Francine Kane had the ability to affect magnetic fields. Unfortunately, this also had the effect of exacerbating her mental illness when she used her powers. Wally arguably sped up this deterioration by bringing Francine into the fold as a member of the Teen Titans, and Francine would eventually reappear over the years a villain. Most recently Wally would again prove Francine undoing, attempting to approach her and restore her memories of the timeline prior to Flashpoint, but instead waking up her evil Magenta personality.
3 BEST: THE FIRST TO MASTER THE SPEED FORCE
The Speed Force has been a thing since Barry became The Flash, though it took decades for anyone to actually realize it. The Speed Force was created when Barry was doused with chemicals and struck by lightning and spread out through history, both backward and forwards in time. But Barry never really knew he was using it, he always just assumed he was a typical metahuman who had access to special abilities. It wasn't until Wally met Max Mercury that they learned of the Speed Force and the mysterious role it played in the formation of their powers.
It wasn't long until Wally would inadvertently join the Speed Force, but unlike those before him, he would find his way back. After returning, Wally had a unique relationship to the Speed Force. While it was a part of him in much the same way as it was for other speedsters, Wally had a definite command over it. He was able to manipulate the Speed Force to propel himself to the speed of light or beyond and discovered he could use it to sustain himself using the Speed Force to provide the energy his body needed, replacing his long overwhelming need to consume food to fuel his powers.
2 WORST: HE ABUSED THE FLASH LEGACY
Though Wally West became The Flash to honor Barry's legacy, such a change didn't last. He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way when he first took over, declaring that he was only becoming The Flash temporarily and fully expecting Barry to return. This would be the beginning of Wally's early sense of entitlement, which would eventually put him at odds with Hal Jordan, who confiscated Barry's costume from Wally and took up residence as he believed Wally wasn't capable of protecting the city. Though he eventually earned back Hal's' trust, it came at the price of knowing that Barry was dead and not coming back.
This led to the most egregious abuse of the Flash legacy Wally would commit. He used the identity of The Flash for his own gain. His public identity made it much easier to be found, and he took advantage of this. In his first full appearance as The Flash, when Wally was asked to transport a donor heart to a hospital cross country as the recipient would not survive long enough for a normal transfer, Wally only agreed to do so in exchange for health insurance. Upon winning the lottery, Wally's wealth compounded with his brash nature and made him even more entitled than before, though he lost the money almost as quickly as he got it thanks to his mother being unable to manage it.
1 BEST: THE FASTEST FLASH ALIVE
You can't deny how fast Wally's predecessors are. Jay Garrick, thanks to a mix of his metagene and the inhalation of hard vapor fumes, was able to run at around the speed of sound before the creation of the Speed Force, while Barry and those who followed him were able to approach the speed of light. For decades, that seemed to be it, as Max Mercury revealed that a speedster approaching the speed of light would approach the barrier of the speed force. Max was unique in that the speed force always pushed him back, but others ran the risk of being trapped forever.
But Wally was different. Having jaunted into the Speed Force and returned after directly making contact with it, he was able to surpass them all. Wally ran the the limits of speed and pushed beyond it, obtaining the ability to use the Speed Force in new and unique ways, as well as a top speed beyond the speed of light, making him impossibly fast. Since returning from imprisonment after Flashpoint, Wally's proven he's still fast, showcasing a persistent degree of this Speed Force mastery, but doesn't appear to have been able to reach his prior top speed yet.