Mark Waid's Flash (Part 2)

A column article, The Full Run by: Maxwell Yezpitelok

Welcome to the Full Run, the sexiest comic book column in the internet and the one with the worst introductions. This time we're taking a look at Mark Waid's legendary tenure on Flash (click here for part one and here for all our past columns).

Context: Wally West is the third person to call himself The Flash and the awesomest. He's dating a woman called Linda Park, who is a reporter. That's pretty much it.

Flash #84 (November 1993) - "Cutting Edge"

(Mark Waid / Barry Kitson / Ian Branch, José Marzan Jr., Ken Branch)

A Flash milestone: Wally West gets a haircut. Seriously, he had had the same cut since he was in the Teen Titans and has kept this one since then. How is this comic not going for thousands of dollars on eBay? On the same trip to the mall, Wally also fights some dude named Razer who's like made out of blades or something. Maybe it's the same guy who cut his hair, who was struck by lightning and became merged with his scissors.









Flash #85 (December 1993) - "Cut and Run"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

What? Still fighting Razer? Okay. In this issue, Wally defeats Razer and... I think that's everything that happens here. Unless you count the mysterious villain lurking behind the scenes, that is. Who could that possibly be? I'm gonna go ahead and guess Kadabra, because it's always Kadabra.









Flash #86 (January 1994) - "Rival Forces"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo, Rob Haynes / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally teams up with Argus, a new hero introduced in that year's Bloodlines annual -- which I do not own and don't intend to acquire, because Bloodlines was crap. Argus too is crap: he's your typical 90's anti-hero, which means he has an armor and is kind of a jerk. My critical opinion of this issue is that I hate Argus, and I'm glad he barely showed up again. Meanwhile, and without any context, Kadabra watches a crippled woman cutting herself while slashing pictures of Wally. What?








Flash #87 (February 1994) - "Christmas Rush"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally battles machine gun Santas, as depicted in the cover. They are also drug dealers. Because of all this, Wally misses a Christmas party populated by every supporting character who doesn't appear in this comic anymore, including The Chunk. And Wally's dad, who hits on Linda (of course). All of this was part of a wicked plan to make Wally feel crummy, it turns out. We even see the mysterious bad guy turning his minions into toy soldiers, just like a magician from the future named Kadabra would.








Flash #88 (March 1994) - "Mean Streak"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

A woman is suing Wally because she was injured during his fight with Razer in #84 and she claims it's somehow his fault. Wally thinks she's full of crap, until he actually sees the woman, who is missing two legs and half a face. Wally feels bad and tries to solve every crime in the city by pushing his speed to the limit, which does not go well. As usual, the issue ends with the mystery villain (Kadabra) observing from his hideout and laughing maniacally.








Flash #89 (April 1994) - "Swift Decision"

(Mark Waid / Kris Renkewitz / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally is on trial for professional negligence. Courtroom scenes in comics are usually lame (I'm guessing the cover artist for this issue feels the same way), but I actually like the ones here because they mostly consist on Wally trying to blame himself and his lawyer going you're doing this wrong. Seriously, the dialogue is great. Wally is found guilty... but then he finds out that there's actually someone behind his recent misfortunes: KADABRA *gasp!*









Flash #90 (May 1994) - "On the Run"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

The Flash is sentenced to stop being The Flash, but he can't do that right now because he must find Kadabra and punch him. So he's chasing a villain and the cops are chasing him. The situation is resolved when Wally makes Kadabra's hideout explode and the woman drops the charges against him (perhaps afraid that Wally will make her explode too) (again). Even though she was sort of in cahoots with Kadabra, Wally still feels bad about not being fast enough to save her legs and promises that will never happen again...








Flash #91 (June 1994) - "Out of Time"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

Obsessed with increasing his speed, Wally borrows the magic formula of Johnny Quick, a dude who can run fast thanks to the power algebra. So now he has Johnny's powers on top of his own Flash powers, becoming so fast that the entire world stops moving. Most of the issue takes place in the space of like half a second, with Wally walking around the city and trying to figure out how to unfreeze time.

I like to think of this issue as sort of a sequel to "Nobody Dies" (from William Messner-Loebs' run): they are both "gimmick" issues, but more importantly, they both deal with Wally's compulsion to save everyone, always. There's something slightly unnerving about it this time around, though, because Wally is actually making permanent changes to himself, and we're gonna see the consequences of that in the following issues.





Flash #92 (July 1994) - "Reckless Youth (Speed Kills, Part 1)"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally finds out he had a cousin he never knew about, mainly because said cousin comes from 1000 years in the future -- his name is Bart Allen, as in Barry Allen's grandson. Bart was born with super-speed and his powers are making him grow up fast, which means he's gonna die of old age in like 15 minutes if Wally can't figure out how to slow him down. The problem in this comic used to be that people weren't fast enough: now it's that they're way too fast.






Flash #93 (August 1994) - "Quick Study (Speed Kills, Part 2)"

(Mark Waid / Carlos Pacheco / José Marzan Jr., Ken Branch)

Wally must teach his future cousin Bart how to control his powers, but this is hampered by the fact that Bart was raised in a virtual reality and thinks the present is just another videogame. To him Wally is just another goomba getting in his way. Meanwhile, Linda is investigating (and getting death threats from) a snake-themed terrorist organization called Kobra.







Flash #94 (September 1994) - "Just Do It! (Speed Kills, Part 3) (Zero Hour crossover)"

(Mark Waid / Carlos Pacheco / José Marzan Jr., Wayne Faucher)

Lots going on in this issue: Linda is still being harassed by terrorists, Bart is still learning how to use his powers, and Argus is still a shitty character. Also, Max Mercury is lurking outside Wally's house, for some reason. And then... oh, fuck, Kadabra again? Seriously? Anyway, Wally is in the middle of a fight with Kadabra when DC's Zero Hour crossover barges in, transporting them both into the future. Sure, why not.







Flash #0 (October 1994) - "Flashing Back"

(Mark Waid / Mike Wieringo / José Marzan Jr.)

During Zero Hour Wally was swallowed by a wave of entropy while trying to save the universe and given for dead. Turns out he was merely lost in time. Wally ends up in his own past, where he meets his younger self and gives him a pep talk -- the cool part here is that he actually mentioned that pep talk in a previous issue, but couldn't remember who gave it to him. Clearly he made a huge impression on himself.







Flash #95 (November 1994) - "Terminal Velocity, Mach 1: The Dead Yet Live"

(Mark Waid / Salvador Larroca / José Marzan Jr.)

On his way to the present after his little time traveling adventure, Wally takes a small detour and catches a horrifying glimpse of the future. Whatever Wally saw, it's freaking him out and making him act all weird -- he's trying not to run so fast, which sort defeats the whole purpose of being The Flash. Meanwhile, after meeting a bunch of other superheroes during Zero Hour, Bart has a general idea of how they act and dress and decides to start calling himself "Impulse".







Flash #96 (December 1994) - "Terminal Velocity, Mach 2: All The Wrong Moves"

(Mark Waid / Salvador Larroca / José Marzan Jr.)

Despite his efforts to slow down, Wally is forced to speed up again to save Bart from those terrorist dudes they've been fighting, and something unusual happens: lightning bolts start coming out of his body. Linda is understandably creeped out by the fact that there's electricity emanating from her boyfriend. Wally explains to Linda that in his vision of the future, he ran so fast that he dissolved into lightning and died, so now he's trying to train Bart to be his replacement. Was that supposed to calm her down?






Flash #97 (January 1995) - "Terminal Velocity, Mach 3: The Other Side of Light"

(Mark Waid / Salvador Larroca / José Marzan Jr.)

Since Bart is a bit of a handful and Wally has no time to fuck around (seeing how he's gonna die soon and all), he recruits other speedsters like Jay Garrick, Max Mercury, Johnny Quick and Johnny's daughter Jesse to help train the little dude to be the new Flash. Max explains his theory about a lightning dimension called the Speed Force, the source of every speedster's power and the place they're sucked into if they run too fast. And that's why there were thunderbolts coming out of Wally's ass, you see.






Flash #98 (February 1995) - "Terminal Velocity, Mach 4: Hit and Run"

(Mark Waid / Salvador Larroca / José Marzan Jr.)

In this issue, Wally announces that his replacement will be... Jesse Quick (Johnny's daughter), because Bart is too much of an ass-clown to be the new Flash, evidently. He doesn't take the news well. Also, Kobra launches a full-on attack on Keystone City and Wally panics as his vision of the future starts coming true.







Flash #99 (March 1995) - "Terminal Velocity, Redline: Ultimate Rush"

(Mark Waid / Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca / José Marzan Jr.)

Remember when Wally said he wanted Jesse as his replacement? Yeah, he was just trolling Bart to get him to step up his game. Wally was also lying about what he really saw in his future vision: he's not the one who's gonna die, it's Linda! Wally changes the future by running fast enough to save Linda... and is sucked into the Speed Force in the process, turning his fake prediction into the real one.

I need to sit down for a moment.






Flash #100 (April 1995) - "Terminal Velocity, Overdrive: The Quick and the Dead"

(Mark Waid / Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca, Oscar Jimenez / Sergio Borjas, José Marzan Jr.)

Wally is dead (swallowed by the Speed Force), and his girlfriend Linda leads all the other heroes on the battle against Kobra, who's been blowing the shit out of Keystone City. On the most dramatic moment, Wally comes out of the Speed Force to save his friends one last time (SPOILERS), then he dies again (SPOILERS), but then it turns out he was alive (SPOILERS).

That's the end of the "Terminal Velocity" storyline, which incidentally, is way better than the Charlie Sheen movie of the same name. All snark aside, this is probably the greatest Flash storyline ever and certainly my favorite. Few #100 issues feel as epic and as game-changing as this one -- "Terminal Velocity" introduced a change so dramatic to the Flash mythos (the Speed Force) that it still applies today, even with the all reboot fuckery going on and DC pretty much pretending Wally never existed. That's pretty impressive. By contrast, when DC tried to turn Superman into an electrical being everyone forgot about that within two years.




Flash #101 (May 1995) - "Going the Distance"

(Mark Waid / Oscar Jimenez / José Marzan Jr.)

Now that he's been to the Speed Force and back, Wally has all sort of useful new powers, like for example the ability to vibrate across trees and make them explode. This issue is more about everyone hating him because he tried to manipulate them, and also about Linda trying to deal with the fact that her boyfriend is suddenly some sort of Lightning God. Great issue.







Flash #102 (June 1995) - "Running Away"

(Mark Waid, Michael Jan Friedman / Oscar Jimenez / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally fights Mongul, an obscure Superman villain who was, at one point, appearing in almost every DC Comic published at the time, for some reason. Mongul's impressive yellow biceps are no match for Wally's new powers, though. The fight scenes are very cool, but then we go into a boring plot about Linda's previously unmentioned ex husband getting in trouble that, unfortunately, is gonna last a couple more issues.







Flash #103 (July 1995) - "What I Did For Love"

(Mark Waid, Michael Jan Friedman / Roger Robinson / Mark Stegbauer)

Linda has run off to save her ex husband from whatever problem he got himself into, a mission that involves dressing like Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie Entrapment. Wally tracks her down, and then they run into some giant werewolves. That's the most exciting thing that happens in the whole comic, and unfortunately it's on the last page.







Flash #104 (August 1995) - "The Quickening"

(Mark Waid, Michael Jan Friedman / Roger Robinson / Jason Rodriguez)

Wally fights the giant werewolves, then a considerably more giant demon-worm thingy that erupts from the earth. Why? I have no idea, I've forgotten what this storyline was about, it was so boring. Wally and Linda reconcile and it looks like the storylne is gonna end, thank God... but then Wally is sucked into a mirror.







Flash #105 (September 1995) - "Through a Glass Darkly"

(Mark Waid, Michael Jan Friedman / Ron Lim / Mark Stegbauer)

A slightly more interesting story about the Mirror Master convincing Wally to help him track down his missing beloved, but then it turns out it was a lady he was trying to kill. Mark Waid was busy writing the Underworld Unleashed crossover at this point, so he asked another guy (Michael Jan Friedman) to co-write a few Flash issues with him, and that's why they feel a little off. It doesn't help that these came out right after "Terminal Velocity", which set the bar extremely high.

Also, note that the entire point of this story was having an excusde to tribute the cover of Flash (vol. 1) #105.





Flash #106 (October 1995) - "Back with a Vengeance"

(Mark Waid / Oscar Jimenez / José Marzan Jr.)

Remember Frances Kane, Wally's crazy ex with the magnetic powers? The one who was apparently rehabilitated the last time we saw her? Yeah, that didn't last very long: she's back, and her first order of business was to kidnap a bus full of nuns. And Linda. With all these stories about former lovers coming back, Flash is starting to look more like... you know... th-that show with all the former lovers coming back... (I don't watch a lot of daytime TV).






Flash #107 (November 1995) - "Fade to Black (Underworld Unleashed crossover)"

(Mark Waid / Oscar Jimenez / José Marzan Jr.)

Wally teams up with Captain Marvel to fight The Shadow Thief, a guy who... steals shadows, I guess. Normally they could whoop his ass in two seconds, but as it happens, Shadow Thief has just sold his soul to a guy called Nero in exchange for a power boost. Wally and Captain Marvel defeat him and then go off to finish this story in another comic (the Underworld Unleashed crossover event), but I don't actually have it, so let's pretend this is where it ends.







I think this batch of issues is one of the most tightly plotted runs in comics: we start with a seemingly pointless story about Flash fighting a stock supervillain in a mall, but then that leads directly into the lawsuit storyline, which leads to Wally wanting to enhance his powers, Terminal Velocity and... pretty much everything that happened to the character after that. This is also the point when the Wally and Linda's relationship really started becoming central to the stories, becoming Mark Waid's main tool for making the character evolve. It's no coincidence that this run starts with the "no turning back" moment in every relationship: the day she forces him to get a haircut.

Speaking of Linda, here's one of my favorite moments from these issues (from Flash #87):

I don't care if Waid intended that to be just some random dude at the Christmas party: that is clearly Wally's dad hitting on Linda, and there's nothing you can say to change my mind. That dude needs to come back. Anyway, my favorite moment for real is from #100, right after Wally comes out of the Speed Force to save his friends only to disappear again. Everyone's wondering what the hell happened, and then Max Mercury (usually a cool, mysterious dude) steps up and says:

That's just perfect. They should adapt "Terminal Velocity" into a movie just for that one scene. By the way, the art in these issues is probably as good as Flash comics will ever get. First we have the great Mike Wieringo in his prime, and then a string of impressive Spanish artists (Carlos Pacheco, Salvador Larroca) culminating in Oscar Jimenez, the new regular penciller for the series. These guys redefined The Flash's look as much as Mark Waid redefined the character -- the whole "he exudes lightning as he runs" thing really did a lot to make the comic more dynamic.

Next time: Future Flash! Speed ninjas! Other stuff!

Maxwell Yezpitelok is a writer from Chile. He likes doorknobs. Find him on Twitter (@mrmxy) or outside your house OMG

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