The Full Run: Mark Waid's Flash (Part 4)

A column article, The Full Run by: Maxwell Yezpitelok


Welcome to The Full Run, where we review every issue of a comic book run we like in just a few lines, because we're lazy and so are you. This time we'll look at the final part of Mark Waid's Flash -- Will Waid's last two storylines on the title live up to the undisputed classics he produced during his first few years? Read on for the definitive take on the subject.

Recap: Last time we saw Wally (The Flash) West, he'd just asked his girlfriend Linda Park to marry him and she said yes. It's probably just smooth sailing for them from now on, right?


Flash #142 (October 1998) – "Get Me to the Church on Time"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Pop Mhan / Chris Ivy)

This issue gets 10 points for the Bowie reference in the title. It's Wally and Linda's wedding day and everything seems to be going swell, until he puts the ring on her finger and she magically disappears -- not just from the church but from everyone's memories. And from this comic, for like a year. If you've been paying attention, you can probably guess which villain is responsible.





Flash #1,000,000 (November 85,271) – "Fast Forward (DC One Million Crossover)"

(Mark Waid, Michael Jan Friedman / Josh Hood / Jose Marzan Jr.)

This issue is part of the DC One Million crossover, in which all DC comics jumped to the year 85,271 (for added realism, each issue cost $500,000). It was a cool series, but honestly, most of the tie-in issues were pretty skippable and this is no exception. Here, Wally fights far-future versions of Captain Cold and Heat Wave in the planet Mercury. Pretty typical stuff.




Flash #143 (December 1998) – "Like Wild Fire"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Pop Mhan / Chris Ivy)

At last, the epic return of Cobalt Blue! Who the fuck is Cobalt Blue, you ask? A fake Silver Age Flash villain with speed-stealing powers who supposedly fought Barry (The Previous Flash) Allen once and never showed up again (until now!). That's not the biggest retcon here, though: That would be the last-page revelation that Cobalt is also Barry's previously unrevealed twin brother.





Flash #144 (January 1999) – "Nature vs. Nurture"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Pop Mhan / Chris Ivy)

Alright, so I might as well mention that this storyline gets pretty convoluted, and it starts here.

In this issue we learn Cobalt Blue's tragic life story: As a baby, right after being born to Mr. and Mrs. Allen, young Cobalt was given away to a family of con men by a drunken doctor. Later, he gained superpowers from a magic crystal and used them to seek revenge on the brother he never met, Barry. Also, he's the ancestor of Barry's enemy from the future, Professor Zoom.




Flash #145 (February 1999) – "The Gathering Storm (Chain Lightning, Chapter 1)"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Vince Russell)

Wally looks into Cobalt Blue's magic crystal and sees a prophecy: Cobalt Blue's descendants will "consume" two Flashes at some point in the next thousand years, and then Barry Allen will die. Again. Somehow. At his supervillain twin bro's hands this time. Wally gathers the Speedster Squad and sends each of them to a different time period to warn the future Flashes.





Flash #146 (March 1999) – "Time Like a River… (Chain Lightning, Chapter 2)"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Vince Russell)

Jay (The Old Flash) Garrick and the other speedsters arrive at different points in the future and help the Flashes of each era defeat Cobalt Blue's crystal-powered descendants, then they send those guys to other time periods to warn even more Flashes about the prophecy. Let's try not to think too hard about it. Meanwhile, Wally visits John (The Dick Flash) Fox, who is still a dick.





Flash #147 (April 1999) – "Shooting the Rapids (Chain Lightning, Chapter 3)"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Vince Russell)

Wally jumps in time again to pay a visit to another major dick: Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. Just to mix things up, in this time period the current Flash is evil (that would be Zoom) and Cobalt Blue is a good guy (and a distant relative of Wally). Meanwhile, Jay Garrick eats ice cream with Wally's future teen daughter from Kingdom Come. That was the best part, actually.




Flash #148 (May 1999) – "Undertow (Chain Lightning, Chapter 4)"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Vince Russell)

The jumping around continues, with future Flashes hooking up left and right. Unfortunately most of them aren't terribly interesting. There are some cool scenes with Impulse, XS (his cousin from the Legion of Super-Heroes) and Wally's daughter. Also, Jay gets possessed by the crystal, turns evil and changes into a sweet Madman-like costume. Then Barry Allen shows up.





Flash #149 (June 1999) – "Whirlpool (Chain Lightning, Chapter 5)"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Vince Russell)

It's Wally West and pre-dead Barry Allen versus evil Jay and an army of possessed Flashes in the 30th century. Wally and Barry seemingly defeat Cobalt Blue's curse, but then the crystal kills Barry anyway, which is a bit of a problem because he was supposed to die a bit later (from his point of view), saving the entire universe, no less. As a result, the universe is totally fucked.





Flash #150 (July 1999) – "Finish Line (Chain Lightning, Chapter 6)"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Vince Russell)

A Crisis on Infinite Earths tie-in, sort of. Wally travels back to 1985 and attempts to replace Barry at different points during the Crisis, but it doesn't stick. Eventually he remembers he can just travel in time to save Barry at the moment when he was killed and does just that, then dispatches Cobalt Blue with his usual "running really fast until the villain disintegrates" method.

The end of this double-sized issue makes it clear that Wally has died saving Barry (so that Barry himself could die 15 minutes later under the correct circumstances), but then, on the last page, a mysterious Flash in a dark costume appears on the present, thus kicking off the Dark Flash saga…



Flash #151 (August 1999) – "Territorealis"

(Joe Casey, Mark Waid / Duncan Roleau, Paul Pelletier / Aaron Sowd, Jose Marzan Jr.)

…but before that, here's a fill-in issue by Joe Casey and Duncan Roleau, which is actually pretty neat. This is a flashback story from Wally's days as Kid Flash, in which he teams up with a talking gorilla called Montague to prevent a war between the talking gorillas and the talking humans. Includes an unlikely guest appearance by Buck Wargo (from Guy Gardner: Warrior).





Flash #152 (September 1999) – "New Kid in Town"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Dark Flash fights Dr. Alchemy, but that only takes up like two pages of this issue. The rest is devoted to Wally's friends trying to figure out who this guy is and getting worried because Wally hasn't come back from the future yet. We also see Linda for the first time in about a year, escaping the room where she's been trapped all this time only to fall into some kind of limbo.





Flash #153 (October 1999) – "The Folded Man"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Dark Flash versus a new villain called The Folded Man, a guy who can move between the second, third and fourth dimensions by, you know, folding himself. I remember reading this issue as a kid and being utterly confused, but it all seems so simple now. Meanwhile, Linda lands in an alternate reality where Wally's name is Walter and he's a wanted psychopath.




Flash #154 (November 1999) – "Dimensionally Challenged"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Second part of the Folded Man fight, which Dark Flash wins with some help from sexy CSI Angela Margolis. Also second part of Linda's adventures in psychopath land, where she learns that this version of Wally (or Walter) lost his mind after she was killed by Kobra during the events of Flash #99. Walter starts going all psycho on her, but then another Wally shows up…





Flash #155 (December 1999) – "Payback Unlimited"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Right, this is gonna take some explaining: 

After the end of #150, Wally (the real one) got lost in Hypertime (remember Hypertime?) and his love for Linda led him to this alternate dimension where he starts fighting his psychotic twin, Walter, over her. Back in the main reality, Dark Flash fights The Replicant, a guy who copied all the powers of the Rogues Gallery villains (so like Amazo, but with a more limited scope).




Flash #156 (January 2000) – "Convergence"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Jose Marzan Jr.)

Wally and Walter are in the middle of duking it out when the villain mastermind behind all this confusion reveals himself: freakin' Kadabra! When confronted with an even bigger asshole than himself, Walter sees the error of his ways, puts on a dark costume and travels to the last page of Flash #150 -- becoming the Dark Flash to replace Wally (who is lost in Hypertime, again).





Flash #157 (February 2000) – "Setting the Stage"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Doug Hazlewood, Jose Marzan Jr.)

Kadabra explains his plan: He kidnapped Linda way back in #142 and erased her from everyone's memory to mess with Wally. Honestly, what happened to just shooting people? Anyway, now that Wally is (apparently) dead, Kadabra wants to destroy his replacement, Walter, aka Dark Flash, and teams up with Replicant and Professor Zoom, because why not. 






Flash #158 (March 2000) – "Reverse Flash"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Doug Hazlewood)

...except that wasn't really Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash, that was Wally, the Regular-Direction Flash in disguise. Posing as Zoom, Wally tricks Kadabra into ending the Linda-vanishing spell and he is defeated. The only problem is, now that Wally and Linda are back, what are they gonna do with Walter/Dark Flash? Is this the start of a Big Love-type situation?





Flash #159 (April 2000) – "Whirlwind Ceremony"

(Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn / Paul Pelletier / Jose Marzan Jr.)

The Hypertime Police (Superman and Wonder Woman) show up to put a stop to Walter's chronal/moral corruption. Since he's from another reality, he can't stay in ours for much longer or the world will explode or something. Walter goes off to explore the multiverse as Wally and Linda finally get around to finishing their wedding, 17 issues after starting it (Chunk cameo!).





Flash #160 (May 2000) – "Honeymoon on the Run"

(Brian Augustyn / Scott Kolins / John Holdredge)

Wally and Linda try to get some alone time during their honeymoon, but everywhere they go they keep getting interrupted by Kobra, who has fallen on some hard times. Also featuring the return of Lady Savage/Flash/Savitar/Kobra/Flash again. This issue is more notable for being the first one penciled by Scott Kolins, although he's barely recognizable under John Holdrege's inks.





Flash #161 (June 2000) – "Honeymoon in Vegas"

(Pat McGreal / Paul Pelletier / Doug Hazlewood)

Another fill-in flashback story, this one set in the 1940s: a just-married Jay Garrick is trying to celebrate his honeymoon in Las Vegas when the Justice Society and some villains decide to stop by. No, not for an orgy, although interestingly, there are some panels of young Mrs. Garrick in a nightgown that look like someone's tried to trace them… oh, that's just my copy? Huh.





Flash #162 (July 2000) – "Magic Words"

(Brian Augustyn, Mark Waid / Paul Pelletier / Doug Hazlewood)

Flash and Captain Marvel versus the Y2K bug! No, seriously. Sorcerer Felix Faust was so disappointed when the coming of the year 2000 didn't kill every machine on the planet (he literally sits in front of a TV and goes "Blast it!") that he created a spell to turn the world back to the Middle Ages. Wally and Linda set things right, with Cap tagging along as the third wheel.





Flash #163 (August 2000) – "Heartbeat"

(Pat McGreal / Ron Lim / Doug Hazlewood)

A clever fill-in story (before Geoff Johns took over the title) that mostly takes place in the span of a single second as Wally runs across the country to prevent various DC heroes from interacting with bomb-rigged objects, without them ever knowing it. Oddly enough, Pat McGreal, who wrote this issue, also wrote the Elseworlds miniseries Flashpoint. Coincidence? Yes.








Mark Waid (and his co-writer for this last batch of issues, long time Flash editor Brian Augustyn) did a tremendous amount of pre-planning for these last two storylines, especially "Chain Lightning": Cobalt Blue showed up as early as 1997 in short stories included in Flash Secret Files and Origins #2 and the Speed Force Special. Waid then had a full year to work out the details of his time traveling epic while Grant Morrison and Mark Millar filled in for him on the title. Add that to the fact that they managed to score Paul Pelletier (the single most consistent Flash artist since Mike Wieringo) and it's like this storyline had everything going for it.

Unfortunately, the result feels a little like paint-by-numbers storytelling -- it's all so carefully calculated that there's no room for spontaneity. I get the impression that they'd left some space in those issues to develop the personalities of the future Flashes, but the inspiration was long gone by the time they actually got around to writing that part and as a result most of those guys are pretty forgettable (and in fact, as far as I know they've never shown up again).

On the other hand, the "Dark Flash Saga," despite getting a hundred times more confusing than the already convoluted Chain Lightning, did manage to bring some much needed new energy into the title with its mysterious main character, a new love interest and a couple of interesting new villains. I've pointed out before how overused Abra Kadabra was in this particular run (this was the fourth time a mysterious figure in the shadows turned out to be him), but this being Mark Waid's last storyline, the choice was appropriate. Honestly, if they'd gone with Captain Boomerang or something I'd probably be asking "Where the fuck was Kadabra?"

For me, one of the coolest moments in Waid's entire run comes from Flash #156, when Kadabra hits Walter with energy bolts but he keeps getting up and speeding up his metabolism to cure himself, aging his body in the process and slowly turning into the older, scarred version of Wally we saw under the Dark Flash's mask a few issues earlier. Still, as much as I enjoyed this saga with its gloriously labyrinthine twists and turns, I have to admit that it loses a lot of its mystique when you already know the ending -- reading these issues for the first time back in 2000 and speculating on the Dark Flash's identity was half the fun. (I should have probably mentioned that before going ahead and spoiling everything for you, huh.)





Keith Silva takes over The Full Run for a look at Bill Sienkiewicz's run of The New Mutants. Then, eventually, Danny Djeljosevic reads through the entire Geoff Johns run of The Flash.



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