Jason Sacks: “He is gone now, this Flash… Barry Allen. Gone saving more than one universe from certain doom. He has died fighting for what he believed in. And thus he died… without regret. Though his death is unknown to all but one, he will be mourned. Trust us, he will be mourned.”
Hate on, you haters. Complain about the cheesiness and non-ironic sincerity of Crisis #8. Complain about the ridiculous super-heroic elements and the sometimes incomprehensible twists and turns. Complain about how this issue is absurdly jam-packed with cameos from DC super-heroes as diverse (and long forgotten) as the Challengers of the Unknown, Blue Devil and Firehawk. Wonder why Darkseid has a cameo and how the Justice League don’t know Cyborg.
Me, I’l going to bask in the glory of this thoroughly delightful comic. Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 is the apotheosis of super-hero comics from a certain era, a towering parade of perfect moments that reflect a deep love for a certain set of characters. It’s a crazily busy character study that gives every hero and villain his or he perfect moment in the sun, a glorious, moving and special moment that flows from the knowledge that this series is created, in part, as an elegy for a lost era.
That’s most true when it comes to the way that the Flash is portrayed. This isn’t the perfect Barry Allen that fans of the transcendent 1960s Flash remember. This is a Barry Allen who’s been beaten down by everything that he faces and still emerges as a true hero. He is the only one who can stop the Anti-Monitor’s plan to destroy all the universes, so Barry has no choice but to act. Barry has been accused of murder, has lost everybody important to him, has been tortured by the Anti-Monitor and still, as he says, “I have no choice. More than my life is at stake. Everything that’s ever mattered to me… everything that’s ever been important… the lives of everyone on Earth and throughout our universe… in the present, and in the future… that’s what I’m fighting for now.”
Because Barry is a hero. He’s the fastest of them all, and in his soul, he may be the best of them all. Though Crisis #8 gives readers great moments for Darkseid, and Brainiac-5, and Psycho-Pirate, it’s clear by the end who the true hero is of this comic. He wore red. And he will be missed.
Daniel Gehen: Well, he’s back now Jason, so thank the current DC leadership for cheapening the greatest death in the history of comics.
Zack Davisson: I agree with the sentiment, although disagree with the specifics. I wouldn’t say this is the “greatest death” in the history of comics–or even in Crisis, (that would be Supergirl) but yeah it sucks that they brought him back. I mean … this was a good death. A really good death. And DC just squandered that like they did for pretty much every cool death they had in this series.
Actually, it’s all for nothing anyways, right? Because I just got down reading the modern wonder that was Convergence, and with a single panel they made this entire series neverwas.
So what the hell are we reviewing anyways?
DG: Kidding aside, this issue is far different from any other in Crisis because it spends most of its time focused on one narrative. Sure, there’s a brief interlude involving the Justice League up at the Watchtower, and about one page dedicated to the Green Lantern Corps, but this issue is all about the Flash.
Kyle Garret: I have to interject here, Dan, because you’ve said the magic words: the Justice League. Because to me this wasn’t just a brief interlude, but the incredibly organic formation of an extremely interesting incarnation of the Justice League — and yet it never came to pass!
ZD:Huh. I never even thought of that. But now that I am reading it, I can see it. Weird, because this is totally NOT the Justice League that did form.
KG: Picture it: Firestorm, Firehawk, Vixen, Martian Manhunter, Cyborg, Red Tornado, and the Atom (if you want a larger team, you can even add on John Stewart and Blue Devil). The way they come together is so great and reads so much like an origin story, that I’m amazed, reading it again after all these years, that it wasn’t an origin story. Such an interesting cast and, shockingly enough, actually diverse.
Don’t get me wrong, I am glad as hell that we ended up getting the Justice League book we got (one of the greatest series of the 80s, no doubt), but I loved how this particularly story went down. All the sadder that it was ultimately pointless.
Also: Sword of the Atom. God bless you, pre-Crisis DC, and you’re constant attempts at making your enormous universe of vanilla superheroes somehow different from each other. The Sword of the Atom series (and special) are some totally random and fun comics with wonderful Gil Kane art.
Okay, Justice League diatribe complete, back to our regularly scheduled review…
ZD: Well, not quite back, because you’re interlude reminded me of Sword of the Atom. I loved that series so much. I had no idea who the Atom was other than what I had seen in Crisis, but I was into anything with a sword at that time. I got into comics via Conan, and totally accepted a bunch of miniature people running around with swords. I never realized how bizarre it was at the time, but it was a lot of fun. I’m going to go digging for those in my longboxes. I know they are somewhere.
OK, now back to Crisis …
DG: In revisiting this issue, I’m reminded how power and selfless Barry Allen’s final run is. There is an undeniable sense of dread that permeates each panel. With “THE FINAL FATE OF THE FLASH” emblazoned across the cover, there’s little doubt about what is about to happen. Yet, I can’t help but feel joy as I turn each page.
Even though I grew up in the era of Wally West, Barry has always been my Flash. Admittedly, Barry has always been a bit of a stiff. Throughout his publication history, writers from Gardner Fox to Cary Bates failed to give him much of a personality. But under Marv Wolfman’s pen, Barry is full of passion and intensity which culminate in this declaration:
“But I have no choice. More than my life is at stake.”
During his run to destroy the Anit-Monitor’s cannon, Barry remembers those near and dear to his heart. His parents, Iris, Wally, Hal, Ralph, and Sue all get mentioned as professes his love for them one last time. And then, just like that, he is gone. It’s not only the end of Barry Allen, but the end of an era as well. It was the Flash that kickstarted this the Silver Age and the Multiverse-era of the DC Universe. It’s only fitting that his death would mark then end of both.
ZD: This was my first Flash comic, but I still think of Barry as the real Flash. I was never a fan of the character, but reading Teen Titans it put Wally West in my mind as Kid Flash–not the Flash. Even now he seems like Dick Grayson putting on the Batman suit, like a kid in dress-up clothes. I’ve read way more issues of Justice League and such with Wally in the red suit, but Barry remains the iconic Flash. And this issue probably has a lot to do with it. I never read Barry’s regular comics–to me he remains this tragic figure sacrificing himself, all alone where know one will ever know. That’s a powerful introduction.
KG: I am a fan of Barry as an idea. Wally West was my Flash. In fact, he was ultimately most people’s Flash, given his role on every DC related show up until the New 52. I don’t have the numbers, but I would guess that he easily dwarfs Barry in appearances as the Flash, let alone any appearances at all. Wally was, in many ways, the epitome of what made DC different than Marvel: legacy. DC had legacy characters; Marvel did not.
But, you know, that was getting in the way of Superman losing his red swim trunks, so it had to be destroyed.
Still, I thought Barry’s death was unbelievably moving, even if over stated. Seriously, Wolfman, would thought balloons have killed you? Who talks out loud like that to themselves while they’re dying?
DG: I had that exact same thought when reading this! I’ve been running either for teams or on my own for almost 15 years, and the one thing I never do it talk. It slows you down and makes breathing difficult. We can’t even use the Speedforce as an excuse because this issue is about 10 years before it would be invented.
ZD: I’m glad I read these for the first time when I was a kid, because things like that don’t bother me. I never looked for logic as a kid, or asked the question “why.” I just accepted this fantasy world where people talked about what they were doing while they were doing it. And more than that, I appreciated. Illogical nonsense that they were, those storyline sign posts allowed me to dive into a brand new world without being completely lost.
I think when you start asking too much “why,” when you try to explain too much, comics loses some of it’s magic. It’s one of my issues with modern superhero comics—that drive for realism, for realistic clothes, for realistic powers, means the end of some of that fantasy. However, in reverse the individual stories have started having less meaning. Things like death in comics–it used to be heartbreaking. It used to mean something when characters died. Now, it’s just become a running joke … (yes, yes .. pun)
Imagine what would happen if they did the same thing with Game of Thrones. That is a story marked by death. If a sudden wave of the magic wand brought everyone back to life as if it neverwas, there would be outrage. And justifiably so.
I wish they had let Barry stay dead.
KG: While Barry’s death was clearly the meat of this issue, that last page had resonance, too, assuming you’re familiar with the DCU at all. The Spectre was the biggest of the big, the kind of powerhouse that put Superman to shame. The Spectre just showing up meant bad shit was happening. The Spectre showing up and screaming? Yeah, that’s not good.