NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for “The Flash” #1-5
The most devout fans of The Flash can tell you that while Barry Allen has cemented his place in comic book history for his powers, persistence, and character, it’s the Speed Force that makes his heroics possible – and the Speed Force has a mind of its own. DC Comics fans have noticed more than a few prime examples, with Barry’s re-writing of history through the Force launching the New 52 , and even allowing Wally West, the former Kid Flash left out of the reboot to pop back into the mainline continuity. And with “The Flash: Rebirth” things have gotten even stranger.
With the top priority for DC being a return to their heroes’ legacy, that’s actually easier said than done with Barry Allen… considering he never strays too far from the goodhearted hero he’s always been. So instead of turning that idea on its head, writer Joshua Williamson decided to narrow in on Barry’s leadership and heart more than ever before. The scarlet speedster’s “Rebirth” storyline isn’t just giving Barry a new villain, a new sidekick, or a new mission: it’s giving him all of the above – and more.
The Flash’s New Partner: August Heart
For those who may have missed out on the dozens of new speedsters to join the DC Universe in “The Flash: Rebirth,” we’ll start at the beginning. That beginning is actually Detective August Heart (the name really says it all), a good cop in the Central City Police Department who, like Barry Allen, faced some heartbreaking family tragedy. It was August who was there the night that lightning turned Barry Allen into a superhero, and in the years since has developed a strong (working) relationship with the forensic scientist – relying on his ‘gut’ and instincts where Allen relies on his brain to dissect a crime scene.
But as The Flash laments the fact that even superspeed can’t let him be two places at once, that problem puts August in harm’s way. While The Flash fights a fire, August winds up in the path of a criminal’s bullet – and Barry is a moment too slow to save him. Luckily, the Speed Force intervenes: August is struck by a wild bolt of lightning, granting him the same speed powers as Central City’s guardian angel. Barry is stunned, but reveals his secret identity to August, and begins a new chapter of crimefighting.
It’s worth mentioning that Barry actually wonders if he willed this very thing to happen; if his longing to do more, and be more places subconsciously recruited August into the same elite club. That question has yet to be answered, but Barry’s not complaining: with a cop he can trust at his side, The Flash and (no codename decided yet) take on crime not as ‘a hero and sidekick,’ but as legitimate partners.
The Flash’s New Lady: Fast Track
As it turns out, Barry succeeded in subconsciously calling out for more than just one new Speed Force-powered super friend. When Central City was struck by a ‘Speed Force storm,’ lightning bolts rained down from above on plenty of unsuspecting citizens. Thankfully, one of those subjects turned out to be a S.T.A.R. Labs employee (the cutting edge scientific organization working with Flash to uncover the secrets of his powers.
The employee in question is Dr. Meena Dhawan, a brilliant ARGUS-turned-S.T.A.R. scientist who has spent her own time (and superspeed) discovering that Barry was the ‘lightning rod’ for the Speed Force storm – and showing that their speed wasn’t the only thing they had in common. And since Barry has been struggling to find a balance between his job(s) and his close friend Iris West, a woman who shares his gifts and intellect gets the sparks flying almost immediately. In later issues Meena shows she’s got the same solid gold heart, too – and even leaps into action in her own super-suit as ‘Fast Track,’ named for her unique Speed Force ability to sense and track others tied into the same energy.
Speedsters in Training
Since Dr. Dhawan is capable of sensing individuals who were also struck by Speed force lightning during the aforementioned storm, she’s perfectly equipped to start recruiting those affected. But before any fans think that S.T.A.R. Labs is out to build a speedster army, it’s Dr. Dhawan whose compassion is leading the program, seeking to keep these people safe, and train them to master and experiment with all their newfound abilities.
It’s a role that Barry accepts as his responsibility, too, having trained others in the ways of the Speed Force before, and now having the chance to do it for dozens more, many of them children. The story so far has yet to truly spotlight any single recruits, aside from a girl named ‘Avery,’ but the biggest plot development centering on these Speed Force trainees is the key difference between them and Barry. In her research, Meena discovered that while Barry’s link to the Speed Force is solid, the rest of the speedsters are, for lack of a better word, ‘sharing’ it.
While that may sound generous, it also means that when two or more of them start accessing their powers next to eachother, the Speed Force’s desire to be made whole overpowers the separation. In simple terms: whoever wins the race gets all the powers of those they’ve beaten. And that’s definitely going to be a factor with the story’s brand new villain…
Not to be left out of the fun, the other Wally West (introduced in the New 52, and yet to truly adopt the role of Kid Flash) has also been developing his own link to the Speed Force. Readers got a few glimpses of Wally showing superspeed in “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1, but “The Flash” has yet to give him the same ability on a consistent basis. Wally is using the Speed Force before the storm strikes, but also looks to be hit by lightning all the same. And even though S.T.A.R. Labs is advertising a ‘Speed Force Training Center’ where kids like him can come to hone their skills, Wally’s aversion to communities or clubs means he’s not interested.
Luckily, it’s Dr. Dhawan to the rescue, sensing that Wally is struggling with his powers (and may need emotional coaching, as well as superpower) and offering to train him on her free time, away from his peers. Wally accepts – and even helps her save some lives during their session – but his presence in the program, or on Barry’s growing team of speedster partners is still a bit of a mystery. Bonus for fans: one scene shows Wally struggling to manifest his own costume out of the Speed Force – and the yellow suit should be familiar to every fan of the Kid Flash legacy.
Godspeed – The Villain
It wouldn’t be a “Flash” story without a superspeed villain, and the “Rebirth” is no different. And with a name like ‘Godspeed,’ this evil speedster certainly makes an impression. His true identity is unknown, or even if he was a bystander struck during the Speed Force storm. What we do know so far is that he is completely aware of the fact that being faster than the other speedsters around him means stealing their speed for himself (and killing them in the process).
A few mix-ups have followed since, meaning Godspeed is still at large – and also aware that there is an entire training center filled with Speed Force users, turning their new gifts into a curse before they’ve event mastered how to use them. Williamson teased prior to the “Rebirth” launch that Godspeed would be more than just a menacing monster, and would raise questions that Barry Allen – and the reader – may have a hard time answering. All we know so far is that his suit is as unforgettable as his name – so cementing him alongside other nemeses of The Flash is off to a good start, at least.
The Flash #5 is available now.