As more and more comic book properties are adapted to film (with DC and WB’s massive slate bringing most of the publisher’s top heroes to theatres by 2020), the notion of a ‘true version’ of these characters is already a heated topic among fans. With canonical origins changing every decade, keeping up to date is a full-time job; luckily for those eagerly awaiting DC and WB’s movie universe, a fresh start has recently arrived in the publisher’s company-wide New 52 reboot.
With The Flash TV series already established on The CW and a movie coming to theaters in 2018, audiences are poised to meet two different takes on Barry Allen. Therefore, a crash-course in DC’s current view of the Scarlet Speedster might be needed for even longtime fans. Look no farther than “Move Forward,” the first New 52 Flash story arc from writer Brian Buccelato and artist Francis Manapul.
We’ve broken down the biggest changes to comic book canon that are sure to interest fans – changes which also set a precedent for some significant – but faithful – changes for every live-action adaptation of The Flash in the coming years.
1. The Impeccable Patty Spivot
Ask any Flash fan who it is that holds Barry Allen’s heart, and they’ll tell you: where Iris West goes, Barry follows. That’s part of the reason why TV audiences were disappointed that the pair’s relationship was tweaked for The CW’s Flash TV series, but in “Move Forward” the writers go even further. It’s brilliant police scientist Patty Spivot who Barry’s fallen for, working to solve Central City’s murders at her side.
Iris is still present as her old reporter self, hounding Barry for insider details on open cases. But in the new origin, Iris and Barry only enjoyed a single date, before Barry “dropped the ball” and put an end to their romance before it even began.
2. Augmented Cognition
It’s a plot hole cited in The CW’s Flash series already: if Barry can do everything at superspeed, why would he ever choose to stand still and fall prey to his enemies? Bucellato and Manapul offer an answer by explaining that Barry’s muscles have little to do with his brain tissue; he may MOVE fast, but THINKING fast is a different story. Anyone can confirm that even a normal mind can ‘race’ when it’s overloaded, so to keep on the level, Barry must practice a science known as Augmented Cognition (or ‘AugCog’).
With the time to see, hear and touch absolutely everything around him, AugCog holds the true key to Barry’s exceptional skills; taking in all information at once, analyzing situations, and mentally testing out plans before putting them into place. Sound like a perfect way to lose track of what’s happening and what could? It is – and it almost costs Barry his life.
3. New Powers
It isn’t just accelerated movement or cognition that Barry’s connection to the Speed Force makes possible – he also has the ability to vibrate his molecules with enough energy to phase through solid objects (an effect known as ‘quantum tunnelling’). Barry finally starts putting that power to use while fighting in “Move Forward,” allowing punches to swipe right through him. With those powers already alluded to by The Flash TV series’ writers, perhaps they also hold the key to star Grant Gustin’s combat efficiency as well.
However, in the latest reboot, the speedster can now also pass that vibrational intangibility onto other objects – including a passenger airliner. The comics have made this ability canon, so how long before movie or TV audiences see Barry finally stop worrying about dodging attacks at all, or allow an explosion to pass right through the bricks of the building surrounding it? Fans can (and likely will) let their imagination run wild.
4. Re-imagined Rogues
As far as villains go, The Flash has always been able to claim some of the most memorable and… unique in all of comics. But with the New 52 reboot, even the Flash’s Rogues get an update. Captain Cold – and his iconic Cold Gun – are re-imagined, with Leonard Snart undergoing an experimental procedure designed to imbue his own body with ice-based abilities. The Flash is nothing, if not a trendsetter.
It’s proven a controversial change to Cold (and the rest of the Rogues), but his first encounter with The Flash confirmed that even Barry was capable of underestimating his old foes, with murder finally being put on the table by the traditionally calm Captain Cold. It’s still unclear if either the TV or movie Flash will keep the gadgets when it comes to the Rogues, or follow a similar path. But “Move Forward” shows what kind of action is possible if the show/film writers adapt the latest origin.
5. The Cosmic Treadmill
The Flash’s superspeed may help him get to work on time (in theory, at least), but the Speed Force powering Allen’s abilities has also been put to use as a form of time travel; most notably in the “Flashpoint” story line which spawned the entire New 52. But fans of The CW TV series (already including time travel) have yet to see how the infamously unexplained Cosmic Treadmill – the device allowing Barry to travel through time – will be grounded for modern audiences.
“Move Forward” does much of the legwork by introducing Dr. Darwin Elias, a scientist who, in an attempt to help stabilize Barry’s connection to the Speed Force, crafts the new Treadmill as a ‘release valve’ to help direct Barry’s effect on the fabric of space-time. With the need to cover half the globe removed, Barry can channel the extra-dimensional force directly – producing one heck of a clean energy at the same time.
Those are just a handful of the changes made in The Flash‘s most recent comic book reboot, and it should be easy to see how they could lead to some serious action and spectacle on either film or TV. How much the upcoming adaptations will follow or take inspiration from Buccellato and Manapul is anyone’s guess, but these five points alone are evidence of serious potential.
To see the changes, new powers, and updated take on Barry Allen, pick up a copy of The Flash Vol. 1: “Move Forward” for yourselves (buy it here), and be sure to tell us your favorite Flash (and your feelings about Barry’s New 52 origin) in the comments below!
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW. The Flash movie will be released on March 23, 2018.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on The Flash as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.