WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for The Flash #64
The world of superheroes is full of comparisons and match-ups, both real and imaginary. Who's smarter: Iron Man or Black Panther? Who would win a fight between Spider-Man and Deadpool? And of course, who is faster: Flash or Superman? In The Flash #64 DC Comics has answered an often overlooked but still important question concerning the Scarlet Speedster. Who's the better detective: Batman... or the professional CSI, Barry Allen?
The Flash #64 is the second chapter in a crossover story that sees Batman and The Flash team-up. The crossover is also a direct tie-in to the event comic Heroes in Crisis where The Flash's former sidekick Wally West was murdered. Still reeling from Wally's death (for different reasons) Batman and The Flash work a case together that seems to be related to his murder. In the course of their investigation, the two cerebral heroes end up confronting their own abilities and failings about who is truly the better crime-solver.
Related: Wally West's Murder Gets a New Twist
Batman is the first to raise the question, albeit in his internal monologue. The Flash #64 opens with Gotham Girl, a recent rogue in Batman's gallery attacking The Flash Museum, bringing the Crimson Comet and Caped Crusader to investigate. It's here where the rivalry takes it's most interesting twist, with The Flash's own thoughts revealing he has no doubt: Barry believes that Batman is the far better detective, since he sees evidence and clues so much clearer and more analytically then The Flash.
This "exchange" seems to settle the matter altogether. Yet as The Flash #64 continues a different truth reveals itself. The Flash #64 confirms that Batman is much more analytical and discerning than The Flash--but that doesn't make him the better detective. As Barry and Bruce tackle the case, Bruce presents the evidence in a dry, clear-cut way, while Barry approaches things far more compassionately. Barry's mode of crime solving isn't just to figure out how something happened, but why it happened. The Flash approaches crimes from a human angle, while Batman (as in so many aspects of his life) lacks the 'human' touch.
This becomes a huge failing of The Dark Knight as The Flash #64 reaches its climax. Barry and the audience learn simultaneously that Batman knew there was something wrong with Gotham Girl mentally. Yet after he spoke to her once, he pushed the fragile girl out of his mind and moved onto other crimes and activities. Batman never checked up on Gotham Girl to see after her well being. Understandable given Batman's life of constant threats... but also something that Barry can't even imagine. This is the difference between Flash and Batman, and why the former is truly the better detective.
When a case is closed for Batman, it's over. But even when the case is solved, The Flash is still concerned about those involved victim and culprit alike. The Flash doesn't just solve crimes, he's working to prevent future ones.
The issue does more than answer a petty argument. The Flash #64 is a deep dive into a character dynamic that's rarely touched on in comics. It's often Batman and Superman who are used as mirror images as one another. Flash #64 makes the case that there's just as much to explore between Bruce Wayne and Barry Allen as Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. Superman's innate hope challenges Batman's basic personality, but Barry's compassion challenges Batman's skills and analytical nature. The Flash might be younger, but Batman has a lot to learn.
The DCEU versions of Batman and The Flash are in a bit of a strange place. Ezra Miller's solo Flash movie has been delayed several times. Ben Reeves' The Batman is evidently coming in 2020 but it'll be without Ben Affleck in the role. Yet consider that the DCEU's Justice League was formed by Batman finding The Flash first it would be interesting for DC to take this dynamic from the comics and transfer it to the big screen. Batman being forced to reconcile that he's not the world's best detective from Barry Allen would be a fascinating new angle for both characters.
The Flash #64 is available now from DC Comics.