Warning: SPOILERS for The Flash #50.
The final chapter of the Flash War event of DC's The Flash comic has finally answered a subject of debate between fans of the franchise. Which version of The Flash is the fastest - Barry Allen, or Wally West?
First introduced in Showcase #4 back in 1956, Barry Allen is probably the best known incarnation of The Flash to modern audiences, if only because of his presence in the Justice League movie and the popular television series, starring Grant Gustin. Barry would go on to give his life to save the universe in the 1985 story Crisis On Infinite Earths, inspiring his protege and nephew, Wally West (a.k.a. Kid Flash), to take up his mantle. Wally would go on to discover The Speed Force - an energy field that empowered and protected all of the speedsters in DC Comics' universe - and develop a level of power his uncle had never possessed.
This changed drastically in the current reality of DC Comics (a.k.a. The Rebirth Reality), where the timeline was rewritten so Barry Allen had discovered The Speed Force early on in his career and Wally West was trapped inside The Speed Force until Barry Allen pulled him out of it.
While it had previously been assumed that Wally was far faster than his mentor, having had more time to explore The Speed Force and what it can do, Barry's nature in the new timeline made that fact less certain. While Wally's experimentation with The Speed Force allowed him to develop a number of powers Barry didn't seem to have (such as the ability to drain the velocity from objects already in motion) that still didn't mean he could outrun Barry.
The recent Flash War storyline saw the two Flashes pitted against each other, thanks to the machinations of the villain Zoom, who reminded Wally of the existence of his two children and suggested that they were trapped in The Speed Force as he had been. This led to Wally attempting to break The Speed Force open and Barry trying to stop him.
This was all a part of Zoom's larger plan, which hinged on Wally's actions allowing him access to a number of energy fields beyond The Speed Force, including a Strength Force and Sage Force that offered increased physical and mental prowess. Determined to use his newfound power to rewrite his past, Zoom raced into the depths of the time-stream with Barry and Wally in hot pursuit. It was here that Barry did what all good teachers do and encouraged his student to become better than him, reminding Wally that while Barry was "always so lost in the science of The Speed Force," Wally knew how to enjoy the speed and cut loose in a way Barry couldn't. Spurred on by Barry's words that he was truly The Fastest Man Alive, Wally goes on to run literal circles around Zoom and save the day.
The victory is a Pyrrhic one, however, and the aftershocks of Flash War will be felt for some time to come. Zoom is still at large and The Speed Force itself has been altered in ways that may not be wholly apparent. Doubtlessly future issues of The Flash will continue to explore the changes wrought by the Flash War and what they could mean in the face of DC Comics' ever-changing cosmology could prove truly shocking.
The Flash #50 is now available from DC Comics.