Warning: SPOILERS for The Flash #50
Every DC superhero calling themselves The Flash just lost one of their biggest superpowers. The conclusion to the 'Flash War' event in The Flash #50 changed a lot for DC’s speediest heroes and the universe at large. Yet one of the biggest impacts is that The Flash no longer has access to time travel.
The end of Flash War, which really ended up being more of a 'Flash Disagreement' between Wally West and Barry Allen, saw the two Flashes put aside their problems to defeat Hunter Zolomon, the “new Flash" A.K.A. Zoom. Wally and Barry, of course, succeed. Hunter is neutralized (for now)... but the battle did take its toll. And not just on the heroes, but for the foreseeable future of The Flash comics.
After Wally and Barry take down Hunter Zolomon, Commander Cold (who has escaped from a destroyed 25th century) drops a bomb on the elder Flash. Due to Wally breaking the Force barrier, the Speed Force has become detached from the space-time continuum. In other words, Barry learns that The Flash can’t time travel anymore.
Breaking the Force Barrier was the first step in Zoom’s plan that resulted in Flash War. Hunter convinced Wally that if he could “break the Speed Force” he could free his twin children, Irey and Jai who were trapped inside it. This turned out to be a lie, and resulted in Hunter getting a host of new powers. Defeating Hunter made the breaking of the Force Barrier seem rather meaningless until this revelation about time travel was unearthed. No more time travel makes The Flash’s life much more difficult, especially when it comes to Wally’s continuing mission to reunite with his kids.
Without time travel, Wally has a whole new set of roadblocks in trying to find and free his twins from wherever (or whenever) they may be in the DC Universe. However, the lack of time travel really can only improve the character of The Flash and stories surrounding them. The Flash’s ability to time travel has always made them one of the most powerful heroes in the DC Universe. Yet, in recent years especially, The Flash’s ability to literally run up and down the timeline has been utilized a bit too much. From 2011’s Flashpoint onwards The Flash’s time travel has been comics’ get-out-of-jail-free card for the Scarlet Speedster.
Time travel has become a bit of a storytelling crutch. This is especially true on The CW’s The Flash TV series where Barry Allen has made a habit of traveling through time. The loss of time travel in the comics makes Wally and Barry’s lives more difficult... but also infinitely more interesting. There is no easy solution on the table now that time travel is out the window. Wally, and more importantly the creative team behind him, can’t fall back on him going so fast that time itself changes around him. The solution for Irey and Jai’s return will have to be a lot more clever or, at the very least, more complicated than just running at it.
The Flash will eventually get his time travel powers back. If people don't stay dead in comics, a whole subset of The Flash's powers won't remain missing either. However, the limitations should last for awhile. It also wouldn't be the worst idea for the movies and a TV show to copy the change either, especially the latter. The Flash can and should do much more than be able to time travel.
The Flash #50 is available now from DC Comics.