Warning: SPOILERS for The Flash #50
The monumental issue of The Flash has arrived to determine if Barry Allen is faster than Wally West. But no matter the outcome, writer Josh Williamson promises that the next year of Flash comics will show that Barry Allen's speed was never his strongest superpower.
Still, when you base not just one DC superhero, but an entire family of them around the ability to run at near light-speed, the question of who holds the title of 'Fastest Man Alive' is going to be asked. The events of the heartbreaking Flash War determined that both Barry and Wally are faster than Superman, but Wally can reach the highest speed... provided Barry is there to push him.
Not through any Speed Force pseudo-science, or Barry Allen 'lending' his former sidekick any of his own speed (as has been done in the comics). No, it's that mentor who helps Wally run fast enough to save the day - for now. And when we got the chance to speak to the architect of the story, Williamson made it clear that Barry's encouragement is an endorsement of his gifts beyond just superspeed.
And it's those gifts that he's going to have to re-evaluate in the coming months, both as Barry Allen and The Flash, the now former Fastest Man Alive:
The thing that I was trying to do with Flash #50 is - and I've done this before, it's interesting to me - even from the beginning, one of the things I've been doing on the Flash book is when the Speed Force storm hit Central City, and the lightning went around and caused all these different speedsters, we played with the idea of there being a bunch of speedsters out there - so 'Why am I special?' Why is Barry Allen special? You kind of saw that it isn't the powers that make him a hero... That's Barry's fear.
One of the things I like to play around with is what makes The Flash? Is it just that he's the fastest man alive? Is it just about speed? Now in Issue #50 Wally is the fastest man alive, he wins the race. You saw him win the race [against Barry Allen and Superman] in #49. In #50 Barry tells him, 'You're the fastest man alive, I'm not the fastest man alive anymore.' But one of the things Barry does in #50 is he motivates and inspires Wally to run faster. Which is very much their relationship, and very much who Barry is. Barry is the character who inspires people to be heroes. He inspires people to do better, and that allows Wally to do better.
Since the start of DC Universe: Rebirth, the heart of this story has been resting on the renewed bond between Barry Allen and Wally West. So when news broke that Flash War would pit Barry and Wally against eachother, fans were rightly concerned. In the end, Wally's motivations were justified, and the lasting damage is more ideological than physical. But true to the promise of that original tease, Flash War did determine Wally is the fastest Flash.
But if you think that's a final, straightforward sign of who is the "best" Flash... Williamson reminds fans that each speedster, each hero, and each character is running their own race. And Barry's is just getting started:
I know a lot of people have always been saying, 'Well, Wally is the fastest, he's the fastest, he should be The Flash because of that.' And my answer back is... really? That's it? It just takes the speed part, like that's all it takes? I think that's the thing that Barry is going to be going through too. Barry is thinking, 'Why do I deserve to be The Flash? Do I deserve these things?' He has to figure out, on top of 'How do I become the fastest man alive anymore?' but 'How do I become the best Flash I can be?' And that's what the story is going to be with Barry moving forward.
Stay tuned for more teases of the past, present, and future of The Flash(es) from our interview.
The Flash #50 is available now from DC Comics.