The Flash is a title held by a number of speedsters in the DC Universe and created by Carmine Infantino. First appearing as Jay Garrick in the 1940’s Flash Comics for 104 issues before it’s cancellation in 194, and then reinvented in 1956 for the Silver Age with a new name, look and history, The Flash—known also as Barry Allen—was a young man who lost his mother to a violent crime, and had since devoted his life to finding the true culprit.
A sincere, albeit slow-paced forensic scientist with a knack for being absent-minded though devoted in his career, Barry Allen utilized a relentless search for the truth surrounding his mother’s death to solve the cases that came across his desk. Following the events of a laboratory accident wherein a shelf near him is struck by a powerful bolt of lightning, dousing him in a blend of electrically-charged chemicals that alter his chemistry, he is changed into The Flash–a human conduit with enhanced abilities and an urgent dedication to saving the world. Barry names himself The Flash after his childhood comic hero, Jay Garrick, a homage to the original Flash of DC’s yesteryear.
In a pair of red-tights, and later a super-suit created by University professor Ira West with a lightning bolt emblazoned across the chest, The Flash becomes Central City’s resident crimefighter–capable of running up the side of buildings, across leagues of water, through walls, time and dimensions. He invents the cosmic treadmill, which is used in many Flash storylines to date, and is generally regarded as being the most likeable characters of the DC line-up.
There is also Wally West, known as Kid Flash before taking the mantle as the third Flash, who is the nephew and sidekick of Barry Allen and brother of Iris West. Following the events of Infinite Crisis, he becomes the fastest Flash of the series, and as well as being one of the founding members of Teen Titans, his storyline introduces the concept of Speed Force to the DC Universe.
The Flash’s importance in the world is undeniable, as these are the first comics that introduce the multiverse to DC, which plays a large part in the development of all their storylines to this day. Not to mention the countless appearances in feature films, animated series and crossover comic titles.
The series has an iconic supporting cast of characters including Barry’s fiancé, Iris West; her adoptive father Ira; a friendship with Green Lantern/Hal Jordan and the notable members of Justice League such as Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and a host of super villains and enemies such as Rogues Gallery, Grodd, Reverse Flash and Black Flash.
With a character as expansive and fast-paced as The Flash, the comic-world definitely matches the pace. Here’s a list of the Top Flash Stories ranked by popularity, backstory and storytelling.
The Flash (New 52)
The New 52 reinvents Barry Allen as the second Flash, giving new dimensions to the character relationships between friends and foes, as well as introducing a new DC villain, Mob Rule.
The Flash discovers that he can speed up his brain function just as much as his body, but utilizing this power to defeat Mob Rule opens him to a world of consequences. Barry travels worlds through the Speed Force and meets the cunning and threatening Gorilla Grodd, whose violent reign over his own community spreads over into Central City. There are appearances by the Teen Titans and Kid Flash, as Barry finds himself on a mission to find who is leaving a trail of bodies of Speed Force users before that person can get to Iris West.
Collection: The Flash (New 52) #1-25
Writer: Francis Manapul
Artist: Brian Buccellato
Flash: Terminal Velocity
Wally West has a protégé in a young man named Impulse. As he trains him to be a capable new Flash, he must simultaneously take on Kobra and make sense of some sensitive information gathered while speed-traveling through time. While he keeps secrets to protect his friends and family from the dangers of his knowledge, Wally soon has to learn the lesson that he can't do it all alone.
This is a great team-up with Wally West, Impulse, Max Mercury, Johnny Quick, Jesse Quick and Jay Garrick. Each character has their own development happening along Waid's storyline, including Linda Park who is given a character-developing role that makes her more than just a latent love interest.
Collection: The Flash #95-100
Writer: Mark Waid
The Flash (Rebirth)
In the current and ongoing series of The Flash comics following the events of the DC Rebirth relaunch, The Flash, just as likeable and heroic as always, begins to uncover more about his powers and the secrets of the Speed Force while also discovering some hard truths about his past-the creation of a Flashpoint, the changing of history and more.
A convergence of universes brings about another speedster, leading to a meeting between Kid Flash and the "old" Wally West. The Rouge Gallery plots one last great attack on The Flash, and Wally uncovers secrets about his father. Iris West makes her appearance, as well as the Silver Age team-up between Green Lantern and the Flash that recreates some of the best moments of Flash history.
There are appearances by all the Rogues Galley villains-Captain Cold, Mirror Master, Weather Wizard, Golden Glider and Heat Waver, as well as Reverse-Flash as they combine their powers to overwhelm The Flash's abilities with life-or-death choices.
Collection: The Flash (Rebirth) #1-27
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Flash by Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison and Mark Millar delve into the Flash universe with new concepts and characters to introduce to the mix-from a disembodied costume that drains the life essence from the wearer, a time-and-space race to save the world from destruction, team-ups with heroes of DC legend Green Arrow and Green Lantern and personal stories including Jay Garrick and Wally's love interest, Linda Park. One of the more notable creations during the Morrison-Millar run would have to be the inception of Black Flash to the DCU, a character concept that is just as important today as it was upon first release.
These issues are a blend of sci-fi and reality-suspending surrealism, where we see Wally West's Flash take on a great burden of responsibilities and confusingly bizarre missions, but The Scarlet Speedster always come out as a capable hero when allied with a formidable team.
Collection: The Flash #130-140
Writer: Grant Morrison, Mark Millar
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Introducing the cosmic being Monitor (first mentioned in The New Teen Titans Vol 1 #21); a cataloger of realities from the beginning of time. His evil counterpart, the Anti-Monitor, hatches a sinister plan to become the ruler of all realities and begins his destruction of multiple universes with an anti-matter wave. Monitor recruits the heroes of several Earths to merge the multiverse into one, but even their forged limbo universe can't withstand the encroaching effects of Anti-Monitor and his allied forces for long.
Before the publication of Crisis on Infinite Earths there was no solid, reliable character backstory for many of the major league players in the DC Universe, including The Flash. Crisis on Infinite Earths sought to change that by explaining the conflicting origins as a Multiverse containing numerous Earths and versions of these characters.
Barry Allen plays an important role in the events that unfold during the Crisis, and isn't seen again in DC comics until decades later with the revival of the second Flash.
Collection: Crisis on Infinite Earths #1-12
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: George Perez
Flash by Geoff Johns Omnibus
The Flash breaks through space and time into a parallel Earth, where things seem the same as they were in his own universe except for one glaring issue: the lack of a Speed Force. With no connection to the Speed Force, he's found himself in a place where The Flash has never existed, and where masked heroes aren't only unwanted, but hunted down by police without cause. With no one trust, and nowhere left to turn in an unfamiliar world, he's forced to accept help from the only available source, the villains of DC past-the Rogues Gallery!
Geoff Johns takes hold of The Flash in the new millennium and brings us Wally West, The Fastest Man Alive!, as he faces off against a grouping of classic villains that have all been reimagined with new strengths, intelligence and substance to turn them into true opposition for The Flash. This five-year run extends the DC Universe, compiles a roster of Wally West's family, including his wife Linda, and the introduction of new villains for the future to come.
Collection: Flash #164-176
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Scott Kollins
The Flash: Rebirth
Barry Allen has been gone but not forgotten for the past 23 years. When he miraculously returns to life after a series of accidents in Central City, friends and family of the late Flash couldn't be more excited-everyone but Barry, who finds himself caught in the surreal struggles of getting back to the reality of living after dying. Something doesn't feel right to Barry about the cheapness of cheating death, and his paranoias and suspicions prove to be warranted.
When he and the speedsters share a violent shock from the Speed Force, Barry goes in search of answers with Wally, where an encounter with the Black Flash leaves him tainted by the dark energy. Thus begins a countdown to find who is behind the series of chaotic events before the essence of Dark Flash destroys the Speed Force and the people in Barry's life.
Appearances by the Justice League, Justice Society and all the familiar faces of the second Flash's storyline show up in this comic book-a team of well-known speedsters, including Johnny Quick, Max Mercury, Jay Garrick and Wally West all play significant parts in the unfolding of the events. For new readers, this touches on each of the detailed events of Barry Allen's personal life and history, making it a fantastic place to start your Flash journey.
Collection: The Flash: Rebirth #1-6
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ethan Van Sciver
Barry Allen wakes to a world where he has never been the Flash, and the Justice League was never formed into an alliance. Although his family is alive and the events of the past didn't result in the loss of loved ones, he still finds himself in a more brutal, violent timeline where heroes and friends are in war against one another, and the familiar allies of the Universe are in a tailspin.
Aquaman and Wonder Woman have started up a world war that is quickly overtaking landmasses with death and destruction; Superman seems to not event exist in this world, later to be found locked inside of a Project vault. Batman-now Thomas Wayne, as it is his son, Bruce Wayne who is killed by bullets in this timeline-helps to recreate the accident that altered Barry into The Flash, all before the memories of his past life are diminished.
The Flashpoint comics are a crossover story arc that allow for a radical change in DC Universe, eventually leading to the launch of the New 52. It includes a crossover with titles such as Batman #21-22: The Button, wherein the Batman comes under attack by Reverse Flash, Booster Gold, a series of sixteen separate three-issue stories, and a number of one-shots that follow the known heroes and villains of DC, but reconfigured for a new universe.
These issues have a host of supporting characters and appearances that span the Flash/DC universes, including Cyborg, Element Woman, Enchantress, The Outsider, S!H!A!Z!A!M!, Hal Jordan sans the Green Lantern title, the Marvel Family who transforms into Captain Thunder, and Eobard Thawne (Reverse Flash) aka Professor Zoom.
Collection: Flashpoint #1-5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Andy Kubert
Flash: The Return of Barry Allen
Wally West, having taken up the mantle of The Flash after the death of his uncle, comes face-to-face with a seemingly resurrected Barry Allen after he and Jay Garrick prevent a robbery on Christmas Eve. This Barry isn't the one that Wally remembers, though the Green Lantern's (Hal Jordan) ring tells everyone otherwise. With two of the same hero in town, Wally steps into the shadow of his predecessor to reconfigure what he should do with his abilities.
As an increasingly erratic and confused Barry begins to exhibit aggressive behaviors that imply he may not be the hero that once risked it all for Central City, Wally must push past his anxieties to protect the city that he loves. With the help of several speedsters in the DC Universe, including Max Mercury, Jay Garrick and Johnny Quick, Wally will have to fight for his title as the Flash, and come to terms with the truth behind his uncle's madness.
Collection: The Flash #74-79
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Roy Richardson