Friday, March 6, 2015

The Flash Secret Files and Origins #1

A Run of Luck

Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, Story
Kenny Martinez and Anibal Rodriguez, Art
Gaspar, Lettering
Tom McCraw, Coloring
Digital Chameleon, Separations
Paul Kupperberg, Consulting Editor
Frank Berrios, Assistant Editor
KC Carlson, Editor

Our cover by Steve Lightle and Patrick Martin is rather classic, yet a little dull. I guess they had to keep it simple to fit in all those words. This is, after all, a special 64-page issue with four separate stories, a two-page timeline, a family tree, and 15 profile pages. There's a lot going on here, but not a whole lot of Impulse. So let's take a look at where he does pop up, beginning with the main story.

The main Secret Origin story begins with an unknown narrator recounting the origin of the original Flash, Jay Garrick. He was a lousy football and an overworked scientist, who fell asleep one night while experimenting with hard water. The strange mixture of fumes gave him super speed, which he used to win one football game, but later decided to use his new powers for good, becoming the superhero known as the Flash.

The Flash became so prolific, he later earned his own comic book series, which was a favorite of Barry Allen's. He was another scientist, who was struck by lightning and bathed in a strange mixture of electrified chemicals. Following Jay's example, Barry also took up the mantel of the Flash and became an enormously popular superhero as well.

Barry's biggest fan was his fiancee's nephew, Wally West. His aunt Iris left Wally in Barry's care one day, and he decided to arrange a meeting with the Flash for the lad. While telling Wally his origin story, the same accident fatefully occurred, this time bathing Wally in the chemicals, giving him super speed as well.

For several years, Wally worked with Barry as his sidekick, Kid Flash. But after Barry sacrificed his life to save billions during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, the now grown Wally decided to wear Barry's uniform and carry on the legacy of the Flash. Our mysterious editor then briefly explains how Bart Allen, grandson of Barry, was brought from the 30th century to the 20th.

And ... wait. Did Bart just kiss that guy? I know he's impulsive, but to kiss a guy who's shooting at him? That's a bit too random for Bart's standards. Anyway, the narrator briefly mentions the fact that many other heroes throughout the future kept the legacy of the Flash alive. We then see our mysterious narrator was Bart's other grandpa, the evil President Thawne, whom Bart encountered during his adventure to the 30th century with his mom.

Thawne visits the Flash Museum and rejoices in the recent deaths of the Tornado Twins — Don and Dawn Allen (Bart's dad and aunt). Thawne visits the Cobalt Blue statue and obtains a mysterious gem, which he then presents to a cult-like group of followers. As Thawne announces his victory over the Allens, Wally West secretly spies on him from the shadows.

The ending there is leading into Mark Waid's next big Flash story, Chain Lightning. But he won't get to that until after his year-long hiatus. In the meantime, Grant Morrison and Mark Millar will take over the Flash. And we'll get to their first two issues, which debuted during Flash Month. But first, let's see what else this Secret Files issue had.

Immediately after the main story, we're treated to a handful of profile pages, starting with Wally West (Flash III), Barry Allen (Flash II), Jay Garrick (Flash I) and Impulse.

This page was written by Mark Waid, with pencils by Craig Rousseau and inks by Barbara Kaalberg. I particularly like the image of the rabbit outracing the turtle, especially since Humberto Ramos intentionally strove to make Impulse look like a rabbit. Since my picture of this page can be tough to read, I'll type up everything here:

Quicker Than Thought: Impulse. Impulse can vibrate through solid object without harm. He would gladly trade this ability for the power to fly. Bart Allen has inherited his grandfather's special ring, inside which he stores his Impulse costume.

Real Name: Bartholomew (Barry) Allen II (I think Waid made a mistake here. Bart has never been called "Barry.")

Occupation: Student

Place of Birth: 30th century Central Cityplex

Base of Operations: Manchester, Alabama

Marital Status: Single

Height: 5'1"

Weight: 105 lbs. (115 with shoes)

Eyes: Yellow

Hair: Brown

First Appearance: Flash #91 (June, 1994)

Bart Allen, 30th century grandson of Barry Allen, inherited the powers of his bloodline but no control over his speed. Hyper metabolized, Bart aged fourteen years in the space of his first two and would soon have died of old age had his grandmother not brought him to the 20th century, where Wally West found a way to temper Bart's accelerated system. Since Bart grew up in a VR environment set to match his speed, he still thinks the world around him has a big "reset" button and doesn't really understand the concept of danger. Poster child for the judgmentally impaired, Bart — a.k.a. Impulse, the most fitting super-hero name in history — moves straight from idea to deed without ever pausing along the way for the stage others call "thinking." He is kept alive solely through the grudging effort of his mentor, Max Mercury. Posing as Max's nephew, Bart lives in a small, slow Southern town. He believes this is punishment. He is correct.

So that pretty much sums up all you'd need to know about Impulse, written in an appropriately humorous manner. Next up in this issue is profile pages for Jesse Quick, Max Mercury, and a two-page interview with Max, in which he basically avoids every question and says as little about his past as possible.

After that is a profile page for John Fox, the future Flash, followed by a quick four-page comic by Brian Augustyn and Craig Rousseau, featuring a 1940s adventure with Jay Garrick and Max Mercury. We then get more profile pages for Linda Park, the Pied Piper, the Trickster, Professor Zoom, the Rogues Gallery and Gorilla Grodd.

Up next is a guided tour of the Flash Museum, written by Scott Beatty, pencilled by Todd Nauck and inked by Lary Stucker. Curator Dexter Miles briefly describes each of the major exhibits in the museum, but unfortunately he has nothing to say about Impulse, since that display is under construction. Although we are able to see a photo of Impulse, which he has autographed "To all my fans."

I could be mistaken, but I do believe this is the first time Todd Nauck drew Impulse, which is significant since he will soon be doing so on a regular basis in the Young Justice series. I absolutely love his style and can't wait till I get there. Nauck also drew a small Impulse toy, which was being used by a photographer to catch the attention of a little kid. One of the features of the museum allows families to get their pictures taken in Flash costumes. So we see the dad dressed as Grodd, the mom as the Flash, the kid as Captain Cold, and the photographer as the Blue Beetle.

We then get profile pages for Kadabra and Savitar, followed by a two-page timeline, which includes cutouts of Impulse and XS from the cover of Impulse #9, drawn by Humberto Ramos. The timeline tells us that Impulse appeared in the 20th century one year ago. Flash #91 established that date as May 12, 1994, but since comic books move much more slowly than real life, I guess we now have to say Bart arrived in 1996. The future dates are also changed from Flash #91, which had Iris making her great escape with Bart on June 12, 2995. But now, according to the timeline, Bart was born in 2980 and traveled back in time in 2982. Of course, it's entirely possible to explain these inconsistencies with several major continuity-altering events that happened after Flash #91, such as Zero Hour and even Genesis.

The last page of this issue shows a small fragment of the Allen Family Tree discovered by the Flash Museum in the 30th century. This document (written by Mark Waid) shows that Barry Allen is the son of Henry and Nora Allen. Barry married Iris West, and they had Don and Dawn. Dawn married Jeven Ognats, and they had Jenni, aka XS. Don married Meloni Thawne, and they had Bart. The fragmented paper shows that Meloni remarried and that Bart had a child, but both those lines are cut off. We also see that Iris' nephew, Wally, was married to an unknown person and had at least two kids. The only one we see is Iris West II, aka Flash IV.

So that's some pretty exciting stuff from a simple family tree. Many of these things will come to pass in upcoming years, although I don't think we ever learn about Bart having any children. All in all, this was an awesome issue, even with it's disjointed style. Sometimes I get frustrated with these secret origin comics, but when the subject material is good, I love it. The history of the Flash family is fascinating, and this comic clearly and cleanly presents it all in a way that can educate new readers and still entertain comic veterans.

There aren't any new ads, nor are there any letters to the editor, so I'll see you next time with a very quick look at Speed Force #1.

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