The Flash #215 Review

Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: The Secret of Barry Allen: Part Two — Reformed

Written by: Geoff Johns
Penciled by: Howard Porter
Inked by: Livesay
Colored by: James Sinclair
Lettered by: Pat Brosseau
Associate Editor: Michael Siglain
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics

I’ve been dreading the arrival of this comic for a couple of months now. Why you say? Well, back in Wizard #156 there was a little blurb about “The Secret of Barry Allen,” and the major revelation that would come out of this Identity Crisis tie-in. The bit talked about the “secret” about Barry Allen (who was the Silver Age Flash) that would be revealed in the storyline. The writer of the piece made it pretty clear that the secret would be that Barry Allen was gay.

That was possibly the most idiotic thing I’ve read about a comic in years. It’s not the fact that Barry Allen was gay, but more the fact that this would be some major event for the Flash. Current Flash, Wally West, has dealt with issues of learning the sexuality of a gay friend in the past, so we’re not talking about new ground for the character. Would the revelation that Barry Allen was gay be a crushing blow to Wally? I think not. Wally’s grown up to be a compassionate, loving person that accepts others for who they are. Yet, this whole thing gnawed at me. It just didn’t make sense.

Was this where Geoff Johns was going with the story? My good buddy Daron Kappauff and I had some deep conversations about this, and it just didn’t compute. Eventually we got to a point where we wondered if the revelation had something to do with sexual abuse. Perhaps Barry abused Wally in the Silver Age, and that would be the big reveal? It’s just silly, but the promotion of the “secret” didn’t mesh with the idea of Barry Allen being gay. In my opinion, Wizard‘s handling of the idea was badly done. It wasn’t just badly done, but it seemed exploitative. Barry Allen being gay wouldn’t be a bad thing, but it wouldn’t be a huge story either. We’re talking about a character that’s been gone for twenty years. Retconning his sexual preference does not make for good stories in the present.

Thankfully the big reveal turned out to be nothing of the sort, and was much more in keeping with everything going on in the pages of The Flash. The “secret” allows for some good stories now and in the future. Geoff Johns continues what he’s done since he took on the writing reins more than four years ago—revitalizing the Rogues Gallery. This issue focuses on bringing The Top back into the mainstream. The entire DC Universe has been returning to pre-Crisis, and even more so, a Silver Age status quo the past several years. That’s really what’s at work here.

Sales on The Flash have been rather robust lately, but Geoff Johns takes advantage of the potential for new readers picking up the book with its Identity Crisis crossover this month. While Johns tells a story steeped in decades-old Flash backstory, he does it in an enthralling way, spelling out the entire situation so as to draw in current and new readers. It’s a story with lots of backstory, but the weight of the issues fall firmly on Wally’s shoulders. Johns is using the past to add gravity to the present which is where the repercussions will be felt.

The story centers on a note that Wally West recently received from the care of Oliver Queen (Green Arrow). The note is from Barry Allen just a short time before his demise. The note spells out Barry’s greatest disappointment, and makes a request of Wally. The connection to Identity Crisis is a strong one. The revelation is in keeping with what’s going on in the Brad Meltzer penned miniseries, and the retconned characterization for Barry Allen adds more to the character, but more importantly it strongly affects Wally.

Howard Porter continues to make my jaw drop. Stylistically he’s near perfect on this title. Porter has a way of rendering the heroes and villains in his work in a god-like way; they’re larger than life, but also, somehow approachable and real. The wonder, excitement, and grandeur of heroes and villains are always present in Porte’s work.

We seem to be moving towards a return of the classic Top as he was envisioned in the 1960s. Geoff Johns continues to tell immersive character-centered stories featuring not just the title character, but a wide range of villains and supporting players. The Flash continues to be the best title on the market, because of Johns’ ability to characterize the entire cast.