FLASH #95 - "Terminal Velocity, Mach One: The Dead Yet Live" w: Waid, a:Larroca/Marzan. Cast:
  • Wally West, formerly Kid Flash, now The Flash (Flash III)
  • Linda Park, investigative reporter - Wally's true love
  • Iris West Allen - Wally's aunt, and widow of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash (Flash II)
  • Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash (Flash I) --and:
  • Bart Allen (Impulse) - grandson of Iris and Barry, cousin to Wally, youngest twig on this speedy family tree.

    == Wally, racing home from the Crisis in Time (TM), catches a horrific glimpse of the future destruction of Keystone City. Meanwhile, at Wally's house, Linda prepares a welcome party, steadfastly (with Bart's backing) refusing to believe Wally can be dead. Jay explains that Wally disappeared in an energy rift... He does arrive, but is obviously troubled and his attempt to cover it doesn't fool Linda. He announces his plan to kick Kobra out of town with Bart's help, but refuses to let Jay join them, and is decidedly wound overtight during their raid on Kobra's HQ. Raid is botched by Bart's joyfully reckless tactics - Kobra's hydroelectric plant is destroyed, but he's not put out of commission. Wally chews out and ditches Bart, and races home to confess to Linda - and show us - that something's very wrong: the hyperspeed he had to pour on to cross 44 centuries has changed him, and what we see in the Flash costume is not at all Wally but a creature of living electricity. Whew.

    ---First official use of Bart's codename "Impulse" (he vetoes "Kid Flash").

    FLASH #96 - "Terminal Velocity, Mach Two: All The Wrong Moves" w: Waid, a: Larroca/Marzan.
    Cast: as above, plus:

  • Max Mercury, time-travelling Golden Age speedster, the "Zen master of speed"
  • Johnny Quick, also a Golden Age speed hero
  • Jesse Quick, Johnny's daughter and protege'

    == Wally tries to explain/comprehend what happened to him when he "cruised the far side of lightspeed" and goes looking for speed guru Max Mercury, who might have the answers. He finds, however, not Max but an angry Bart, who socks him and reminds him that he read Bart the riot act during their raid on Kobra. [Bart mentions spending some time with the Teen Titans, as of #0. Haven't seen these, so if they leave a gap in the history, pray forgive.]

    ===It becomes obvious the cousins are not getting along. Bart wants to just run until they find Kobra and then kick butt; Wally wants a plan. Some Kobra goons teleport in and there's a brawl in which Wally gripes that Bart fights "like a pinball with fists". Wally's exertion brings on the transformation to energy and even Bart is stunned to quiet at the sight. Wally, however, chews him out again and Bart, fed up, takes off. ("Listen? Listen? To what? All you ever do is yell at me! You keep talking about teaching me the ropes...but you haven't shown me one useful thing! Go eat a brick!") [It will be noticed that the Flash version of Impulse sounds, in general, older and more like a 20th-Century teen than he eventually will in his own book. Bart's is a subtle characterization which I believe Waid just needed time to fine-tune.]

    Lord Kobra himself arrives from Tibet to take command of the operation and scare the lackeys - especially because Wally's now in possession of one of their energy receptors.

    Wally finds Max...or rather Max finds Wally....and Linda angrily learns that Wally didn't tell her the whole truth about his lightspeed experience [i.e, the Vision o'Doom]. Max and Wally discuss Bart's training problems and change their plans, and there's a classic last page. "Let me introduce you to the faculty..." says Wally to a startled Bart, as the entire clan of cyclone rangers stands assembled: Max Mercury, Wally, Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick and Johnny Quick. Wowee!

    FLASH #97 - "Terminal Velocity, Mach Three: The Other Side of Light" w: Waid, a: Larocca/Marzan. Cast: as introduced on last page above. ==While the speedsters give Bart the crash course in Applied Velocity 101, Max Mercury tells his life story. In 1838 he was Ahwehota, "he who runs beyond the wind", who got his super-speed from a Blackfoot shaman. One night he "felt the night lightning calling him" and could have merged with the Speed Force -- the energy-source and Valhalla of speedsters -- if not for a moment of fear. At that moment it spat him out, a half-century down the timestream, and he went on hollow and numb with shame at his failure.

    Meanwhile, Linda tries to continue her investigation of Kobra, but finds herself stonewalled at every turn; Iris pitches in to help. Her office is bugged and Kobra is watching her.

    Max goes on to mention his other past identities - Windrunner, Bluestreak, Quicksilver, and finally Max Mercury. He's tried and tried again to merge with the Speed Force, but has only managed to travel in time. It's the lightning's call that Wally hears now, says Max. Pragmatic Johnny Quick snorts at the whole idea, having no time for mystical foofaraw. Jay Garrick is more thoughtful and says he felt summoned himself, once...

    They run into a Chillblaine robbing a bank and use it for some tension-relief action and a point-blank test of Bart's ability to vibrate through missiles aimed a t him (he passes, and gets a round of applause =). The Chillblaine's butt duly kicked, they drop in on Piper, who confirms that the backpack Wally got from Kobra's shooter is not a powerpack but a receiver - meaning Kobra has a transmitter somewhere nearby. The speedsters zoom up the spectrum to trace Kobra's energy source. Wally sees to his horror that the whole city is under an ultraviolet umbrella, and finally tells all to the assembled runners. He's seen his future: he's going to pass to the other side of light whle Kobra destroys Keystone City. And that's why Max tries but fails. He's known for some time what Wally now knows; when you give in to the call, and go over to the other side, you can't come back.

    Which - Wally goes on - makes it doubly important to have a Flash-protege' in the wings; and then he drops the bomb. He'd like that protege' to be Impulse, but Bart's just not ready for the responsibility, and the mantle of The Flash passes to - Jesse Quick.(Huh?!)

    FLASH #98 - "Terminal Velocity, Mach 4: Hit and Run" w: Waid, a:Larocca/Marzan. Cast: as above.
    ===Bart says "You suck." Wally says "Live with it." --Guess that's that. Jesse, after all - though a bit green hero-wise - is a "dedicated student of the power," a scholarly quoter of the history of speed and speedsters, and though she uses her dad's mathematical formula [3X2(9YZ)4A] instead of communion with the Force for her speed, she's less of a skeptic than Johnny. Wally professes faith in her, but sees-all-things Max senses a plan at work...

    Wally says that he knows the event that kicks him beyond the light barrier will come during a major battle w/Kobra. If that battle can be forced ahead of schedule, Wally won't have to push it to top speed, won't make the final transformation to energy, and all is saved. But we have to find the rest of the power sites...

    Kobra mutters ominously about the trouble The Flash has caused him; maybe he'll have to unleash Project Morpheus ahead of schedule...

    Wally finally tells Linda almost everything. Almost.

    Jesse and Bart scout the Keystone Gardens (--Bart meets his first trees and flowers: "So this is what they really feel like. Cool.") and find greenhouses full of solar panels - Kobra's next power source! --Great dialogue here:

    Jesse: "We've busted him. Let's go make some noise!"
    Bart: "Wait!"
    Jesse: " 'Wait'? You? Who are you and what have you done with Bart?"
    === They vibrate the greenhouse walls, causing a deafening shriek that not only agonizes Kobra's goons but shatters the glass. Way cool.-- Bart: "Come on, let's go file a report with Lightning Boy and Captain Zen!"

    Linda, Iris and Piper head off to track down Kobra in a swiped newsvan...

    Wally and Max discover the next energy source: windpower generators in a faked cornfield, easily taken out with two instant tornadoes. Kobra ups the ante, setting a forcefield around the city. The speedsters take off, but only Wally and Jesse get inside before the field locks down...

    FLASH #99 - "Terminal Velocity, REDLINE: Ultimate Rush" w: Waid, a: Pacheco/Larrocca/Marzan. Cast: as above.
    === Wally and Jesse on one side of the field, and Max and Bart on the other, have the same, interlocked conversation: Wally never at all meant Jesse to be the next Flash. It was always Bart he had in mind, and the maneuver was intended to shock Bart, to make him take the situation seriously. Wally apologizes haltingly to the bitterly angry Jesse; Max works to get Bart past his anger, to show him discipline's needed, and concentrate his energy on vibrating through the forcefield.

    Piper, in Linda's van, traces Kobra's energy beam; Kobra's located his HQ on top of a fault line and plans a massive geothermal tap that will power the giant laser of Wally's nightmare vision. Kobra teleports an assassin into the van; our team shoves it right back out. Ain't no turnin' back now.

    And so Linda, whose life must at all costs be saved, places herself right square at ground zero (Piper: "In the center of town? When I was a crook, we were much more subtle...") for the big battle, despite all Wally could do...except the one thing he should have done, which was TELL her about it...

    Jesse Quick saves Wally and at cruel cost takes a laser shot meant for Linda, nearly severing Jesse's leg. Wally realizes the laser tracks speed, so he daren't go near Linda to save her; but then guess who rips thru the next panel? Bart (hooray!) who got through the forcefield, and figured that the laser couldn't track two near-identical speedsters at the same time. He's right; trying to heatseek Wally and Bart at once, it scrambles and backfires. Big scene: Wally gives Bart full credit for saving everything, including the Flash's legacy. (wow.)

    Not saved yet though: Kobra crawls up to get one more manual shot out of the laser. And Wally must, as foretold, kick it to lightspeed to beat the laser to Linda. He transcends - using the Quicks' verbal formula to freeze time just long enough to tell her goodbye - and in a blaze of lightning is gone.

    Linda's in shock; Bart makes a speech he would never make now ("He wanted me to wear the lightning...to make true the last words he said to me... and by God, I will.") - charges tull-tilt into Kobra's nest, and to all appearances gets incinerated on the spot. Total shock, and Kobra roaring in triumph that "without a Flash to stop me-- KOBRA WILL RULE THE GLOBE!" Things look bad...

    [Comment: - the "by God" is nicely resolute and all, but really rings off tune, especially in light of our later knowledge that Bart is quite understandably hazy on the whole concept of religion. Can only assume that Waid hadn't thought that through yet and just wanted Bart - seemingly, at that dramatic moment, the only possible next Flash - to make a stirring declamation.]

    FLASH #100 - "Terminal Velocity, Overdrive: The Quick and the Dead" w: Waid; a: Larrocca/Jimenez/Brojas/Marzan.
    Cast: as above.
    ==Bart's not dead, but he's in bad shape. Wally's only-heaven-knows-where. It's up to Linda and Piper to take Kobra out. Kobra, however, has activated his legions of zombie "sleeper agents" across the country, and chaos erupts nationwide. (Guest appearances by GL, Hawkman, Supes, Batman and Robin et al. in their respective cities.)

    Piper whips up a transformer that uses Bart's speed vibrations to topple Kobra's transmitter tower. Jay Garrick and Jesse Quick are aiding in evacuations and Red Cross operations, and Max does some seismic work to open up an escape fissure for the terror-stricken mob, while Linda, nothing left to lose, wades in with a couple of Uzis to go mano-a-mano with Kobra. Looks hopeless...

    but then in a blaze of lightning...you guessed it. Wally, or a radiant apparition thereof, knocks Kobra right off the map and into the grip of a very angry Max Mercury ("If this is really the end-- if no one gets out alive--then I will see you pay, you --") - and then totally takes down Kobra's operation, the huge geothermal tapping-tower, once and forever.

    And is gone. Was it a vision? A hallucination? A last chance from beyond the grave?...Jesse's leg is healed, good as new, by the wash of primal energy; Kobra's zombies are mopped up like spilt milk; and it's Linda who spots him first.... Wally himself, live and normal-looking and same as ever. Well, not really: he's in direct synch with the Speed Force now, the fastest Flash ever, an evolving creature... but he came back from the heaven of speed, because Linda, the one-and-only Linda, wasn't there. True love, indeed, the universe's strongest force.

    Comment overall: Waid's thoughtful and incisive character writing and split-second plotting truly make this series shine. Despite the density of the plot (I had no idea these summaries would need to be so long!), Waid never loses sight of his people. The intensity of Wally and Bart's relationship assumes nearly as much importance as the deep love between Wally and Linda, which is the cornerstone of this book. Wally, driven almost to panic by the horror of his vision of fast-descending doom, has no time to waste on subtlety and tries to whip Bart into hero shape as fast as possible -- exactly the wrong approach to take with Bart, who requires patience, patience and more patience along with some emotional support (for Pete's sake, he's a lot younger than he looks!). I like to think that under better circumstances, Wally (who isn't all that grown-up himself, really) would have remembered his own Kid Flash days and cut the youngster some slack. But these were far from better circumstances. Anyway, the abrasion of their relationship served to make it clear that Bart was not going to be Kid Flash, and that his mentorship would be falling to another senior speedster.

    Flash and Kid Flash, 1964

    Times gone by...Barry Allen and Wally West as Flash and Kid Flash.
    (from FLASH #149, Dec. 1964.)

    --Go on to between-arc appearances of Impulse and the Flash/Impulse "Dead Heat" arc.
    --Go back to Next Generation Flash mainpage.