In the ever-evolving landscape of fandom, there are simply some things that should not have happened. In Retcon This!, we examine some of the more questionable aspects of our beloved geek properties.
I’m not going to say much about the resurrection of Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash. In my opinion he died a heroic death, is a bland character, and I’d much rather read about his successor Wally West. You can find lots of arguments and opinions about this on other websites. No, today I’m talking about the new idea that Barry’s super-speed running actually created and generates the Speed Force itself.
Okay, here’s some background for anyone who’s unfamiliar. The concept of the Speed Force (hereafter referred to as TSF because I’m lazy) was introduced by Mark Waid while he was writing The Flash in the mid-90s. A mysterious source of energy, it allowed anyone who could tap into it access to super-speed. It explained away lots of little Flash-related scientific anomalies and enabled Wally to learn lots of nifty new tricks. It also served as a sort of Valhalla to speedsters, calling out to them as they reached the highest velocities and serving as a kind of afterlife. It’s origin was largely unexplained, except in the Genesis crossover, and everything in that’s been mostly (and rightly) ignored.
Then came Geoff Johns and Flash: Rebirth, which revealed that Barry’s running created TSF, spreading it both up and down the time-stream. Not only that, but his archenemy Eobard (no, really) Thawne, a.k.a. Professor Zoom, a.k.a. the Reverse Flash, a.k.a. Little Sally Pondecker, can leech off of it to generate his own Negative Speed Force. (Eobard’s parents were obviously creative with names. Apparently this skipped a generation.)
Maybe it’s me, but in this case giving an origin to something that’s been profoundly mysterious for years seems like fanfic. And not even good fanfic, just another excuse for Johns to show how cool Barry Allen is. (Or at least how cool he wants Barry to be. See also his new, darker motivation for becoming a cop.) To me, it’s like when George Lucas revealed that The Force was generated by midiclorians. It took something mysterious (spiritual even, though I wouldn’t go that for in relation to TSF; although Savitar and Cicada might disagree with me) and gave it a scientific origin, sucking all the sense of wonder out of it.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to make it a mystery again, though. Most of this new information comes from Max Mercury, who could still be possessed by Rival for all we know. I wouldn’t put it past that guy to collaborate with Thawne in lying to Barry just to mess with his head. Revealing that would solve this dilemma nicely. Because some things are better left unexplained. Flash Fact.