Flash-Point: Bart Allen

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Bart Allen, as grandson of Barry Allen (the man arguably best known by the general public as The Flash), should seem like a natural successor in the progression of the Flash legacy.  Instead, the character has had a tumultuous relationship with fans and creators.  Over the character’s fifteen year history, he has had three separate identities and several distinct personalities.  As Bart’s current state of being in the DC Universe seems to be solidifying in the pages of Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds and The Flash: Rebirth, Broken Frontier takes a quick look back on his career to date.

Somewhat appropriately, Bart Allen first appeared during a turbulent time for DC Universe chronology, Zero Hour (1994).  Making his first full appearance in Flash #92 (July 1994, although he made a cameo appearance the issue prior), Bart Allen came to the 20th century from the future.  Accompanied by his grandmother (Iris Allen, wife of  Barry Allen), Bart’s superspeed was causing to him to age unnaturally fast.  Raised in a virtual reality world, Iris brought Bart back, seeking the help of Wally West, who himself had dealt with problems related to superspeed. 

Wally was able to aid Bart and the young speedster remained in the 20th century, teaming up with the world’s greatest heroes during the Zero Hour: Crisis in Time.  Throughout this mini-series, as well as in Flash, Bart seemed to be positioned as the character to become the new Kid Flash.  DC had used a similar concept a year earlier in the Superman titles, creating a new “Superboy”, bringing a contemporary flavor to the character.  Likewise, Bart’s impulsive and reckless nature (thanks to having no real concept of the laws of reality) seemed designed to impart a rebellious youth attitude to the role (although the presentation of this varied wildly, often resulting in dialogue that sounded like middle-aged men trying to be “hip.”).  Refusing the name Kid Flash, from this point on, Bart would be known as Impulse.

Impulsive Nature

Bart’s next major adventure partnered him with all of the current active super-speedsters in “Terminal Velocity” (Flash #s 95-100, November 1994-April 1995).  Setting the stage for Impulse’s own spin-off series, the Flash challenged Bart in selecting another hero as his hand-picked successor.  Quickly realizing that Bart was not yet ready for the responsibility of the Flash legacy, Wally handed the prime responsibility of Impulse to Max Mercury, one of his own mentors.  In the pages of a solo title (Impulse #1, April 1995), Bart’s character began developing with Mark Waid as writer, along with the kinetic art of Humberto Ramos.  The title played with a light-hearted tone, and Impulse’s reckless nature shifted towards a more innocent and naïve tone (a frequent running gag would to be to show Impulse’s thought balloons containing an image, usually a literal interpretation of slang or an expression).


Now developing a loyal cult following, Impulse was paired with two other DC teen heroes; Superboy and Robin.  The trio teamed in a one-shot special (Young Justice: The Secret, June 1998), a mini-series (JLA: World Without Grown-Ups #s 1-2, August-September 1998) and finally, their own ongoing series, Young Justice (beginning September 1998). 

Back in his solo title, Bart faced off against his own “Reverse-Flash”, Inertia, in issues #50-53 (July-October 1999).  A relatively insignificant character at the time, Inertia would have a much more relevant part to play later in Bart’s history.  Both titles maintained a steady readership for several years, but ultimately were cancelled due to low sales (Impulse with issue #89, October 2002 and Young Justice with #55, followed by a wrap-up mini-series, Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day, Summer 2003).


Bart enjoyed a renaissance of sorts as part of the line-up of the new Teen Titans title (debuting September 2003).  Written by  Geoff Johns, the first arc featured Impulse’s knee being destroyed by the villain.  This event led Impulse to reinvent himself, and by the conclusion of the arc, he adopted a new attitude, costume and heroic identity – Kid Flash. 

Riding high on a wave of popularity, the Teen Titans were prominently featured in DC’s Infinite Crisis (2005-2006) mini-series event.  Midway through the series, Kid Flash, along with Wally West and scores of other speedsters apparently sacrificed themselves to stop the other-dimensional of Superboy-Prime (a hyper-powerful, deeply disturbed reflection of the “real” Superman).  Both Bart and Superboy-Prime reappeared from the “Speed Force” dimension late in the series, although the young hero had mysteriously aged four years and was now garbed in his grandfather’s Flash costume.  The series concluded with Bart apparently powerless, abandoning the Flash legacy.

The Boy Becomes a Man

Announcing the launch of a new Flash series, DC kept the dual identity of the title hero under wraps.  The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive (August 2006) did turn out to star Bart, who had lied about his loss of powers in order to live an ordinary life.  Unfortunately, the revived interest experienced since the character’s shift from Impulse to Kid Flash did not continue in this new role.  The title took a shift in direction with issue #9 (April 2007), featuring a new writer, Mark Guggenheim.  As the arc progressed, Bart found himself squaring off against Inertia and the Flash Rogues. 

At the climax of the arc, Bart was truly stripped of his powers by a device employed by Inertia.  The machine proved to be highly unstable, threatening to explode in a tremendous blast.  While one of his allies safely shut down the device, the powerless Bart faced off against Inertia and the Rogues.  In the ensuing melee, Bart is struck down and killed, ending his short career as the Flash.  Although a fourteenth and fifteenth issue of the series had been solicited, The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 (August 2007) proved to be the series finale (the solicitations turned out to be mock ones, to preserve the shock ending, and were replaced with a Flash special and the return of Wally West’s Flash series). 

The sudden end of the series, as well as the death of Bart, was not met with the same passion as the earlier removals of Barry Allen or Wally West from the role.  Although DC editorial maintains that Bart’s death was planned from the beginning (following the conclusion of The Fastest Man Alive, Guggenheim revealed he was given the assignment with the directive to write a concluding arc, killing off Bart), the uncertain direction of the franchise since then has left many fans speculating that the move was reactive due to the underperforming sales of the title.


Remarkably enough, Bart’s story continues, although it remains surrounded by controversy.  The young hero made a last-page return from the dead in Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #3 (April 2009), once again a teenager in his Kid Flash identity.  The story is ongoing, as the book has been plagued by frequent delays.  In the interim, Bart has also appeared in the pages of The Flash: Rebirth #1 (June 2009), set sometime after the events of the Final Crisis series. 

Despite the many questions surrounding his return, fans seem cautiously optimistic that DC may have Bart Allen back on the right track after the past several years of confusing directions.

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  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jun 24, 2009 at 3:42pm

    Well done Fletch. A great run of articles.

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