The Flash’s run on the CW is coming to an end, which will officially mark the conclusion of the Arrowverse. But for fans of the show, or indeed the DC Universe in general, there are plenty of stellar comic book storylines to continue to explore that feature the Scarlet Speedster in action.
The small screen show actually drew from many of these familiar beats, and future iterations of the character are sure to focus on a select few of these narratives in order to bring the best out of the hero. These arcs demonstrate who Flash is as a character, link him closer to his superhero allies, or feature a variety of the most troublesome villains that Barry Allen has ever had to face.
The origin story of any superhero is so vital to understanding the character moving forward. For Barry Allen, there’s been plenty of updates to his initial debut over the years, from the role of Reverse-Flash to the impact changing his reality could have on the wider DC Universe.
Barry’s first appearance was both simple and effective, so much so that it really stuck ever since. The narrative saw Barry as a scientist (later updated to be a forensic scientist) getting struck by lightning, surrounded by chemicals. Showcase Issue 4, in 1956 by writer Robert Kanigher and penciler Carmine Infantino, really began something special.
Flashpoint was a 2011 comic book crossover narrative, which was largely overseen by writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert. The story saw Flash finally using his time travel powers to try and right the wrongs of his past; to dire consequences. Barry really thought he could protect his mother from her tragic death, but manipulating history isn’t quite so easy.
The reality that was created because of this change shifted the DC Universe forever. It’s a personal exploration of what Barry wants most in the world and how responsible he has to be with his abilities, but it was also a turning point for DC as a brand, using the story as a way to reboot their titles.
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Scott Kolins came together to produce a number of brilliant Wally West narratives, who replaced Allen as the Flash for an extended period. Blitz in 2003 was a standout among their stories, and it ran for 9 issues. It’s a story that’s become beloved for its introduction of a new villain.
The CW certainly stole from Blitz, which tracked the debut of Hunter Zolomon, who would later be presented as the speedster Zoom. The narrative tests Wally emotionally, as he struggles to deal with his friend’s transformation, and physically while he contends with the speed block that’s been troubling him.
7 The Death Of Iris West
Deaths in comics are a common thing, but killing off a character like Iris West is certainly a game changer. That’s exactly what happened in The Death Of Iris West, by writer Cary Bates and penciller Irv Novick. Spanning over 15 issues in 1979 and 1980, even Barry couldn’t outrun his partner’s fate.
Featuring brilliant guest stars and a moving mystery, Barry continues to hunt his wife’s murderer as he struggles at the lowest point in his career. It’s a crime thriller and a very human exploration at its heart and helped to influence a similar narrative in the Arrowverse.
6 Rogue War
The Flash has one of the best rogues galleries in all of comics. Ironically many of his villains have banded together before and identified as the Rogues. Rogue War is just that, a conflict between the foes, with the Crimson Comet caught in the middle. The seven-part story took place in 2005 and was created by writer Geoff Johns and artist Howard Porter.
The story really balances the old and the new, as the original antagonists that Flash fans know so well contend with the newcomers on the block. The whole city is in danger, and it’s a narrative that highlights some of the best tropes of The Flash’s comics; it’s a great place for introducing new readers.
5 The Flash Of Two Worlds
The Multiverse is a huge part of the DC Universe now, but one of the earliest instances of it being used to perfection took place in The Flash Of Two Worlds in 1961. Issue 123 of The Flash, which was written by Gardner Fox with art from Carmine Infantino, even boasts one of the most famous covers in comic book history.
Jay Garrick and Barry Allen had both been established as the speedster superhero, but the comic saw them cross paths for the very first time in such a turning point for the industry. It was an exciting change of pace and influenced other crossover narratives moving forward, eventually bleeding into The FlashTV show.
The 6-issue run known as Rebirth in 2009 and 2010, by writer Geoff Johns and penciller Ethan Van Sciver, is another indication of just how much The Flash impacts the rest of the DC Universe. In fact, the story is a huge part of Barry’s arc, linking heavily to Flashpoint.
It’s an exploration of what made Barry Allen a superhero to begin with and is a retelling of his origin story from a different angle. It connects to the death of his mother and reframes Flash’s relationship with Reverse-Flash, who is given plenty more layers. It’s a masterclass in everything that makes The Flash tick and is a must-read part of his journey.
3 Dead Heat
Wally West’s adventures as the Crimson Comet shouldn’t go overlooked, and Dead Heat brought in yet another villain that would have a long-term impact on the brand as a whole. The 1995 and 1996 story was created by Mark Waid and ran across 4 issues of The Flash.
It brought audiences Savitar, a ruthless foe that brought Wally West closer to allies like Impulse and Jesse Quick, who are both so significant for Flash’s future stories. It’s a villain of the week affair with added depth, an unexpected sacrifice, and a more detailed look at the Speed Force itself.
2 Iron Heights
One-shots sometimes tread new ground and continue to sit in the minds of fans. That’s the case for Iron Heights, which was set within the famous prison by the same name. The story was released in 2001 and was created by writer Geoff Johns and artist Ethan Van Sciver.
In a complex narrative that includes the Rogues, Jay Garrick, and a new serial killer by the name of Murmur, Barry Allen investigates what’s happening behind the closed doors of the jail and contends with a disease that’s spreading quickly. There’s a lot being balanced here, but it all pays off in a gripping read.
1 Force Quest
A slightly more modern story, Force Quest took place across 2019 in a six-issue arc which was crafted by writer Joshua Williamson and artists Jordi Tarragona and Scott Hanna. It’s another narrative that aims to bring a new perspective to the lore of the Speed Force and the cosmic potential of Flash’s powers.
The story sees Barry encountering multiple debuting threats, each of which claims to be a representative of a new Cosmic Force. From the Sage Force to the Steel Force and even the Strength Force, heroes like Fuerza are brought in, and Allen is given a unique understanding of his gifts. The narrative would go on to inspire a similar arc on the CW.