With DC’s The Flash: Rebirth #2 coming out Wednesday, its time to take a look back and ask a serious question: just what the $&@# is going on with the Speed Force??
To begin with, we need to establish a fundamental understanding of just what eactly the Speed Force itself is. First introduced during the Terminal Velocity arc in The Flash #97, the Speed Force is a veritable nirvana for super speedsters in the DC Universe, as well as the source of their speed. It serves as an endless source of energy, powering their bodies and enabling them to reach and survive at faster than light speeds, but with a catch: any speedster who surpasses the speed of light runs the risk of merging with the Speed Force. For a time, only Wally West/Kid Flash I/Flash III had been able to enter and exit the Speed Force successfully on numerous occasions, but recently both Bart Allen/Kid Flash/Flash IV and Barry Allen/Flash II have returned from it.
During the mini-series Infinite Crisis, the Speed Force seemingly disappeared from Earth after the Flashes pushed Superboy-Prime into it. For a time, the only remaining active Flash was Jay Garrick/Flash I, who attributed his ability to still run to being a metahuman, though his speed was greatly decreased. It was soon revealed that the Speed Force had taken the speedsters who ran into it hostage to a distant planet and, in order to return, Bart Allen had absorbed the entire Speed Force. It remained inside of Bart until his nemesis Inertia developed a machine to extract it, at which point the Speed Force itself returned.
The Speed Force also is a host to its own speedster, the Black Flash, which is the speedster incarnation of Death. The Black Flash has appeared to mark the near-death of Wally West, and to witness the death of Bart Allen. Though it has shown up on numerous occasions, and was even said to be present during Barry Allen’s last days, only Wally West has successfully outrun The Black Flash, racing him to the end of time, where there was no death and the Black Flash ceased to exist.
So now that we know what the Speed Force is, and what it does, the burning question remains: what’s wrong with it? The Flash: Rebirth #1 showed not only has Barry managed to somehow escape it, but self-proclaimed God of Speed Savitar, who Wally had trapped in the Speed Force in The Flash #111, escaped by running through Barry! When Savitar escaped and Barry touched him, Savitar was reduced to ash, and every other speedster alive felt the backlash. So let’s take a look at some possible causes…
The Speed Force Is Weakening…
Let’s face it, its been through a lot ever since Wally discovered it. Wally has almost merged with it numerous times, trapped Savitar in it, used it to outrace Death and resurrect the dead Linda Park, and for years used it to form his own costume. Bart Allen and Max Mercury devised a method to revive an ailing Max Mercury by taking Max deep into the heart of the Speed Force. Superboy Prime was forcibly shoved into it, and the remaining speedsters were trapped and taken off world by it at that point, then it was trapped inside of Bart Allen and subsequently released at Bart’s death. Bart’s death also marked the return of Wally West and his kids, Jai and Iris, who were found to be poisoned by the Speed force as it was forcing them to age. And now, both Bart and Barry have been pulled from the dead and returned to the land of the living. Could it finally be too much? Could the strain on the Speed Force be causing it to break?
The Speed Force Is Evolving…
A somewhat reverse thoery of the previous one. The Speed Force has been used in recent years more as a weapon than a theoretical aid, as both Savitar and Superboy Prime were trapped inside it for extended periods of time. Is the Speed Force changing because of how its being used? Barry touched Savitar and atomized him, so it seems to imply that something else is changing within it, and the backlash felt by the other Speedsters could be their bodies being forced to accept a radically changed Speed Force.
The Speed Force Is Incomplete…
This could be filed under the first theory, but under a different method. Savitar, Barry, Bart, Wally, Jai and Iris have all stepped in to the Speed Force and walked out unscathed. The Speed Force sent Max Mercury time traveling for years, and is evidently not meant for anyone to just wander in to. Is it possible that they’ve taken a piece of the Speed Force with them? If so, could the Speed Force be cracking because there’s just not enough of it left?
Barry Allen WAS The Speed Force
Probably my favorite, and the most likely theory. Think about it: the revelation of the Speed Force wasn’t until long after Barry had died. When Barry did die, he became a time traveling thunderbolt that we saw become the thunder that gave him his powers. We don’t know what effect the anti-matter ray had on Barry when he destroyed it in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Is it so far fetched that Barry didn’t die, but rather his soul became the Speed Force? If so, his return would mean the Speed Force is waning without him.
These are, of course, just a few of what could be other theories. Regardless, the return of Barry Allen seems to be spelling disaster for the other speedsters. Will Barry be able to exist outside of the Speed Force? You can find out in The Flash: Rebirth, on sale now from DC Comics.