Okay, maybe not funny. But either way, it’s Barry Allen’s turn to die in issue #8.
This Flash had been around for twenty-nine years at this point, and he had hit a creative low point with a protracted trial storyline that ended his series. So Barry died, sacrificing himself so that the Flash franchise could grow and evolve. Or, in story, sacrificing himself to save the universe.
Flash had been a captive of the Anti-Monitor for most of the miniseries thus far, and the villain’s henchman, the Psycho Pirate, tortured him with emotion-manipulating powers, continuing the trend of this being a low point for the Scarlet Speedster.
But this is the character who kicked off the Silver Age superhero resurgence in 1956, so he deserves one last chance to be amazing—and he gets it. Using his brains as much as his speed, and with only a whimpering lame villain to assist him, he sows confusion among the Anti-Monitor’s minions, allowing him to slip inside the main weapon. After a quick assessment, he knows what he needs to do—and what it will do to him. And he acts anyway. “More than my life is at stake,” he says as he starts running.
He dies running. He dies thinking. He dies alone, without any expectation that anyone would ever learn about his sacrifice.
There’s that old saying that the true test of character is what you do when no one’s looking. When no one was looking, Barry Allen sacrificed his life to save everyone else’s.
Like with Supergirl’s death, Flash’s death stayed true to the character, encapsulating what made him great and giving him a fitting send-off.
Kid Flash, Wally West, would take over, and his series would function as one long coming-of-age story—the former sidekick striving to live up to his hero’s example, this example. Wally’s series, which will always be a sentimental favorite of mine, worked so well that Barry was able to stay dead for longer than twenty years. By comic book standards, that’s a lengthy stint in the afterlife.
Barry hit rock-bottom, caught a last-minute second wind, and went out in top form.
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciler: George Perez
Inker: Jerry Ordway
Publisher: DC Comics
How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Crisis on Infinite Earths (TPB)
Appropriate For: ages 10 and up