Here is what has drawn readers to the superhero comic book since Superman made his public debut back in 1938 in Action Comics: These larger than life figures dressed gaudily in their capes and spandex and body armor represent us at our best and shiniest, all spit-polished and brimming with sunny side up optimism. In their various guises – Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Starman, The Red Bee, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel and ad infinitum – they act as we would like to see ourselves in our wildest fantasies act. They laugh at whatever world shaking crisis is threatening their universe this particular month and they charge into action with the conviction of the righteous when there are days we are doing good to even slip on our shoes. In short, the superhero is us at our best, merrily swinging from one adventure to the next without ever breaking stride.
But what happens to our heroes when the stride is broken, when the bright carnival on a hot summer day smile turns ever so slightly into a grimace, when rushing into adventure is no longer an option because, well, their entire family has been systematically erased from continuity and they’re left standing alone after the last congratulatory bulb from a newsman’s camera has gone off? What becomes of our bright and shiny and gaudy four colored gods when they break?
Eisner award winning writer Tom King and artist extraordinaire Clay Mann has asked these very questions and structured a nine issue whodunit style mystery called Heroes In Crisis to attempt to answer this sticky conundrum.
Once upon a time there was a boy named Wally West who became the protégé of the Silver Age Flash. He went by the moniker of Kid Flash until his mentor sacrificed his life to save the DC multiverse. Wally then segued into the heady role of the Flash. And the Flash he would be for over twenty years in his own monthly comic book. During those years, Wally grew and matured as he fought one villain after another. In time, he got married and had a family. But the comic book industry is a slippery sort of thing: What sells reasonably well and is on top one day might the next be yesterday’s news. The Silver Age Barry Allen Flash returned from the Great Beyond in only the way a comic book character can and quickly usurped Wally as the DC premiere speedster. With Barry Allen back and looking pretty good for a character who had just done a twenty year plus dirt nap, Wally and his family and all of his many and varied exploits seemed suddenly…redundant. A companywide reboot of all of DC’s titles quickly expunged Wally West from current day continuity. Despite all of the many times over he had saved the world and the cosmos, it was decided by the Powers That Be that the former Kid Flash would be written out. And not just “He moved to a small town in the middle of nowhere and has retired” written out, but “The cat never even existed and there has only been one Flash and it ain’t him” written out. It seemed like Wally West’s race was over.