In yesterday's post, I teased about some changes to Wally West's status quo that I applaud and which I think are key to his future in a World With Barry Allen Back. While I only teased, Kelson's gone into detail about the issue, and has moved me to do the same, so, if you haven't read Flash 244, you may want to do so before you read the rest of this post.
That said, I concur with Kelson: this was a good issue and a great start for the new creative team. Many things happen that follow up on Wally's success in using his power to save his children and stabilize their previously precarious condition and powers. Principally, Wally discovers that his old condition -- the one that used to prevent him from running faster than the speed of sound -- has returned.
This development is a logical one (at least in that it's based on the character's history rather than "a wizard did it") and I think it's essential. I'm enthusiastic about it, but others, particularly fans of Wally, are more concerned. In his comment on my post yesterday, Kelson said:
I'll agree that what's going on with Wally makes sense -- in the context of the current storyline.I understand the concern, but here's my position. There are plenty of compelling stories that can be told at under 770 mph. During most of the era that I actually enjoyed reading Wally's adventures, that was his top speed, and I certainly never thought of him as slow. We know that, as a practical matter, he seldom traveled any faster than that in the city anyway, because of the danger of sonic booms.
I don't see how you think it will "save the character going forward into his new era." For one thing, being "the slow Flash" doesn't seem like a particularly compelling role when the main Flash will probably be at top speed.
The ability to move at the speed of sound seems like enough to me. Top speed ever recorded for a running human, about 27 or mph. The winds in a tornado rarely exceed 250 mph. The world's fastest train tops out at 300 mph. Commercial jets seldom go faster than 560 mph. The average speed of a 9mm bullet is under 700 mph. That would make Wally West 28 times faster than the world's fastest normal human, able to generate winds faster than a tornado, more than twice as fast as any train, faster than non-military planes, and faster than a speeding bullet. Works for me; I just need the Flash to be the Fastest Man Alive, not the Fastest Thing Imaginable.
Of course, with Barry back, Wally will not be the Fastest Man Alive any more. But he'll have tricks at his disposal that Barry doesn't have. As the most recent story shows, Wally still has his ability to share (and, presumably, siphon) kinetic energy. That's a very significant power, which, along with his new top speed, will help distinguish him from other speedsters, and give him a unique role among the Flash Family. And that is what each of them will need in order to survive (as characters) now that Barry has returned.
If you've ever tried to play an all-speedster Heroclix team, you know that, while superspeed is a great power, a group of combatants with the same power isn't as fun or effective as a group with different but complementary powers.
It's a common problem in heroic dynasties: how to have a group of characters who's abilities are clearly related, but not too redundant, and appropriately tiered. Success in doing so leads to successful dynasties; failure to do so is a major obstacle.
For example, the Batman family have similar abilities, but different enough. Most readers figure out that Batman is most likely to hit you with a batarang, Nighwing's most likely to do a sommersault over your head, Robin's most likely to hit you in the crotch with a stick, Batgirl's most likely to karate chop your Adam's apple, Batwoman's most likely to stick a heel in your eye while doing something fabulous with her cape, and Ace will just snap your ankle then crush your trachea-- dogs love to do that.
Aquaman was ruined by this problem (and many others); he was doomed from the moment it was obvious his wife and baby were more powerful than he was. The Green Lanterns don't have different powers, but pains have been taken to give them different styles. The Superman dynasty would require a separate post to explore this issue, but suffice it to say that when your teenage cousin's cat is as powerful as you are, has no weaknesses, and can beat the crap out of the Legion of Super-Heroes, you're going to have an image problem.
It's clear that DC hopes to revitalize the Flash by revitalizing the Flash Dynasty. Not only will we have three Flashes (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West), we're likely to see the return of Bart "Impulse" Allen and I'm also rooting for Max Mercury, who used to be among the best characterized of the whole darned lot of them. Even if we don't include Liberty Belle (whom we're all trying not to think of as Jesse Quick), that's a lot of speedsters. In order for them to be most compelling, they need different personalities, styles, and, ideally, versions of their basic power.
I'm hoping this change to Wally is a big step in that direction.