The Good: Decent origin story, Fair artwork, Decent character development.
The Bad: No compelling villains, Very standard plot, Requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, typos.
The Basics: The Flash: Born To Run is a very basic story that establishes Wally West as the (new) adult Flash in the DC Universe.
As my Flash Year continues, I am excited to get in some new (to me) graphic novels to enjoy. My excitement is actually pretty high right now in this regard because I just finished reading The Flash: Born To Run. I gather, because there was enough demand to return Barry Allen to the DC Universe, that Wally West is not the most popular incarnation of the Flash. The thing is, I like Wally West and The Flash: Born To Run is the story of his taking up the mantle of the adult Flash. I think I like Wally West because the first few books I read with Wally West had great villains with stories that were pretty angsty and interesting. The Flash: Born To Run, by contrast, is a very standard superhero origin story and as such, it fills more of a “necessary evil” slot in the Flash graphic novel pantheon.
That said, writer Mark Waid - who wrote most of The Flash: Born To Run - does a decent job at bringing Wally West to life and having him come into his own. For anyone who has not read any Flash comics or graphic novels, The Flash: Born To Run is a great place to start!
Living far away from Central City, Wally West is sent to visit his Aunt Iris one summer in Central City, the home of the Flash. Wally West is a huge fan of the Flash and is very excited when he and Iris witness a crime foiled by the Flash. Aunt Iris introduces Wally to her very boring (and perpetually late) fiancé Barry Allen. After boring the life out of Wally, Barry has a very cool surprise for the boy; a meeting with the Flash! The Flash plays up Barry to Wally and starts to answer Wally’s questions about how he became the Flash. Unfortunately, while describing the accident that transformed him into the Flash, a virtually identical lightning strike occurs, transforming Wally West into a speedster as well!
Following the incident, Wally West explores his new powers and, under the guidance of the Flash, he learns the tricks of the trade. Soon, Central City has two speedsters protecting it and Wally West is excited to use his own skills to solve cases. On his first solo adventure against the Mirror Master, though, Wally experiences a seizure and the Flash takes him to the doctor (ironically, his own grandfather) and Wally is told he must not run again at super speeds. After returning home to his distant father, Wally learns an important truth about his existence.
The book also includes a one-shot “Day Two” which involves Wally West’s second day as Kid Flash and that is a fun story more for charm than actual depth. The book concludes with a pretty standard Wally West adventure wherein the Flash goes up against Cobalt Blue!
The Flash: Born To Run requires one pretty immense suspension of disbelief in that the virtually identical accident would happen to Wally West that happened to Barry Allen. If you can make that leap, the book is pretty good, if very standard. In other words, The Flash: Born To Run is exactly what one might expect from a superhero origin story and with that in mind, it is fine, but it is not exceptional, like some of Mark Waid’s other works, most notably Kingdom Come (reviewed here!). Still, for those looking to find a good beginning for Wally West, The Flash: Born To Run delivers.
And in The Flash: Born To Run, Wally West is, at worst, an interesting character. Starting as an excitable ten year-old boy, Wally is enthusiastic, clever and fun. His eagerness to see the Flash while in Central City reads as very true and Wally is a vibrant character from the outset. The Flash: Born To Run does a very good job of taking that ball of clay and molding it into a character who quickly becomes an endearing one! The Flash: Born To Run is great for fans of the Flash because it establishes a character who it is easy to root for and enjoy reading the adventures of. And watching Wally develop even through the course of The Flash: Born To Run is engaging. Making the journey from child to teen to responsible young adult, The Flash: Born To Run helps evolve Wally West in a reasonable and reasonably entertaining fashion.
The Flash: Born To Run has generally decent artwork. Wally West and Barry Allen are kept in their costumes for most of the book, but when they are not, they are fairly recognizable in their mundane forms. The Flash: Born To Run has a good sense of movement, both within panels and between panels. The coloring for The Flash: Born To Run is a little less impressive than I would like, but it reflects the standards of the time well. As a result, the pages have more of a comic strip feel in terms of the coloring, as opposed to a rich comic book feel like one might expect now with colors possessing rich depth and shading.
The Flash: Born To Run is also less-than-flawless on the editing front. Sadly, there are a few typos in The Flash: Born To Run. So, for example, on page 34 “expect” is used where the author clearly intended the word to be “except.” This is a comparatively minor thing, but it is annoying that such things were not fixed prior to the comics being anthologized.
Ultimately, The Flash: Born To Run is a good graphic novel, but is in no way superlative. Those who want to get to know Wally West, though, will find The Flash: Born To Run a great place to start!
For other Flash graphic novels, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Return Of Barry Allen
The Secret Of Barry Allen
For other book reviews, please visit my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the book reviews I have written!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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