DC Histories: Bart Allen (Impulse / Kid Flash II / Flash IV)

Welcome back to another DC History. We’re well into the New 52 at this point, but there’s still much that can be gained by examining how we got here. Only by looking back at what came before can we understand where we’re going.

This week, we’re looking at Bart Allen, one of the younger members of the Flash Famiy. Powered by the mystical Speed Force, the Flashes are known for their ability to move at light speed and beyond. Bart is no exception to this rule. At various points in his superhero career he’s gone by names Impulse, Kid Flash and there was even a brief year when he was the full-on Flash. We’ll cover all of that and more. Hang on tight because this DC History is going to be a continuity marathon.

Impulse #1 (1995) Cover

Created by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, Bart Allen first showed up in 1994. Born and raised in the 30th Century, Bart was the grandson of Barry Allen, the second person to use the name ‘Flash’ in the DCU. Barry and his wife Iris had spent time in the far future because Iris was born in that era. Don’t ask. Anyway, while in the future, Barry and Iris had twins. It was Don Allen, son of Barry, who was Bart’s father. Raised by himself in an isolation chamber, Bart’s young metabolism raged out of control, making him grow at a startling speed.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #92 (1994)

Bart’s grandmother, Iris, removed him from governmental control and whisked him back to the late 20th Century where she hoped her nephew, Wally, could train Bart in the use of his powers. Wally, who had taken over the role of the Flash after his uncle Barry died, quickly found himself in over his head with the teenager. Bart barely listened to direction, thought everything was a game, and generally became a thorn in his mentor’s side. Wally had to call in reinforcements to help teach his new apprentice.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #96 (1994)

Flanked by speedster veterans Max Mercury, Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, and her father Johnny Quick, Wally helped Bart reset his metabolism to normal and learn to take superheroing seriously.

With this page of Salvador Larroca and Jose Marzan Jr. art, I fell in love with the Flash Family. Everyone looked strong and determined but that hint of a smile in Jay and Johnny’s faces meant that they were looking forward to getting to know Bart. They were a tough but accepting group who weren’t afraid of adding a new member to their club. A whole rich legacy was behind this character and I, for one, was dying to find out more about it. This one image made me a fan of the Flash Family for life.

Realizing that Bart couldn’t use his real name while helping save people, Wally tried to brainstorm a bit. It was quickly decided that ‘Impulse’ was a great name for the young man with little self control. Bart did offer to use Wally’s old sidekick name ‘Kid Flash,’ then quickly made fun of Wally for liking that name.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #95 (1994)

When Wally and Bart finished their first adventure, they both realized that living together wouldn’t be the best idea. They were too similar. Also, Wally was living with his girlfriend Linda and having a teenager around would cramp their style. So, they asked Max Mercury, a speedster who’d been around since the 1800s, to look after Bart and teach him how to slow down a bit. Max and Bart moved to Alabama where they told everyone they were uncle and nephew. Their odd couple pairing worked and Max became like a father to Bart.

From Impulse #1 (1995)

With his trademark big hair and big feet, Bart was a very popular character shortly after his introduction. He was so popular in fact that he joined the then-current incarnation of the New Titans alongside other young heroes like the new Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Supergirl. He even joined the Justice League for an issue, but it was only the Justice League Task Force so it’s hard to say if that really counts or not.

From Justice League Task Force #26 (1995)

After Bart’s stint with the Titans and the League ended, he slowly began meeting up with other popular heroes his own age. His first meeting with Superboy resulted in a race to see who was the fastest. Unfortunately, the race ended almost as quickly as it began and a winner wasn’t decided upon.

From Superboy and the Ravers #7 (1997)

Impulse also met Tim Drake, the third Robin, around this same time. Reader response to these meetings was very positive. So, while the Teen Titans were off doing their own thing, Bart, Tim, and Superboy began hanging out together as friends. Of course, whenever super beings hang out together, trouble tends to follow. When the three teen heroes responded to a distress call, they found the media already on the scene. When asked who they were, Bart accidentally coined the name Young Justice.

From Young Justice (Vol. 1) #1 (1998)

Bart remained with Young Justice for years. Even when things grew serious and the roster of Young Justice expanded to incorporate seemingly every young hero in the DCU, Bart remained best friends with Tim and Superboy.

Eventually, Young Justice broke up when Donna Troy, the hero formerly known as Wonder Girl, was killed. Devastated by her death, the current group of Titans crumbled as well. After everything shook out, Bart, Tim and Superboy found themselves in a new group of Teen Titans. In their very first mission, the Titans went up against Deathstroke, a Titans enemy since the 1980s. In their first battle, Bart took a shotgun blast to the knee. Realizing that he had been taking his role of hero too frivolously, Bart speed through the healing process, read the entire contents of the San Francisco Public Library, and renamed himself ‘Kid Flash.’

From Teen Titans (Vol. 3) #5 (2004)

Though he mocked the name before, Bart would later explain that he was aware of how the name Kid Flash fit into the Flash Family and its legacy. Wally had once been Kid Flash when he was a sidekick to his uncle Barry and now Bart decided it was time for him to follow a similar path. It was time for him to grow up. Consciously taking the Kid Flash mantle was how he expressed all of this.

With the Teen Titans, Bart continued to cement his place among his peers. During the Infinite Crisis, everything changed.

When a villain named Superboy-Prime hit the scene during Infinite Crisis, no one had any idea how to defeat him. In a desperate plan to lock him up, Bart shoved Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force, the energy source from which all speedsters draw their power. Bart fell into the Speed Force as well, seemingly never to return. However, even this couldn’t hold Superboy-Prime and he returned. Bart soon followed but found himself changed.

From Infinite Crisis #7 (2006)

Somehow, Bart had been aged into his 20s. He also discovered that he was one of the few remaining speedsters on Earth. After Superboy-Prime was taken care of, Wally and his wife Linda were missing. Realizing that a void had been left in the DCU because of this, Bart accepted the role of Flash, becoming the fourth person to take that role. Bart was now the fastest man alive.

From Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #9 (2007)

Although Bart’s new series started off very rocky, it eventually stabilized itself and was going pretty well for about half a year. He moved to LA, got himself a brand new supporting cast, and even became taking classes to become a police officer. Then, things took a turn for the worse. For whatever reason, the editorial winds at the DC offices shifted. Suddenly, Bart wasn’t wanted for the role of Flash. Towards that end, an old doppelganger of Bart named Inertia began recruiting the Flash’s rogue gallery. He convinced them to do the unthinkable: to kill the Flash.

Surprisingly, they succeeded.

From Final Crisis: Rogue’s Revenge #1 (2008)

Bart Allen was dead. There can be no denying that. Wally West eventually returned along with Linda. He took back the role of the Flash once again. The Rogues, realizing that killing Bart had only put a giant target on their backs, tracked down Inertia, killed him, and left a note hoping that this act of good will would be enough to satiate Wally’s taste for revenge.

Meanwhile, Superboy-Prime had broken free from his confinement in which he was placed at the end of his last world shattering escapade. This time, he found himself in the far future of the 31st Century. There he set about destroying the Legion of Super-Heroes and their allies. In order to help combat Prime’s rampage, Brainiac 5, the smartest member of the Legion, found a way to bring Bart back to life.

From Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds #4 (2009)

Honestly, I don’t fully get how this was done. Something to do with lightning rods and time travel and the Speed Force. It really doesn’t matter. The take away from the whole thing was that Bart was once again in the land of the living and he was once again a teen.

At around the same time that Bart returned, his grandfather Barry Allen did as well. Barry, having been gone from the DCU since 1985, had never met his grandson. After his resurrection, Barry had to come to terms with a lot of things like how his nephew Wally West had taken over as the Flash and how his wife had come to terms with his death years earlier. It was all a bit much for Barry to take in. This caused his relationship with his grandson to get lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t until the Blackest Night event that the pair finally got to talk to each other. In the midst of old allies and enemies being resurrected as zombies, and after Barry had become an honorary member of the Blue Lantern Corps, Barry and Bart got a chance to start figuring out their relationship.

From Blackest Night: The Flash #3 (2010)

Sadly, Bart’s road ran out during Flashpoint. When the machinations of an old Flash villain changed the fundamental makeup of the DCU, Bart found himself lost in time. Spinning between moments, Bart discovered that his body was slowly picking up Speed Force energy from speedsters in various eras. Just as Barry Allen was racing towards the climax of Flashpoint, Bart appeared before him and gave Barry the last boost of energy he needed. With that, Bart’s body crumbled exactly as his grandfather’s had done back in 1985.

From Flashpoint: Kid Flash Lost #3 (2011)

It was a heroic second death.

So where is Bart Allen in the New 52? He’s over in the pages of Teen Titans. Since I’ve only read the first three issues of that series, I have no idea what relationship this new Bart has with Barry. Is he still Barry’s grandson from the far future? Is he even related to Barry anymore? I have no clue. Feel free to let me know in the comments section below.

From Teen Titans (Vol. 4) #2 (2011)

In any case, I’ll always have a soft spot for Impulse. That character was my entry point into the idea of legacy in the DCU, which started my love affair with DC’s publishing history. For that, I’ll always be grateful.


Jeff Reid may not be as quick as Bart, but he can be as distractible. Watch his mental ping pong in real time on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Mickey Mickey (@GeeksOfChrist) says:

    90s, 90s, Crises

  2. great article! i always have a soft spot for wally and bart – the flash/kid flash combo when i really got into comics

  3. Bart is my favorite flash.

    • I love the Teen Titans where Death Stroke blew out his knee with a shotgun and the doctors had to keep breaking the bones to get them to heal correctly because his fast healing kept repairing his leg faster then the doctors could set it.

    • He’s my favorite one too. Glad to see I’m not just weird. Something about being able to learn and retain knowledge in superspeed made me like him a lot.

  4. Ah Impulse… Man, I miss that character.

  5. Man, i love seeing old Laroca pages… i really wish he’d go back to his old style instead of his current Sawyer-based approach in Invincible Iron Man or even his old Uncanny X-Men run. I really prefer his old pencils better

  6. The Impluse/Kid Flash ii/Flash iv was one of the reason I was afraid to try DC for so many years. I just who is this guy?

    Once I got over that and gave DC a try Bart quickly became one of my favourites. His Flashpoint tie in was on of my favourites, and like has been mentioned above the Teen Titan story were Deathstroke shot him in the knee is also fun.

    I pretend its Bart while watching Young Justice

  7. Thank you thank you thank you, Jeff.

    Bart is one of my very favorite characters. I fell in love with comics reading Young Justice, and Bart was a big part of that. On that note, if you can find any issues of Impulse’s solo series, it’s well worth the read. I believe they collected one particularly epic storyline, Mercury Falling, a few years ago. See if you can track it down. Some great Van Sciver art in there, and the story’s just awesome.

    Currently, Bart’s a super-teen with no memory of his life before becoming very fast. It’s being hinted at that he’s from the future (and possibly a criminal!), but nothing concrete yet. If that were the case, however, it would make the upcoming Legion/Titans crossover make a lotta sense…

    • Well i remember that cop that was using future lingo, that recognized him. Gonna be very interesting seeing what revelation this crossover will give us.

    • Glad you dug the article, Casey!

      You know, it always seemed weird to me that Bart was from the same time period as the Legion, but there was very little crossover there. Glad to hear that may be the crux of the upcoming storyline.

    • Always loved when his cousin, XS, would show up in his book.

      Of course, that was three Legion reboots ago…

  8. Impulse was one of the first series I was 100% on the trolley with, I love that book. Ramos’ style was rawer than it is now and Waid and his thought balloon cartoon captions are a device which should be used more often. I think my favorite LOL comic moment is the Jackass Max Mercury thought balloon.

  9. I just love Bart and I loved it when he got the wear the big boots at last. I just wished that someone did something with that whole “Owen Mercer is your half brother” thing.

  10. At first, I didn’t really take to Bart, but I actually grew to like him when he was The Flash. I still wish Wally was Kid Flash in the New 52.