In tonight’s episode of The Flash we get a lot more Kid Flash goodness! If you’ve been following these series of editorials, you know that I absolutely love Wally West, so the events of “Untouchable” have definitely given me a lot to write about. He’s been training with Barry this season and improving at a much quicker rate than his predecessor, but has been tripping up on a classic Flash trick—phasing.
Now phasing is something Barry Allen has been able to do for a while on The Flash and also something that Supergirl fans have seen from Martian Manhunter as well. Phasing itself was not an ability that Jay Garrick started out his career with when he broke onto the scene as the Flash in 1940. Rather, it’s an ability that was added to the stories of the second Flash—and lead of the show—Barry Allen. It serves the purpose of streamlining the power set of a speedster and utilizing them in the most efficient way possible. If any given speedster can vibrate their molecules fast enough to “phase” through other matter then he or she can run “as the crow flies,” and you can’t get more efficient than that!
Wally West’s struggle with phasing is not something unique to the Flash TV show. It is well established in comic book continuity, making it a nice #DCTV Secret that nods to fans of the source material. Post-CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, Wally West got the chance to take up the mantle of the Flash, and during that time he is able to achieve the same top speed as his mentor and uncle, Barry Allen, eventually going on to surpass Barry. For a long time, Wally West was the fastest of all the DC Universe speedsters.
In spite of this, Wally had struggled with phasing. Since his days as Kid Flash, he had the ability to vibrate his molecules fast enough to phase through matter, but not fast enough to do it flawlessly. Whenever Wally phased, the objects he would pass through would explode. This was partially due to the fact that most of what he was trying to phase through had some sort of electrical element that was liable to spark under the correct circumstances and it certainly made for some great art on the page.
Unlike Barry Allen’s Flash, Wally did get a whole slew of powers (most of which were derived from the Speed Force), that none of his predecessors had ever had. For example: Wally West was the first hero under the mantle of the Flash to be able to steal or share speed with anyone else who was connected to the Speed Force. The sharing and stealing of speed has been a big story point in this third season of The Flash and feels certain to crop up again before the finale –especially since Jesse Quick just popped up again in tonight’s final scene!
Another ability that Wally West had before any other speedsters was using the Speed Force to kinetically upgrade his attacks. That’s kind of a heady idea, so let’s dive into it a little bit.
“Kinetic upgrades” means that whatever Wally’s initial attack is will be improved or more effective when sped up. Imagine Kid Flash wants to punch a bad guy. Wally probably has a pretty impressive right hook on his own, but that hit is going to land a lot harder with the full weight of the Speed Force behind it.
Something unique to Wally that could potentially be very useful to Team Flash as we know them on the show is that he can super heal others. On The Flash, we know that speedsters have super self-healing, so they are never down and out for long, but Wally was the first Flash who was able to super heal those around him. Much like phasing, this ability is centralized around vibrating molecules fast enough that it accelerates the natural healing process the injury would go through. With the looming threat of his sister Iris’ death on the horizon, being able to super heal others could be really useful.
Writer Mark Waid penned Wally West’s defining run as the Flash and is the person responsible for not only creating and incorporating the Speed Force into the print continuity (and, by extension, the television continuity as well), and for expanding Wally’s power set in such an important and interesting way. As the Wally West on television comes more into his own, it could make for some compelling writing and watching to see his specific talents blossom and define him as a metahuman in a different way than we are used to seeing Barry Allen function.
If you are currently reading THE FLASH or TEEN TITANS in the DC Rebirth continuity (and if you’re not, you really need to get on that because both titles are outstanding and feature an adorable Wally West as Kid Flash!), you know that Wally can create his Kid Flash costume directly from the Speed Force, and that is a unique ability that is specific to him that came out of the same timeframe as everything I mentioned above. It remains an integral part of his super heroic identity and could, hopefully, lead to an influx of Kid Flash action figures. Cross your fingers!
Ashley V. Robinson covers The Flash as a part of the #DCTV Couch Club. You can find her on Twitter at @AshleyVRobinson and on the Jawiin YouTube channel. The Flash airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW.