[Contains spoilers for Flash: Full Throttle]
Obviously writer Marc Guggenheim got something of a tough assignment: kill Bart Allen, the youngest Flash and one that had only been wearing the Flash mantle less than ten issues. While Flash: The Fastest Man Alive: Full Throttle failed to convince me of the real necessity of Bart Allen's death (unlike, say, Blue Beetle's murder in The OMAC Project), I admire the bunch of nods Guggenheim included in this trade to make Bart's death true to the Flash legacy.
After a dismal start to this title in Lightning in a Bottle, Guggenheim and even the previous Flash team Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo begin to show the potential the Bart Allen character has as the Flash. Bilson and Demeo bow out gracefully, moving Bart Allen to Los Angeles and enrolling him in the police academy like his grandfather, Barry Allen. Guggenheim writes a slightly snappier, more confident Bart, his dialogue peppered with parenthetical asides, and it makes the character finally smack of leading man rather than supporting character. The trade gets big art assists toward the end from Tony Daniel, such that when Bart Allen fought Captain Cold in a great whodunit one-shot, I finally felt I was really looking at the Flash.
Second, in what's now become a Flash tradition, Guggenheim lets Bart Allen know his death is coming. In allowing Bart to choose his death for the good of Los Angeles ("run toward" his death, if you will), Bart's death becomes more of a noble sacrifice than a murder, much akin again to the death of Barry Allen. And I loved the homage to Crisis on Infinite Earths in the penultimate chapter; it really shows Guggenheim researched the character and tried to make Bart's death a lasting, rather than passing event (apparently Guggenheim tried to include even more bits like this).
In terms, however, of Bart's murder itself, there's an interesting bit of backtracking in the book. This collection also includes the Mark Waid-written All Flash #1, which bridged Guggenheim's Flash series and Waid's new/old one, and there's a marked difference between Guggenheim's depiction of the murder and Waid's. In Guggenheim's story, the Rogues are fairly bloodthirsty and seem intent on killing Bart; in Waid's, there's a suggestion Bart was killed inadvertently in "the heat of the moment." Had Guggenheim stopped with Captain Cold, Heat Wave, and Weather Wizard all firing on Bart at once, I might believe the murder was an accident, but the panel of the Rogues nearly stomping on Bart seems pretty clear. In comics, however, I think the adage that "he who speaks last, makes history" is probably true, so Waid's version stands; I also understand there's a bit in Countdown that might make this clearer, too.
I've been reading about Bart Allen since his inception in Flash around the time of Zero Hour, through his solo series and Young Justice and into Teen Titans, so his death does make me pretty nostalgic. At the same time, there's no question that turning Bart Allen into the Flash so soon after his having become Kid Flash was something of a misbegotten idea. My preference wasn't for Bart Allen to die, but having him be the new Flash hardly seemed viable either. It's up in the air whether Bart was "intended" by DC Editorial to die when he became the new Flash--if so, it might almost be preferable, as it would suggest that this is only the second, rather than the final, act in Bart's story. Personally, I don't 100 percent believe that Bart is dead--his Grandma Iris beat death once before herself, if you'll remember.
There are quite a bit of fans undeservedly ripping Guggenheim a new one at the ComicBloc link up above, though overall the outcry against Guggenheim for killing Bart didn't nearly equate the outcry Adam Beechen received over turning Batgirl rogue. Maybe the editorial hand was more obvious in Guggenheim's case, but it's interesting the somewhat fickle relationship fans have with writers--I can't help but think that a slow news cycle sometimes can make all the difference. Guggenheim certainly displayed his comics writing prowess in making Bart Allen's death palatable, and I do wonder what the writer would have achieved had Bart's death not been preordained, or what he might do with a series like Blue Beetle or Teen Titans.
[Contains full covers, variant covers.]
We're going to check back in with Catwoman for a bit, and then on to the first Countdown to Final Crisis trade paperback. Be there!
(Oh, and Marc? You had me at 3x2(9YZ)4A.)