With all the attention the Flash is getting lately with Flash: Rebirth, seems like a good time for another top essential trade paperbacks list (see our previous Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman lists).
Since there's more modern Flash collections out from a variety of teams, this list will run down what you should read to be in the know.
* JLA: Year One
Both this and Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold were written by Mark Waid, who writes a significant number of the Flash Wally West stories below. These two collections show the Flash Barry Allen during the formation of the JLA; while both have been largely retconned out since their publication, they may be useful for giving the reader a sense of Barry Allen's personality.
- JLA: Year One
- Flash and Green Lantern: The Brave and the Bold
* Crisis on Infinite Earths
This mega DC Comics crossover, which saw the temporary end of the Multiverse, also brought with it the death of Barry Allen. This brought full-circle the Silver Age of comics, since stories with Barry also launched the Multiverse. You can find many of those in:
- Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups (Barry meets Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick)
- Crisis on Multiple Earths: The Team-Ups Vol. 2
- Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 1
- Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 2
- Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 3
- Crisis on Multiple Earths Vol. 4
- DC Comics Classics Library: The Flash of Two Worlds
- Crisis on Infinite Earths
* The Flash: Born to Run
Mark Waid wrote eight years worth of Flash stories and his name is near synonymous with Barry Allen's successor, the former Kid Flash Wally West. Waid's run wouldn't really hit its stride, nor make drastic changes to the Flash, until later, but this trade collects his first arc on the story along with some extras.
* Flash: The Return of Barry Allen
Heralded as one of the all-time great comic book stories, and an excellent collected volume, this storyline (including Flash #75) put Mark Waid and Flash on the map. Twists, turns, and emotion abounds when Barry Allen returns from the dead, causing Wally West to rethink his role as the Flash. If you read one trade only on this list, this is the one to read. Still gives me chills every time I read it.
* Flash: Terminal Velocity
Oftentimes sequels are not as good as the originals, but Mark Waid's next big storyline on Flash (and its lead-in volume, Impulse: Reckless Youth) prove that adage wrong. Every major speedster of the day appears in this story that pits Wally West against the villain Kobra in a breathtaking finale, and also introduces the Speed Force that's become such a part of the Flash mythos. More from Mark Waid:
- Flash: Terminal Velocity
- Impulse: Reckless Youth (leads in to this volume)
- Flash: Dead Heat (with characters from Terminal Velocity)
- Flash: Race Against Time
- The Life Story of the Flash (a prose/comics biography of Barry Allen written by Mark Waid)
* Flash: Emergency Stop
Shortly before a big time-spanning Flash storyline by Mark Waid called "Chain Lightning" (currently, unfortunately, uncollected), Grant Morrison and Mark Millar guest-wrote on Flash for about a dozen issues, heralded for their Silver Age-like creativity. Wally gets a new costume, races an alien speedster, and most importantly must escape the Black Flash, a speedster grim reaper who's reappeared in the Flash titles. These stories continue in:
- Flash: Emergency Stop
- Flash: The Human Race
* Flash: Blood Will Run
Flash had a couple of fill-in writers after Mark Waid left with issue #159, before a then-relatively-unknown writer named Geoff Johns took over. Johns's run began modestly enough with the six-part Flash: Wonderland, but really took off when artist Scott Kollins joined for the "Blood Will Run" storyline. Not only does Geoff Johns write a detailed, thoughtful examination of Wally West and how he's unique among most every hero out there, but Scott Kollins delivers two-page spreads that will blow your mind. The fight between Flash and Gorilla Grodd in Flash: Rogues is one for the ages. This series includes:
- Flash: Wonderland
- Flash: Blood Will Run
- Flash: Rogues
- Flash: Crossfire
- Superman vs. The Flash (contains a Geoff Johns story)
- Flash: Blitz
* Flash: Ignition
Still part of Geoff Johns's run on Flash, Ignition represented a tonal shift for the series. With changes in both Wally's identity and his supporting cast, Johns truly put his mark on Flash beginning with this collection (see the Collected Editions retrospective on Geoff Johns's Flash run.) While former JLA artist Howard Porter would later join Johns on Flash, this particular story had fantastically dark art by Alberto Dose. One of my favorites. Johns's run concluded in:
- Flash: Ignition
- Flash: The Secret of Barry Allen
- Flash: Rogue War
* Flash, The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle
Shortly after Rogue War, the Flash title ended, concluding in the DC Comics crossover Infinite Crisis. Out of that series came the thirteen-issue Flash, the Fastest Man Alive, starring the fourth Flash Bart Allen. Fans agree that most of the issues in this series, written by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo and later by Mark Guggenheim, do not match the quality of Mark Waid or Geoff Johns's stories, but I did enjoy the conclusion, at least, which offers a nice tie to Crisis on Infinite Earths. This series is collected in:
- Infinite Crisis
- Flash, The Fastest Man Alive: Lightning in a Bottle
- Flash, The Fastest Man Alive: Full Throttle
* Flash: The Wild Wests
After the end of The Fastest Man Alive, Wally West returned to the mantle of the Flash, this time with his new family in tow. There's only one collection of that Flash series (which picked up its numbering from the previous), before it ended just before the DC Comics crossover Final Crisis. The following stories bring you up to date to Flash: Rebirth:
- Flash: The Wild Wests
- Final Crisis
- Final Crisis: Rogues Revenge
There you have it! If there's any I missed, let me know. You can find all of these collections on sale at the new Collected Editions trade paperback store.
What's your favorite Flash story?