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[The Black Flash - Flash 140]
Occupation: Manifestation of Death
First Appearance: Flash v.2 #138, June 1998
See Also: Death, The Black Racer, Dark Flash


The Indians had a name for it. They called it “slow lightning,” but Jay Garrick and I have referred to it over the years as “The Black Flash.” Death has many faces.... This is just the shape it takes when it comes for speedsters.
   —Max Mercury, Flash (second series) #139, July 1998

The Black Flash was spotted before the deaths of Barry Allen and Johnny Quick. Max Mercury was known to have seen it. And when it came for Wally West, Max tried to save him... and it instead took Wally’s girlfriend Linda Park—who five minutes later would have been his fiancée.

But it was not satisfied with Linda, and returned for its intended victim, interrupting time and freezing all but those with a long connection to the speed force. Max, Jay, and Jesse tried to distract it, but it took Wally running a race to the end of time, to when Death no longer has meaning, to escape its notice.

Wally cheated death twice, bringing Linda back from the edge, but as Max Mercury says, “The Black Flash is waiting for us all at the end of the race.”

Meditations on Death

[Image of Death from Sandman: Brief Lives]

The DC Universe has many manifestations of Death. The Black Flash...the Black Racer... and of course, Death of the Endless. Now that I’ve read the entire run of The Sandman, I have a different perspective on the Black Flash.

It’s established in The Sandman: Dream Country that Death can be in many places at once. It’s also shown that Dream can take on multiple appearances—he takes on the form of a cat when appearing to other cats (Dream Country again), and appears to the Martian Manhunter as the ancient Martian deity Lord L’Zoril (Preludes and Nocturnes). This fits with Max’s remark that “Death has many faces”—it/she can track Wally as a skeletal Flash while taking someone across town in her “goth girl” persona.

But if Death can exist in many places at once, what really happened to the Black Flash? We know from The Books of Magic that Death is there at the very end of the universe, putting everything in order and closing the door behind her. For Wally to reach a time when death has no meaning would mean he had somehow raced past the end of the universe.

On the other hand, suppose he only came near the end of time. If the Black Flash were truly traveling through time as Wally was, it would be protected from any ill effects in the same way he was. So it must follow the timeframe of the rest of the universe. By that time Death must have her hands full dealing with all the stray bits of life, since she can’t miss any of them, and has a schedule to keep. Death can’t spare the attention to keep the Black Flash chasing after someone who’s just going to return to the distant past, and whom she’s already taken billions of years ago. *Poof,* no more Black Flash.

Of course, the Black Flash might not be a manifestation of Death at all, but of the Speed Force, imbued with a horrifying appearance because it seems to be death. After all, it took Linda’s body to the Speed Force, rather than taking her soul to an afterlife, and it’s arguable that Linda wasn’t actually “dead.” Of course, if that’s the case, then Johnny, Barry, and Savitar aren’t really “dead” either, which opens up a whole realm of possibilities... (See Where’s Barry?)

Text by Kelson Vibber. Do not copy without permission.

Top of Page Primary Sources

  • “The Black Flash” - Flash (second series) #139–141 (July–September 1998), Mark Millar

Art

  • The Black Flash: Flash (second series) #140 (August 1998) - Pop Mhan and Chris Ivy
  • Death of the Endless: The Sandman #43 (Brief Lives) (1992) - Jill Thompson and Vince Locke

Significant Legacy-Era Appearances

  • Flash #139–141 (July–September 1998): The Black Flash, Mark Millar
  • Impulse #64 (September 2000): Mercury Falling Part 3: “Virtual Heroes,” Todd Dezago (cameo)

Significant One-Year-Later Flash Appearances

  • The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #12 (July 2007): “Full Throttle: Running out of Time,” Marc Guggenheim
  • The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive #13 (August 2007): “Full Throttle: Fastest Man Alive,” Marc Guggenheim

Related Commentary

The Flash Companion The Flash Companion
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