So first, let’s just get one thing out of the way. The Flash is more powerful than Superman. It used to be that Superman was considered to be as fast as the Flash, which is just, just terrible. The guy with fifty million powers, the guy who’s got so many abilities Batman has to ask him if he can detect microwaves before he himself thinks to check what’s going on in that part of the spectrum, that guy does not need to outshine the guy with ONE power at that ONE ability. And I’m glad that they resolved the whole “Superman has won foot races with the Flash” thing by having the Flash sigh and say, “Clark, those were for charity.” Moving on.
Let me tell you a story. We were playing a fantasy RPG and our characters were aboard a sailing ship. We were attacked by a dragon. The dragon lands on the deck of the ship and starts fighting us with tooth and claw. And we, the players, all look at each other, embarrased and confused. No one wants to say it but we’re all annoyed and angry. Because there’s no way a dragon would do that. The creature flew out over the sea to reach the ship. So why did it land? It could have smashed the rigging of the ship down on top of us. It could have breathed fire on the ship. It could dive into the water and tear out the bottom of the ship, leaving us all to drown or float adrift. It could have done several of these things. But landing on the ship where we can make a fight of it is the single worst combat option the dragon could choose. We all felt like the GM was coddling us as incompetent children.
So too is it with the Flash.
He’s too damned powerful and so the writers have to find ways every week to hide how powerful he is.
The way he fights is entirely so he can give his opponents the illusion of having a chance. Watch the show some time. Not only is the Flash insanely powerful with the one superpower that really matters — he has backup! He’s got a team monitoring satellites and radio and TV that speak to him directly via a commlink in his cowl. So nine times out of ten, nineteen times out of twenty, he knows his enemy’s exact location before the enemy even knows he’s on the way.
So how would you or I really deal with opponents on that basis? Well, here’s what I would do. I would run in at superspeed, find my opponent, approach him from behind and smack him across the back of the head with a stick. Pow! Bad man is down. If I were scared that might kill him, then I would run up behind him and stick a taser into the base of his spine, tie him up, wait for the cops and go home. Done.
If my opponent were a robot or an animated statue or some inanimate object that I could safely destroy, I would just run at it from behind at about mach ten with a handful of ball bearings, open my hand and either turn or stop and watch the ball bearings blow the target into kingdom come. The military has what are called Kinetic Kill Vehicles — these are missiles that have no warheads. They just smash into things so fast that simple kinetic energy annihilates the target. The Flash can turn a beignet into one.
Watch him fight on the show. He approaches at superspeed, then comes to a halt in front of the villain, standing out in the open, behind no cover, and engages the villain in conversation. I don’t have words for how stupid that is.
And no, being possessed of superspeed doesn’t automatically make you a genius but Barry Allen isn’t supposed to be an intellectual slouch. He’s supposed to be one of the best forensic scientists that anyone’s ever seen. He should have more sense than to give the bad guy a chance like that. But episode after episode after episode, he gives his opponent a fair chance because if he ran in, knocked the guy out and tied him up midair, handcuffing his opponent around the wrists and ankles before he could even hit the ground, we wouldn’t have a show. And we shouldn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the Flash. I loved every appearance he made on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. I adored Kid Flash in Young Justice. But having teams severely draws your attention away from the insane powerlevel of the speedsters. Also the threats that the Justice League faces are a lot more grave than the average Flash Rogues Gallery villain. Fighting an army of Darkseid’s parademons, sure, no problem. But Captain Cold? Captain Boomerang? You shouldn’t be able to watch an episode like that without laughing and asking how in the hell would anyone be dumb enough to think they can take down the Flash with a cold gun or a trick boomerang. And I love Boomer. He was the best part of Task Force X on Justice League. I mean, almost getting the team pinched by having seventy five cents in his pocket and setting off the metal detector rather than throw away SEVENTY FIVE CENTS!? Hilarious.
And that’s why I love the Flash and his villains. They’ve got great personality. But a whole Flash show? Ridiculous. Week after week after week. I could almost get up and go get a sandwich during these fight scenes. Almost.
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Fantasy, science fiction and steampunk author Brandon Black is the editor of New Orleans By Gaslight, a first of its kind anthology of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy poetry and fiction set in Victorian-era New Orleans. Brandon is also the web content manager for the Week in Geek, New Orleans’ favourite fantasy and science fiction themed radio talk show, every Saturday at 1 pm CST on WGSO 990 AM. Click here to check out Brandon’s ever-expanding list of published works.