When it comes to superpowers, super speed ranks up there alongside flight, invisibility, and X-ray vision as abilities we would love to have on a day-to-day basis. And when it comes to superheroes with super speed, the most famous character is, by far, The Flash.
The Flash has been part of nearly every major crossover event in DC Comics history. The 1961 comic Flash of Two Worlds even introduced the concept of a multiverse, which has become the defining trait of DC and Marvel comics over the past several decades.
But The Flash isn’t just a single person. For a character as important as this, it only makes sense that DC has had several people take on the mantle of The Flash. Of them, who was the best?
Here’s our look at the different versions of The Flash in the comic books to determine which one was the best of them all.
5. Barry Allen
When most people think of The Flash, it’s the Barry Allen version that comes to mind. From the TV series by The CW to the Justice League movie, Barry Allen is the most iconic Flash of the modern era.
He hits all the classic comic book notes, from his tragic backstory (witnessing his mother’s murder) to his own personal sacrifice (saving the entire universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths).
Barry Allen’s version of The Flash is as close to a quintessential superhero as you can get outside of a Superman comic.
So why doesn’t he feature higher on our list? Despite being stereotypically good for much of his publication history, the Flashpoint storyline was a fun idea that was handled poorly and only served to create yet another DC retcon.
On top of that, the biggest strike against Barry Allen is that he’s simply too bland and straightforward as a character, meaning he lacks the depth of many of his fellow Speed Force users.
4. Jay Garrick
Thanks to the strange floating timeline of DC comics, Jay Garrick has been active as The Flash since the 1940s and for the past thirty years at the same time.
Jay Garrick was the original Scarlet Speedster, running around Keystone City with a metal helmet and a T-shirt (because superhero costumes were simpler back in the day).
Jay Garrick was The Flash during the Golden Age of comics and was considered a completely different character, at least until Flash of Two Worlds thrust him into the mainstream DC continuity alongside his Silver Age counterpart, Barry Allen.
Jay is often cast as a mentor character in comics, mainly for having years of experience with the Speed Force. What makes him more than just a mentor, however, is the fact that he’s still active as a superhero and he often fights alongside his successors.
In every issue where Jay Garrick appears, he feels like he’s just two days from retirement. He’s also one of the first major comic characters to be openly gay (an aspect that has been handled both very well and very poorly by different writers over the years).
But despite his wisdom and the variety of enemies he’s faced over the years, Jay is little more than a supporting character for much of his own history, preventing him from ranking any higher on our list.
3. Avery Ho
The Flash has been in comics for nearly 80 years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that a woman of color stepped into the role.
Avery Ho also happens to be the only Flash to have no familial connection to Barry Allen. (Even Jay Garrick, who has no blood relation, eventually went on to be godfather to Bart Allen.) She’s a complete outsider to the role, which made her truly fresh when she was first introduced.
Avery Ho possesses all the usual powers that come with a connection to the Speed Force and has shown to be more than capable of keeping up with other members of the Justice League.
That said, she’s still fairly new in her role as The Flash and she has plenty of room for growth. Lacking the litany of accomplishments her predecessors have, she can’t rank any higher on our list.
2. Bart Allen
The Flash has a history of time travel and dimensional shenanigans, so it was only a matter of time before there came a Flash from the future.
He came in the form of Bart Allen, who is Barry Allen’s grandson from a future timeline that traveled back in time to help stop his accelerated aging affliction. Once that stabilized, Bart took on the title of Impulse and worked as a sidekick to then-current Flash, Wally West.
Later, Bart Allen would take up Wally’s old title of Kid Flash and even briefly became The Flash.
As his original superhero name suggests, Bart is impulsive and rash and often acts before anyone around him has had a chance to think. It’s a character trait that’s much in line with the concept of a speedster, and that made him a fun character throughout his complicated history.
1. Wally West
You can tell when someone was first introduced to The Flash via the Justice League animated TV series because their first inclination of the character will be Wally West.
Wally West got his start in the comics as Kid Flash—Barry Allen’s nephew and sidekick with a mouth as fast as himself—before he eventually took up the role as The Flash following Allen’s final sacrifice.
Wally West was just as fast as his predecessor, even showing at points that he could become faster if he wasn’t holding himself back. But West’s speed isn’t what makes him the best Flash in comic book history.
Coming from the Bronze Age of comics, West was given more depth and flaws than any Flash up to that point, and that ultimately made him a more interesting character overall.
His quips and taunts were often an attempt to distract from his own fears and insecurities, but it was him overcoming of those shortcomings that make him the greatest superhero to wield the Speed Force.