REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS KID FLASH
Mattel's increasingly amazing line of DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figures continues, and within Series 7, are two figures that take the "Classics" aspect of that name a little more seriously than some. Series 7 features The Flash and Kid Flash. The thing here is that there have been several individuals over the years known by both of those names. However, in this instance, The Flash is presented as Barry Allen, the "Silver Age" Flash who was killed in 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths (although he is being brought back as of this writing), and Kid Flash is Wally West, the first hero to have that particular moniker, but he later became The Flash after the death of Barry Allen. Years later, Bart Allen, initially known as the hyperactive hero Impulse, would be known years later as Kid Flash, and then briefly as Flash, before apparently being killed, although he was recently brought back in the 31st century by the Legion of Super-Heroes, once again as Kid Flash.
Well, one starts to get the impression that being the recipient of super-speed in the DC Universe tends to result in a rather chaotic life, doesn't it? Technically speaking, the figure of Kid Flash that Mattel has produced, and which I am reviewing here, is of Wally West, who was Kid Flash from his introduction in 1959, up to just prior to the Crisis on Infinite Earths. He became the Flash after that. Hopefully, I can sort all of this out a bit.
Kid Flash is the name of several fictional characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics, originally created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, as a junior counterpart to DC Comics superhero The Flash. The first incarnation of the character, Wally West, debuted in The Flash (vol. 1) #110 (1959). The character, along with others like the first Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Speedy, was created in response to the success of Batman's young sidekick Robin. These young heroes would later be spun off into their own superhero team, the Teen Titans. As Kid Flash, Wally West made regular appearances in Flash related comic books and other DC Comics publications from 1959 through the mid 1980s until the character was reinvented as the new version of The Flash.
Later, well after Wally West had made a name for himself as the new Flash, the character of Bart Allen, grandson of legendary Flash Barry Allen, was brought into the past from his home in the future and served as the young hero Impulse. In 2003, with writer Geoff Johns' relaunch of a new Teen Titans volume, Bart donned the mantle of Kid Flash after being nearly killed by the assassin Deathstroke. As Kid Flash, Bart appeared in Teen Titans and The Flash (vol. 2) regularly until the Infinite Crisis event, where a disappearance of Wally West made Bart the fourth Flash. Apparently killed by the Rogues, Bart was resurrected in the 31st century by Legion of Super-Heroes member Brainiac 5 and retook the mantle of Kid Flash.
Wally West was the nephew of existing Flash character Iris West. During a visit to Central City police laboratory where Barry Allen worked, the freak accident that gave Allen his powers repeated itself, bathing West in electrically-charged chemicals. Now possessing the same powers as The Flash, West donned a smaller sized copy of Barry Allen's Flash outfit and became the young crimefighter Kid Flash.
Shortly after meeting Flash's friend Elongated Man, Kid Flash received his own unique uniform. The Flash, who had been toying with a new design for Wally, was inspecting an alien mind over-matter machine when, in a burst of light, the new costume sprang from his mind and onto the body of his protégé. This costume, different than the Flash's own, was mostly yellow with red leggings and gloves. Since the new outfit exposed Wally's bright red hair, FIash provided his costume-storage ring with a special instant-dye spray with which he could easily change his hair color to brown. Wally would use this hair color "disguise" until the early 1980's, about mid-way through the 1980's Wolfman-Perez-developed "New Teen Titans" title.
In addition to his appearances within the Flash title, the character was used as a member of the newly created Teen Titans. The boy speedster first met Robin and Aqualad in The Brave and the Bold #54 (June-July, 1964), in an adventure that would predicate the formation of the Teen Titans shortly thereafter. Kid Flash remained a member in good standing of that team, though his participation limited his involvement in solo adventures considerably.
West retired from the 1980's incarnation of the Teen Titans for personal reasons, including a desire to devote more time to studying, to his new girlfriend Frances Kane, and because, as a result of his changing metabolism, he was beginning to lose his powers, and using them put his life at risk.
Kid Flash came out of retirement to fight in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and was hit harder than anyone when the heroes found Flash's costume and ring and realized that their compatriot was dead. However, even though a blast from the Anti-Monitor reduced Wally's top speed to that of sound, it cured him of his metabolic malady. This, combined with the desire to honor his mentor and friend, caused Wally West to forevermore discard his Kid Flash identity and, instead, adopt the name and costume of Flash.
The decision by DC comics editorial staff to radically change their fictional universe saw a number of changes to the status quo of the character. With Wally West as the Flash his abilities became less powerful. Instead of being able to reach the speed of light, he could run just faster than the sound, and the character had to eat vast quantities of food to maintain his metabolism.
Those changes were quickly followed up and 1987 saw the publication of a new Flash comic, initially written by Mike Baron.
The 1990s also saw some modifications to the look of the character, with a modified uniform appearing in 1991. This modified costume altered the visual appearance of the traditional flash costume with a belt made of two connecting lightning bolts, removed the wings from the top of his boots, altered the material of his costume, and added opaque lenses to the eyes of his cowl. This modified design utilized elements of the costume designed by artist Dave Stevens for the live action television series, The Flash.
A difficult encounter with a particularly vicious foe, the first Reverse-Flash (Eobard Thawne), also served to increase the speed of the character. After this encounter, he was Barry Allen's equal in speed, though he still had not been able to recover Barry's vibrational abilities.
This theme of power was further expanded upon by the writer Mark Waid further redefined the character by introducing the Speed Force, a energy source that served as a pseudo-scientific explanation for his powers and that of other fictional speedsters within the DC Universe. Using this concept as a basis, the character's ability to tap into the speed force was used to expand his abilities. The character was now able to lend speed to other objects and people (Terminal Velocity and aftermath: Flash #95–101, 1994–1995) and create a costume directly out of Speed Force energy. Traditional powers such as the ability to vibrate through solid objects were also restored.
The 2000s saw Writer Geoff Johns revitalize the character by introducing new versions of characters such as Zoom and making significant use of Flash's infamous Rogues' Gallery of villains, marrying the character to longtime girlfriend Linda Park, and introducing the concepts of fatherhood and family to the character by adding twin children to the supporting cast, Iris and Jai.
After the writer left the series, DC editorial decided that it was time for the status quo to change once more. Using the mini-series Infinite Crisis as a narrative device, the character of Wally West and his family were seen leaving for an alternative reality. This allowed the character of Impulse to become the fourth Flash and headline a relaunched third volume of the title, called The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive.
The critical reaction to this new version of the character was mixed and it was decided that Wally West should be resurrected. The JLA/JSA "The Lightning Saga" story was used to return the character is returned to earth along with his wife and children who appear to have aged several years, and now possess super-powers of their own.
This was followed by The Flash volume 2, which resumed publication after the long hiatus with issue #231 (Oct. 2007). The series found the character struggling with trying to raise his two super powered twins, plagued by accelerated growth and their inexperience in the heroic game; a task made more difficult by various personal issues, and the mistrust of the League for his decision to bring two children in the fold. The series was canceled with issue #247 (February. 2009).
In Final Crisis, the character was reunited with Barry Allen who had returned to life. Recent interviews with The Flash: Rebirth artist Ethan Van Sciver have revealed that the character will adopt a newly-designed costume in the limited series that reintroduces Barry Allen as the Flash.
So, how's the figure? Really excellent. Since this figure represents Wally West as Kid Flash, and arguably probably somewhat early in his career, the figure is on the short side, as one would expect. Whereas the average "adult" figure in the DC Universe Classics line stands about 6-1/2" in height, Kid Flash is about 5-1/2".
This height makes him comparable to Robin, a figure who was released in Series 3 of the DC Universe Classics line. Interestingly enough, that figure is the modern Robin, Tim Drake, in his most recent costume. Of course, by the time Tim Drake was introduced, Wally West had been The Flash for several years.
Welcome to DC Universe Classics -- we have over 70 years worth of characters to work with and take no responsibility for time-based continuity anomalies as a result! :)
I'm not certain whether Kid Flash shares any body mold parts with Robin. I don't really think he does. As distinctive a figure as Robin is, molded-detail-wise, it would almost have to be fairly limited to parts like the upper arms or some such.
The molds for Kid Flash might turn out to be a little more versatile. Although the boots are certainly distinctive, and the head is, of course, I can see Mattel getting a number of other teen heroes out of these molds. Anyone for Speedy and Aqualad, circa this same time period?
The overall musculature of the figure might be a little more pronounced than one would expect from someone who appears to be in his early teens, but this is the way the characters have tended to be presented. Besides, I suspect a few jogs around the world each night would go a long way to whipping a person into decent shape.
I have heard a number of comics commentators remark that the costumes for Flash and Kid Flash are among the best ever created. Personally, I tend to think that something like that is a matter of personal taste as much as anything, but both costumes are excellent designs.
In Kid Flash's case, the figure is an excellent representation of the character. To the best of my knowledge, this is only the second Kid Flash figure, of Wally West, anyway, ever produced. The first was a 7" figure that was part of a special Teen Titans assortment of the World's Greatest Super-Heroes, turned out by Mego in the late 1970's. Those figures had cloth costumes, and also featured Speedy, Aqualad, and unfortunately Wonder Girl (with articulation that was horrendous). That assortment of Mego figures is notable for its distinct scarcity.
Mattel's take on the character is superb. The colors are just as they should be, predominantly yellow with the red leggings and boots, and a red lightning bolt on the chest. The paintwork in the costume is very neatly done for the most part, although it's just a little off in the separation point between the red and the yellow on the lower torso piece. It's nothing that isn't fixable with a little bit of red, however, and certainly, I've seen worse mishaps than this. At least the piece was molded in yellow and painted red where necessary, instead of the other way around, which I don't think would've worked especially well.
The headsculpt is superb, and is an excellent likeness of Wally West. Generally speaking, the character, when best drawn (and I would be inclined here to refer to the George Perez era) tends to have a rather narrow and somewhat angular face, and a narrow nose. Those characteristics have been carried over to the figure. One wonders if the sculptors turning out this masterpiece of an action figure line used some of Perez's artwork for reference.
Kid Flash's hair is reddish in color, and is sculpted to look, not inappropriately, slightly windblown. The painted detail on the face is excellent, especially the eyes. When this sort of thing is done properly, on any action figure, it can really look quite amazing.
I believe that the red wings on the side of the mask are separate pieces that were glued into place. I don't think you could pull as complex a head design as this, especially with the wings, out of a single mold. One of them is bent in a slightly different angle than the other, but I think this might have been a result of getting a little misshapen in the package, rather than poor placement on the figure.
The bottoms of the feet, it definitely should be noted, are distinctly treaded. This was a trademark of both Flash and Kid Flash throughout the years, and I'm sincerely pleased to see this level of accuracy and attention to detail present on the figure. (Of course, if you really want to see some weird bottoms-of-the-feet, check out Mister Miracle...)
Articulation is, as one would expect from this line, excellent. Kid Flash is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. All of his articulation areas work superbly well. I'm pleased to see this becoming a growing trend in the DC Universe Classics line.
Any criticisms? Minor at best. Someone tried a little too hard to trim some excess plastic from the left shoulder, and trimmed it down a little further than the right. I saw this happen more severely on Nightwing a while back. There's also a small flap of plastic in the same area, almost like a plastic "hangnail", which I think I can trim off. I realize these figures are mass-produced under doubtless a tight deadline, but now that other quality issues this line has suffered are being dealt with now.
Overall assembly is excellent, although I did see a Kid Flash earlier than the one I picked up where some of the assembly seams didn't seem to be sealed as well as they should be. I'm honestly not sure how these figures are put together (there's no screws), and after the Lightray incident, I'm certainly reluctant to suggest that they start using more glue, if that's the case. Ultimate, this is just one of those matters that needs to be watched for a proper measure of precision.
The "Collect and Connect" figure in Series 7 is Atom Smasher, a hero of some prodigious size, and one whom I hope to build (and eventually review). Kid Flash comes with his right arm. And it's over half as tall as Kid Flash himself is.
For those interested in learning more about Wally West, how he got to be Kid Flash and beyond, there's an excellent modern retelling of his story that can be found in the DC Comics trade paperback "The Flash - Born to Run". I highly recommend it. For an unusual adventure in the history of the character, there was a "Brave and the Bold" limited series a few years back, before the modern series got started, that focused on Flash and Green Lantern. West, as Kid Flash, turned up in one of the stories, and briefly got hold of Hal Jordan's power ring, becoming, for a short time, "Kid Lantern". That would've made an interesting variant figure...
So, what's my final word here? Okay, Wally West has been the Flash for over twenty years, arguably longer than he was Kid Flash. As of this writing, I'm not sure what DC has in mind for him with Barry Allen returning. But there's no shortage of longtime DC fans that remember how West got his start, and are pleased to see this figure. Flash and Kid Flash are proving to be the fastest figures off the shelves in this particular series of DC Universe Classics. The irony is not lost, that's for sure. The trick is finding the figures.
However, should you come across them, and it really shouldn't be impossible, then if you're any sort of established DC fan, you'll want this one. I'm glad I've got him, and you'll like him, too. The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of KID FLASH definitely has my highest recommendation!