Iris’ Allen’s The Life Story of the Flash

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With the ever controversial One More Day, and the blanket ban on New 52, it looks like marriage in comics is  thing of the past. It’s a shame too because then we miss out on trades like Iris Allen’s Life Story of the Flash, a delightful biography of Barry Allen’s tenure as the Flash told from the point of view of his wife. It’s basically a recap of Barry Allen’s life told in a very clever way. The narrative weaves in prose and comics in a way that makes it really easy and fun to read. I really liked how they drew the comics portions in the style of the late silver/bronze age of comics. This gives the reader a nice, subtle idea of when the original storyline took place. There were plenty of  other really nice touches that I really enjoyed, such as crediting Iris Allen as the author on the back jacket and having the reviews be from Lois Lane and other journalists in the DCU. It’s just really charming. Another thing I really liked about the trade is that even though it’s really just a summery, it has a lot of humor and heart. I wasn’t very familiar with the Flash characters going in, but once I finished the book, I felt like I really got to know Wally and Iris West. In that regard, it works as a great gateway drug into the Flash mythos. It effectively shows the heart of Barry and Iris’s relationship, all their ups, downs, funny moments, and heartaches. One panel in particular stood out to me. It was an exchange where Barry and Iris casually discuss a recent crime he’d stopped like he was just talking about a regular day at work. It’s the book in a nutshell: both mundane and fantastical.

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Allow me to get on my soapbox for a minute and tell you that this is what I really like about married couples in comics and why wish they hadn’t banned it. With supercouples, we’re done with the cliche ‘will they or won’t they,’ where the will involves the hero revealing his or her secret identity. It’s a definite ‘will.’ It’s been done a million times and will be done a million more with each new hero’s love interest. With a married supercouple, their relationship is built around mutual trust and teamwork. The spouse is someone the hero/heroine can always rely on. They laugh in the face of ’til death do us part. To me, a healthy, happy relationship that can survive several kidnappings, super villain attacks, presumed deaths, and actual deaths is more interesting than whatever Peter Parker and Carley Cooper ever had. There seems to be a mentality among many editors that marriage happens at the end of the story. It’s what happens after Snow White rides off with Prince Charming on his white horse and when superheroes decide to settle down in the suburbs. They feel that it limits story possibilities. I feel that it’s the opposite. By refusing to let heroes marry, they’re the ones limiting story ideas. Marriages aren’t perfect, and that in and of itself leads to plenty of possible story lines. What if the spouse got sick or hurt because the hero was reckless? What if he or she becomes a target for super villains? What if they get caught in a time warp or inter-dimensional portal and it’s up to the hero to get him or her back? What if the spouse becomes a superhero in his or her own right? What if they become a villain? What if one of the super-spouses is presumed dead for one reason or another and the other has to find them against all odds? What is they have kids together? What if the spouse can’t take it anymore and wants a divorce? These are just a few off the top of my head. There are plenty of possible plots that can be done and it’s too bad that it won’t be happening anytime soon.

This book is a great argument for marriage in comics. It chronicles the highs and lows of an iconic super-couple and their dying, undying, resurrected, and retconned love while also working as an introduction to the Flash mythos. I highly recommend it.

24 thoughts on “Iris’ Allen’s The Life Story of the Flash”

    1. Me too. In a way, it does. I don’t Joe Quesada (the one most blamed for breaking up the couple) personally, but I get the feeling he has that somewhat immature attitude towards marriage. And wow, I just now realized that this is also an appropriate Valentine’s day article.

      1. I prefer single Peter Parker. Like in AMAZING issues 250-ish to the 290’s, when he sorta had that love triangle with MJ and Felicia Hardy. Another thing that I loved about that time period was him living in a crappy apartment while struggling to make ends meet and at the same time worried to death over Aunt May (especially when he was fighting a villain who was heading in one direction, endangering the public, while Aunt May was deathly ill in the opposite direction and the only thing that can save her is the antidote under Spider-Man’s belt. Poor Spidey and his dilemmas).

        I didn’t like Lois & Clark getting married, either.

        I did, however, like it when Daredevil married Milla Donavan, but because it added another level of disaster & dysfunction to his already FUBAR life.

        1. Ya, I started reading Amazing in the 360s so he was already married. I think in our two cases it can be compared to the first beer that we actually finished. People normally still like that first brand they finished or the first brand they regularly chose. Pete was married when I started reading about him so for me that is his natural state. I did however think that it would be “more exciting” to see Pete single but the result has proved me wrong (in my opinion). I still argue that they should have just let Ben Reily live and then they could have had a married Pete and an unmarried Pete and told stories with the best of both worlds. The devils deal was silly.

        2. It really just comes down to taste. I’m not a really big fan of ‘will they or won’t they’, and love triangles, so I prefer it when the hero is in a stable relationship. I see the story telling possibilities in both, but the marriage angle is a little less overdone.

            1. I think you are right, iroberts. In general, people do stick with their first loves of sublime experiences. In other words, they stick with what works for them. Music, brands, genres, food. It’s essential to be open minded and try new things, but certain themes will always have a special place in our proverbial hearts.

  1. Great article, as well as defense of married superheroes. While I’m not as strongly invested in the Peter/MJ issue as others, I do think that the biggest mistake of the New 52 was splitting up Clark & Lois. They had a wonderful dynamic together, which went a long way to humanizing this all-powerful alien being.

    I think that another great example of what you’re discussing is the relationship between Animal Man and his wife, Ellen The best Animal Man stories are the ones that show Buddy dealing with the everyday issues of marriage and fatherhood as much as punching bad guys . . .

          1. Well, if you only read one batch of Animal Man issues, definitely the Morrison ones are the way to go. They are the most iconic for very good reason.

            You hear less about the Veitch run, but personally I love it. DC finally got around to collecting it in trade, so it’s more accessible now . . .

            1. This is going to sound like blasphemy but I love Jeff Lemire’s Animal run and slightly disliked Morrison’s. Maybe I had high expectations of Morrison’s AMan going in but for me I remember it being either too dark or too metaphysical. It’s been a while since I read it though. I’m pretty sure I finished reading the whole run too because me an animals go together like a man and man’s best friend. I also loved the art in Lemire’s run (whoever that was).

            2. I agree 100% that Buddy’s family life enhances the narrative. It seems essential to the story.

              As for Superman, I think humanizing him is a compelling component and a challenge. I’ve always thought that was best achieved through Ma & Pa Kent on the farm. His down-to-earth roots. With Lois, I’m always reminded that the only way they could consummate the marriage is with a kryptonite condom. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far. 😉

              1. I also liked Lemire’s ANIMAL MAN a lot while Travel Foreman was on pencils. After he left, I fell behind on the series.

                1. Yeah, their dynamic was a lot warmer than say the cold, militant approach of Batman & Robin. They were a very endearing combo.

                  1. I was back & forth with Lemire’s run. Overall I liked it, but I wouldn’t call it my favorite time with the character.

                    The plotline of Maxine getting powers was interesting (Socks was a great addition to the cast), but does have some precedent in the earlier Veitch run.

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