Batman has the Joker. Green Lantern has Sinestro. For the Flash, his arch rival has always been The Reverse Flash, a.k.a. Professor Zoom. But Zoom is Barry Allen’s opposite in more than just color schematics. For all the hope and optimism that The Flash resonates, Reverser Flash is there to tear it down it down with fear and panic. A real buzzkill in the Flash’s life since his introduction in 1963, the Reverse Flash has brought the darkest moments to Barry Allen’s life. Fortunately for readers, that also means the most gripping and compelling Flash tales around.
In honor of the Reverse Flash’s live-action debut on Tuesday’s midseason finale of The Flash, we present a highlight reel of the villain’s best moments in his war against the Scarlet Speedster. For just this once, it’s ok to be evil.
1) “The Return of Barry Allen”
The Flash Vol. 2 #73-#79
One of Mark Waid’s finest tales in an already legendary run on The Flash, Wally West’s greatest wish comes true when his mentor and friend, Barry Allen, returns from the grave. The Silver Age Flash’s return quickly sours, however, when Barry stops acting like his chummy old self. His attempted at killing Wally West and becoming the “only Flash” once more doesn’t help the situation much, either. We won’t spoil what’s wrong with the recently-revived Barry here, but as this list will likely clue you in, the Reverse Flash is involved in a major way. By confronting his corrupt mentor and Professor Zoom, Wally West, who’s still fairly new to the role of the Scarlett Speedster, learns to trump his own insecurities as the “replacement” Flash and grow into the confidant hero he was born to be. Filled with terrific cliffhangers and a lightning-fast pace (this is a Flash tale, after all), The Return of Barry Allen is a thrilling tale that also shows just how demented Professor Zoom really is.
The Flash Vol. 2 #197-#200
As part of Geoff Johns’ lengthy run on the Flash, Professor Zoom was updated for the 21st century with a new alter-ego and new motivation for hating the Flash. While Barry Allen’s Professor Zoom was Eobard Thawne, Flash-obsessed lunatic from the far future, Wally West’s Reverse Flash was Hunter Zolomon (see how they snuck “Zoom in there?), Wally West’s friend from the Keystone City police department. By establishing the new Zoom as a former friend of the Flash’s and a victim of his own tragedies, Johns created an archival with legitimate pathos. Sure, the new “Zoom” is still a big jerk, but at least we can understand why his grapes are so sour. Johns also gave Zoom a refreshing and new modus operandi. Instead of just attacking Wally West because he hated the guy, Zoom tormented him in hopes of making him a better hero. Only by enduring loss and tragedy, according to Zoom, could The Flash reach is true potential as a hero. Aw, how sweet.
3) The Death of Professor Zoom
The Flash Vol. 1 #321-#325
Freed from the extra-dimensional prison that Barry Allen trapped him in four years prior, Professor Zoom declares uncompromising revenge on the Flash and his loved ones. And seeing as how Reverse Flash had killed Barry’s wife, Iris, in their last confrontation, that’s a pretty big statement. Thawne wastes little time, tormenting the Flash with teases of his eventual revenge, but never formally confronting the character. The pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse makes for a thrilling read, as both Barry and the reader have no idea where Zoom will strike next. When Thane finally reveals his true target, Barry Allen’s fiancee, the story shifts into a pulse-pounding race to save her life. Unable to let Zoom kill another of his loved ones, Barry is forced to snap Zoom’s neck. Though Barry saves the day, it’s Zoom who truly one. Whereas most villains usually fail at corrupting their heroic rivals, Zoom succeeded in pushing Barry Allen over the edge. Now a murderer and a felon, Barry Allen’s life collapses on itself until he is forced to flee into the future. The story arc is a must-read amongst the Barry and Thawne confrontations, with repercussions that were felt in Flash lore right until the New 52. Beyond that, it’s also one of the few canonical DC stories where the villain truly wins.
4) “Rogue War: Chapter 5”
The Flash Vol. 2 #224
In Wally West and Hunter Solomon’s first rematch since “Blitz,” Zoom is more determined than ever to teach Flash a lesson in pain. And who better to instruct Wally in the ways of suffering than a Professor? That’s right, it’s two Reverse Flash’s against one, as Zoom travels back to the past to recruit Professor Zoom for a double-team on Wally West. As the good professor holds Barry down, Zolomon takes the three back in time to the events of “Blitz,” where Solomon’s attack on Wally’s wife caused her to miscarry Wally’s unborn child. Revisiting that painful moment in time again, and again, and again, The Reverse Flash’s nearly brake The Flash’s spirit into a million pieces. To call this one personal is a gross understatement, and shows just how ruthless it can get between Flash and The Reverse Flash.
5) “The Flash: Rebirth”
The Flash: Rebirth #1-#5
While “Rebirth” established Barry Allen as the DC Universe’s primary speedster, it also re-crowned Eobard Thawne as king of the Zooms. As Barry struggles to acclimate to the land of the living, he can’t help like he’s been shifted “into reverse.” See where this is going? Only when the Flash’s rebirth devolves into a horrific nightmare, does Zoom reveal that he’s pulled of a resurrection of his one. But that’s just one part of Eobard Thawne’s hat trick, revealing that he is not only responsible for bringing Barry back to life, but for also murdering Barry’s mother when Barry was a child (it’s a time-travel thing). We won’t spoil any more here, as the story is definitely worth a read. It distills the characters’ 50-year rivalry into a conflict that new readers can understand, while also setting the stage for another fifty years of conflict. And if anyone is interested in reading Flashpoint, the story events that ushered in the New 52 status quo, Flash: Rebirth is a direct processor to that.