It is often a matter of heated debate between comic fans to determine which character is the strongest or rather the fastest iteration of the Flash, the original speedster Barry Allen or his protegé Wally West. The debate rages for the simple reason that we’ve seen Barry popularize the mantle of the Flash and push it into the limelight but it was undoubtedly Wally West who has better feats in the comic pages. On one hand, it is Wally west who has even beaten instantaneous teleportation when racing comic beings but it is Barry Allen from whom the speed force stems from. So who wins? Well, before we delve into that we need to iterate and establish a basic character analysis and setting for a battle between these two. Shall we?
When DC comics came into its pre-crisis and/or silver age of comics the writers had to choose someone to take over the mantle of the Flash. Up until that moment the title belonged to the first ever human being to attain the Speed Force. This man was Jay Garrick, but his unpopular comic was its own downfall. So writers took the man’s powers and created Flash, Barry Allen Flash.
They took a nerd, a science nerd who lost his parents at a young age, who was raised by his foster father to be the right kind of man (hello Spiderman origin cliché) and then took away everything dear to him. Agreeably Barry Allen did not loose his foster father but the death of his mother and the subsequent incarceration of his father left a big scar on Barry’s life. His childhood tragedy is what fueled Allen to go into law enforcement. Just because the system had failed him and resulted in his Dad being wrongly framed for the murder of his mother did not mean that the system should not be trusted, in Barry’s eyes all it meant was that the system needed to be improved.
So our hero persevered and studied hard until he became a scientist and then he chose to follow in the footsteps of his foster father, Police Officer Joe West and joint the central city police department. Barry was a beloved son to Joe and seeing his ward come up in forensics department made his chest swell with pride. But where there is happiness, tragedy often follows.
Owing to a violent storm and a late work night by Allen there was an accident that would go on to become one of the most important events in DC comics. You see one night Allen was sorting chemicals when central City was invaded by violent thunderstorms, unbeknownst to Allen a lightning bolt struck his exact position and left Allen unconscious and doused with all sort of hazardous chemicals in unknown proportions. Barry should’ve died but he did not, what happened next was that Barry gained the powers of the Flash.
A speedster who can use a mysterious energy known as the speed force to bend and even break the rules of physics and move at Faster than light speeds. The term FTL combat reeks of the Flash as forums and columns filled with feats performed by the man who took up the mantle, or rather the man who sprung it into the limelight. The story of infinite crisis where Barry is lost to the speedforce is arguably one of the high points of DC comic history, both commercially and critically. The return of Barry Allen and the revelation that the speed force is a manifestation of the powers of Barry Allen further solidified his place in the DC multiverse.
As sidekicks go the character of the Kid Flash is a bit of an exception to the rule. The role of the sidekick has always been of a protégé in the DC comic-verse. The writers like to bring up the possibility of the main hero retiring and his/her disciple taking up the mantle. That’s the premise , that’s what is indicated ever so often (Batman 2037: Damian Wayne Batman, Batman Knightfall: Dick Grayson Batman, Azazel, Death of Superman: Superboy etc.) but it’s always a neat bait and switch, we get to experience the new version of our classic hero and then just when we start to miss the good old days the original hero comes back. Why? Because they like money , that’s why!!
However, Wally West is perhaps the only character that completely transformed from a sidekick to a protagonist. When he took over the mantle of the Flash in post-crisis DC multiverse, we saw a new Flash emerge. After the disappearance of Barry Allen and the conclusion of Infinite Crisis, we saw the writers get very creative with the Flashpoint comic. Wally west raced against immortal beings and defeated the power of instantaneous teleportation, he beat omnipotent beings in a race across time and space.
Wally was also the first Flash to ever use the infinite mass punch, and that also against zoom. He is the Flash that outran the Grimm reaper of speedsters(Black Flash) by having him phase through Darkseid and he was the Flash that took both the name and his own powers to unprecedented levels. No sidekick has ever evolved like Wally west did, from Kid Flash to the protagonist of Flashpoint, what an achievement for the young man. In the absence of Barry Allen Wally established a fandom for himself and popularized his version of the Flash under experimental writing.
Then when Barry Allen came back the writers consciously chose to sidetrack Wally again in favor of their primary protagonist, Barry Allen. Several retcons and re-imaginings later it was established that it was, in fact, Barry Allen who taught Wally everything he knew and accomplished and the Speedforce itself stemmed from Allen when he broke the law of physics. Hence, every speedster out there is just harnessing Barry’s power making him the OG Flash.
It is well established that Wally is an exception to the rule when it comes to mentor-disciple relationships in the DC comicverse, however, it is also pertinent to note that while Wally might be proficient in his speedster powers (extremely proficient), he is still considered secondary to Barry in almost every respect. One could argue that Wally has better feats when it comes to comics and hence if the speedsters ever engaged in combat then it will be Wally who comes out on top. But whoever poses this argument is missing one key fact, the speedforce is Barry Allen.
It is his doing that the speedforce exist ps, all other speedsters are merely harnessing that energy. Now, it is a matter of debate whether Barry can consciously control this energy that flows out of his body, maybe he can, maybe he can’t. But the fact remains that he is the source of it, which means that he also possesses an infinite supply of it, or rather he possesses the largest supply of it. The more speedforce a speedster harnesses the faster he is, so Barry will win this fight when it comes down to speed Barry is clearly superior no matter what feats Wally does or does not have.
But a fight is rarely decided by speed, don’t get me wrong speed is an indispensable tool in a speedster’s arsenal but what I’m trying to divert your attention to are tactics. Batman has shown us time and again that it is strategy and tactics that win the battle not raw strength. So who has the better mentality, or rather the better tactics? Wally or Barry?
Well, Barry is a cop , he has been trained to notice the smallest details and all his years of operating as the Flash and as a part of the central city police department forensic unit has honed his senses to the point that he can analyze a crime scene in a fraction of a second (which still might be too much time, considering it’s the Flash we’re talking about).
So be it speed or strategy there is hardly any evidence to support that Wally might one up the OG Flash. BARRY ALLEN WINS.