Note: There are spoilers for the Flash #790 in this article
The One-Minute War, with the DC Universe’s speedster superheroes fending off an extraterrestrial invasion all within the span of a single minute, kicks off in The Flash #790 by Jeremy Adams, Roger Cruz, Matt Banning, and Wellington Dias. With the DCU completely caught off-guard by the cosmic enemy, the invading enemy, known as the Fraction, strikes first and strikes hard. When the dust settles from the opening salvo, Barry Allen is heartbroken to discover that his longtime love Iris West is killed or, at the very least, grievously wounded in the devastating attack on Central City.
In a world of infinite possibilities and countless resurrections, Iris’ demise may not be as permanent as it appears – and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time for the character – but the moment sets a tragic bar for the storyline. More than just providing a shocking opening, the death draws Barry Allen front and center for the conflict as the DCU moves into the Dawn of DC era, following the crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths. Here’s how the Fraction’s initial attack immediately puts the Flash Family on the defensive, why Iris’ death is especially devastating for Barry in this specific moment, and how Iris has endured and recovered from death in her comic book past.
The One-Minute War
The Fraction are introduced as a spacefaring empire that have conquered and subjugated countless worlds, with their advanced technology facilitating this conquest before a targeted planet is even aware it’s under attack. This strategy continues as the Fraction approaches Earth undetected, deploying a massive device resembling a drill bit into river waterfront directly in between Central and Keystone Cities, with the Fraction referring to the device as “The Wall.” Ahead of its deployment, time mysteriously begins to freeze around the immediate vicinity, with only speedsters aware of what is occurring due to their unique perspective on time and space.
The Wall embeds itself deep into Central City, devastating everything around it as it deploys branches across its circular perimeter. As the Fraction commands their forces to ominously begin the culling, Barry, Wally West, Jay Garrick, Wallace West, Bart Allen, and Jesse Quick are all impacted directly by the Fraction’s arrival. However, with Barry and Iris located closest to the Wall’s epicenter, they are affected the most by its sheer destructive power as the Fraction makes landfall.
The tragedy of Barry & Iris
For Barry and Iris, this attack comes at a particularly pivotal time for their relationship, as Iris proposes the couple take their commitment to the next level – literally! Inspired by Wally’s wife Linda being pregnant with the couple’s third child, Iris pops the question to Barry over a scenic lunch overlooking the river, declaring her interest in starting a family of her own with her longtime romantic partner. The Fraction strikes before the visibly taken aback Barry can answer, with the resulting shockwave leaving Iris under a pile of rubble and a grieving Barry left cradling his girlfriend's body.
For Barry, the attack comes at a moment after he has undergone a lengthy tour of the reborn multiverse, chronicling the growing number of worlds for the multiversal superhero team Justice League Incarnate. Over the course of this cosmic odyssey, Barry was separated from his loved ones for a prolonged period after being taken prisoner by Darkseid and then Pariah in the lead-up to Dark Crisis, making this something of a reunion between him and Iris in a rare quiet moment that is violently interrupted.
And though there’s no definitive evidence that Iris has been killed, the closing cliffhanger suggests that she is not merely incapacitated by the deployment of the Wall. Given Barry’s history regarding losing Iris, the Fraction may have begun their invasion of Earth with a gross critical error that may find them on the defensive of the Flash’s certain wrath.
Iris West’s first death
Iris is no stranger to death herself, first being killed by the Reverse-Flash in 1979’s The Flash #275 by Cary Bates and Alex Saviuk. Ambushing Iris during a masquerade, Eobard Thawne vibrated his hand through Iris’ head, killing her instantly, as part of his longstanding feud against Barry. Though Barry eventually finds love again with a woman named Fiona Webb, Iris’ death continues to weigh heavily on him, leading him to avenge her by killing the Reverse-Flash when Eobard threatens Fiona on her wedding day to Barry by snapping the evil speedster’s neck before he can claim another victim.
Iris’ consciousness was preserved by John Fox, the Flash of the future, who places it within a new body in the 30th century, effectively giving her a new lease on life. After being convicted of Eobard’s murder, Barry finds refuge in the far-future where he is reunited with this resurrected Iris. During their time together in the 30th century, Barry and Iris conceive twins Don and Dawn Allen, who become the speedster superheroes the Tornado Twins. Don and Dawn eventually start their own respective families, with Don’s son Bart becoming Impulse while Dawn’s daughter Jenni becomes the Legion of Super-Heroes speedster XS.
Iris’ silver lining
This is all to say that even if Iris is indeed killed by the Fraction’s attack on Central City, she is by no means gone for good. The Fraction’s time freeze attack could slow Iris’ vitals and the progression of her injuries to give Barry the crucial time he needs to find medical attention to save her life. The Flash has always been about saving the day between the seconds on the clock, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time he has saved Iris from mortal danger when it appears time has already run out.
And for someone as fast as the Flash, time is never quite as permanent as it is for most heroes. Barry has traveled to the past to save those who he loves by changing before, though this strategy often results in far-reaching consequences with the space-time continuum. Barry could repeat this process to prevent Iris from being harmed in the first place, but that could come at a grave cost.
However, the threat of the Fraction remains on an open one, with the heroes still trying to learn what is unfolding before their eyes as Central and Keystone Cities are laid to waste. The Flash Family is largely separated and sorting through the chaos as the Fraction carries out their invasion, but, once the speedsters start running together again, the invading extraterrestrials are about to learn they may have chosen the wrong target this time.
The Flash #790 is written by Jeremy Adams, penciled by Roger Cruz, inked by Matt Banning and Wellington Dias, colored by Luis Guerrero, and lettered by Rob Leigh. The story continues in The Flash #791, on sale Jan. 17 from DC Comics.
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