Self-Pity as a Weapon in The Flash 28

by Spencer Irwin

This article will contain SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Barry Allen’s greatest weakness is that he gets caught up inside his own head. When Barry’s upset about something it’s all he can think about, making him late, making him oblivious to the needs of those around him, making him oblivious to the damage his own obliviousness is causing. It’s a vicious cycle; Barry feels bad about himself and retreats into his own head, leading him to make more, similar mistakes, leading him to feel worse about himself, leading him to make more mistakes, on and on and on.

And I do mean on and on — it feels like Barry’s trip on the Pity Express has been going on for months now. First he was worried about the possibility of Thawne’s return, then Thawne’s attack, then the aftermath of Thawne’s attack. Barry’s been stuck in his own mopey head for three arcs now, and while the causes of his issues keep evolving, his response has remained exactly the same: he lies, he isolates himself, he pushes people away.

To writer Joshua Williamson’s credit, we’re clearly supposed to be frustrated by Barry’s behavior. Everybody from Hal Jordan to Iris to now Singh has called Barry out.

Now if only Barry could only do something about it instead of feeling sorry for himself.

When discussing issue 27 I complained a bit about the specifics of the Negative Speed Force, and while I still don’t fully understand it, it works much better when you ignore the details and think of it as a metaphor. The Negative Speed Force is just a physical manifestation of Barry’s dangerous self-pity. Barry’s scared that he’s hurting everyone around him, but his attempts to push people away so that he won’t hurt them ends up doing just that, like a self-fulfilling prophesy. Likewise, the NSF quite literally hurts everyone and everything around Barry, a destructive aura quite literally powered by his own frustrations, insecurities, and negative attitude. Let’s hope that, as Barry learns to tame it, he finally makes progress on fixing the issues fueling it as well.

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