Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Payoff Moments - The Death of Johnny Quick

Since themes are all the rage, I thought I'd try one of my own. "Payoff moments" are those great scenes in comics that are the culmination of long-running subplots or running gags or evolving character traits, etc. Regular readers immediately recognize and love them, but the casual reader doesn't know enough of the backstory to truly appreciate the scene.

Mark Waid was a master of the "payoff moment", and nowhere is this more evident than his 8-year run on The Flash (plus two years on its sister title Impulse).

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During the "Return of Barry Allen" storyline in The Flash #73-79, Waid dusted off some of the DCU's old speedsters and made them a part of the cast. One of these was Johnny Quick, a contemporary of the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick), who activated his super speed via a mathematical formula: 3X2(9YZ)4A. Johnny believed that it allowed him to tap into the fourth dimension -- time -- and draw speed energy from there.

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The other was Max Mercury, the "Zen Guru of Speed". He was born in the 1800s, and jumped forward in time to live lives as Whip Whirlwind, Bluestreak, and Quicksilver, among others. He knew the truth: that all speedsters drew their power from the mystical Speed Force, an energy field beyond the speed of light.

Max and Johnny clashed often through the years (verbally, that is). Max tried to convince Johnny that his devotion to his formula kept him from reaching his full potential, but Johnny continually mocked the idea that their power derived from some magical energy field. It was science versus spiritualism, and neither of them gave an inch. Even after Max convinced the Flash, Jay Garrick, and Impulse of the veracity of the Speed Force, Johnny stubbornly remained unconvinced.

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During the "Dead Heat" storyline, an old enemy of Max's returned to plague the Flash Family -- Savitar, God of Motion. The fifth part of the story was chronicled in Impulse #11, where the heroes were separated during a battle with Savitar's speed ninjas (is it just me, or do speed ninjas sound awesome? Maybe it's just me). The heroes were stunned by an explosion, and Johnny's daughter -- Jesse Quick -- was about to be killed. Still weak from the blast, Johnny was unable to focus on his formula enough to activate his speed.

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Moving faster than he ever had with his speed formula, Johnny saved his daughter, and pierced the barrier of the Speed Force. Max followed him, but was unable to keep Johnny from being absorbed into the mystical energy. Content at the end, Johnny told Max that he knows he was a poor student--

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And so exits Johnny Quick. Now that was a great payoff.

2 Comments:

Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I would argue that was the one, last, hurrah in Waid's Flash run.

8/16/2005 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Alan Mcguiness said...

I have some great ideas :) Nevermind. Next time.

12/08/2005 2:13 PM  

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