Even the most diehard Flash fan has to admit that evil speedsters are a dime a dozen. For every Barry Allen or Wally West who enters the Speed Force, there’s a Reverse Flash or Black Flash, who use their superspeed to do horrendous harm to reality (which is kind of Barry’s thing too, but we’re not talking about that right now). So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn that in the 9th and final season of The Flash on The CW, Barry will be facing off against yet another evil speedster: the Red Death.
Say what you will about the saturation of speedsters in the world of The Flash, the origin of the Red Death in more recent DC comics does set the character apart, as does the actor playing Red Death for The CW version: Javicia Leslie, who most recently portrayed the title character on Batwoman. This makes A LOT of sense.
Red Death is a relatively new character, first introduced in a massive DC Comics crossover event called Dark Nights: Metal, written by Scott Snyder and penciled by Greg Capullo. That multiverse-shattering story pits the Justice League against alternate nightmare versions of Batman, each of whom turned evil after taking on the powers of one of their fellow Leaguers. So on one earth, Bruce Wayne receives a Green Lantern power ring and becomes the Stormbringer. In another, Bruce turns himself into Doomsday to stop a corrupted Superman, eventually being overwhelmed by the power it gives him.
As you might guess, Red Death is the Flash variant of evil Batman. After another Robin dies in combat, this Batman searches for a more efficient way of stopping crime in Gotham. Convinced that Barry Allen is ineffective in his use of the Speed Force, Batman tries to wrestle it away, eventually merging with Flash to become a new entity called Red Death. For The Flash, Leslie will be playing a version of Ryan Wilder, the second Batwoman, returning to the Arrowverse after her series was canceled after its third season. In her reality, Wilder went on a similar journey bringing her version of the Red Death into the Arrowverse.
In many ways, Leslie’s return as a new character serves as a powerful reminder of the Arrowverse’s greatest appeals. After beginning as a more grounded universe in the first two seasons of Arrow, shows such as The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Black Lightning explored the more bizarre sides of DC Comics. That exploration included bringing back actors from canceled series. John Wesley Shipp, who portrayed Barry Allen in the 1990 Flash TV show, appeared as both Barry’s father and as Jay Garrick (the very first Scarlet Speedster), former Supergirl Helen Slater appeared as Eliza Danvers on Supergirl, and even Carl Lumbly, who voiced Martian Manhunter on Justice League Unlimited, played the father of J’onn J’onzz in Supergirl. Crisis on Infinite Earths even cast the legendary Kevin Conroy to finally play a live-action version of the Dark Knight.
When Leslie comes back as a different character on The Flash, she’ll be yet another example of what this particular Arrowverse show did so well: truly capturing the soap opera and timey-wimey-ness of the comics. Even as the DC Universe shifts into its new era with James Gunn and Peter Safran, Leslie’s Red Death shows that Arrowverse was one of the first places to celebrate the weirdness of comics. And yes, it was also a place full of bad speedsters.