The Flash is a guy with no shortage of enemies, but have you ever noticed that his most dangerous foes tend to mirror his own abilities back to him? I guess it's just hard to really put the squeeze on a speedster without being a speedster yourself, and boy, does the Reverse-Flash have that figured out in spades. Eobard Thawne is a villain who's had many names, done many terrible things and fought many epic battles, but today we're going to focus on just one of them: his debut appearance in DC’s Rebirth era in The Flash Vol. 4: Running Scared.

But first, one quick note. If you’re reading the graphic novel, “Running Scared” is actually the second story arc in it. Alternatively, if you’re a DC UNIVERSE INFINITE subscriber and just want to read the relevant issues, they’re The Flash #25-27.

The Premise:

“Running Scared” lays some major groundwork for the whole Flash family. At the time it was written, Barry was still not known as the Flash to Iris, the first Wally West was still not officially back, and the universe was still majorly in flux—so, naturally, Thawne has to show up and make everything even more complicated.

But this version of Thawne was a far cry from the original. In this timeline, Thawne had lost his parents back in his home of the 25th century and developed an unhealthy obsession with Barry Allen as a hero and speedster. This obsession led him to research and understand the Speed Force, eventually tapping into it and becoming a speedster himself. Unfortunately, Thawne struggled to find any reason to be a hero in the 25th century and instead would regularly contrive dangerous situations and then show up to "save" the people he'd placed into danger. You know, very, very normal and healthy stuff!

Anyway, Thawne eventually turns his attention to his idol in the past and, fearing that Barry may be going astray from Thawne's idealized vision of him, decides to take matters into his own hands. Violently. This culminates in a showdown between the two that is at once a top-tier battle royale between two incredible speedsters and a deeply emotional (and very disturbing) confrontation between a stalker superfan and his hero

Let's Talk Talent:

"Running Scared" comes to us from writer Josh Williamson and a variety of artists, but primarily Carmine Di Giandomenico and Howard Porter. Williamson and Di Giandomenico helped shepherd the Flash books from the start of the Rebirth era—which, twenty-some issues in, provides the team with a confidence and clarity that absolutely shows. Williamson's grasp on this new version of Thawne makes him absolutely gut wrenching in his obsession and ultimate disappointment in his idol, while Porter lays down fight after fight between the two speedsters that, let's be honest, could have looked like a bunch of red and yellow blurs across the page. Instead, Porter renders them both in immaculate detail with every bit of Thawne's agony and obsession writ large.

A Few Reasons to Read:

  • Are you a superhero fan who also happens to like genres like horror and true crime? Congratulations! "Running Scared" might just be perfect for you. Thawne feels a lot less like a super-villain and more like a serial killer here, and it's absolutely chilling.
  • Never actually wrapped your head around who or what "Reverse-Flash" actually is, what he wants, or why he’s such a big deal in the Flash family? Start right here. This arc functions as an incredible intro.
  • "Running Scared" also acts as a meatier, more lore-heavy arc in the early days of DC Rebirth, which makes it a critical read for anyone who may be curious about the shape of the DC Universe at the time!
  • This is a great arc to read if you want something that doesn't require much previous knowledge, but still feels continuity-heavy. The only advanced reading you'll need to do is DC Universe: Rebirth #1, but it will dovetail nicely in with multiple other major arcs and stories across the DCU!

Why It's Worth Your Time:

"Running Scared" is a frightening look at the dark side of superheroes from a completely unexpected and new angle. It reinvents the Reverse-Flash into a tragic (but still deeply evil) villain who was made into whom and what he is now not by genetic meddling or society as a whole, but by his own devices. His love and adoration for Barry twisted him into something terrifying, and most of the time, he doesn't even realize what he's doing is wrong. In the world of The Flash, where the Speed Force is such a powerful force for good and for evil, you can imagine just how dangerous that mindset actually is.

The Flash Vol. 4: Running Scared by Joshua Williamson, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Howard Porter, Ivan Plascencia and Hi-Fi is available in print as a trade paperback. It can also be read in full on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.

Mason Downey writes about comics, movies and superhero history for Look for more of his work on GameSpot, IGN and Polygon and follow him on Twitter at @rustypolished.

NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Mason Downey and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros., nor should they be read as confirmation or denial of future DC plans.