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Comic Book / The Trial of the Flash

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In a split-second, the trial began.

The Trial of the Flash was an extended storyline in The Flash comics, written by Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino. Lasting from The Flash (1959) issue #323 to the end of the series in issue #350, it's notable for being very long, as well as ending the Barry Allen run of the Flash as a lead-in to Crisis on Infinite Earths.

The story had its genesis in Flash (vol. 1) #275, when Barry's evil counterpart, the Reverse-Flash, killed his wife Iris. By the time of #323, Barry had found happiness with Fiona Webb and intended to marry her. Unfortunately, Reverse-Flash wanted to kill Fiona too, and in the resulting struggle, the Flash snapped his enemy's neck, killing him.

This resulted in the titular trial, where the Flash was charged with manslaughter and eventually murder, was almost voted out of the Justice League, and had to reconcile his Barry Allen identity with what the Flash was going through—not helped by his Rogues Gallery still making frequent attacks. In the end, things wrapped up happily for the Flash, but it was short-lived as he died soon after in the Crisis.

The Trial of the Flash contains examples of:

  • Amoral Attorney: N.D. Redik is a famous and unscrupulous defense attorney who sees the Flash trial as a chance to boost his career to permanent glory. When Flash turns to other lawyers, Redik tries to have them killed to force Flash to employ him.
  • Artistic License – Law: Comic book writer and lawyer Bob Ingersoll, in his Comics Buyer's Guide column "The Law Is a Ass", used to point out the legal issues with this storyline. For example, how Flash's killing of Reverse-Flash was justified as self-defensenote , and should not have been considered a crime. And how Flash's mug shot was taken with his mask still on, which wouldn't happen in the real world because mug shots are a means of identifying the person underneath the mask.
  • The Atoner: After killing the Reverse-Flash, Barry went into a craze of life-saving efforts.
  • Body Horror: Big Sir mutilates Flash's face with an energy mace, distorting it beyond recognition. When a couple of kids unmask the Flash, they scream in terror and run away.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Barry Allen's lawyer, having guessed who he is, decides this would be a huge mitigating factor; no jury will convict a man for saving his bride-to-be from his first wife's murderer. So she unmasks him in open court — to reveal a face we've never seen before. This wrecks his lawyer's plan, but Barry is ultimately acquitted anyway, and he gets his old face back in time for his big Heroic Sacrifice in the Crisis.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The storyline ran for over two years and had the Flash's life being completely wrecked several times, but in the end, Barry and Iris are married happily together in the future.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The very last panel of the story foreshadows Barry's fate in the Crisis.
    And they lived happily ever after... for a while.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: In a fight, the Flash beats the Pied Piper so badly the Piper (always borderline at best) goes completely insane. Bound by their peculiar code of honor, the other Rogues decide the Flash has crossed a line and no longer worthy of being a true hero so unite for payback.
  • History Repeats: Reverse-Flash invokes this by planning to kill Fiona in the same way he killed Iris.
  • Institutional Apparel: The last we see of Fiona, she's bound in a straitjacket and tied to a bed in a padded cell of a mental institution, deliriously proclaiming that Barry will return to her and things will be "perfectly fine...perfectly fine.." over and over.
  • Neck Snap: The Flash puts Reverse-Flash in a chokehold that breaks his neck.
  • Not Quite Dead: The end of the story reveals Iris's soul was extracted at the moment of her death and returned to the future, letting her go back in time to ensure the trial was successful and allowing her to be with Barry in the future.
  • Put on a Bus: Fiona Webb, Barry's fiance and Thawne's intended victim, had a mental breakdown due to Barry not showing up at the wedding and hasn't been seen or mentioned, barring flashbacks, since this storyline. The story as a whole ended this way for Barry, but for him The Bus Came Back several times until he was brought back for good.
  • Spanner in the Works: Abra Kadabra tried to manipulate the events of the trial so that Flash would be convicted and disgraced for killing Zoom... but Kadabra hadn't expected that Iris, having been saved by her birth parents just before Zoom could kill her, would be inhabiting the body of one of the jurors and thereby standing in the way of Kadabra's scheme.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: When he learns that the Reverse-Flash is free, Barry asks the Guardians of the Universe to make sure that no one else will interfere, because It's Personal. Wally West is specifically warned off by the Guardians.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The Rogues' Gallery and corrupt lawyer N.D. Redik make the Flash's life miserable. Redik arranges for Flash's lawyers to be killed, and while they're rescued, he's very shaken up by it, and the Pied Piper mind controls the mayor and innocent civilians to hate the Flash.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: One issue is almost entirely composed of excerpts from Kid Flash stories.