Source of superspeed
The Speed Force is a vaguely defined extra-dimensional energy force from which most, but not all, superspeed-powered heroes in the DC Comics universe draw their enhanced abilities. For example, the multiple heroes named the Flash (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, and Bart Allen), Johnny Quick, Jesse Quick/Liberty Belle, XS, the Tornado Twins, and Max Mercury all draw their powers from the Speed Force. The Speed Force is also seen as a physical space to which speedsters can travel. Max Mercury traveled through time as a result of his efforts to enter the Speed Force and ended up several decades into the future every time he made an attempt. Bart Allen could control the Speed Force and could "commune" with the spirits in the Speed Force through meditation. When speedsters die, they become one with the Speed Force, as it is an afterlife for them. Max Mercury's own spirit is trapped inside following his possession by The Rival.
The Speed Force only exists in the DC Multiverse; when Wally travelled to the Marvel Universe in JLA/Avengers, he was powerless in the other world, requiring Steel to create a 'battery pack' that allowed Wally to absorb Speed Force energy in the DC Universe to give him a supply that he could use in the other world.
Abilities granted by Speed Force
The Speed Force serves as the ultimate measure of velocity in the DC Universe. It introduced several "new" powers/implications to Flash and other Speed Force-powered persons. Some already existed during the Silver Age, but were either unexplained or rationalized as molecular/vibrational control and later retconned into manifestations of the Speed Force.
- Infinite mass punch - Introduced in Grant Morrison's JLA title. Flash (Wally West), traveling near the speed of light acquired the relativistic mass of such speed to impart blows which could hit with the force of "a white dwarf star," enabling him to knock down such powerful foes as the White Martians with a single punch. Flash's own durability is regulated by the Speed Force in such cases.
- Speed lend/steal - Perhaps his most versatile new power. Because the Speed Force governed all motion, Wally could rob objects of their kinetic energy, motion, or momentum (e.g., bullets in flight or turning a supervillain into a statue) and use the energy to accelerate himself even faster. He could similarly lend speed to inanimate objects or allies, enabling them to temporarily travel nearly as fast as himself. Bart Allen's future self is shown to also have this ability in the Teen Titans Titans Tomorrow story arc.
- Metabolize wounds - Accelerating his healing factor while using the Speed Force to sustain him, Wally could heal from grievous injury without prematurely aging like his counterpart from another reality, Walter West. Related to the ability above, he would serve as the "team medic," healing other team members by accelerating their healing factors (without prematurely aging them).[volume & issue needed]
- Constructs - Wally discovered that if he concentrated, the Speed Force could be used to create solid constructs. The first time he used this ability was to create a solid armor enabling him to run despite having broken legs. Later examples included sealing up the openings of his costume against disease, creating pockets for holding things, etc. In JLA, when shot by Prometheus, his suit displayed bullet-resistant properties.[volume & issue needed] Most recently, it was used to repair the damage done to the various speedsters' costumes, allowing Wally to change his uniform; Jesse Quick to take up the uniform of her father, Johnny Quick; and Wally's daughter, Iris, to become the new Impulse.
- Shield - Exhibited by Savitar, whose mastery of the Speed Force allowed him to reflect objects away from himself.
- Flight - Exhibited by Johnny Quick and his daughter, Jesse Quick; the only speedsters known to exhibit this ability. However, all speedsters traveling faster than escape-velocity exhibit "inverse flight".
- ESP - Exhibited by Max Mercury, whose communion with the Speed Force allows him to detect the motion of any object in the world, and especially to perceive other speedsters. Wally West exhibited a similar ability which allowed him to perceive Linda across time and space due to the strength of their bond.
- Total recall - Exhibited by Bart Allen, who can retain everything he speed-reads (in contrast to other speedsters, who only retain the information temporarily).
- Speed scouts - Exhibited by Bart Allen, who can create Speed Force-duplicates of himself that, due to the timeless nature of the Speed Force, can travel forwards and backwards through time. They can also manipulate objects or merge their consciousness with Bart, informing him of their actions. However, after one of his Speed Scouts was killed, Bart was thrown into a coma and hasn't used the ability since.
- Speed control - Traveling at any speed one believes they can move at.
- Negate Anti-Life Equation - Not yet explained, but it is seen in Final Crisis #4 when Barry Allen kissed his wife, who was under the control of Anti-Life, and the Speed Force surrounded her and she regained her free will.
- Muscle growth - Exhibited by Jai West, who has the power to speed up the growth of his muscles, temporarily giving him super strength, but causing him to be exhausted after a short time.
- Intangibility/Self-molecular control - Exhibited by Barry Allen, Bart Allen, and Iris West. Their total control of kinetic energy at a molecular level allows them to match the vibrational frequency needed to travel easily into and through solid matter. Wally West has this ability, too, but with less control, so solid matter usually explodes when coming in contact with him. When Bart Allen internalized the Speed Force into himself, he too showed difficulty with this ability, melting matter if not concentrating enough. Iris' control is as effortless as Barry's, but unlike his, it is somewhat unstable. As an offensive ability, it can be used to scramble one's molecular structure to the point of literal disintegration.
Despite its power, the Speed Force proved to be a weakness when Wally West was pitted against Brother Grimm, a sorcerer with the power to sense other dimensions; as well as being able to find the regular universe from his pocket dimension, Grimm can also sense the energies of the Speed Force, with the result that Wally must restrict himself to normal speed when fighting Grimm or Grimm will be able to sense his moves and counter them.
Status and future
During the events of Infinite Crisis, most of the speedsters in the DC Universe combined their powers to push Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force. Aided by Max Mercury, Barry Allen, and Johnny Quick from within the Speed Force, several Flashes vanished in the attempt; and, according to Jay Garrick, the Speed Force itself was gone.
One year after the end of Infinite Crisis, the Speed Force was still believed to be missing, and Jay Garrick was the sole Flash due to his metagene compensating for the loss of the Speed Force. However, it was soon revealed that the Speed Force still existed. The Speed Force was now unstable and Bart was afraid it would kill him. According to tests run by S.T.A.R. Labs, the entirety of the Speed Force was now within Bart, who was now the only person who could use it. Despite this, Owen Mercer, Bart's half-brother, still displayed occasional access to the Speed Force before and after Bart's death, which caused his body to generate a "background bio-electric field."
When Bart died, Wally West reclaimed the mantle as the Flash and freely used the Speed Force at will. Wally's return had prevented Bart from accessing the Speed Force, inadvertently causing his death. With the Speed Force released from Bart, Jay Garrick could again go beyond the speed of sound (as he was limited to before), and Jesse Chambers' speed returned.
In The Flash: Rebirth #4, Max Mercury revealed to Barry Allen that the Speed Force was created by Allen, himself, when he became the Silver Age Flash; adding that, "When [Allen runs, he generates] the kinetic wall between the present and the time barrier. It's an electrical energy that exists in every dimension, every universe, and every era. It touches every part of reality. It contains the knowledge of every place and time. The Speed Force is the all-encompassing Flash Fact."
The Speed Force had been seen in the future a number of times. A future Flash, Blaine Allen, was struck by a dilemma. His son, Jace, was infected with a virus by a future Cobalt Blue. Unlike many others in the Allen family, Jace was not gifted with superspeed by the Speed Force and his metabolism would not be able to handle it. Blaine removed all speed from all of the molecules on Petrus, effectively freezing the planet. Cobalt Blue pointed out that she liked the idea. "No one dies that way, it’s true... but no one lives either." He thought this over and decided to take Jace to the Speed Force. As he ran Jace to the Speed Force, he was sucked in instead.
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- Outsiders: Five of a Kind - Nightwing/Captain Boomerang (October 2007)
- Justice Society of America (vol. 3) #8 (October 2007)
- Speed Force #1 (November 1997)
- "Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning" Article on the Speed Force
- Crimson Lightning An online index to the comic book adventures of the Flash