Answer by Thaddeus Howze:
It'd be over in a blur of motion.
Disclaimer: Superhero battles within the same universes between different characters is generally a waste of time because the winner of said battle depends entirely on the plot. If one hero is needed to defeat the other, the writer will see a way to win and the hero who should win, won't. It's that simple.
The Tale of the Tape
With that said: We will take the current versions of the Sultan of Speed, the Master of Motion, without a doubt the Fastest Man Alive and pit him in a titanic struggle against, Earth's most powerful hero, dubbed the Man of Tomorrow, the Man of Steel or by his most distinctive sobriquet, Superman!
Introducing the Fastest Man Alive — The Flash
The Flash's powers, since the reboot of the new DC Universe, revolve around Barry Allen's return and his perfect connection to the Speed Force. It has been implied Barry is the Speed Force, personified making him the most powerful speedster on DC's Earth.
- The Speed Force is a energy field which permeates all of space-time in the DC Universe and allows many of DCs most well known speedsters to defy the laws of physics.
- Depending on the quality of a speedster's connection, each will be able to manifest a variety of superhuman abilities related to hyper-accelerated activity.
- Almost all speedsters who can connect to the Speed Force can move at what is commonly called super-speed which includes, faster ground movement, heightened reflexes, heightened temporal perception and increased reaction time.
- They also have increased prioperception – an awareness of their body's physical position, movement and a perfect awareness of what is around them. This is necessary for speedsters to prevent accidents and bumping into things at high speeds.
- Barry's return from the Speed Force has altered his perception of his powers and his view of the real world. He can, focus on a series of events and determine the least amount of effort required to make those events happen.
- It's a new and different way of depicting how the Flash controls his perception of time, space and his relationship to the world at large. Being as fast as he is, he appears to violate causality appearing to be everywhere at once. He isn't, but his speed can give him the illusion of simultaneity.
- Depending on the writer, how the Flash handles relative simultaneity (how things appear to happen simultaneously in relationship to the viewer) varies widely.
- In The Flash #2, the Flash (as Barry Allen) is standing outside of a storefront where a robbery is about to/has/will happen. He is shown experiencing a moment where he is able to perceive a series of events that will/has happened and then decides to make minor changes to the series of events so different results ensue.
- Does the Flash predict the future? No, the Flash lives at the edge of relative time, so he can tell the most liable future from a series of events based on his position in the decisions being made.
- He is able to parse this information to make the right decision at the right time and from the perspective of someone on the outside of the event, he has dealt with every event apparently at the same time.
- Looking at the final image, it does not resemble every permutation he conceived of, just the ones he decided would be the most effective at solving the problem without appearing to be doing anything untoward.
- This extension of his temporal sense is not a new power, but a different way of showing how he controls his view of time in relationship to himself. Judging from his surprise, he may have never looked at his powers this way before and is experiencing his speed powers differently since his rebirth.
Manipulating the Speed Force for a variety of effects allows the Flash to:
- Alter his molecular integrity and vibrate through normal matter. It has not been revealed if Barry can cause objects to explode by transferring some aspect of his speed energy, after passing through them in a fashion similar to Wally West. Wally couldn't control this power and thus refrained from phasing through matter if he could help it.
- Violate the laws of conservation of motion and inertia. He can add or subtract energy, inertial or momentum to an object, removing it from its framework. He once used this power to effective remove a target from the Earth's natural rotation for ten seconds causing them to reappear over a hundred miles away.
- Easily move faster than the speed of sound and with effort reach the speed of light in atmosphere without causing environmental catastrophe on a planet. Under controlled circumstances, he can move at multiples of the speed of light for brief periods.
- Control his personal mass and energy relationship increasing his resistance to injury and ability to deliver damage to a target. The faster he moves, the more damage he is able to deliver.
- Deliver his most powerful attack, dubbed the "Infinite Mass Punch" he is capable of dealing blows capable of damaging beings whose superhuman resistance would normally be beyond his ability to affect. The first use of the Infinite Mass Punch was by Wally West against the White Martian, Zum. Barry has shown he can also use this power.
- Wally West was the most powerful version of the Flash to ever exist, until Barry Allen returned from the Speed Force.
- West's feats of speed have rarely been equaled and this first use of the Infinite Mass Punch was simply inspired. Note both of these combatants creative use of superspeed.
Weaknesses: Despite his amazing abilities due to his connection to the Speed Force, Barry Allen is still, in many ways, very human. It is only when he is in motion does his defensive abilities come into play. If caught off guard or by surprise, he can be harmed though his powers will mitigate some degree of the damage.
Since Barry's return from the Speed Force, his powers and abilities have equaled or eclipsed most of the feats performed by Wally West. He is once again, the Fastest Man Alive. While he and Superman have tangled once with Barry getting the short end of it, he won't be as cocky again. Superman is fast, but no one is as fast as the Flash!
Introducing the Earth's Greatest Hero — Superman
Arguably, Superman is one of the most powerful metahumans in the recently rewritten DC Universe. There are some rumblings among the fanboys the Martian Manhunter is more powerful, but I think this is about the Manhunter having a more diverse power set including mental powers, phasing and mass-alteration abilities.
Superman is the flagship hero of DC and most of the DC staff have repeatedly indicated Superman has no equals. It is only his unconscious restraint which makes it look like he does. The latest version of Superman in the New 52 has shown all of the powers of his previous versions but not approaching his Silver Age level of superhuman ability.
He appears stronger than his previous Post-Crisis iteration, however. His abilities depicted thus far include:
- Superhuman strength, sufficient to lift a weight equal to that of the entire planet. However, he must ramp up his strength to such prodigious levels because of the fragility of human environments.
- Normally, his strength is sufficient to easily lift a 747. With a few seconds of concentration, he can move an aircraft carrier. With a few minutes, he can move the an object as massive and physically complex as a pyramid. When sufficiently motivated, he has moved entire worlds.
- Superhuman stamina, capable of holding up the weight of the Earth for five days without rest. He has proven to be able to utilize superhuman strength, invulnerability and traveling at faster than light for sixty days without any additional solar energy.
- He can resist the force of gravity and generate directional flight at speeds up to ten times the speed of sound with limited adverse effect on the environment. He can move even faster in atmosphere but only with a correspondingly increasing circle of destruction of which he is reluctant to do.
- Outside of a planetary atmosphere he has proven to be able to achieve speeds faster than light, traveling from Pluto to Earth in a matter of minutes. Whether this is due to him achieving superluminal speeds or by warping space around him has not been discerned or disclosed. His current top speed is estimated by this travel time at 16 to 20 times the speed of light!
- He has increased cognitive abilities, the ability to increase his reflexes and reaction time, comparable to his ability to move at light speeds. His training allows him to scan, analyse and deduce his opponent's operational capacity in seconds and devise an effective plan for neutralizing them.
- Superman is highly aware that most of his opponents are often far less durable and usually less physically powerful than he is. When in doubt he uses the least amount of force required to handle his opponents. To understand his actions, they have to be seen in context.
- In a confrontation with Batman, Superman uses his super-senses to detect that Batman's utility belt is empty. This means he is always scanning his opponents. Something prudent when you aren't sure of the capabilities of your opponents. He does this to everyone he fights.
- He uses a bevy of super-senses whose mechanics are not fully understood. He can study objects as if he were using a powerful microscope or enhance his visual acuity greater than that of the most powerful telescope. At the same time, he can exist in environments millions of times brighter than any light on Earth (like the surface of the sun) without harm. He appears to be able to look through most earthly substances with the curious exception of lead.
- His hearing is acute enough to hear and distinguish a single voice in an entire city. He can hear both in the infrasonic and ultrasonic ranges. He can isolate and intercept radio and other low frequency electromagnetic signals, giving him the ability to track radio triggered bombs and the like.
- The addition of a new destructive power called the super-flare, is an explosion of all of the Man of Steel's stored solar energy in one cataclysmic burst. The output appears similar to a nuclear explosion without the consequence of fallout.
- Recent data in the DCnU/New 52 indicates his new superpower – "Solar Flare" uses all of his power in a catastrophic explosion of energy, leaving him temporarily without use of his solar-derived Kryptonian abilities. Some degree of superhuman strength has returned first and as his energy stores return, his more energy-intensive powers will as well.
- A high degree of damage resistance and nigh-invulnerability. High energy attacks, strong electrical attacks or powerful brute force blows can temporarily stun him but do little long-term damage. He has withstood the force of a nuclear explosion with no long-term damage. (Yes, Wonder Woman's sword CAN split an atom…)
- Superman has only a few weaknesses, including leeching or reducing his powers by exposing him to red sun radiation. Under red sun radiation, his stores of yellow sun radiation are temporarily depleted and replaced. His powers can be drained in this fashion making him appear as an ordinary human. Normally such an event would take days.
- Technology which utilizes red sun radiation attempts to cause damage at the point of impact where his defensive powers are reduced, he is more vulnerable in those spots.
- Green Kryptonite (which is in short supply) can destroy his capacity to process yellow sun radiation for any feats of superhuman ability. He is immediately weakened, barely able to uses his powers and is in excruciating pain. Exposure over an hour to a pure source of Kryptonite can kill him.
- He can be affected more easily by truly magical phenomena and is far less invulnerable to psychic attack.
- However, his highly ordered mind is rarely held in thrall for long and he has some degree of training in resisting mind control and other forms of psychic compulsion.
Superman in the DC Universe is considered nearly power incarnate. What makes him extraordinary is his compassion and concern for the Humans of his adopted world. As such, despite his incredible capacity for destruction, he does everything in his power to mitigate such damage whenever possible, even if it means he has to get hurt to protect innocents.
The first time these two mixed it up, the Flash assumed his superspeed would be enough to keep Superman from even laying a hand on him.
- While the Flash's initial interactions befuddle Superman (he likely has fought few opponents as fast as he is) once the Man of Steel realizes he can match his opponent's speed, he restrains himself.
- Superman always engages in restraint during combat. Always. With strength as great as his, it is important for him to exercise control because he is morally opposed to killing his opponents. Despite the Flash's speed, Superman's mind has already shifted into high gear, predicting the path of the Flash.
- In this fight he applies the force necessary to damage his opponent, nothing more. Check out his eyes, he is predicting where the Flash will be and times his blow to make sure he is where he needed to be. Once he was sure he could hit him, he just flicks him. That tiny blow knocks the Flash back down the street. Only his Speed Force aura and Superman's restraint protected him from serious injury.
In a rematch, these two would need a place where they could cut loose and fight on equal terms. Let's say someplace deserted, like the surface of Planet X. Why do they need a deserted environment to fight in?
Because for the Flash to hit Superman hard enough for him to notice, he needs space to wind up. He will have to reach light speed and set up a point in the battle for him to alter his mass for an Infinite Mass Punch. Otherwise, Superman barely notices his efforts. Having fought enemies as strong as himself, Barry Allen can't do enough damage to truly harm Superman in any meaningful way.
Without a Speed Force aura, Superman will never be able to move fast enough, except in close quarters to ever hit the Flash without causing devastating environmental effects from using his powers full out on a planetary surface.
Hence, Planet X.
The two arrive on the surface of Planet X in a borrowed spaceship. Traveling to another continent to protect the ship, the two are separated by five miles. Planet X resembles Earth in all other ways except for the lack of cities, people and significant life; same gravity, air density and water distribution.
Both are aware of each other but neither appears to move for ten, maybe fifteen minutes. Barry checks his calculations for the speeds he will need to affect Superman at all.
He sees the possible permutations required to get Superman into the right position to execute his attacks and sees Superman already countering more than half of them in less than a nanosecond. Thousands of choices, all failures.
How fast is Superman truly capable of being? One thousandth of a second, one ten thousandth? One millionth? Then he sees a possibility. Something Superman can't possibly know yet. The Speed Force crackles and the Flash disappears.
Superman's keen intellect has already spun up his mental capacity to sense the Flash. He knows the Flash will need to move so fast, even his superior senses will never detect him in time. He closes his eyes and waits. His every nerve tingling in anticipation. He feels the electromagnetic field of the planet flickering all around him. He won't look for him, he will feel his disturbance in the planet's magnetic and gravimetric field.
The Flash vanishes. The electromagnetic aura of the planet reverberates with his powers. The Flash believes himself to be invisible, but he affects the world the same way Superman does. At the fundamental level.
Feeling no immediate impact, Superman realizes the Flash needs running room, time to build up speed.
Superman can feel the buildup of energy approaching his position just ahead of the Flash. It took him three seconds to circle the planet. He's still way under lightspeed. He has to keep this battle just under the speed of light to take advantage of his IMP.
The first pass doesn't even draw near Superman. The Man of Steel marks the mental path and waits. Three seconds again. Why so slow? The Flash whizzes by again.
Why won't he attack, Barry wonders. This plan only works if he engages first. Maybe if I increase the threat level. Barry disappears in the distance and takes ten seconds to return.
Superman surprised at the length opens his eyes to a barrage of boulders crashing into him at near relativistic speeds. The shockwaves caused by their sonic booms split the sky, creating plumes of blinding dust. Swinging into action, the Man of Tomorrow deflects the smaller and faster particles of debris and dodges the slower, larger ones.
His motions have to be fast. Faster than he normally move on Earth, because if he misses, each hunk of granite explodes with the force of a small bomb. Turning the ground into near light-speed projectiles is clever. But Superman's reactions are equal to the task and each snap of his fist creates ground-splitting explosions of force. Each deflected hunk of granite becomes a fine cloud filling the air around him. His fists are a blur as the cloud of missiles continue unabated.
There's a pattern here. This isn't random. I can't figure it out. The cloud of debris soon envelops Superman.
The hail of missiles stops and the Flash appears, for just a second, striking Superman on the chest. Before Superman can react, the Flash is gone. I can't move, he thinks. What did he do to me? Where did he go? With the cloud of dust all around him, Superman tries his X-ray vision only to realize what has happened.
The dust is filled with lead. He never sees the Flash as he circles the world five times in the next second. Realizing the danger, Superman vibrates his own molecular structure trying to overload whatever effect was holding him in place. He's all around me, setting up for his attack.
Superman stops struggling and braces himself. The Flash takes his one shot, igniting the atmosphere around his fist as he reaches ninety nine percent the speed of light. He can see the cloud, he has already mapped the position and knows exactly where Superman is. To the inch.
The world vanishes from sight only his mental map of everything remains. The ground beneath his feet explodes as he passes over it once, twice, three times, four, five, crossing the oceans, he vaporizes tons of water behind him, creating clouds of steam that span the world.
His mass is increasing, he weighs as much as a truck on his first pass, an aircraft carrier on his next, a pyramid on his third, a moon on his fourth and a planet on his fifth. Earthquakes with every step.
Superman knows he's coming. It has only been a few seconds since he was immobilized. While he can't move, he can see. He has five nanoseconds before the Flash makes his final approach. More than enough time. His eyes glow a fiery red. He waits until the Flash has passed for the last time. He breathes in deeply, sucking in as much of the dust and debris in the air as possible.
Three nanoseconds. Even this tiny movement is taking all of his strength. He can feel the paralyzing effect faltering. Straining against it, he holds his breath as the granite dust sears even his invulnerable lungs.
One nanosecond. The Flash is faster than my heat vision. When he's running away from it. Superman expels the granite dust into a cloud directly in front of him.
The Flash arrived right on time, his Infinite Mass Punch delivered with perfection. The blow drove Superman into orbit. In that same moment, an explosion erupted at point blank range right as Superman achieved escape velocity. The Speed Force transferred the accumulated energy directly to the Man of Steel, shockwave and all. For the Flash, his blow, despite it's incredible payload is silent as the grave.
Superman's heat vision, ignites the rapidly expanding dust cloud with a temperature equal to the surface of the sun. An explosion fills the air around the Flash.
The Flash never saw it coming.
A dust explosion coupled with his tangible state meant he caught the full brunt of the blast and landed several hundred feet away unconscious and battered. The Speed Force absorbed a great deal of the explosion but the Flash would not regain consciousness for hours.
Superman had been struck with the force of a million megaton bomb.
Barry had pushed his powers to the limit. 99.8% the speed of light gave him an incredible punch, a degree of superhuman durability and no chance to dodge the dust explosion. Any other normal man would have been torn to shreds.
The Man of Steel woke up, battered and in orbit, impressed by the ingenuity of the Fastest Man Alive.
An hour later, Barry Allen wakes with a splint on his arm and Superman watching him with a smile.
Barry scratches his head before remarking, "Dust explosion, huh? How'd you come up with that? I didn't think you knew much exotic science."
"You're right, I was inspired by my experiences as a farmer. Grain silos and dust explosions go together. I have to hand it to you. You are more powerful than I ever imagined. How did you do the trick with the rocks?"
"The same way I made you stand still, I imparted momentum onto them the same way I stole your speed, until you couldn't move at all."
"And the lead hidden in the dust cloud?"
"I stopped to mine. You didn't notice the five second gap in there?"
"I did. I thought you changed your mind about the fight. How did you know it would vaporize?"
"At those speeds it wouldn't be able to do anything but. I needed a cover you couldn't penetrate. Change my mind? Not a chance. Batman would never let me hear the end of it. I have to tell him his idea worked."
"I knew he had to be involved."
"No, the plan was mine. He just helped with the calculations. I needed to know how much force to use so I didn't accidentally kill you."
"And he knows how much force that is?"
"Never doubt it for a second. The man sometimes gives me the creeps."
"Me too. Race you back to the ship."
"You're on. You know you can't win, right?"
"Even Superman's gotta have a dream."
Knockout goes to the Flash.
- Even though he's taken down by Superman's improvised dust explosion, the Flash's tactical use of his diverse speed powers distracted, blinded and immobilized the Man of Tomorrow long enough for his Infinite Mass Punch to get put into play. Granted, Superman isn't down for long, but in this case, it is long enough.
- Superman woke up in orbit and the Flash gets one for the scoreboard. This battle could have gone either way but Superman knew he was at a distinct advantage in a running game. The Flash's superior speed and lack of environmental disturbance gave him far greater mobility.
- He could have tried for a scorched-earth victory by trying to deny the Flash mobility, but with the Flash's ability to phase through matter, any trap made by Superman would have to take the Flash's phasing into account.
- He could have also tried to think like the Flash's Rogues Gallery and used trickery and deception to distract the Flash, and then catch him in a mistake but utilizing distraction techniques isn't in Superman's wheelhouse normally, so he would be forced to use himself as bait and hope the Flash could get close enough for him to put the squeeze on him.
Maybe next time, Big Blue.