With its prevalence this season on The Flash, we look at the comic book history of the Velocity serum.
On ‘The Flash’
The Flash began with Velocity 6 and culminated in Velocity 9 in The Flash season 2, episode 14, “Escape from Earth-2.” Jay says he created Velocity 6 after gaining his speed in an effort to go faster. However, while Velocity 6 temporarily made him faster, it ended up damaging his cells, which caused him to lose his speed. The cellular damage is, in fact, killing him.
This revelation caused Caitlin to work on developing Velocity 7 — though that also interacted poorly with Jay’s damaged cells. Velocity 8 was a non-starter, but Velocity 9 seemed to actually start healing Jay’s damaged cells. The return of his speed was temporary, but the goal was to see if it could work permanently.
In the DC Comics
The Velocity serum is infamous. Velocity 9 first appeared in 1988’s The Flash Volume 2 #2. It was created by Vandal Savage — yes, the immortal Big Bad of Legends of Tomorrow. Its high granted users super speed, but that power came at a cost. Physical side effects included dehydration, rapid aging, exhaustion, psychosis and eventually death.
Some users became so dependent on its high that they became speedster criminals to be able to afford more doses of Velocity 9.
Savage hoped to control highly successful and influential figures through his hold on the supply of the highly addictive Velocity 9. Through those figures, Savage wanted to rule New York. Wally West, the current Flash, was injected with Velocity 9 and has his powers canceled out as a result. When the supply disappeared, however, the issue seemed to fade.
Years later, Deathstroke created a version of Velocity 9 without its impurities and supplied it to Interia, aka Thaddeus Thawne.
Savage, meanwhile, developed Velocity 10 and aimed its supply at teenagers. This variant’s side effects caused the user’s body parts to metabolize at different rates.
The big mystery so far this season on The Flash is Zoom’s identity. Could the presence of the Velocity serum offer some hints? Maybe.
It seems significant that while Jay Garrick is without his speed (supposedly) as a result of taking Velocity 6, Zoom is obsessed with stealing speed for himself. Does that mean Jay Garrick is Zoom? Unlikely, as we saw Jay on Earth-1 and Zoom holding Wells on the other side of the breach on Earth-2. While speed mirages have been used to seemingly eliminate suspects before, that seems a bit far-fetched with two worlds involved.
It seems more likely that Jay (if the man we’ve gotten to know even is Jay) is in league with Zoom in some way. Him being pulled into the breach at the end of the episode seemed staged, as there was no reason for Jay to move that close to the breach after everyone had returned from Earth-2.
What does that have to do with the Velocity serum? Well, one fandom theory going around is that taking Velocity 6 caused Jay to run so fast that — based on comic book logic — he split himself into two: Jay and Zoom. That theory then holds that it is the real Jay in the iron mask in Zoom’s prison while Zoom is obsessed with getting faster. The Velocity serum would be a good way for Zoom to go faster as well, and now there is a version of the serum that heals rather than damages.
(Of course, there are numerous other theories floating around, such as Jay Garrick and Hunter Zolomon being twins on Earth-2. Jay is being held by Zoom in his prison while Hunter Zolomon is pretending to be Jay with the Earth-1 crew. Others suggest the man in the mask is Earth-2’s Eddie Thawne or Henry Allen.)
Moreover, The Flash has introduced Jesse Quick and Wally West, both of whom are speedsters in the comics but don’t have powers yet on the series. Could Velocity 9 be how they become speedsters? We may find that it will take an abundance of speedsters to defeat Zoom at the end of the season, and those two have comic book destinies to fulfill.