Barry Allen is a superhero whose shtick is now defined by avenging a dead relative not unlike Batman. Though he’s a forensic scientist, he’s hardly seen in the lab and could’ve easily become a detective. When you think about it as a detective he can have his cake and eat it too.
He’s fast enough to track down enemies and would’ve been equally fast in retrieving evidence and solving cases. That would however mean having to limit his abilities considerably, if not depowering him. Barry Allen makes a hell lot more sense as a detective when you think about it.
Considering his background in forensics, he would’ve ideally spent more time on investigating crime scenes and sneaking on his enemies. He could also make a good escape artist given he’s not much of a brute force character like Superman is. The problem with making good use of his powers in investigation has to do with limiting what his powers can do.
He can run really fast to track down his enemies’ whereabouts, dig up evidence, locate resources and evade them but not move through walls and stuff. A certain writer could depower him to make even more stories centered on his forensics skills. Either way, we’d have to limit Barry Allen’s super speed powers to have it go hand in hand with forensics.
Limiting his super speed powers can lead to a number of possibilities done to his character. He can become an excellent game hunter, knowing when to shoot wild animals, find them and to escape from them. He can become a one-man football/soccer team. The list wouldn’t be endless though if his powers were more limited but easier to nail down.
The problem with super-powerful characters is that they’re not that easy to nail down. Not because of complex characterisation but because their abilities and powers are ill-defined. I’m not just talking about power limits and speed limits but also the paradox of having a limited power leading to more stories about it in use.
If a character gets too powerful, writers would lose any good ideas for them. Just take a look at what happened to Jean Grey when she got too powerful. The writers have her go insane, then kill her off and replace her with a doppelganger only to have the original come back in some form or another.
That’s also the problem with some of Superman’s incarnations. Very early on, he was just super-strong, super fast and only leap at great distances and heights. A flying Superman came later with the Fleischer cartoons. Heat vision, x-ray vision, cold breath and the like were more recent.
Similar things can happen to supposedly simple and nonpowered characters. Batman’s a competent fighter but later writers would make him good at very martial art known to man in addition to being a scientist and businessman. It’s clear that writers don’t really know what to do with them.
Similarly with Barry Allen, making him too powerful cuts out whatever compromise he and the writers could’ve taken when it comes to forensics. I could be guilty of the same when I wrote my fan fictions but having learnt better there is a danger to making a character too capable or powerful for its own good.
It’s not just that they’re too capable and powerful but not too many writers make good use of characters with such limitations. Someone suggested making one of the Green Lanterns only summon solid constructs. He can fly only by making a vehicle and make matches to set fire. It’s not easy but it undermined the problem with both the character and the stories.
There was a Green Lantern who was blind and used a ring that emits sound instead. It might be compensatory but bad eyesight can get in the way with one’s visual focus when it comes to making ring constructs. So it’s making use out of a bad situation.
Someone else said that if the Flash lost one of his legs, he could either change his course, get implants or start running on his hands. It’s not the end of the world if a character makes good use out of a bad situation, especially if s/he finds himself/herself limited to what s/he can do in some ways.
That would make Barry Allen really interesting because of the limitations being recently imposed on him and how it meshes so well with forensics now that he’s a detective. If he gets depowered in the story, what if he still wants to fight back using anything he can find as a weapon to compensate for losing something near and dear to him? Some people are like that so he’s in good company.
It could even save superhero stories from further repetition and stagnation if this ever happened.