Review | The Flash #1

Review | The Flash #1

The last of DC’s A-list to get his new #1 (after Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern), the Flash comes racing out of the gate, lightning blazing, looking better than ever. While DC whiffed a good portion of these New 52 titles, thankfully the big guns all have quality books—and this one is the best looking, thanks to artist/co-author Francis Manapul. One glance at the cover showcases how cool this comic looks inside. It’s pure comic book crack.

The story so far, by Manapul and co-writer/colorist Brian Buccellato, is intriguing (though by no means groundbreaking): The Flash, secretly forensic-evidence analyst expert Barry Allen, stops a gang of masked crooks from stealing a high-tech prototype; when one of them dies in the melee, it turns out he’s an old friend of Allen’s. Meanwhile, Iris West (formerly Barry’s wife in previous Flash comics) makes a great entrance. She’s in full-on aggressive-reporter mode (think Lois Lane), more interested in a good story than in our hero. But single Barry also has a coworker who’s got eyes for him, so there’s a love triangle a-brewing.

It’s hard to judge a comic’s story on just one issue. Not so for the art, and it’s easy to argue that Manapul’s visuals drive this comic directly up to the top tier. The two-page title splash, with inventive panels and flashy old-school lettering seamlessly integrated to the art, is a thrill to behold. Later, as Barry’s being chased by a gang of thugs, he “slips” into the river and undergoes a thrilling underwater change into his Flash threads. Artwise, this storytelling is top-notch. Given that this pair script the book together, it’s a sure bet they’ll continue to write to their strengths.

Brief history aside: It’s worth noting that the Flash is the character whose debut in 1956 ignited the great Silver Age of comics. That was the first time DC rebooted its fictional universe. Were die-hard fans of the Mercury-helmeted Flash and his Justice Society compatriots writing angry letters when their pantheon was supplanted by the upstarts in the Justice League? Probably, but the internet wasn’t around to record and amplify every complaint. Along with Green Lantern, Flash got the best revamp back then—right down to his stellar costume, the tight red suit with the yellow-lightning motif (designed by Carmine Infantino).

The costume isn’t much altered here. Beyond the chin strap under the face mask, now his costume’s got a lot of crazy seams running all over. DC co-publisher Jim Lee, who supposedly spearheaded the new designs, clearly has a thing for this look, because they’re on Superman and Wonder Woman too. They’ve got to be a huge pain to draw consistently, but Manapul pulls it off—and adds a kickass kinetic effect when the Flash runs, making those seams glow with “speed force” lightning. So smart.

If the writing proves as inventive as the art, history will repeat itself: The Flash will be one of the runaway hits of this reboot—and could eventually become one of the great runs of American superhero comics.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)