Review by C.J. Bunce
The best thing about The Flash #1, another of the re-started DCU titles published in the past few weeks, is that they didn’t mess around with which Flash they chose to move forward with. To me, Barry Allen is always THE Flash. Barry was killed off in 1985 in the Crisis on Infinite Earths series, which ended with Flash sacrificing himself to save Earth. Before that, his long-time girlfriend-turned-wife Iris West was killed. After 23 years Grant Morrison brought Barry back in Final Crisis, and via the Flashpoint mini-series this past year it was anyone’s guess where The Flash would be for the new DCU reboot. Here, we’re at the beginning again, and with Barry and co-worker Patty Spivot dating it’s a refreshing place to re-start this series.
Issue #1 begins with Barry and Patty at a technology trade show. A strange terrorist-like force that looks just like the Cobra Commander squad from G.I. Joe crashes the event leaving Barry to zip out in Flash mode and stop the squad, one by one. Just like a Clark Kent-to-Superman-and-back transformation, Barry walks in at the end to Patty having no idea that he even left. But Iris West is here, too, this time as a reporter pursuing Barry.
This Barry story has the same nice tone that the short-lived The Flash TV series had. The Flash series has always been an easy read–like any number of superhero titles, from Spider-man to Justice League of America to the Fantastic Four, you could just pick a copy off the rack and jump right in. So the challenge for writer Francis Manapul and artist Brian Buccellato is creating something new with this well-known hero. How can you raise the stakes for The Flash when he was already killed off and left for dead for 23 years?
Here, Manapul answers that by introducing a long-lost friend named Manuel who shows up as one of the dead shooters at the trade show, only to have Barry see him later, and in the last frame step into something he couldn’t expect, apparently a clone army of Manuels.
I wouldn’t say The Flash is one of the New 52 stand-out titles because there is not much new by way of art style, storytelling, or surprises. Unlike similar classic Justice League reboot titles for Savage Hawkman and Aquaman, there is not a lot here to rave about. Will diehard Barry Allen fans be happy with this approach or demand something more? Too much change, as with the Green Arrow series, will put off readers, but retelling the same story as it has been told before will probably not re-ignite anything for the current DC fan base either. For an audience of new readers, however, this series would be a good place to check out a solid, classic character, whose story, originally or retold, is worth reading if you just like the idea of “the fastest man alive.”
With a choice of 52 DC regular titles to choose from (and every other publisher’s product out there), unless you’re one of the rare ones reading them all or you’re just a tried and true fan of the character, it will be hard to keep this series on the shortlist unless the creators can amp up the action and creativity to compete with other titles.