Blackest Night: The Flash: #1 shows how to start a Flash miniseries: by hitting the ground running. Literally. While Geoff Johns took a slow burn approach for Flash: Rebirth, this time he starts in media res, with the Flash racing around the world to let everyone know what Earth is up against: the dead are rising from their graves, possessed by Black Lantern rings.
The one-page opening sequence, followed by a dramatic double-page splash of the Flash running, serves another purpose: filling in readers who might not be familiar with the main Blackest Night miniseries. As someone who hasn’t been following the main event directly, I found this page extremely helpful. Similarly, I imagine the two-page recap of Flash: Rebirth would probably help anyone approaching this miniseries from the Blackest Night perspective get “up to speed” with the current status of the Flash.
Once the recaps are out of the way, the issue alternates between high-speed Flash vs. Black Lantern action and interludes of the Rogues as they prepare to face their dead comrades. It’s effective pacing, providing both contrast and a sense of weight to an issue that, despite the battles, is still mostly setup (more about that later).
I’ve probably said it before, but Scott Kolins’ art is a perfect fit for the grizzled Rogues. He proves equally well-suited to the undead Black Lanterns. Kolins also does a great job of conveying motion and stillness — important, since that contrast is one of the issue’s major themes. On the downside, there are places where his art comes off as too rough. A one-panel appearance of the Titans stands out as an example.
The story is surprisingly connected to Flash: Rebirth, following through on several elements established in that miniseries but not (at least as far as issue #5) resolved. It seems that Blackest Night: The Flash will be exploring the fallout from Rebirth‘s changes, paving the way (one hopes) for more stand-alone stories in the new Flash ongoing that launches next year.
Even so, this issue feels less like setup and more like an actual story than the five issues of Flash: Rebirth that we’ve seen so far.
Okay. It’s spoiler time. If you don’t want to know specifics, stop reading now. Otherwise, keep reading after the cut.
You’ve been warned!
The two main Black Lanterns who appear in this issue are Professor Zoom and Solovar, former leader of Gorilla City. I thought that the initial confrontation with Zoom was over way too quickly, but it’s clear that he’ll be back later. I would have liked to get a better view of the Black Lantern Reverse Flash costume, but I think the more dramatic views (including the first-appearance splash page) served the story better.
The book raises a lot of questions about the nature of the Black Lanterns and whether they can be restored to life. (OK, it’s comics, of course they can!) In particular, “Solovar’s” remarks about how he doesn’t want to be like this, begging Barry to help him, and Barry’s response: “I don’t know how.”
The confrontation between the live and dead Rogues should be interesting.
Connections (Now with Spoilers!)
From comments I’ve seen online about Blackest Night, it seems that this issue takes place either during Blackest Night #4 or between that issue and #5. It starts with Barry Allen racing around the world to get the word out, and ends with everyone heading for Coast City. That said, this issue seems to spin out of the event more than it feeds back in.
It also appears that Blackest Night as a whole takes place very shortly after Flash: Rebirth. Barry is still catching up on the changes since his own death and still working through the revelations about his past and about the speed force. There’s also the through-line with Gorilla City and the speed force painting seen in Flash: Rebirth #2. (Note: The gorilla leading that ceremony was Nnamdi, Solovar’s son, who succeeded him as leader.)
I’m disappointed that they’ve decided to stick with the retcon that Barry lost his parents when he was young. It just feels like an unnecessary darkening of the character. But if they’re going to keep it, it’s good to see them exploring how it affected Barry’s personality and history.
The focus on the Rogues, and Scott Kolins’ artwork, also gives the book the feel of a follow-up to Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge. Add in the Rogues’ cemetery, Tarpit and Captain Boomerang, Jr., the new, green Gorilla City, and it feels like a bridge between Geoff Johns’ previous Flash run starring Wally West and his upcoming Flash run starring Barry Allen.
The more I think about it, this is starting to look like the book I wanted Flash: Rebirth to be. Now if we could just have a little more Wally and Bart…