It’s refreshing to be able to read a Flash story that’s just a Flash story. After four months of retrospective on Wally West, three months off, then a year of rearranging the Flash mythos to make Barry Allen the Most Important Flash of All Time(TM), we finally get Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul’s Flash #1 — a story about the Flash vs. Rogues, and about Barry Allen and his day job.
You don’t need to have read Flash: Rebirth to follow this book. Or Blackest Night. Or, despite the banner across the top, Brightest Day. Actually, you don’t need to have read anything about the Flash to follow this book — and that’s something else that we haven’t seen in a while.
Broadly speaking, the issue can be broken down into three main segments:
- Introduce the Flash.
- Introduce Barry Allen.
- Get the story going.
It moves in a way that the last three “first issues” of a Flash launch didn’t. The opening segment, after the equivalent of a cinematic pan-in, is one long action sequence. The middle segment slows down a bit, but manages to strike a good balance of exposition and characterization. Then the third segment jumps head-first into the mystery.
And the amazing thing? It’s actually fun. I know that’s the kiss of death in comics these days, but it also happens to be what I find myself wanting to read in a super-hero book lately. It has a sense of adventure that The Flash hasn’t really had since the days of Mark Waid’s classic run in the 1990s.
In a lot of ways, this book is 180 degrees away from Flash: Rebirth…and I have to wonder why Geoff Johns couldn’t have started with this approach a year ago, instead of spending 9 issues telling us, “It’s going to be great! Really! Barry is awesome! Can’t you just see how awesome he is?”
Of course, a year ago, one thing would have been missing: Francis Manapul’s art. It’s refreshingly clean after Ethan Van Sciver’s incredibly detailed work on Flash: Rebirth, and while I love Scott Kolins’ pencils on the Rogues, Manapul’s is a better fit for the Flash himself. Rather than focusing on multiple images, speed lines, or lightning, he mixes and matches all of them along with blur effects to show speed.
Manapul also works in a lot of details that stay in the background, but reward a second read: Barry’s and Iris’ chat icons, a bystander taking a photo with a cell phone at a crime scene, the Weather Wizard’s rap sheet slipping out of a file while Captain Frye tells Barry of his latest exploits. Iris has a coffee cup within arm’s reach in every single panel in which you can see her hands, except one. These things are fun to catch, but they don’t take over.
The only problem I have with his art is that his faces sometimes (but not always) seem a bit off. I can’t quite put my finger on why.
Okay, it’s SPOILER TIME!
There were some great moments in this book:
- Flash disassembling a car in mid-air as it hurtles off a bridge.
- Captain Frye explaining that the Weather Wizard had been raining out all the baseball games, but hadn’t made any demands — he was just being a jerk.
- Frye again, telling Barry not to ruffle any feathers — and then immediately ruffling them for him.
Something that came to mind: Barry and Iris are constantly texting each other, even when Barry’s in action as the Flash. Where does he keep his cell phone? (And what phone does he use? I mean, we know Apple doesn’t want Flash on an iPhone…)
The dead Rogue implied by the title does show up — sort of. He turns out to be a future Mirror Master…or rather the Mirror Monarch. It certainly fits for the 25th Century to have good-guy versions of the Rogues to go with the Reverse-Flash. Off-hand, the only story I can think of that explored this idea before was Chain Lightning, in which the 25th-Century Cobalt Blue was an Allen instead of a Thawne.
The next-issue blurb implies that they’re called the Renegades, but they all have badges reading R.F.T.F. That could stand for Renagade something…but a more obvious fit would be the Reverse-Flash Task Force.
This book is far more enjoyable than Flash Rebirth, Blackest Night: The Flash, and Flash: Secret Files had led me to expect. Seriously, it should not take 11 issues for a relaunch to hit its stride.
I’d recommend at this point that anyone who is curious about the Flash and wants to follow the new series should skip Flash: Rebirth and just start here. If you like it, then go and pick up Flash: Rebirth, since it clearly sets things up for later stories, and Flash Secret Files and Origins 2010 for the reference pages.