Review: Flash #1 — “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues”

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.

Story

Broadly speaking, the issue can be broken down into three main segments:

  1. Introduce the Flash.
  2. Introduce Barry Allen.
  3. 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?”

Art

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!

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Spoilers

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…)

Commander Cold and the RenegadesThe 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.

Conclusion

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.

30 thoughts on “Review: Flash #1 — “The Dastardly Death of the Rogues”

  1. Aleclom

    Totally agreed. This was such a fun book, I can now actually say that I’m finally on board with Barry’s return and really looking forward to this series. And Weather Wizard being a jerk absolutely cracked me up, such a great way to sum up the Rogues.

    Reply
  2. Craig

    Can’t wait to read this. Have to wait until tomorrow to get it though (assuming the storm here hasn’t delayed us getting new comics again). Glad to hear you give it such a positive review as neither of the last two Flash mini-series or the Secret Files issue made me optimistic for the new relaunch.

    Reply
  3. Joey Forlini

    OMG!
    The art in this comic book is absolutely magnificent! The sunrise lighting effect at the beginning of the book is gorgeous! I really like the new art style DC picked for the new Flash series, it’s caricaturist yet serious.
    I really enjoyed this book, definitely pick it up as fast as you can!

    Reply
  4. EJ

    “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?”

    But Barry was awesome all during Blackest Night the past 9 months and without all the set up and spotlight from Rebirth to BN Flash we wouldn’t be able to start from point 1 in the relaunch. Geoff has done a great job setting up Barry Allen in the DCU and spotlighting him to the masses before launching this new Flash book and now all of that payoff is here with Flash #1 it’s a great time to be a Barry Allen fan right now.

    Reply
    1. Kelson Post author

      If an ensemble book spotlights a character better than the book he’s starring in, something’s wrong.

      And DC absolutely could have just started at this point, and established the background in the coming months — if they’d wanted to.

      Unless you’re saying that this issue wasn’t really as good as I thought it was, and it’s only good by comparison to what came before?

      Reply
      1. papa zero

        Yep… could have easily gone from the hug scene in Final Crisis to this.

        I like Manapul’s style enough to ignore minor quibbles over some of the rough around the edges bits. The coloring is unique too but the Flash costume doesn’t seem to stand out with the rich red color.

        Hmm… mirror image Rogues?

        I wonder how Barry found defensive wounds or glass under the finger nails through the gloves?

        It’ll be hard for me to adjust to an Iris that is ambitious in her career – not that she wasn’t involved in it years ago, but you’d think after all she’s seen “grabbing a scoop” wouldn’t be a driving force so much anymore.

        Reply
  5. Glenmarc "Flash" Antonio

    I honestly believe this is a great start to anyone who would like to pick up a couple of Flash books and just flip thru the pages without being absolutely too immersed. Mad props to Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul (who’s a fellow Pinoy, mabuhay..if you’re reading this Francis). Like EJ said, it’s a great time to be a Barry Allen fan right now..of which I am one. 😀

    Reply
  6. Lia

    Agreed, I found this enjoyable and a lot of fun too. Much better than Rebirth, and a far better vehicle to show off Barry Allen to new/skeptical readers.

    I’ll have to squee at Francis when he shows up at Fan Expo (well, I assume he will, he always has, since he’s local) 😀

    Reply
  7. Kyer

    Dang…haven’t seen it and won’t until it goes to trade, but from what I’ve seen the artwork looks great and it’s wonderful that a Flash book is finally acting like a Flash book. Now I only have to hope I don’t need to wait too long for the other speedsters to have decent parts in 2011, that they keep up this good work for them…and that they tone down the Barry IS The Speed Force & IS THE GREATEST SPEEDSTER FOREVERMORE AND THIS CAN’T BE REBOOTED FOR ALL TIME NO MATTER HOW MUCH *WE* REBOOT BARRY TO OUR LIKING–SO SAYS DIDIO! …..*cough*

    Sorry, but those last two things still have spoiled this for me so I tend to rant. I’ll pick up this year’s Flash titles *after* I see how they handle Wally, Bart, Jay, and Max.

    Reply
  8. Kyer

    On the faces…Can’t find the earlier Source scans they had up a while back, but going by the three pictures here:

    Barry’s eyes seem too blue. Doesn’t he have pupils? Also, the faces are overly plain. There’s hardly any shading or coloring going on at all to give them a complexion or to sculpt the nose features and area separating cheeks from mouth. Makes them look a bit like unfinished mannequins even in close up. Maybe that’s what’s bugging you as well?

    Reply
  9. Bandito

    Great issue. Great way to introduce new readers to a fantastic character.

    I liked The Flash: Rebirth, despite being disappointed that it didn’t have the emotional payoff or gravitas that Green Lantern: Rebirth had. But Rebirth was a different kind of story. It’s function wasn’t really to kick off the new Flash series, but to set the stage and, yes, retcon a few relationships and histories to allow for Johns’ future stories.

    But this issue was a great kick-off. Every panel by Manapul was beautiful and every action or characterization beat felt right. Hope it continues!

    Reply
  10. Matthew

    Love the review and definitely agree with a lot of it. In my review on MC, I said something along the vein of how I’d forgotten why I love Geoff Johns as a story teller, and it’s issues like this that renew my faith after things like Blackest Night or Rebirth. The “raining out the ballgames” line had my laughing out loud (as well as your iPhone comment). It’s just such a good start and I have very high hopes about the series.

    Flashpoint though … it looks interesting, and I’m curious and all, but I just hope Johns doesn’t overdo it like he did Blackest Night. As long as he keeps this “event”/whatever IN the Flash books, it’ll be guaranteed good.

    Reply
  11. liquidcross

    Great issue, and I’m a fan who vastly prefers Wally West over Barry Allen! I’d had serious problems with Geoff Johns’ writing in the past (especially his GL work), but I always though his Flash stuff was top-notch. Flash: Rebirth was a disappointment, but this issue blows it away in every way, shape, and form. Can’t wait for #2!

    Has anyone else noticed that Barry and Iris seemed to have de-aged considerably? Not that Iris would’ve been that old when Barry returned, but they both look like they’re in in the late 20s to early 30s at most.

    Reply
    1. Jesse

      The de-aging really bugs me and pulled me out of the story a bit. I don’t want to be a continuity jerk or a stick in the mud, but if they wanted a young Flash they shouldn’t have brought Barry back … stick with Wally or try a better job with Bart when they had the chance. A young Iris is particularly egregious. Honestly, I get the feeling that Wally is both older and more mature than Barry at this point.

      I of course agree that this issue was fun, and the art was good, etc … but I still don’t know why they couldn’t have just done this with Wally and skipped the last few erratic years.

      Reply
      1. Devin "The Flash" Johnson

        I noticed that too. I guess in Geoff’s far reaching goal of attempting to give Barry Allen a personality that anyone could care about, he just kinda stopped short and left it at awkward, obsessed, 20 something Bart Allen.

        I respect Barry and I respect the character, but why do we need to move backwards? I admit I really enjoyed this issue for the most part but a few things just stand out as glaringly bad. One the personality that Barry exhibited. Even down to the Trickster chase which I guess is now obligatory for every Flash to have. In any case the images evoked memories of Kid Flash taking on Trickster back in Teen Titans.

        Funny that my mind didn’t jump to Wally West and his own Trickster chase. Nope immediately to Kid Flash. I really hope that this is just them tinkering to find a good voice for him and they settle on something else for him and Iris later.

        I do have to admit the car-dismantling in midair was fantastic. And there were zero problems with the pacing. The art was beautiful. Although as mentioned before the muted red doesn’t really stand out as much as it should.

        All in all I’m enjoying the series so far but with some minor tweaks I could be loving it.
        .-= Devin “The Flash” Johnson’s latest blog post: Design and Win Your Own Flash Ring Contest! =-.

        Reply
  12. Brett

    Great Great Review. It was like a third read of the issue! I was apprehensive because I have a soft spot for Wally and was a little put off by him not being anywhere, but this series made me forget about that for now.

    Reply
  13. West3man

    I didn’t swoon over this book like some of you did. Maybe if I did more than skim it…

    I’m here to comment on Kelson’s Flash on the iPhone joke. Nice one. Hehehe.
    .-= West3man’s latest blog post: Ridin’ Out =-.

    Reply
  14. Wayne Lippa

    Aaarrrggghhh! We had an April snowstorm here in southern Alberta on Tuesday night, which means the comics didn’t come in on Wednesday or Thursday. The wait to read this issue is killing me!

    Reply
  15. EJ

    “If an ensemble book spotlights a character better than the book he’s starring in, something’s wrong.

    And DC absolutely could have just started at this point, and established the background in the coming months — if they’d wanted to.

    Unless you’re saying that this issue wasn’t really as good as I thought it was, and it’s only good by comparison to what came before?”

    Blackest Night and Flash Rebirth were completelly different stories as you could tell by the way Barry acts in both. One was telling a more personal story that is used to set up where Geoff wants to go in new on going without having to bog it down. And the other is a big mega event that gave a great boost to alot of the characters involved. I’m happy we got both now once the ongoing starts you can start fresh while having told Barry Allen stories and spotlighted him to DC’s fans best of all worlds that was my point.

    Reply
  16. Rob

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.
    Everything clicked. Story, art, colouring it was a very impressive #1.

    Now why DC didn’t do this 18 months ago? THAT is the question!

    Reply
  17. Perplexio

    I love Manapul’s artwork! But I knew I would after seeing some of his Red Robin covers and his work in Adventure Comics. His artwork is ALMOST awesome enough to get me past my misgivings and reservations with what Johns is doing with Barry. And I do hope that the altered past is more a plot device than a permanent fixture for Barry. I’m hoping that in future issues Barry goes back and stops some of Profesor Zoom’s meddling with his past… starting with re-latching the door so his dog doesn’t escape and get run over.
    .-= Perplexio’s latest blog post: Harry Chapin – Sniper and Other Love Songs (1972) =-.

    Reply
    1. Hyperion

      Oh, that reminds me, I wonder what happened to Dox**…he got the final panel in Impulse #89 and that’s it, haven’t seen him since.

      **Bart’s pet Jack Russell Terrier, for those who don’t know.

      Reply
  18. Joey Forlini

    Hey great review! I totally agree with you.
    This book was awesome and I can’t wait to read the second soon!

    Reply

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