Review: Flash #1 (The New 52)

I had no idea what to expect from The Flash #1. Actually, that’s not entirely true: I knew I could expect fantastic art by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, and it delivered. But I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story, the pacing, the characterization. And after five years of Flash relaunches, Wally’s disappearance, Bart’s death and rebirth, Barry’s return as Captain Angst, Wally being pushed so far off the sidelines that DC acted like they didn’t even recognize his name, and a general trend among the mainstream parts of DC moving away from the characters and stories that I wanted to read, I was beginning to wonder: Is it time to hang up the boots for a while?

Well, after reading the first issue, I can say: Today is not that day.

Some of the things I liked:

The art. This was my favorite part of last year’s Geoff Johns run, and it’s even better here. Not only does it look good, but Francis Manapul continues to experiment with layouts as well, going far beyond the standard grid-and-splash-page patterns. I particularly liked the fall from the helicopter and the page showing Barry in his apartment. And when was the last time you saw a splash page of the Flash standing still (and not posing dramatically) look so good?

With DC’s newfound emphasis on deadlines, I really hope these guys can keep on schedule!

The speed. While it’s not a headlong rush from beginning to end, it never drags. As much as I liked “Dastardly Death of the Rogues,” I still felt like it would have been better at 2/3 the length. This doesn’t feel padded.

Everything you need to know is here. What the Flash’s powers are. Who Barry Allen is, and what he does in civilian life. Who Patty and Iris are, what they do, and how they relate to the main character as both Barry and the Flash. The role of super-science. The dynamic in Barry’s workplace. What the police think of the Flash. Who the villain is for the first story. And none of the exposition feels forced. (That was a problem I had with, for instance, Justice League Dark. Every other page it seemed like someone was saying something solely to give the reader more background, rather than something they’d say naturally.)

The only thing missing from the story is how the Flash got his powers, and that was described in a narration box in the title page.

Barry Allen smiles. I’ve always felt that the Flash should be a book about adventure, not angst or violence. They can be present, certainly, but come on: he wears bright red and runs super-fast. He should be awesome, not badass.

In retrospect, I get the impression that Geoff Johns tends to focus more on the badassery, which makes him a great fit for villains and some of the more imposing heroes, but ends up conflicting with writing a good Flash tale. That he’s been so successful as a Flash writer is due, I suspect, in large part to his incredible work with the Rogues.

One of the (admittedly many) problems I had with Flash: Rebirth was that Barry Allen had been retconned into a tough guy shut-in. “Dastardly Deaths…” lightened him up a bit, but then “Road to Flashpoint” jumped straight into the shut-in aspects.

This Barry Allen is a lot more like the one I remember from my back issues…and a lot more likeable: Yes, he’s introverted, but he’s able to enjoy what he’s doing, whether it’s taking in a technical exhibition with a date, or trying to stop a troop of thieves.

Iris West refuses to be written out, and Patty Spivot makes a strong case for her presence. In “The Road to Flashpoint,” it seemed weird that Patty was brought back from supporting-cast limbo with a new backstory. Here, she’s part of the cast from the beginning and has more of a role than just “Barry’s girlfriend.”

Barry’s boss chewing out the team…and then getting chewed out by his boss.

Mystery. What’s going on with Dr. Elias, his gene re-coder, and his research into alternative energy sources? What’s going on with Barry’s old friend Manuel? Who are the gang of masked shock troopers, really, and what do they want with the genome re-coder? (Actually, I have a guess based on the body, the last page, and reading 5,000,000 scifi books, but I’ll leave that for now.) And who’s the original?

No bow tie. I’ve always considered the bow tie to be an artifact of the time the original comics were written, like Clark Kent’s hat in the 1950s — not a character trait. And after such a big deal was made over it in Flash: Rebirth, I’m glad to see Barry’s wardrobe updated.

On a related note,

No mention of Barry generating the speed force. I still think that was the worst, most ham-fisted retcon to come out of the last three years of Flash stories.

Things I didn’t like

A much shorter list, but….

The mask. The side pieces and chin strap combine to make his face look too closed-off for the Flash. It’s better here with the more watercolored look than it is in other places I’ve seen, with sharper, more defined lines, but it still bugs me.

Barry’s tragic past retcon is probably still intact. Technically this isn’t actually in the issue, but from what we’ve seen elsewhere, it sounds like Barry’s mother still died, and his father probably still died in prison after being framed for the murder. I still think the dead-parent cliche is overdone and shouldn’t have been grafted onto the Flash.

Hiding the secret identity from the significant other. I know it’s a staple of the genre, and when the lead is only casually dating at this point, it makes sense not to trust the girlfriend with the really big stuff…but to me, it gets old really fast.

There’s very little room for Wally West in this universe. If Barry Allen has been the Flash for five years, and he’s been working with Patty for at least two, then chances are (1) Wally’s too young to have taken on the Flash mantle at any time and (2) Barry either didn’t die in the Crisis, or didn’t die for long enough for Wally to succeed him for any significant length of time. I’m happy to read about Barry if the stories are good, but I still resent the way Wally’s been written out of history.

Overall

This combines my favorite aspects of Flash vol.3 with my favorite aspects of the Bronze Age Flash with modern storytelling. Unfortunately, it’s missing my favorite aspects of Flash vol.2, and with the current editorial direction, I don’t expect to see them anytime soon.

The Flash (vol.4) #1
Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul

Please sponsor me in the Walk for Food Allergy. I’m raising funds for research and education. Here’s why. Thank you!

42 thoughts on “Review: Flash #1 (The New 52)

  1. Savitar

    The origin notice on the splash page mentioned that Barry taps into the Speed Force, but doesn’t generate it as the origin box in Johns’ book had it. An immediate difference, one I hope they keep.

    Otherwise, spot-on review. They didn’t waste time trying to re-tell some new form of his origin (maybe later) instead showing how Barry lives and works, bits of his past, and a new mystery. This really felt like a new title.

    Reply
  2. Kyer

    Yeah, I’ve been very supportive of this book from the beginning….it’s that last niggly on Wally that is the only thing keeping me from buying it. *sigh*

    I do hope he eventually does go back with Iris though…if only for nostalgia’s sake. On the other hand the longer she’s there the more I keep having this insane hope even though DC has flat out said Wally won’t happen.

    Reply
  3. West

    The pseudo-reboots confuse and annoy me. Andy Ihnatko seemed to think, in his podcast, that DCerformed a full reboot and that there aren’t decades of continuity to trip over, anymore. I think he’s wrong. These aren’t full reboots and the continuity, IMO, enriched these series more than I ever felt it bogged them down. Admittedly, the latter has more to Dow tih my sensibilities and less to do with objective facts.

    Back to the confusion: I don’t like lacking that context. I want to know what’s has happened and what hasn’t. I would’ve preferred a full reboot or no reboot to keeping some history elements but not others…and making the reader sort it out the hard way.

    Good stories always win, though, so let’s see what they do with these. I’m not invested, but maybe more than a year or two or consistency and stability will calm my four-color nerves.

    Reply
    1. GCU Prosthetic Conscience

      What gets me is how some of the characters have almost complete reboots (Superman, the Flash), while some have almost no changes (Green Lantern, Batman), and the completely screwed-up timeline this makes for. How did Batman go through four Robins in five years, and how did he manage to father a child who’s now 10 years old during that time?

      Reply
    2. Kelson Post author

      Crisis on Infinite Earths had the same problem. From what I recall reading, Wolfman & Perez wanted to do a hard reboot, start from scratch across the board, but the plan was vetoed, and you ended up with some characters starting from scratch (Wonder Woman), some characters getting new origins, but still being years into their careers, even though a lot of their villains were redone and introduced as if they were entirely new (Superman), and others that just picked up right where they left off (New Teen Titans).

      As a result, we had years of “Is this still in continuity?” questions, Donna Troy was set on the path to origin-of-the-week, the Legion of Super-Heroes history ended up completely screwed up over the presence of Superboy, and so on.

      Zero Hour was mainly planned to fix the messes that had been left over by the Crisis, but even that wasn’t enough. After a while, DC started soft-rebooting various characters without explanation, finally settling on the Superboy Punch.

      I’ve got to say, enough people at DC now were reading or writing comics during the Crisis-to-Zero-Hour era that you’d think they would have remembered that and actually gone for a clean reboot this time.

      Reply
      1. Zaki

        The fact that they didn’t do a ground-up reboot on Batman and GL is a real head-scratcher to me. For all of Dan DiDio’s harping on about “iconic” this and “iconic” that, it makes no sense to have Batman running around with a Robin who’s actually his ten-year-old son, with three other ex-Robins running around as part of what he terms an “internship program.” Not only does it cheapen the Batman-Robin dynamic, but the compressed timeline also makes things hopelessly convoluted in a drip-drip-drip way for the rest of the DCU.

        As much as I love Dick Grayson as Nightwing and Tim Drake existing at all, for the sake of the newly-streamlined DCU both of these characters (along with Jason Todd) should have been regressed and wiped away respectively. DC’s inconsistency on this issue is gonna come back and bite them in a big way five or six years down the line, the same way post-CRISIS inconsistencies ended up necessitating ZERO HOUR, Hypertime, etc.

        Reply
  4. GCU Prosthetic Conscience

    Did anyone here catch Teen Titans #1? It starts out with Bart royally screwing up a rescue from a burning building, and a JL press release notes that “this Kid Flash has no connection to the Flash”. I wouldn’t read too much into that — Bart will still be Barry’s future descendant of some kind — but it does imply that Barry doesn’t know about him yet.

    This probably also means that Bart’s time as Impulse has been erased, which is kind of inevitable, since that was during Wally’s tenure as the Flash.

    Reply
    1. West

      I was not happy about new-Bart’s show-boating ineptitude, at all. And I took the statement about his having no connection to the Flash fairly seriously.

      Reply
      1. Yossarian1373

        I don’t think it’s Bart. I know what Didio said but reading Teen Titans #1, Kid Flash has red hair. Granted, after he changed to Kid Flash, Bart’s hair got redder but the new Kid Flash’s hair is really red. Also, if you zoom in on him when his goggles are raised, he’s got green eyes. Wally’s had green eyes in the past. And the showboating feels more like Wally than Bart.

        Reply
        1. Kyer

          Hair dye and contact lenses?
          *groans* I wish DC would print up a Field Guide to the DCnU. A free online version.
          This is getting to be more of a headache than it’s worth. Even ordering DC books has become a nightmare (do NOT ever order from a company undergoing a website facelift! Wait until they get all the bugs out or you may end up with duplicate orders that the computers refuse to acknowledge were shipped so you can return them…yet you are being charged for. It’s a mess! Yes, I am fighting the charges. Still stressful. I am really contemplating returning to just tv and movies.)

          Reply
          1. Kelson Post author

            A field guide would be great — I hope they revisit the Who’s Who project they were going to do after Final Crisis. Maybe not as detailed, so they don’t have to lock themselves down this early on, but the basics.

            Sorry to hear about your ordering problems. Good luck sorting them out.

            Reply
        2. Jesse

          I too got the feeling that Teen Titans Kid Flash might be Wally. It seems they went out of their way not to mention his name, and it also seemed like they were bringing it in line with the Young Justice cartoon.

          Reply
        3. Kelson Post author

          FWIW, the artist has been referring to him as Bart consistently, and when the first cover was released, he said that DC’s official style guide lists Bart’s hair as “auburn.” Differences in how people interpret auburn lead to his hair looking more reddish or more brownish under different colorists.

          He’s also been coming up with new designs for Wally West on his own & talking about how he’d like to draw Wally.

          Could be serious, could be misdirection, could be linkbait. As we all know, nothing’s set in stone until it’s on a published page…and even then, it’s only a Superboy Punch away from changing again.

          Reply
          1. Kyer

            Could be the artist really wanted to be drawing Wally and this is his way of sneaking him in a bit.

            Again, a Field Book of characters *including* color charts! 😛 Obviously, copies of same should be handed out to each creative team with a pop quiz to follow.

            Reply
  5. Steve

    I’m glad Manupal did such an awesome job. I’ve been a fan of his art for awhile, and the fact that this book might elevate him to a new standing is good news for the comic world in general.

    I’m probably not going to actually buy the book again until the Wally issue is resolved (I hear it may be addressed soon, which at least is something) but this is still good news to me.

    Reply
  6. married guy

    I’m glad we have a Barry Allen book that doesn’t hurt to read, but I’m still pissed that DC have deemed a character introduced in December 1959 as irrelevant and have given Wally fans a great big F.U.

    Reply
    1. Realitätsprüfung

      I understand being disappointed, but some perspective here: It’s not an FU. It’s a storytelling choice. One that disappoints some readers, but a message it’s not.

      They’re simply not using a fictional character…for now. Same as what happened with Barry in 1986; killed off with no chance of return. At that point, he had been the Flash and an ongoing JLAer for a quarter of a century. And then…poof!

      Were the next 5, 10 or 20 years until Rebirth an FU to his fans? Not at all. It was a storytelling choice, about what they thought would work best in the comics of the time. Same as now.

      Reply
      1. married guy

        Difference is, DC still told Barry Allen stories. Waid’s Brave & the Bold and Year One mini series spring to mind. Barry was also a huge part of Wally’s reign as he was what Wally aspired to be.

        Even though he was no longer the Flash, Barry Allen was almost ALWAYS portrayed as the pinnacle of heroism in the DCU.

        In the new DC landscape it is becoming increasingly clear that TPTB have deemed Wally West has no place.

        I take that decision as a big ol’ FU.

        Reply
        1. Realitätsprüfung

          So your counterargument is that DC used Barry post-Crisis in those stories. Let’s see: Killed in 1986, and used in JLA Year One and B&B by Waid.

          And that was in…what, 1998? So they used him 13 years later, in flashback stories. By that logic, you should then wait to complain until at LEAST 2021.

          Seriously – this “outrage” campaign gets less reasonable with every new argument. DC isn’t sending Wally fans a message now any more than they were sending Barry ones in 1985. It’s simply, “Here’s what we think will work best now.”

          And no matter what that plan is, there will be a minority of fans that will be outraged. And some will be ecstatic, and most will be a combination of either reasonably interested or apathetic.

          So interpreting a storytelling direction as a specific message to the unhappy people, the happy people, or the indifferent doesn’t really make sense. It’s a decision we may/may not like – sure.

          Reply
          1. Jesse

            There’s still a difference in how Barry was sent away and how Wally was sent away, and that matters.

            If Wally had been killed or had some other dramatic ending, and it was in some big special issue (like Flash #250, say) or propelled some other story forward, and it was in a way that fit the themes of Wally’s overall story and brought them to a close in a satisfying way, people would be less upset. We would still miss Wally, and want more stories, but we would understand … the same way you do when a beloved character dies in a movie or tv show. You have faith that it fits the larger story, and makes sense. You may not be happy with the decision, but you accept it.

            It’s called closure. Barry fans got that in 1986, but Wally fans never did.

            Reply
      2. Kelson Post author

        Yeah, I remember how the post-Crisis Flash books made a huge point of telling us that Barry was an inferior character, and whenever he was mentioned, the comics made a point of how much better Wally was, on those rare occasions that he was mentioned, and then they completely erased Barry’s (and Jay’s) Flash career from history so that Wally was the first and only Flash ever.

        Oh, wait. No, I don’t remember that. I remember Barry going out as a hero, and then being mentioned constantly in the post-Crisis Flash series, which always reminded us how great a hero he was, and I remember his career as the Flash being not only preserved, but enshrined.

        Reply
        1. Realitätsprüfung

          Until Mark Waid’s run, what you say is true. But Waid’s run did indeed have several arcs that dealt with Wally “surpassing” his mentor, in a big way.

          And it was the right thing to portray Wally becoming even better, because whoever stars in the Flash book is the ‘Fastest Man Alive’. That someone else held that title 10, 20 or 50 years ago isn’t really important. Like sports – the World Cup, the World Series or Super Bowl don’t determine all time greats, but define instead who is on top NOW.

          If they set a series in the early years of Jay’s career, then Barry, Wally and the rest should have no play, and require no constant appearances. Jay’s story isn’t about them, and he’d be “the guy”.

          Same thing here.

          Reply
          1. Kelson Post author

            You’re half-way there with the sports analogy. Instead of contests, consider the situation where one athlete really does “surpass” another: records.

            When a newer athlete breaks a long-standing record, that’s nothing against the older athlete. And one day, someone will come along and break that record. Who knows, it could even be the older athlete who sets the next new record. But over the last three years we’ve watched the records committee retroactively insert higher records for the older athlete, so that the newer athlete’s accomplishments no longer count as records, and they’ve declared the category closed.

            You can imagine that fans of the newer athlete might be a bit unhappy with the records committee at that point…even before the committee declares that they don’t think the newer athlete existed in the first place.

            Reply
      3. kyer

        Pasture Puckies! Barry was given a great big kiss goodbye with a death any hero would be happy to be remembered by. Wally was… Wally was…. eh…bumming around off screen for years until he got iced by an alternate version of Cold in a small tie-in book as a regular joe. Didn’t that just my fan heart swell with pride?

        And now they can’t find him a place in the DCfU even though there appear to be writers who want to use him?

        Definitely a F.U to Wally fans by the heads of DC. I’ll need some majorly irrefutable proof to make me ever believe otherwise….and at this point the word of Didio, Lee, and Johns would not cut it.

        Reply
  7. Rob S.

    I loved this issue. This is really the first time Barry’s felt like Barry to me since he came back. (Though early issues of the last run came close.) I think untethering him from the “Flash Legacy” is the best thing for the Barry Allen character, for the time being, at least. Unfortunately, it leaves Wally nowhere at all.

    Hopefully Wally will turn up somewhere (most likely another earth) with most of his history intact. Wally’s the one who grew up in front of our eyes, and I think without that history, he’s every bit of a cipher as Barry can be. I think a Legacy Earth that shows Wally, Conner Hawke, Kyle, Donna, Dick and others taking over from their mentors would be the most satisfying solution… to me, anyway.

    Reply
    1. Realitätsprüfung

      In fact, it could be called Earth L.

      I think if DC set a book on Earth L, you could grab something like 50K in readers each month, given that almost all of the 90s replacement characters have vocal fanbases – at least going by the internet.

      You could include Kyle, Wally, Cassandra Cain, Connor Hawke, Conner Kent, Linda Danvers, Cassie, etc. Heck, if it was any good I’d buy it.

      Reply
  8. Realitätsprüfung

    All told, a really good review.

    Myself, while I enjoyed the Dastardly Death of the Rogues, I thought this #1 tied the last volume’s #1 for being the best issue since at least Rogue War.

    I like the idea that while Iris is obviously going to play a large role in Barry/Flash’s life, Patty will remain an important part of the cast.

    I also liked the use of the lab characters and Manuel, too.

    Surprisingly good first issue – so glad I can count on a good Flash series again!

    Reply
  9. Kyer

    On Continuity: Dan Didio has opened spoken from up high again (I leave that to your interpretations) and told us that the Crisis are not *THOSE* Crisis….*waves hand and speaks in mystical voice over*…these are not the Crisis you are looking for.

    It’s all New, baby! Brand spanking and clutter free!
    *coughs* (At least until the next announcement.)

    Reply
    1. Kyer

      Cwappies. ComicBloc is still too busy and the link I got from my History is longer than the original line for the first Star Wars release at the Chinese Theater in 1977!

      It’s from Insidepulse.com if that helps. Didio on Facebook.

      Reply
  10. Dylan

    Great review!

    I think the reason that Barry hasn’t told Patty his secret yet is that he wants to see if they work as an ordinary couple, before he brings the whole Flash thing in to complicate it. We’ll see how it goes! But I like this Barry, he’s just a cool nerdy dude. And they didn’t overemphasize how he’s always late!

    Reply
  11. xxadverbxx

    Nice review, and good to see the views of someone who has read much more Flash stuff than I have. Like you though, I’m pissed with the seemingly disapearance of Wally. Poor guy stars in Young Justice and the old Justice League DCAU cartoons not to mention the recent IGN list of greatest comic book heroes has Wally at 8 and Barry all the way back at 49.

    In terms of Crisis on Infinite Earths, it appears so far to be taking place 2 years back from the “current” comic time. Mostly this is hinted at by Hawk & Dove #1. Final Crisis I’d assume happened about a year ago, as Nightwing #1 states Bruce had recently returned after being “away” for a year. Since Bruce “died” in Final Crisis, and assuming it still is in the timeline, then that means Final occurred about a year back. So if Wally is around still, that would basically have given him one year to be the Flash on his own.

    http://readrant.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/dcnu-timeline-v2/

    Reply
  12. Kyer

    Latest from Dan Didio (which shows how concrete this all is) is that he made a booboo on his Facebook…there have as yet been no Crisis in the new DC. The old Crisis never happened in the DCnU.

    Reply
  13. Perplexio

    No mention of Barry generating the speed force. I still think that was the worst, most ham-fisted retcon to come out of the last three years of Flash stories.

    Can’t argue that, but I’ve got to say having Bart “absorb” the entire speed force during his run as The Flash comes a pretty close second on the “worst most ham-fisted retcon” list.

    Reply
  14. Perplexio

    PS: If this relaunch ends up being a total flop sales-wise DC has created the ultimate trap door with Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom. I know Thomas Wayne “killed him” in FlashPoint but DC could just wipe the slate clean again and restore the old status quo by saying the nDCU is the result of Prof. Zoom meddling in the past. They can just have the Flash or Booster Gold go back and “fix” things if need be.

    Reply
  15. Penny Dreadful

    It was a wonderfully drawn book, but I just didn’t love the book. Barry and his supporting cast were kind of dull. It’s much better than Johns’ depressing run last time around, but still, the story and the characters just don’t do anything for me.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *