The Flash #1 review

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Of all the Brightest Day comics, Flash #1 was one of the big enigmas for me, at least in terms of quality. I didn’t read all of Flash Rebirth, but the first five issues (of six) weren’t quite up to the quality I usually expect from Johns. The series wasn’t as good as Green Lantern: Rebirth and perhaps concerned itself just a little too much with continuity (retconning it, reaffirming it, etc.). It also was a little slow for a Flash read, perhaps due to the overabundance of narrative captions.

Still, I was fairly optimistic about The Flash #1. With all the resurrecting and continuity set-up out of the way, Johns can now focus on telling the Barry Allen/Flash stories he wants to tell. Moreover, most Internet reviews were fairly positive about the first issue… except our own David’s! Oddly enough, David’s negative review made me want to check out the series even more, if only to see where I stood.

Honestly, I have to agree with the positive reviews. The Flash #1 isn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It’s accessible, it introduces Barry Allen and his central cast and sets up an intriguing mystery perfectly suited for the superhero world.

The issue starts out with a highly-caffeinated Iris Allen explaining Geoff Johns’ take on Central City. Apparently, it’s a city where everyone is on the go, thus making it the perfect city for a certain scarlet speedster… who also happens to be Iris’ husband. While Barry Allen has no problem getting back into the quick of things (sorry, couldn’t resist) when it comes to his superhero career and his relationship with Iris, his return to the Central City police squad is a little bumpier. Fortunately, a few familiar faces help ease Barry’s return to his “normal” career, and his keen detective skills are as good as ever. Which he’ll need, because the discovery of a body dressed in a costume highly resembling a certain Rogue’s quickly turns into one of Barry’s strangest cases yet…

As most first issues should, The Flash #1 introduces its protagonist and his world in an info-dump free, easily-digestible manner. Obviously, speed is a central theme throughout the issue; not only do we see the Flash running around, but everyone in Central City’s constantly moving around (I think it’s no coincidence that Flash zooms by a park full of joggers at one point!). The issue also reintroduces fans to the traits that make Barry stand out from other Flashes, like his strict sense of justice and the duality between his Flash and Barry persona; the Flash is the fastest man alive, but Barry Allen’s always late. Moreover, we see how a guy like Barry Allen, who some fans call dated, can easily adapt and even thrive in today’s high-speed world of cell phones, broadband connections and texting.

We also learn that, for better or for worse, Johns’ retcon from Flash: Rebirth about Barry’s mother* remains intact. I’m still uneasy about it, but I suppose Johns could get some good dramatic mileage out of it. Also, I can’t believe Geoff went for the old “I’m x weeks until retirement” routine with one of the police detectives! Haha, as long as he survives the journey… 

The last page of The Flash #1 has one of Johns’ famous “trailers” of things to come, hinting at a major Flash event that happens next year. A very smart move, as it hints just how far along Geoff’s worked out his run. I kind of wonder how many of the images we see will make it into the final product, as it feels like it’s still a while away. Nevertheless, there’s definitely enough there to keep fans speculating, which is exactly the point, right?

Francis Manapaul’s art continues to look just as good as it did during his Adventure Comics run with Johns. He’s got a great handle on facial expressions (I really loved Iris’ smile on the first few pages) and can draw some spectacular action scenes– the opening action sequence between the Flash and the Trickster looks terrific. I also like his costume designs for the new “villains” who appear this issue. I was a little worried about colorist Brian Buccellato’s choice to reuse the slightly-muted color palette from his and Manapaul’s Adventure Comics run– after all, the Flash and the Rogues are known for their bright colors– but I’m happy to say the costumes remain as colorful as ever. Iris Allen looks a little younger than she has in recent years, but not unrealistically so; honestly, I think she’s just been rejuvenated, body and mind, by Barry’s return. That, and she’s wearing “young people’s” clothes. Keep it stylish, Iris!

As we’ve seen on this here blog, your mileage may vary (pun… intended?), but in my opinion, The Flash #1 is a pretty good opening issue. I say give the series a chance– even if it doesn’t work for you at first, chances are later issues will– Geoff Johns has a knack for these things, after all.

*if you want a list of retcons Geoff’s made to Barry’s history, click here and here.

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4 Responses to “The Flash #1 review”

  1. davidry214 Says:

    Well, I disagree on pretty much every point. Which is cool, since we don’t have a lot of disagreeing reviews. I don’t have the issue with me and haven’t read it in a long time, but here’s what I remember of why I felt the way I did:

    Is the book accessible? Yes, absolutely. But it was also kinda boring. The police stuff was so very stereotypical and cliche. After the Rebirth mini, I was disappointed to see the “HEY EVERYONE, NOW WE’RE SAYING BARRY’S MOM WAS MURDERED! DON’T FORGET! HAHA, NO WORRIES, WE’LL REMIND YOU ANOTHER SEVEN TIMES!” angle resurrected. It was a wholly unnecessary retcon to begin with, but the fact that Johns won’t let it go is getting so ridiculous.

    What’s the only difference between the way Flash & Iris are written, and the way Superman & Lois are written? Superman can fly. Everything else about their interaction made me think: “Hmm, I’ve seen this exact scene before, only the superhero usually flies away.”

    The ending felt really uninspired. “Hey readers, tired of the Rogues? No worries, we have SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT ROGUES FROM THE FUTURE.” It felt like Johns was told he had to do something different, and that was as far outside the box as he could think.

    And I hated Manapul’s art. Poor lack of detail, everybody is 20 (even the old people). When the “Mirror Master” was revealed, the reader was supposed to be able to tell the dead guy was a fake. But without reading the dialogue, my first thought was, “Wait, is that him or not?”, because the lack of detail made it too hard to tell the two faces apart. I guessed it wasn’t him, just because the second guy had slightly different colored hair, and I turned out to be right. But the current Mirror Master has been in place for like, 15 years, give or take a little? I didn’t like Johns’ dialogue implying that he was a rookie villain. It seemed to be paving the way for the original to come back, which seems quite unnecessary. Christ, not everyone has to come back from the dead.

    I don’t know, it just all revolved around retcons and weak plot twists. It may be harsh, but honestly, no part of me cared what came next.

  2. Gokitalo Says:

    “Care to respond, Mr. Gokitalo?”

    “I’ll try my best, Jim!”

    Well, concerning Mirror Master… it’s not Johns who’s implying he’s a rookie villain, it’s Barry. He’s referring to a very specific Mirror Master, too: Evan McCulloch, a.k.a. Mirror Master II… who Barry has never met. The Mirror Master Barry typically fought was Sam Scudder, who died just a little after Barry did in Crisis on Infinite Earths. So even though McCulloch’s been around since Morrison’s Animal Man run, it makes sense that Barry primarily associates the Mirror Master with Sam Scudder, instead of Sam’s replacement.

    Speaking of Mirror Master replacements, I don’t think the reader was supposed to figure out right away that the dead Mirror Master was a fake. This is a mystery, after all, so there are going to be moments where things are deliberately unclear. We were supposed to wonder, however briefly, whether or not the dead Mirror Master was Evan McCulloch. I mean, if we had known from the get-go that the dead Mirror Master wasn’t Evan, it would’ve robbed the scene of some of its suspense. And Geoff Johns is a man who loves suspense.

    As for the future Rogues, I see your point, but the differences between them and the traditional Rogues are more than cosmetic. The future Rogues are lawmen like Barry, not criminals. So you’ve not only got Barry being accused of a crime he hasn’t even committed yet, but you also have Barry pitted against people who are supposedly on his side. No worries about the classic Rogues, though: according to the solits, we’ll soon see them react to their future counterparts in a very, well, Roguish way…

    I guess the last thing I’ll bring up is Barry and Iris versus Superman and Lois. There definitely are similarities, but the big difference Geoff highlights throughout Flash #1 is that they’re a lot more fast-paced. We’ve seen plenty of moments where Clark and Lois slow down to spend time with one another, but I’m not sure how often we’ll see this with Barry and Iris. In fact, that’s another difference: Clark and Lois see each other all the time at the office, but Barry and Iris don’t get to hang out on the day job unless a crime’s involved.

    Oh, and I don’t think Iris is quite as ruthless as Lois when it comes to reporting :b Although she’s definitely more caffeinated.

    I have to agree, though, we’re getting a pretty interesting discussion out of our disagreement about the issue.

  3. davidry214 Says:

    I’ll concede to your first paragraph, about it being Barry’s opinion on Mirror Master and not Johns’, but only to some extent. You’re right, Barry wouldn’t have fought McCulloch. But I don’t really think of Barry as someone who underestimates villains he’s unfamiliar with — you’d think with his superspeed, he’d be well-versed with the files on the relatively “new” Rogues, such that he would respect the threat from McCulloch enough to not just call him some newcomer, or whatever he even said. No, it seemed more like Johns’ POV to me, since he’s been so relentless in retconning back Silver Age aspects to DC, particularly Green Lantern and Flash, while lessening roles of several newer heroes/villains.

    When we first saw a dead Mirror Master, I agree that we were supposed to think it was McCulloch to build the suspense. But, as I recall it, later in the issue, they took the dead man’s mask off and compared his face to a file photo of McCulloch. At that point, I think the art was supposed to show the two faces were different, but only the coloring of the hair gave me any hint it wasn’t the real Mirror Master. There was no real suspense left to build at that point, as the detectives or Flash or whoever commented of the “different” faces in like the next (maybe even the same) panel.

    I guess the future Rogues have been fleshed out more now, but the splash page at the end of #1 didn’t make me interested enough to continue. Admittedly, you can only do so much in the debut issue, but the very concept of guys from the future with nearly identical costumes (and presumably powers) as the current Rogues made me roll my eyes a little.

    And you’re right that Barry/Iris are different from Clark/Lois in several ways, but confining it to the issue at hand, their interaction in #1 felt extremely similar to some scenes you’d see in Superman. Not exactly Johns’ fault that Iris is a reporter, but it was another way the issue just didn’t grab me with any originality.

  4. Gokitalo Says:

    Thing is, Johns used Evan McCulloch a lot– a LOT– in his first Flash run. McCulloch wasn’t treated as a novice, either; he was as formidable a foe to Wally as the older Rogues were. Johns even made him a little Machiavellian at times, as I recall…

    Also, Johns is also a big fan of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man run, where McCulloch was introduced. So he definitely knows McCulloch’s been around the block for a while. Barry Allen, on the other hand, has never even met the guy. Plus, Sam Scudder still has McCulloch beat in terms of years of experience.

    Completely agree about Geoff’s retconning, though. It’s so weird to me, because for a guy who’s really good at taking bits of continuity that already exist and tying them together (like he did with Hawkman), he sure likes to rewrite the past a lot.

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