Barry Allen is the fastest man alive, but can he truly run away from his feelings? New creative team Joshua Williamson, Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascencia put their stamp on the character with this first issue and show that they have some very interesting things in store for Central City’s Scarlet Speedster.
Read on below for our full review of “The Flash” #1 with some minor spoilers discussed.
Written by Joshua Williamson
Illustrated by Carmine Di Giandomenico
A new storm brews over Central City and disproves the old adage about lightning never, well…you know. Just as Barry begins to feel overwhelmed fighting crime, a new speedster debuts—but just where did this amazing new friend come from?
With a character like The Flash, reinvention can be a difficult task. DC’s ‘Rebirth’ initiative is labelled as taking many characters back to their roots and exploring what makes them great, but is there honestly any way of doing that without some reinvention? Otherwise, DC would just be telling the same stories they’ve told for decades. That’s especially true for a character like The Flash. All superheroes have their core, key storytelling elements that make them who they are. Superman stories are largely going to be predicated on the feeling of hope of seeing a saviour fly down from the clouds in our hour of need. Batman stories capture that feeling of knowing that there is protection in the dark corners of the world. The Flash… well, he runs fast.
Joshua Williamson and Carmin Di Giandomenico do a fantastic job with this first issue of the new Flash series in really breaking down what it means to be Barry Allen and to be The Flash. Constructing the first issue so it explores many different aspects of Barry Allen’s life to both introduce new readers to the character (largely in a way that will remain familiar to watchers of The Flash who have never read the comics) while re-establishing the state of play for people who have been following the character in the New 52.
What’s also happening here, though, is the beginnings of Williamson and Di Giandomenico’s mission statement on the character, namely that despite Barry’s speed he cannot be in two places at once. Interpretations of the character have usually painted him as a character using his speed to try and help everyone at once, but Williamson and Di Giandomenico have Iris West call him out on this in this issue. She tells him that he’s trying so hard to do everything at once that he’s getting no one thing accomplished.
It’s an interesting take on the character and gives the first issue a lot of depth beyond simply establishing the large structural beats needed to bring readers into the series. It’s not clear from this issue exactly where this line of thought will take these creators in their exploration of the character, but it is clear that they know where they’re going and that’s the feeling you need from a first issue. Every first issue is a promise from the creators to the readers that this journey is worth undertaking and this first issue from Williamson and Di Giandomenico fulfils that.
Carmine Di Giandomenico is a revelation on this issue. Without warning, he has suddenly become an artist who may join the all-time great Flash artists thanks to this issue. Being a great Flash artist is tricky because, by all rights, The Flash should not work as a comic book character. His powerset is primarily dependent on movement and speed, something which comics are at a disadvantage to convey. Di Giandomenico rightly says “stuff that” to that mindset and creates multiple pages that should quickly definitive pages in the history of the character.
There’s a pair of pages in this issue that juxtapose Barry’s efforts to save the residents of a burning apartment building with a crime scene that Barry knows is happening and can’t do anything to stop it. It’s a pair of pages that entirely encapsulates that mission statement about not being able to be in two places at once, despite his fantastic speed. Somehow, in only six panels, Di Giandomenico is able to convey the frantic and desperate speeds at which Barry is operating by skewing the panel borders and layering multiple renditions of Barry into the panels to show just how fast he is moving that he can cover so much ground in just one snapshot of time. It’s a fantastic couple of pages brought to life by the colours by Ivan Plascencia.Continued below
Plascencia’s colours are jaw-droppingly gorgeous throughout the issue, but it’s these pages where Plascencia juxtaposes the brilliant, warm colours of the apartment building fire with the dark blues and purples of the rain-soaked crime scene. It’s the kind of colour art that brings even more emotion to the page. A page later on where Barry finally rushes towards the crime scene has his streak of lightning – almost glowing white off the page – sparking through washed out greens and blues of the cityscape to get there before it’s too late. The page itself shows Barry’s desperate to run faster than a speeding bullet and Di Giandomenico astounds with this sense of layout, but the raw emotions of the page come from the tones of the colours.
Throughout the issue, Plascencia smartly uses harsh contrasting colours for the backgrounds whenever Barry is in the costume, making the Scarlet Speedster pop off the page like I’ve never seen him before. Right from the first, introductory page for The Flash, the red and gold of the costume are the only warm colours on the page making them stand out in harsh relief to the grimy reality of the colours of the city. It’s these colours that elevate Di Giandomenico’s already astounding pages to new heights. It’s a streak of pure brilliance, then, when Plascencia uses that same trick to make Barry instantly recognisable with his golden blond hair and red shirt. This is colour art not just as decoration, but as storytelling and it brings the artwork to a whole other place.
Overall, this is a series to watch. Just from the first issue Joshua Williamson, Carmine Di Giandomenico and Ivan Plascenia have pulled out the stops for an exhilarating exploration into the life of Barry Allen. Creating a deft balancing act between delving into the emotional state of who Barry Allen is these days and who he could be while creating an unbelievable finish to the issue that immediately shows Di Giandomenico and Plascenia as an art team who are going to run circles around this book. If this is the kind of art they can create for the first issue, I cannot wait to see where this team goes when they really hit they’re stride and take off running.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – Run, don’t walk, to get this issue.