Review: THE FLASH #1

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THE FLASH #1
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ivan Plascencia, Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: June 22, 2016

Writer Joshua Williamson and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico take off from the starting blocks with a quick three-page recap of the Flash’s origin, introducing readers to Barry Allen and both of his careers. The creative team also seizes that opening scene to introduce August Heart, a Central City Police Department detective who was on the scene shortly after the accident that gave Barry Allen his speed. Heart is immediately entrenched in this issue, and by the end of The Flash #1 has found a way to remain part of the cast for a little while yet to come.

The writer wastes no time or space in making it quite clear that the recently returned Wally West will not be part of the cast in The Flash on an ongoing basis, as this is Barry’s journey and Barry’s title. Williamson does, however, give readers defined connections between the New 52 Wally West, his Aunt Iris, and Barry. Captain Singh reprises his role, temporarily rounding out the supporting cast, at least for this debut.

Williamson establishes internal monologue for Barry Allen that carries a pretty heavy load of self-doubt, both for Barry’s ability to complete his work as the Flash as well as his forensic police work. Barry blames himself for being late to crime scenes and for the Flash’s inability to be everywhere. It’s an odd down note to play for the opening issue of what should be an upbeat character, but through this critical self-analysis Williamson shows readers just how serious Barry is about being both the Flash and a forensic scientist.

Di Giandomenico’s art is lean and sharp, full of energetic panels that defy traditional size and orientation, favoring angles and motion for characters to explore. He uses straightforward, horizontally oriented panels for the opening flashback, but once the story zooms into the present day, Di Giandomenico begins working in angles, encouraging the reader to read faster, or at least quicker, zipping through the space between panels to absorb the whole adventure.

While it has some strong visuals, The Flash #1 seems to be finding its way, but is doing so through experimentation, testing, pushing, combining elements to see what happens. Di Giandomenico and Plascencia are investigating different styles and methods, and even letterer Steve Wands is tinkering with his font choices. The Flash #1 opens with a “Several Years Ago” identifier tag that is set in a throwback font, not unlike the classic Brush Script. In that same flashback, Plascencia dials back the saturation from the characters, saving it for the energy blasting through the scene. He constrains colors in geometric shapes, playing planes of light over gradients or shading. Like Di Giandomenico’s art, when the story hits present day, Plascencia shifts things up, pouring in more saturation, adding glowing filters, and emphasizing the red and yellow of the Flash through contrasting or muted settings.

The Flash #1 avoids any major conflicts for the Flash, starting with the man behind the lightning, but it doesn’t feel like a brand-new start. Instead, it feels more like a creative team handoff, or a creative experiment relegated to an annual. Williamson does a decent job establishing the key players and their connections, but new readers coming into this series with this issue are going to find more questions than answers in this relatively slow start. Lucky for them, they only have to wait a fortnight to get the next issue.

The Verdict: 8.0/10

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