The world has been reborn.
Last month’s release of DC Universe: Rebirth #1 kicked off a new era of storytelling for the publisher. The house that gave us Batman and Superman is looking to make up for the mistakes of the New 52 canonical reboot, reinstating old plot points that were erased from their timeline and even bringing back old versions of classic characters that had been discarded in favor of newer, “edgier” ones.
Rebirth #1 promised us character driven stories filled with more heart than fist. Can they deliver? Each week, Kyle Pinion and Alex Lu will dig into the Rebirth titles kicking off DC Comics’ line overhaul to find out. This is week four of DC Reborn.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. You’ll find our buy/pass recommendation for this book near the bottom of the article, so if you’re looking for a quick guide before heading out to the store, you’ll find it there!
The Flash #1
Writer: Josh Williamson Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colors: Ivan Plascencia Letters: Steve Wands
Kyle Pinion: One of the slight distractions I found in The Flash: Rebirth two weeks ago was how indebted it was to both DC Rebirth and its need to serve an audience that’s mostly just familiar with the CW series. I was looking forward to Josh Williamson’s actual first issue of with some relish in the hope that things would stabilize away from the DC meta-plot, and thankfully, this issue does just that. Introducing a new character named August, who is Barry’s up until now unseen police officer friend who was with our hero at the moment the lightning and chemicals struck him. In the present, he is still one of his close buddies on the force, indebted to Barry thanks to the assist he granted August regarding his brother’s investigation. After that flashback, we learn of a set of chemical-based heists that are striking Central City which neatly ties together Barry’s forensics background and his superheroing, as this sort of thing is usually wont to do. But this split-role for Barry does get a nice payoff when two different events call to his attention, and Barry makes the choice to stop one that due to his accident from the other, leads to an accident that has particularly impactful ramifications for August.
In between all of this, there’s a not very good scene between Barry, Iris and Wally that attempts to imbue Barry with some nobility and sympathy, but it reads fairly stiff and unnatural for all involved. My reaction to this scene is a microcosm of the whole issue. I like the ideas in play, I like how much of it is pitched towards accessibility for those familiar with the tv show, but it also shares some of the show’s same qualities that leave me a little colder. I knew I was in trouble when the dreaded CC Jitters was brought up. But the action beats, and how they’re set-up, are a good deal of fun. How’d this second-go fare for you, Alex?
Alex Lu: I felt much the same way, Kyle! I was not a huge fan of Flash: Rebirth #1 because while it did follow up on the main cliffhanger from DC Universe: Rebirth #1, it did not establish any momentum of its own. However, Flash #1 fixes this problem by presenting Barry Allen with a an interesting conundrum. No one can be everywhere at once– not even the fastest man alive, so when The Flash is forced to choose one life over another, what does he do?
Barry’s problem is an allegory for the problem many of us face in an increasingly fast-paced world. We do so much and always strive so hard for the best that we often fail to recognize what’s right in front of our eyes. When Barry is late to a crime scene again and is forced to leave to help people in danger as the Flash again, his coworker Kristen says she’ll cover for him. It’s only then that Barry realizes that Kristen is no longer an intern but a full time CSI, something she tells him she has already been for months now. In his conversation with Iris, he says he feels like he “can do nine out of ten things right, but missing that one last thing…makes the rest not count.” It’s a painful thing to realize that time is limited and in the end, we are formed by the choices we make and the things we devote those precious moments to.
While I, like you, Kyle, did not love the scene that Barry shared with Iris and the young and black Wally West, I felt like the script was strong overall. August’s backstory is quite enthralling and the way that it all comes to the fore at the climax of the issue is surprisingly effective considering how little space is devoted to the whole affair. When Barry is forced to choose between saving the denizens of an apartment that is on fire and saving August from a group of terrorists, he tries to do both and fails…again. I did not care for the fact that the impact of Barry’s failure is blunted by the deus ex machina that this chapter of the story is named after, but have hope that the close call will force Barry to make some major changes to his life.
I’ve raved about the script enough at this point. We haven’t even gotten to the art yet! What’d you think, Kyle?
Kyle: Di Giandomenico’s art was a good deal more expressive this time around. As this was an issue that was bookended by big set pieces, the artist was able to flex more of his actorly muscles with segments of conversation and I think it showcased a side of him that indicates there’s a good deal of tricks within his arsenal beyond just the big flashy (ha-ha) bits. During the already-discussed Iris-Wally-Barry scene, he adds a touch where Barry is struggling to unload his thoughts on his friends, and that internal conflict turns physical when he places his hand behind his head as he looks down in contemplation. The issue is littered with little moments like that where I found myself drawn in visually, even if the words coming out of their mouths were a bit more hit and miss. And that final lightning strike at the end made my eyes go pretty wide.
Really, that whole idea is the right kind of goofy that I can get on board with: The guy who was present for Barry’s lightning strike sees the positions reversed and in turn becomes his own lightning based hero. This is classic Flash storytelling! And Di Giandomenico is adding visual layers that probably marks this as the most distinctive looking book in DC’s lineup, though I know I’m preaching to the choir there. But just for example’s sake, look at how the lightning-eye panel gets a call back in the concluding moments of the book. This is a guy who, much like Patrick Zircher on Action, is pitched on the right title at the right time.
Alex: All too true! I also have to call out colorist Ivan Plascencia for his stellar work on this issue. When The Flash zooms through the world, his costume and the lightning that surrounds him are enhanced by the intense warm colors Plascencia saturates the page with. These brights stand out strongly against the cool blue tones the city itself is colored with, creating a visual dichotomy that defines the book.
This is a definite buy for me. It’s not quite at the level of Green Arrow, but it is close. How about for you, Kyle?
Kyle: I have a sense that Williamson is about hit a groove and a lot of the “I’m sad because my dad is in jail” monologues will fade away a bit (at least I hope so). I’m expecting Issue 2 will steadily improve from what is already a fairly nice, if imperfect, start. I’m in the buy camp.
Stay tuned as we post our final review of the day: Wonder Woman #1!