Last month, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month two of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
The Flash #1
Writer: Josh Williamson
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Steve Wands
Alex Lu: In the second issue of The Flash, writer Joshua Williamson and artist Carmine Di Giandomenico take us straight into the woods. While the first issue of the series was mostly focused on introducing us to the major players in Barry Allen’s life, this book fully embroils itself in the explorations of a secret conspiracy, the nature of the speed force, and what it means to be a hero. It is a solid, if not outstanding chapter in the Scarlet Speedster’s story that distinguishes itself by introducing shades of grey into the morality of our heroes.
The central focus of this issue is Barry Allen’s friend, fellow Central City P.D. member August Heart. At the end of the previous issue, August was struck by a bolt of lightning from the Speed Force during a hostage situation, giving him the same powers as Barry. While Williamson could have easily dedicated several issues to August’s struggle to control his abilities, he smartly cuts right to the chase instead and condenses August’s education into a quick training montage led by Barry himself. There is a great deal of levity in these moments as August reacts with incredulity at everything that Barry shows him from creating tornadoes to phasing through walls. These moments of humor then immediately contrast with August’s serious face when he realizes Barry is The Flash. It’s a reveal that’s played for drama, but that particular revelation does not end up becoming a major plot point. It is instead resolved in a heart to heart that reaffirms their brotherhood and allows Williamson to focus on the greater plot at hand.
A lot happens in this book that further reveals the motives behind Black Hole, the mysterious terrorist group that made their presence known in the previous issue. The end result of their machinations is the release of Speed Force lightning all over the city, which causes everyone to gain The Flash’s abilities. It’s a bit of a groan worthy cliffhanger as any plot that gives everyone a power causes the hero to lose some level of symbolic meaning. It’s most likely a temporary thing, but one can’t help but wonder what this story would be like if Williamson and Di Giandomenico did not feel compelled to go wide with the plot and instead chose to focus on the way Barry’s and August’s relationship starts to change after August learns to control his abilities.
After the two of them head back to the Central City P.D., burgers in tow, August starts to wonder how he can use his powers to aid his detective work. He wonders if he and Barry “even need evidence” to solve crimes anymore, as they can traverse the entire city in seconds to find out who’s behind Black Hole. In turn, August thinks he can easily discover how Black Hole is connected to his brother’s death. Barry is steadfastly against this, because it “might be easy, but it wouldn’t be right,” and he remains resolute in that reasoning after August analogizes his brother’s death with the mysterious death of Barry’s mother. The difference between what Barry and August want to do with their powers versus what they should do is a classic conflict but a consistently interesting one. The emergence of a rift between Barry and August throughout this argument will likely be revisited as the series goes on, but some part of me wishes it were the core conceit now.
What do you think, Kyle? Do you like the idea of speedster city? How does Di Giandomenico’s art fare for you this time around?
Kyle Pinion: Di Giandomenico continues to shine, and I’m awfully enamored of how he and the always vivid FCO Plascencia pair in bringing the unflagging action of Barry’s power-set to life. With each speedster just crackling with energy, this continues to be one of the more visually intriguing superhero yarns on the shelves. With that said, I’m still not totally sold yet, and I think a good deal of it centers on the fact that we just don’t have a solid understanding of the villain of the piece and the organization that stands behind him.
There’s some talk and posturing, but I still don’t feel as though I know any more about his aims than I did an issue ago, perhaps beyond some need to wrest the speed force from the Flash’s control. I recognize Williamson has had a few Rebirth-related storytelling hurdles to get past to get to this point, so I’m willing to give him a wider berth than I might others, but I’d like to get a better grasp on the conflict at hand beyond “Flash and August fight a bunch of Iron Man clones”. Still, as middle chapters go, this works fine, if it’s a bit unspectacular as a story in of itself. Williamson is hitting on a couple of points that drew out my attention particularly, the main one being the sure to be disintegrating relationship between Barry and August that you already noted, and to answer your secondary question, I am forever fond of new speedsters, going back to when I was a little kid and tried to say the Johnny Quick formula as fast as I could in hopes I too could get super speed!
There’s something much more interesting about The Flash when he’s surrounded by characters like Jesse Quick, Wally West, Max Mercury, Jay Garrick, Impulse, whoever else, so I welcome this newly minted (and hopefully pretty diverse) speedster cast that may follow in the lightning’s wake. Also, how great is August’s new costume? Pretty terrific. That’s the kind of thing I’d cosplay the heck out of if I had endless amounts of capital and really talented costume-maker friends.
I think Williamson is also doing some good work with the supporting cast. Beyond August, he gives some really good moments of agency and self-reliance on Iris’ part, with the most notable element being how she basically saves herself with Barry there to cut in and catch her. She did all the hard work and as she said, she didn’t really need him. That’s the kind of Iris I’d like to see more of, and Wally gets a nice scene too, even if I expect his real character development will likely occur next issue. The mention of Uncle Daniel, the previous Reverse Flash, was a nice nod as well. I hadn’t kept up with the Flash, prior to Rebirth, since Manapul and Buccellato left…so I wasn’t sure if the Daniel West revelation was kicked out the door once Zoom arrived in the succeeding run, but instead it makes for a nice character wrinkle that’ll come to define him and play into the arc to come.
Actually, I’ve talked myself into it. I liked this issue a lot. I’m really into where this is going and I’m excited to be reading Flash on a regular basis. How about you Alex, where do you think you’re landing here?
Alex: I’m a fan! The Flash has always been one of the cooler characters of the DC Universe, equally primed to experience grounded adventures as he is to go through more ridiculous and strange ones. Williamson seems to be presenting us with a mixture of the two in this arc, bringing his closest friends into the zaniness that is the Speed Force world. It’s a solid buy despite our gentle criticisms of its pacing.
Final Verdict: Buy
Stay tuned for our roundup of this week’s titles!