Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Flash #1

Finally, the moment I've been waiting for. I started this blog with the intent to cover every appearance of Barry Allen in DC's New 52 comics in chronological order, and I didn't realize how many stories had to take place before I could officially start the official Flash title. I think I've found a couple of more appearances of the Flash in Justice League and Action Comics that very easily could have happened before The Flash #1, but I don't think they require that placement, and so, since I can't wait any longer, here is the first part of the five-issue story that launched The Flash.


Story by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato
Art by Francis Manapul
Brian Buccellato Colors
Sal Cipriano Letters
Darren Shan Assistant Editor
Brian Cunningham Editor

I find it interesting that The Flash has the same editing team as Justice League. As we'll see later in both those books, Brian Cunningham makes good use of the editor's notes to expand the DC continuity and let the reader know what other issues they can pick up to see certain story lines continued.

The cover is by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato, and it is a very good cover. Flash looks strong, focused and dynamic. It is a simple design, but it is effective and powerful. However, I absolutely love the black-and-white version.

I guess it's not a "true" black-and-white because the lightning is yellow, but I love it because of that. I can't quite explain it, but there is just something really beautiful about this cover — I could stare at it forever. I even made it my iPhone wallpaper and always smiled whenever I saw it.

This variant cover is by Ivan Reis and his usual collaborators, and it's not a bad cover at all. Flash's new costume was a pretty big deal when the New 52 started, so it's good to see more images of him putting it on.

Our story starts at a fancy tech symposium in Central City where Barry Allen, after waiting two years, has finally asked out Patty Spivot on their first date. They're interested in a display for a monorail that runs on a theoretical source of renewable energy, when they meet the famous scientist Dr. Darwin Elias. He starts to talk to them about the law of congestion: how building more highways would create more traffic. But he's interrupted when a team of masked soldiers comes crashing through the windows and sets off some smoke bombs. Slipping away in the confusion, Barry pulls out a ring, which pops open, releasing a bunch of metal shards that expand and wrap around his body as he runs through them, forming the Flash's costume.

The Flash starts to beat up the soldiers, but a few of them get away with a special piece of equipment they stole. Flash chases them up to the roof, where the soldiers are running into a helicopter-type aircraft that's already taking off. Flashes catches the guy with the stolen object, but the two of them are unable to hang on to the helicopter's rope, and they both begin to fall. Flash creates a mini-vortex to push the guy through a nearby window, while he vibrates through the street and lands in the sewer below. But Flash vibrated at the wrong frequency and creates a big hole in the street. Iris West, reporter for the Central City Citizen, is nearby when this happens and asks the Flash if he's OK.

But instead of sticking around for an interview or anything, Flash returns the object to Dr. Elias, who tells him it's a portable genome re-coder. Dr. Elias thanks him and offers to help him in the future and the Flash quickly takes off and reappears as Barry Allen. He meets up with Patty, who tells him to grab his crime scene kit because the man the Flash pushed through the window is now dead. At the crime scene, one of the police officers, Tony, is surprised to see Patty out of the lab. Patty takes off the soldier's mask, and Barry recognizes the face of his old friend Manuel.

We get a flashback of Barry and Manuel running through the forest. Apparently Manuel is being chased by the rugby team after he slept with one of their girlfriends. Barry says Manuel should be preparing for his huge interview tomorrow instead of being chased by an angry mob, but Manuel laughs him off and says Barry's problem is he hasn't found something worth taking a beating for.

As Barry and the cops leave with the body bag, Iris West asks him if the Flash had something to do with the suspect's death. Barry gives her the standard answer: "A cause of death hasn't been determined yet ..." So Iris tells Barry she'll call him later, which kind of annoys Patty. Hidden in the crowd of reporters and spectators is the mysterious Pandora, who was heavily involved in the creation of the New 52 universe.

The next day at work, we're introduced to Barry's co-worker, Forrest, their boss, Director Singh, and Singh's boss, Captain Frye. Frye is quite upset about the rumors of a homicide with the Flash's fingerprints on it and he orders Singh to not let any news about it get leaked to the press. Singh assures Frye that it looks like the suspect died of something else.

Later, the Flash is standing on a building overlooking the city, thinking about Manuel. He remember playing basketball with him, going on double dates and stuff like that. He's joined by Dr. Elias, who tells him it wasn't his fault. Flash says however Manuel died, it was related to Elias' genome re-coder, which he asks to borrow. Elias agrees and then says, "These things ... it's as if they're personal to you?" Flash says, "They all are. And I need to find out what happened."

Barry goes back home and starts working with the re-coder and examining samples of Manuel's DNA, which he can tell has been altered. He ignores several texts from Iris, who says she's coming over. Barry's interrupted when someone breaks into his apartment, and it's not Iris. It's Manuel. But before he can say anything, someone kicks down Barry's door and the two of them escape through the window.

As they run, several more men join the chase and Barry asks Manuel what's going on, but all he really says is, "You of all people should know ... we're always running from something." Barry then purposefully trips into the river and emerges as the Flash. While he's doing this, he remembers the words of his mother: "Life is locomotion — if you're not moving, you're not living. But there comes a time when you've got to stop running away from things and you've got to start running towards something. You've got to forge ahead. Keep moving. Even if your path isn't lit, trust that you'll find your way."

When the Flash catches up to Manuel, he sees he's been captured by a bunch of people who look exactly like him, wearing the soldier uniforms we saw at the beginning.

The Good:

The art. Like Jim Lee, Francis Manapul has become one of my favorite artists, and I'm probably going to love everything he does from here on out. Of course, his style is completely different from Lee's, but that doesn't mean that one is better than the other. They are both masters at what they do and whenever one of them draws a comic book, that book is worth picking up for the art alone. Manapul's style is not like anything else I've seen. Look back at that title page again. The top part in blue shows the soldiers breaking in with their smoke bombs and everybody coughing, and the bottom part, which spells out Flash, shows him fighting the soldiers. I feel like every panel, every thing that is drawn serves a purpose, and sometimes they serve multiple purposes. Another thing I like about Manapul's work is the fact that he can draw people running well, which is essential when drawing the Flash. There was a lot of running in this issue (not always at super speed), and Manapul always made it look interesting.

Accessibility. On the title page, a caption reads, "Struck by a bolt of lightning and doused in chemicals, Central City police scents Barry Allen was transformed into the fastest man alive. Tapping into the energy field called the speed force, he applies a tenacious sense of justice to protect and serve the world as the Flash." That's his origin in a nutshell and all you need to understand and enjoy the character. This issue came out well before Issue #0, but I think it summed everything up well enough for even the newest of comic book readers. Although this was not an origin story, it was a good introductory story that set up the universe and allowed us to become acquainted with all the important characters in a rather natural way, I felt.

The story. They took a bold move by not using one of the Flash's main, recognizable villains like Captain Cold or Gorilla Grodd, but what they chose to do here worked, in my opinion. There was a bit of fun mystery with the clones, as well as the emotional conflict involving Barry's best friend. There was also a great heroic moment with Barry turning into the Flash at the beginning. We did see Flash accidentally rip a big hole in the street, and there was a nice little moment where he thought he also accidentally killed his friend. But I wish they would have played that up a little more — it just seemed like everyone immediately knew the Flash didn't kill him. But besides that minor quibble, this was a fun, fast, exciting story that definitely made me want to pick up the next issue.

The Bad:

I can't really say there was anything bad in this issue, but I do feel like there could have been some more and better special effects. By that, I mean we didn't see the Flash do anything that amazing. This was a pretty basic comic book in the action/fighting department. This isn't anything I'm going to hold against the issue, but it will keep me from giving it a perfect score.

Final score: 8 out of 10

To be continued!

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