REVIEW: The Flash #1

In this relaunch from DC, The Flash #1 finds itself in a position quite similar to that held by Batwoman #1.  I read both titles in their previous incarnation.  In the case of both titles, the main draw for me in their pre-relaunch run was stunning artwork.  Both titles have their respective great artist returning to the book, but now taking on the role of writer/artist, with the respective big name writers that were previously working on the books departing.  As a result, with both titles there was a question of whether the artist would be able to hold up the writing end of things.  But what sets The Flash apart from Batwoman is that I had dropped The Flash pre-Flashpoint, and so this new volume had the added challenge of trying to draw me, as a lapsed fan, back into buying the title monthly.  I went into this comic quite determined not to like it – with all the great titles I’ll be coming back to next month, I had already convinced myself this would just be a one-issue “sample and pass” situation – but I grudgingly have to admit that this really was good.

The Flash really is a team effort.  It’s co-written by artist Francis Manapul and colorist Brian Buccellato, both working together to both create the story and give it such a distinctive look.  When the art team and the writing team is one in the same, it really enhances the symbiotic nature of story and image in comics in fascinating ways.

I adore Manapul’s pencils.  I’ve long admired his ability to create a sense of place in his work.  While backgrounds seem to be a chore for some artists – even some talented ones – Manapul relishes in them, creating incredibly detailed cityscapes and varied, vibrant locations.  And the people he puts in them are well drawn too, with a stylised flair.  This is the stuff I already liked about Manapul’s work, but going into The Flash #1, he pushes his art to a whole new level.  With intricate layouts and stunningly crafted pages (look how enthralling a page he can shape out of Barry Allen hanging around his apartment), Manapul is able to create a dizzying sense of speed and motion that marks him out as the perfect match for a character like The Flash.

But a big part of what makes Manapul’s art work so well is that it’s colored by Buccellato.  His colors have a brushed, almost water-color quality to them, making his pages look unlike anything else DC has to offer.  The palette he uses has a warm, nostalgic glow to it that’s just pleasing to the eye, and is the ideal compliment to Manapul’s vibrant linework.

So, as expected, The Flash looks great.  But how’s the writing.  Well, I must admit, this comic had a lot going against it going in.  In the wake of the relaunch, Barry has been de-aged, his relationship with Iris annulled, and worst of all, Wally West – my favorite Flash – has been apparently erased from the history books.  Readers looking to see these grievances are going to be sorely disappointed.  But if you are willing to keep an open mind, and approach this title as a blank slate, there’s a lot to like.

Barry Allen and his supporting cast are economically introduced, and though his new antagonist suffers from that old “Hey, it’s your dear old friend from way back that we’ve never heard about until now” chestnut, he displays some powers that should make him an intriguing foil for the world’s fastest man.  Aside from that, the plotting is pretty light, but it zips along at a nice pace (appropriate for a comic starring The Flash) and it never felt like it was dragging.  I’d say I’m interested enough to want to know what happens next, at least.

So, The Flash #1 is an aesthetic triumph, and Manapul and Buccellato do a good enough job with the writing that the absence of Geoff Johns is not felt too sorely.  I was expecting this to be a comic I’d be dropping after issue #1, but it looks like I’ll at the very least be back for issue #2.

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