Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: The Flash #1

Before I begin this review, I need to be honest about something: I was going to enjoy this comic no matter what. Francis Manapul is one of my absolute favorite comic book artists, and I knew going in that even if every word bubble was filled with Wingdings, his art would be enough to make me happy. But in spite of that, I wanted something more for this book. There are so many things about The Flash that I love. Speed powers are fantastic taken alone, but with the Flash, they're at a whole other level. His rogue's gallery is second only to Batman's. And maybe more than anything else, I wanted a reason to love Barry Allen.

To me, Wally West is the Flash. Barry Allen died before I was old enough to read, and I've never really warmed up to his return. It's not that he's a bad character; it's more that he felt weighed down by all his past heroism. Nothing was going to top his sacrifice during Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I felt reminded of that all the time. He needed some kind of clean break, some sort of fresh start. And with The Flash #1, he has that.

In the grand scheme of things, not that much about Barry has changed. Despite that, he manages to feel like a brand new character here. Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato were unknown quantities as writers going into this, but they've now proven they know how to write a real #1 issue. When I got to the splash page with Barry's origin condensed into a single paragraph, I wanted to cheer. It had such a throwback vibe that I could the old school narration style in my head, but Manapul's incredible stylization skills made it feel really modern and different. And it makes perfect sense. Of course he'd speed through his backstory. He's the Flash.

Manapul is always fantastic, but this is truly some of the best work of his career. In speedster comics, the art takes on a whole new level of importance. Things can never feel static. There always has to be a sense of motion for readers to really grasp how different the world is for someone with these powers. Manapul's been doing an excellent job of drawing Barry for a while now, but in this issue, the character feels fast in a way he never had before. There's plenty of energy in the scenes with Barry as himself, but once he completes his tokusatsu hero style transformation into the Flash, it's like we've entered a whole new world. It reminds me of how artist Paolo Rivera has strived to show the reader how Matt Murdock experiences the world in Daredevil.

Onomatopoeia isn't always used well in comics, but here, it's rendered brilliantly. The splashes and kapows feel like the move as much as the Flash himself does, and they really added to the excitement of this comic. In sharp contrast, the intricately drawn backgrounds feel peaceful, making it all the more powerful when our hero interacts with them. Manapul takes full advantage of the freedom being a writer/artist allows him, and plays with the way Barry moves from panel to panel and across the page in an interesting way that remains easy for a newer reader to follow. While this issue is absolutely readable via Comixology, I'd recommend using the guided view feature. This comic is better taken one page at a time.

Colorist and co-writer Brian Buccellato frequently collaborates with Manapul, and I'm really grateful that he's a part of this book. There are lots of little details in Manapul's work that could be lost in the coloring process, but Buccellato really understands how to highlight the best aspects of his art. There were several times reading this when I was struck by the textures of various objects, and that they stand out is largely due to Buccellato's work. Sometimes his colors look more like a standard superhero book, and other times they look like they're part of a painting, but he always seems to understand what's right for each panel.

Little things like this are why I love comics.
The plot itself is a little lightweight, but I'm fine with that. Lightening up on the angst is a good thing for a Flash comic, especially when the series is getting a new start. I genuinely liked all the characters we spent time with here, from Barry to Patty to the mysterious Manuel. The dialogue felt natural, and was sometimes pretty witty, and was occasionally highlighted by a nice bit of lettering. There's a lot more to the issue than it feels like at first read through. We're not the Flash- sometimes it takes us a little longer to catch up.

This is one of those titles I recommend everyone check out. Even if you're sick of Barry, even if you've never been that into The Flash, give this issue a shot. It's one of the best introductory issues I've seen in the new 52, and it does a great job of selling the concept of the Flash as well as Barry Allen as a character. I've had faith in the aesthetic appeal of this comic since it was first announced, but now I'm genuinely excited to see where this book is going to go. If Manapul and Buccellato could sell me on Barry so easily, just think of what they could do with Wally and the Speed Force.

By Marceline with 1 comment


I totally agree, this issue was amazing. Great introduction to the character. Not QUITE my favourite book this week, (Aquaman took that title on account of pure badassery), but it came damn close. Definitely on the TPB list. And, I'm just looking forward to the big reveal where we find out the hooded lady was Manuel all along...

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