One of the Rebirth titles that took me by surprise was The Flash. I have generally always liked reading Flash, but it never particularly stuck with me. Williamson’s run, however, definitely caught my eye. Now that his first volume is collected, let’s take a look.
The Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice (DC Comics)
Written by: Joshua Williamson
Artwork by: Carmine Di Giandomenico, Neil Googe, and Felipe Watanabe
Barry Allen is The Flash, the fastest man alive. Life is going decently for the hero when suddenly, the original Wally West pops back into his life and a lot of memories return to him. What exactly happened and who caused the DC Universe’s memories and reality to be scrambled? But enough about that, something bigger is going down in Central City. A huge thunderstorm rolls into the town and lightning strikes people all over, granting super speed from the Speed Force. Looks like Barry will have a lot on his plate to deal with.
The first volume of the Rebirth Flash series, to get straight to it, was a lot of fun to read. It’s not without its problems for sure, but writer Joshua Williamson of Birthright and Nailbiter fame and his art team really put together a solid first arc. Story-wise, the comic is pretty straight forward from beginning to end, without too many twists to it (most twists are admittedly a tad predictable). It’s a story about Flash dealing with a colleague of his and several other citizens in Central City getting speed-based powers, while also dealing with a new terrorist group called Black Hole. The original Wally West is not a character in this series despite what you may think, but his influence was certainly felt throughout. It helped guide Barry’s desire to train and teach these people about the Speed Force and work with others as well, reminding him of how much he liked having a partner. The book was pretty much all fun superhero antics in its first outing.
It’s too late for him. His eyes are already pure electricity!
Besides that, the first arc is also about setting things up. Whether it’s in the middle of the comic or at the very end, Williamson is laying down the groundwork for future storylines and situations: the fallout from Speed Force storm, the introduction of a new villain, Godspeed, and what happens with him, uniting and getting Barry Allen to work with Wally West II, and a few other plot points. Setup can be a bit boring usually, but the creative team weaves it in with the ongoing plotline, so the story is never just doing setup alone. The only weaknesses in this story is that the idea of Flash training and helping multiple people deal with the Speed Force is resolved a bit too easily and quickly. Also, Godspeed is defeated rather abruptly (though he’ll definitely be back given the hinting), and any of the Watchmen and Rebirth elements that are brought up go really nowhere.
I generally like the returning characters and saw potential in the new ones, but I am disappointed by the end results. Barry Allen is your typical superhero: he has a strong sense of justice and a desire to do things the right way after his father was falsely arrested for his mother’s murder. He’s nice, likes using the science of his speed to handle problems, and works well with others. He’s a good all-around guy, if a bit bland. Iris West works as your plucky reporter character in the vein of Lois Lane, constantly searching out the truth and ending up getting into trouble as a result. You also have her nephew, Wally West II, who isn’t bad either. He wants to be a hero and use his speed powers, which are very minuscule at this point due to past events. However, when his powers get supercharged, he’s a bit hesitant to seek out help to be trained given his father’s messy past. Pretty standard character tropes for superhero comics, but Iris and Wally work well with Barry and off each other.
There are also some new characters Williamson introduces for the first time: Detective August Heart, Meena Dhawan, and Avery Ho. There’s also the new villain group, Black Hole, and new speedster villain called Godspeed. Black Hole doesn’t have much going for them at the moment outside their interesting technology and a note that we’ll see more of them in the future. Godspeed is a tougher nut to crack and his motivations are kind of screwy and don’t make that much sense (I guess the Speed Force Storm fried his brain a bit?). Good design and I like how he uses his speed powers in a unique way, but he needs some work in future arcs. The three other supporting characters introduced are all pretty nice and have potential to them, but again, they are all out of the picture by the end of the first arc. It’s clear that they’ll be back in some regard given what is established at the end, but it does feel somewhat disappointing to see them already gone. That especially goes for Meena, who essentially is given the stuffed into the fridge treatment almost immediately after establishing her as a new love interest and girlfriend for the main character. It’s just very disappointing and very clichéd overall.
Hmmm, your mother’s killer is offering a night off. Perhaps you should consider it?
Still, the writing overall is pretty good here. The characterization feels on point for all the returning characters, outside of one thing from issue #1 where Flash is somehow not fast enough to do something. Despite the first arc being spread over eight issues, the storyline doesn’t feel all that badly paced. Everything flows pretty well from one issue or page to the next and nothing is ever really dragged out for too long. If anything, the comic has a problem with resolving things too quickly. The dialogue is solid and the inner narration never feels overdone or comes off as being too much tell instead of show. Overall, there weren’t any noticeable issues with the writing.
The first volume contains artwork mostly done by Carmine Di Giandomenico, but also features Neil Googe and Felipe Watanabe drawing issues #4 and #5. I first saw Carmine’s work during the Robin War storyline back at the end of 2015 and it wasn’t a very good fit for that mini-event. However, his style is much more appropriate here in The Flash. His work is great at capturing and depicting the energy and motion going on in the story as The Flash zips around the city or during the fight scenes involving the use of the Speed Force. Combined with the gorgeous, striking colors of Ivan Plascencia and well-constructed layouts, this is really a visually striking book at times. The only problem lies in the fact that Carmine’s style is rather messy and scratchy at times, especially with him doing inks, so he’s not particularly great at capturing facial expressions or body language. Neil and Felipe are far better at doing that instead, having a more traditional comic book/cartoonish style to their work. It’s far better at capturing a character’s expression or mood, though their work is also decent at depicting the fast-paced action of the series as well.
Is It Good?
The Flash Vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice is a solid debut for the new Flash series under the DC Rebirth banner. It’s not without its flaws, like introducing a new supporting cast and dumping almost all of them immediately or wrapping up a bit abruptly, but it was a fun, classic superhero romp that was very enjoyable to read. It had a great lead, good writing, and some very striking artwork. I hope the second volume is just as good or even better when it eventually drops.