The Flash #70 starts “Year One,” tracing back the beginnings of Barry Allen, from morally centered, comic-book-loving kid to dedicated forensics scientist. Right up until a lightning bolt sets his life on the fast track and in a completely new direction.
The Year One idea is well worn, but it’s never been done as well as Frank Miller’s Batman Year One. When it’s come closest it’s been Miller again with The Man Without Fear or creators who don’t stick too rigidly to the structure and inject more fun and wonder into the concept as with Batgirl Year One or Teen Titans Year One.
At first glance it seems like a cheap trick for Joshua Williamson, and maybe more so DC, to fall back on the Year One brand when some might say The Flash was beginning to wane.
It isn’t exactly a home run, but it must be said this book’s detractions have been unwarranted recently and this issue is another step in a positive direction.
There a few things to dislike about Williamson’s storytelling techniques in this book, but a lot to applaud. It feels like this is a streamlining of characters and overall direction for the book. Barry has never had as much character as Wally West for me and this book looks like it’s going to spend more time working on Barry Allen with a little more depth.
It’s almost a breath of fresh air that this doesn’t shoot for epic scale (but does hit big moments) and there aren’t 40 other speedsters to identify and track.
While Williamson’s improvement is definitely a good thing, the absolute star of this book is Howard Porter. Rocketed to artist superstardom with his ’90s JLA work, Porter had his troubles and was forced to climb back up the mountain. While his art has always been good, it’s never been THIS good.
Famously, Flash is one of the characters the artist loves to work on and has a few stints on the character. I suggest flipping through these to compare how far his talent has come since his first renaissance.
That cover is absolutely stunning and his layout, plotting, and background work in this issue are a quantum leap from past work. His splashes and even his small sequences are all at another level from an artist who was already very talented.
For every story beat that comes across as a little too on the nose in this issue, Porter delivers an epic grand moment rendered so well you can almost hear a soundtrack hitting a crescendo to the image.
Credit too to the spectacular job Hi-Fi does on colors. For as good as Porter’s pencils are, if the colorist dropped the ball it would have done the book a massive disservice. Instead, they work in perfect unity with the illustration, add layers of depth and event feel to make a beautiful looking book.