DC 52: Flash #1

The Flash #1

By Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

Okay, simple, one-word review for The Flash? Fun.

That’s my over-riding emotion from this, my first look at any comic of the scarlet speedster in I don’t know how many years: fun. I had a big soft spot for Flash when I was a kid; he wasn’t up there with the big hitters like Superman, Captain Marvel (sorry, I can’t call him Shazam, that’s not his name…) or Batman and I suppose that was part of his appeal. He’s also one of those comics characters who, like Wonder Woman, is a well known and much loved name but one that many writers (including some very talented ones) have struggled with over the years, not exactly sure where to take the character.

Right from the get go this is a fast, vibrant slice of superhero comics fun, right from Barry Allen on a geeky date with Patty at a technical symposium and exhibition which is quickly crashed by a group of masked and armoured mercernaries. As everyone takes cover from the armed intruders Barry makes a swift exit to covertly change into the Flash and in a lovely scene we’re reminding that the Flash isn’t just a super-fast human, he actually vibrates through dimensions, rather than ripping off his shirt in time honoured tradition to reveal his costume he speed-forces his way through, practically vibrating into his iconic red costume and bursting out into the scene with a wonderfully kinetic feel, followed by an utterly joyful, gloriously old-fashioned feeling double page spread where we see Flash tackling the bad guys in frames that are actually giant letters spelling out FLASH in a curving sequence, while the top corner has a short paragraph explaining his backstory in just a few, concise lines (struck by lightning, chemical reaction, the Speed Force). It’s perhaps a little silly, maybe even slightly cheesy and certainly old-fashioned, but oh it made me smile.

After the attack, as Barry returns to his civilian guise and joins Patty to ‘go to work’ as a forensics team for Central City Police, they find one of the intruders is dead – was he killed in a super-speed tussle with the Flash? Barry is understandably worried sick that he may, however accidentally, have killed someone, even one of the bad guys and it seems quite clear the police also want to clear Flash of any implication in the death too. Barry is even more upset when he recognises the body – it is an old, childhood friend of his, Manuel, which triggers a flashback (no pun intended) of the pair of them years before, ironically racing one another. When Barry finds out that Manuel’s DNA has been altered he vows to find out who did it and why, but the last thing he expects is a visit at home from his deceased friend… In a nice sequence, before he can explain what is happening they are pursused by unknown hunters in a scene which mirrors the earlier flashback of them racing one another in their youth, a nice touch.

Richard had a look at this on Friday and also seems to have enjoyed it (see here), although noting that there wasn’t a huge amount going on. I’d go with that too – it does indeed feel a bit slight and a little light, perhaps, but although normally I’d consider that a criticism here I’m really not bothered at all. It cracks along, approriately enough, at a fast pace so you don’t really notice the light plot at the time and frankly it has so much simple joy and pleasure in doing so, not least because of Francis Manapul’s lovely art (some of the most enjoyable Flash art since the great Infantino?). When I was a young boy, around 8, 9, 10 years of age, there wasn’t a handy comics shop, but there was a newsagent near my grandparent’s home that often had big piles of DC comics and I’d cycle up to it and rummage through for whatever I could get with my pocket money and devour them alongside my regular, weekly diet of British comics. And I loved finding them and I loved reading them, curled up somewhere in my grandparents with my stack of four-colour goodness and a big smile on my face. You know what the Flash did? It made me feel that way again. No, no deep, twisted psychological take on a troubled hero or multi-layered, multi-referential, postmodern tale either. Just a great, simple, hugely fun superhero tale that I romped right through. A bit light? Sure. Straightforward? Yes. But just damned enjoyable? Oh yes.

I really didn’t expect much from this but picked it up on a whim, wondering how the New 52 would approach Flash; I certainly didn’t expect to come away feeling utterly delighted and pleasantly reminded of my boyhood dalliances with DC comics. How that will translate into ongoing reading I’m really not sure – will that simple pleasure keep me reading or wane after a few issues? I can’t answer that right now, but I do know I’m looking forward to the second issue…