Each weekday, Tim will take a look at what we know about each of the upcoming 52 new comics from the September DC relaunch, one series at a time. Today: THE FLASH!
The Concept and Characters: Barry Allen, the character who kicked off the Silver Age and the superhero renaissance in mainstream comics that has followed in the 55 years since, is once again the Scarlet Speedster, the Flash. This is nothing new. Though Wally West was the Flash of much of the Modern Age, Allen returned from temporal limbo in 2008’s Final Crisis #2, written by Grant Morrison, and Geoff Johns has attempted to breathe new life back into the stodgy character in Flash: Rebirth and the ongoing Flash series.
But it hasn’t worked yet. Johns, after successfully revitalizing formerly stale characters like Green Lantern Hal Jordan and the Teen Titans, never did much with Barry Allen other than reintroduce him to the DCU, then have him run around chasing his own tail as the alternate-reality-and-future-reset-button Flashpoint events emerged. Presumably this new Flash series will keep the core concept of a superspeed character who works with cold cases at the police station by day, and also by day runs around in costume stopping the Central City Rogues from causing trouble. The initial press mentions a new villain, and Barry Allen would benefit from a strong nemesis who is not a reverse version of himself, but we don’t yet know anything about this new hero/villain dynamic.
The Creative Team: This is where things get a bit more interesting, since we have a collaborative effort between writer/artist Francis Manapul and writer/colorist Brian Buccellato. Manapul appeared as himself on all six episodes of the Beast Legends television show where he would draw exaggerated but great versions of these legendary beasts, and then the other guys on the show would tell him, “no, that’s not realistic,” before pumping out bad CGI of what some mythical monster would “really” look like. That doesn’t give us much info on his writing abilities, but, hey, he’s a minor TV star and clearly has a sense of humor about himself.
Manapul was also the main artist on the previous Flash comic, and so it will be interesting to see how closely he follows the concepts Geoff Johns established in the first year of that now-abandoned series. Buccellato is Manapul’s collaborative partner on this effort, and the two of them have talked about making The Flash their own series, personalizing it by having Barry Allen metaphorically embody some of the experiences they’re having while they’re writing and drawing the comic. Not in a metafictional way, but in the way comics work best: as symbolic representations of real human struggles, just with dudes in costumes and giant monsters and aliens with huge brains.
Recommendation: Wait for the collected edition. I expect that this series will be worth reading, if just to enjoy Manapul’s elegant artwork, but I also have a feeling that these particular writer/artists won’t pack each issue with a ton of story. I could be wrong, but that’s my hunch, based on what we’ve seen in the progression of Manapul’s artistic style over the years as he shifts to a more open, panoramic approach to panel design. So this is a wait-and-see, but I’m sure the collection will look quite nice.
Tim Callahan writes about comics for Tor.com, Comic Book Resources, Back Issue magazine, and his own Geniusboy Firemelon blog.