I always get a little nervous when I see that an artist is trying his/her hand at writing. It’s not that artists can’t be great writers, it’s just that I feel comics are usually at their best when a writer/artist team work together on a book. The problem with artists writing books, as was witnessed en masse in the 90’s formation of Image Comics, is that most of the time the art will take precedent over story and character development. Classic style over substance. But occasionally you get an artist that finds a way to perfectly uses the artist medium of comic books to blend picture and story in such a synergistic way that can only come from a single mind. That is what Francis Manapul has successfully done in this book.
The Flash is a character who has had some hard times in the last decade. After two successful runs on the character by Mark Waid and Geoff Johns, the property went into a downward spiral. During this time Wally West, who had been the Flash since Barry Allen’s demise in Crisis on Infinite Earths, was lost to the Speed Force, the dimension from which the Flashes get their power. At this point Bart Allen, grandson of Barry Allen and former Kid Flash, rapidly aged to an adult and became The Flash. Within a year Bart was killed off and Wally came back as the Flash, but his series lasted for only a few issues. Next, Barry and Bart Allen were returned to life as a result of the Final Crisis crossover. To put it lightly, the Flash property was a mess for a few years. But in 2009, Geoff Johns took the Barry Allen version of the Flash under his wing in The Flash Rebirth mini-series, modeled after Johns’ wildly popular Green Lantern Rebirth. This mini, and the ongoing Flash title that followed were plagued by delays and received mixed reviews from critics. Johns ended his run on the character with this past summer’s Flashpoint event, a solid story and the catalyst for the new 52 relaunch.
After all this comic book limbo it’s nice to see the Flash streamlined and accessible. However, this doesn’t come without a fair bit of controversy. Many fans of the Wally West character are up in arms over the apparent exclusion of the character from the DCnU. I’ve never had any particular attachment to the character, since I got into comics right around the time Barry Allen was resurrected. Also, like the dissolution of the marriage of Clark Kent and Lois Lane, Barry Allen is no longer married to Iris West, aunt of Wally West. This also doesn’t bother me as this issue shows there is still a connection between the two, with a possible love triangle forming between Iris, Barry, and new girlfriend Patty Spivot. Much like with Lois and Clark, I’m sure the two will get back together eventually, for now I’ll just enjoy the story.
This is such a fun book. The art, the characters, the action, the creative use of panels to convey movement, it’s all comic book gold. I especially love the use of sound effects in the art itself. I must mention that Manapul is assisted in art and writing duties by Brian Buccellato. The pair seem to have hit a great stride, and I hope they keep it up in following issues. The Flash is just such an interesting character, with a myriad of possible stories to be told. I was disappointed when I learned that Johns was leaving the book after being on the book for such a short time. I felt there was so much untapped potential. Now that I know the book is in good hands, I look forward to seeing what happens next.