Friday, 28 September 2012

The Flash #0 review

The Flash's Zero Month issue takes us back to the weeks after Barry Allen was hit by a lightning bolt. Swathed in bandages while his burns defy medical expectations by clearing up, he's visited by newly promoted police Captain Darryl Frye. It turns out that Frye took Barry in after the tragedy of his mother's murder, and his father's imprisonment for it. Barry became Frye's protege, joining the police as a CSI, watching for any technological advances that could help prove Dad Henry didn't kill Mom Nora. And Frye helped the newly empowered Barry realise the value of symbolising goodness in a uniform, complete with badge.

The opening of the issue sees Barry working late in his Central City lab, remembering his most recent visit to Henry in prison. He was delivering the news that he had no new evidence that might free the elder Allen. Henry, thinking Barry should just get on with his life rather than hang onto hope where there isn't any, says that, yes, he did kill Nora. And when the fateful bolt strikes the cabinet of chemicals, dousing Barry in a should-be-deadly cocktail, the memory of Henry's shocking words mean his son almost welcomes death.

In an issue that jumps around without ever losing clarity, we see the boy Barry coached for a Spelling Bee by Nora, and pick up hints that all isn't rosy with his parents. The reader learns more, that divorce is on the horizon - there's another man in Nora's life, and the implication of a later scene is that it's Frye.

Maybe it isn't, though. And maybe Henry Allen did kill his wife - of course he'd plead not guilty in court, and his guilt would explain why Barry can't overturn his sentence. Who knows? Writers Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato do, and they're perfectly capable of leading us in the wrong direction for sheer devilment.

Other interesting moments in a packed issue include the debuting Flash having a run-in with a small-time crook named Danny West (comic book rules say he has to be related to Iris - and maybe even the missing Wally West); and being met by an unidentified off-panel voice when his super-speed kicks in and he winds up in East Africa (Solivar of Gorilla City?).

The ambitious script even attempts to make sense of the Flash's typically fussy New 52 costume design, with its extra lines and odd segmentation. Pleasingly, Manapul and Buccellato reinstate the 'bursting from the ring' concept, but along the way inform us that it's not cloth panels Barry runs into, but metal plates. Seemingly, no cloth is strong enough to survive the as-yet-unnamed Speed Force, meaning that the Flash is wearing actual metal armour (click on image to enlarge).

Oh dear. It's the one off-note in a fascinating issue.

Drawing the book too, Manapul at least makes the revelation look superb. The rest of the issue likewise soars, with Manapul's imaginative layouts taking us through Barry's life at a belting pace, slowing down for the significant moments and using cutaway inserts to comment and enlighten. And Buccellato's careful, easy on the eye tones always make it clear just which flashbacks are flashing back the farthest. The opening splash, as lightning hits man, is a tremendous marriage of illustration and colour, only mildly marred by a composition that allows the gutter to split Barry in two (oh let's be nice, maybe it's a subliminal commentary on our hero's coming double life ... yeah, that's it).

One titchy query about what we see on the page - is that an Earth 2 Flash poster on young Barry's bedroom wall? Did he draw it himself? Is he dreaming about Earth 2, as DC writers supposedly did in the Silver Age? You can bet that when the inevitable crossover between Earths 1 and 2 comes, it'll begin in the Flash - so maybe this is a wink to that.
By the end of the issue, Barry has attained a measure of peace regarding his parents, and readers have gained a bit more insight into what makes the Flash tick. As zero issues go, this emerges firmly in the Plus column.

14 comments:

  1. Good eye on that Earth 2 Flash poster (if it's not, say, a speed skater), and also catching Danny West -- somehow I missed his surname! I've definitely gotta read this comic more carefully.

    This was a pretty terrific issue, though. Probably my favorite moment (this is gonna sound corny, because it is), is Barry's mom prepping him for the spelling be, telling him "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity." I'm not sure where that saying originated, but it stuck with my own mom, too -- she's said it to me since I was a kid, as well. One more link between me and my childhood hero.

    I was surprised to see Barry in bandages after his accident, since in previous incarnations he just hopped up and started running. Well, except for that one time (majorspoilers.com/2010/10/11/retro-review-flash-vol-1-300-august-1981) ...which perhaps this is a little nod to.

    I'm all for the deepening of Barry's relationship with Captain Frye, though -- so long as Frye doesn't go trotting about in his Captain Invincible togs again!

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    1. Ah, Captain Invincible - happ days. Now, when do we get us some Fiona Webb?

      Your mother sounds rather excellent!

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    2. Yeah, my mom is pretty darn cool, despite the riffraff her oldest son turned out to be. ;)

      (I'll probably be lifting you scan for a blog post of my own, btw... it'll make her day.)

      And I want to see Fiona Webb *and* Daphne Dean! And Zattana, for that matter. For a character who's often written off as staid, he sure had a lot of love interests!

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    3. I still dream of an imaginary story in which the child of a Flash/Zee match zooms around the world, backwards spell-casting, changing everything in nano-sseconds. But would would we call them - Speed Demon? The Flash Bang Wallop?

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    4. Well, flashpaper is a magician's best friend...!

      Maybe she only has super speed when she runs backward? ;)

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  2. Actually, Grant Morrison confirmed that in the DC Multiverse, things are similar to the way they were in the pre-Crisis days. People from alternate Earths end up as fictional or comic book characters in other Earths. Thus a comic book character with a helmet and super speed, even if not named The Flash, would not be odd in the DCnU.

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  3. Ah Hector, you just made me day. I wonder which heroes a dreaming about us?

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  4. This issue was a jumping off point for me. I still love the art and the inherent goodness of Barry as an individual, but when you exist in a world that has bad guys robbing banks (as opposed to the banks robbing us in the real world) and unquestioning trust in somebody just because he is wearing a corporate uniform, then I no longer recognise the world as having any relation to reality. It's too simplistic, too childish and ignoring the world as it really is these days.

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    1. Sorry to hear it's not working for you, Marky. It sounds as if you want to see not the New 52 but the New 99 Per Cent.

      By corporate uniform, do you mean a police uniform? Sure, there are bad eggs out there, but I've got policemen in the family and I'm not buying that most officers are corrupt.

      Or am I misunderstanding?

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  5. Martin-finally got around to reading this ish, and I agree with your (fantastic) review. Boy you were right about Flash's parents being presented in a more dark light, I would never have guessed this...I will say that I think I disagree with Marky in that I find this Barry Allen's 'simplistic' inherent goodness to be a refreshing change of pace from most of the dark, edgey New 52 characters.

    Great eye on the poster and Danny West.

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    1. I'm delighted you enjoyed the book, Mr Whiskas!

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  6. Anyone else think Frye is Barry's real father? The implication that he and Barry's mom were having an affair, the fact that when he tells Barry he says "I need my family to hear it" (sure it could be just that he thinks of Barry as a son figure, but I doubt it). Frye and Barry even look similar, particulary when we Frye as a younger cop in the flashbacks. Yeah, I'm convinced.

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    1. Yeah, I think I mentioned something in an earlier review. I hate the idea, poor old Henry!

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